Saturday, January 6, 2018 by Mary O'Connor | piano
These are some examples of pedal marks in piano music:
Pedals on a grand piano:
There are two standard foot pedals on the piano: on the left side is the una corda pedal and on the right side is the sustain (damper) pedal.
The middle sostenuto pedal is only standard on the American grand
With pedals, the pianist can add resonance and color to the music and thereby bring out its inherent emotion. At the same time, over-pedaling or improper pedaling can drown the listener and the performer in a miasma of overlapping sounds.
This pedal has various names. It is sometimes called the damper pedal (because it lifts all the dampers inside the piano), or the forte pedal (because the result of lifting all the dampers is a fuller sound), or the tre corde pedal (because it allows the three strings of each key to vibrate), or the sustaining pedal (because when you depress it the note will continue to sound even if you take your fingers off the keys).
Here are some guidelines pedaling. As with everything in art, they can be ignored under certain circumstances.
There are several manipulations possible with the damper pedal, each affecting the sound slightly
For the cleanest sound, the syncopated (or legato) pedal will give you the most control. This is an action where the foot is put down immediately after the note is played. This may take some getting used to, but you can practice it by playing a C scale.
The sound is clean. Continue up the
As an experiment, try putting the pedal down as you play a note, and notice the difference in the sound. Since the damper pedal lifts all the dampers, when you strike the D, not only are the three strings of that note free to vibrate but so do all the other strings vibrate sympathetically. You have a sound that is full of overtones.
There are times when you will want that effect and so will keep your foot down until the accumulated sound needs to breathe.
You can practice the syncopated pedal away from the piano by sitting on the bench or a chair and lifting your right knee at exactly the same time as your
There are half and quarter pedals too, which are used when you don’t want full vibrato. Rather than depressing the pedal all the way down, you lower your foot halfway so that the dampers are lifted only slightly off the strings, without allowing them to vibrate fully.
The quarter pedal gives even just a hint of
Then there are times, usually in scale passages, where touches of
The different types of damper pedaling techniques are for you, the pianist, to decide. But what determines which choice you will make?
Two things will control that: your very important ear, and your understanding of the music—the composer and the era in which the music was composed.
Your pedaling approach following the composer's style depends on your knowledge of what instruments were available during the composer’s lifetime and how the pedal or lack of pedals would have made the music sound. This way, your interpretation will have authenticity.
Damper pedal, forte pedal, loud pedal
The sustain pedal allows all of the notes on the piano to resonate after the keys have been lifted, for as long as the pedal is depressed. It creates a legato effect, forcing all of the notes to echo and overlap.
The sustain pedal was originally operated by hand, and an assistant was required to operate it until the knee lever was created. The creators of the sustain foot pedal are unknown, but it is believed to have been invented around the mid-1700s.
Use of the sustain was uncommon until the Romantic
The sustain pedal lifts the dampers off of the strings, allowing them to vibrate until the pedal is released.
In piano notation, use of the sustain pedal begins with Ped., and ends with a large asterisk.
Variable pedal marks, seen as __/\_/\__, are placed under
Soft pedal, “piano” pedal
The una corda pedal is used to enhance the timbre of softly played notes, and exaggerate a low volume. The soft pedal should be used with notes that are already played softly, and will not produce the desired effect on louder notes.
The una corda was the first mechanism to modify the piano’s
Most treble keys are attached to two or three strings. The una corda shifts the strings so that the hammers only strike one or two of them, creating a softened sound.
Some bass keys are only attached to one string. In this case, the pedal creates a shift so that the hammer strikes on a lesser-used portion of the string.
In piano notation, use of the soft pedal begins with the words una corda (meaning “one string”
Usually the middle pedal, but is often omitted.
The sostenuto pedal allows certain notes to be sustained while other notes on the keyboard are unaffected. It is used by hitting the desired notes, then depressing the pedal. The selected notes will resonate until the pedal is released. This way, sustained notes can be heard alongside notes played with a staccato effect.
The sostenuto pedal was the last addition to the modern piano. Boisselot & Sons first showcased it in 1844, but the pedal didn’t gain popularity until Steinway patented it in 1874. Today, it’s primarily found on American grand
When the sostenuto pedal is depressed, it keeps the dampers off the selected strings, allowing them to resonate while the rest of the keys’ dampers remain down.
In piano music, use of the sostenuto pedal begins with