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How to use the pedal in Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

Helpful tips on how to approach pedaling in the most known piano sonata

Released on February 22, 2013

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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Pegah on April 28, 2015 @12:20 am PST
Thank u Mr Esterin. The video was very useful for me :)
Lewis on December 3, 2014 @8:18 am PST
Thanks Robert, this really helped me. I discoverd I was always using the pedal wrong.
Hani on April 28, 2013 @8:47 am PST
Hi Robert, I'm practising Rachmaninoff- Prelude C#minor, Op 3 no 2.
It is difficult to play the last part of the score, with double grand staff. I find out that the left hand part is inversion chord of the right hand part.
Still I can't remember the pattern and melody line. Is there a way to learn easily? Thanks so much.
Robert - host, on April 30, 2013 @3:27 pm PST

I would suggest memorizing in 3 stages:
First, memorize the half note and whole note parts of each hand separately. Then, put the hands together and play for memory.
Second, memorize the eighth note parts of each hand separately and then memorize the hands together.
Finally, put both parts together. Check your work with the score and commit to memory.
You should break that last section of the prelude into sections working out each section as described above. You can learn as little as one or two measures at a time. As each section is mastered, continue learning additional sections and connect each section as you memorize them.

Good luck!

Robert Estrin
Grace * VSM MEMBER * on March 12, 2013 @7:52 am PST
What a great pedal lesson! My mom was my first and best teacher and she was a stickler for not blurring, chopping or lingering too long when crisp silence was the moment to share! A pedal can put a terrible damper on your performance. ; ) grace
ivorys101 on March 7, 2013 @11:29 am PST
I totally agree. Once you know how to pedal correctly, it's not easy to do it incorrectly!
Jerrye on March 5, 2013 @2:51 am PST
Neat! Nice to meet up with you. Thanks for the tips thus far. I, too, am interested in chords and their variations.
Robert Estrin - host, on March 5, 2013 @3:00 pm PST
Thanks for contacting me! There will be more technique and music theory videos coming. I mentioned before in this blog how I am working on an online music theory program you will be hearing about.
Joyce on February 25, 2013 @2:46 pm PST
Thankyou so much for inspiring me to practise again. I just love the Moonlight Sonata and appreciate the pedalling. I too am interested in what chords are used. I find chord progessions very fascinating but I cannot always identify them. Are you going to be explaining chords in the future. Thanks so much.
Robert Estrin - host, on February 28, 2013 @10:46 pm PST

I really appreciate your comments - thank you! I will cover aspects of chords in future videos. More than that, I am developing an online theory course that covers the subject in depth with great clarity. I was incredibly fortunate to study piano and music theory with my father Morton Estrin who is the greatest music teacher I have ever encountered. His book is the foundation for my new program you will hear about in the future.
Tim Bryant * VSM MEMBER * on February 25, 2013 @12:52 pm PST
Robert, Thank you for the great help with the sustain pedal in the moonlight Sonata. Works very well.
Humberto Cruz on February 25, 2013 @8:59 am PST
Robert, thank you so much for answering my question about use of the pedal in Moonlight Sonata. Your videos go straight to the point and are extremely useful.
Have another question that may be of interest to members of Virtual Sheet Music. It has to do with how best to play complex polyrhythms, for example,
Measure 24 of Chopin's Nocturne in Eb, Op. 9 No. 2 in which the right hand must perform some serious gymnastics to keep in time with the steady left hand bass rhythm. Measure 29 is also tricky as are the very quick notes on measure 32. Any words of wisdom regarding rhythm and fingering would be appreciated, and thanks again for your videos.
Humberto Cruz, Vero Beach FL
sandamali on February 24, 2013 @11:11 pm PST
dear sir,
thanks for that vedio. could you please show me how to use the pedal for schuberts impromptu in Gflat, op.90 no 3.sandamali
Millie * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2013 @2:44 pm PST
I'm teaching my 9 year old grandaughter - she likes the current music, rather than the classical, but she requires easy category to master regularity of rhythm -- she is talented, practices little due to involvment in many sports programs, but works hard at our once weekly sessions. Are mostly current music selections not free, since I am a member? What is an easy way to locate her area of music?
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on February 24, 2013 @3:08 pm PST
HI Millie and thank you for your posting. As a Member on VSM, you have free access to the complete VSM repertoire, plus enjoy 50% discount on the Hal Leonard repertoire. Here is the page dedicated to the piano:

For your daughter, I would suggest to filter our piano sheet music by displaying music marked as "VERY EASY" or "EASY" skill level only. You have different options to do that:

1. Start from the piano sheet music webpage above, then enter "very easy" or "easy" in the top-left "Narrow by keyword" box.

2. Use the advanced search:

Then enter "piano solo" as instrument and "Very Easy" or "Easy" as skill level.

Please, let me know if you need any further help. You can also contact our customer support for a step-by-step approach or further direct help through our Contact Form below:

Thank you again!
Kayode Adeogun * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2013 @12:14 pm PST
Pls i need more information on fingering pianoforte.
Fred Pape on February 24, 2013 @12:13 pm PST
Enjoyed the video, intructive, and well presented. Thanx
slow learner on February 24, 2013 @9:54 am PST
very helpful. I'd been doing it wrong. thanks!
Bernadette on February 24, 2013 @8:28 am PST
Thank you, Robert. Good review.
Richard Pledger on February 24, 2013 @7:03 am PST
Interesting, constructive. More of such recommendations would be so worthwhile. Thanks.
Carole A Zakrzewski * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2013 @5:58 am PST
Robert was very clear on how to use the pedal on the piano. I am a classical guitarist with very little piano background. Thank you
Marion Lewis * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2013 @5:55 am PST
Question for Robert Estrin

Let me introduce myself, Marion Lewis and returning student at 62 to piano.

My childhood teachers were ivory thumpers so I never was taught correct technique. I grew up in a small fishing town in Wales which had only a limited number of piano teachers of any talent. Being a clever girl a lot was expected of me. Then eventually frustration set in as my technique did not allow me to be successful with the more advanced pieces. I soldiered on and developed lots of bad habits. I was asked to accompany all sorts and took to thumping out the left hand and glossing over a lot of the right - especially those very black passages!

I carried on with music studies through age 18 so covered a lot of theory, played viola- because I was able to read the score - and sang alto in lots of choirs - because, you guessed it, I could read the score.

The whole family were core members of the local amateur operatic and dramatic society putting on musicals and pantomimes twice a year. Music was always lots of fun, and noisy! I had three sisters and we had two pianos in the house and often we'd try to drown each other out at practice time. And heaven forbid you'd stop anyone from thumping out their frustrations! Imagine the hair-pulling that might go on otherwise!

Life took me on to study natural sciences, law and accounting. Music took a sad back seat.

I kept sane through motherhood attempting some Schubert waltzes, Debusey's Fille, and Claire de Lune, another Beethoven sonata, and led a few choirs. My boys , all three, were entertained as little kids with lots of music, not least was acting out Peter and the Wolf, which so enthralled them they had me come play for 'show and tell' in their kindergarden classes! This they attribute to their all becoming musicians and touring the USA as a rock and roll band together for 10 years before life took over and they started to settle down. They all are still involved in the music world in different ways.

I recently was challenged to write my life in six words and one answer was
'Whims I follow now are mine' - one of which is to return to the piano.

I was given a beautiful Yamaha grand for my 55th birthday but old frustrations have kept me from really playing this beautiful instrument. This is up in our winery in Canada where we spend the summer months. When we came down last November to spend winter here in Cayman I saw they have a new music school right opposite our condominium complex. I felt I really had no more excuses to hold back my love of playing the piano so walked across the road and started lessons right away. I had no idea that Mr Simeon Panov was such an amazing musician and feel incredibly lucky to have him help me start again. I have since heard him play at a few concerts down here and am humbled!

I have a Rowland keyboard here, placed such that I look out over the beach and the palm trees and there's every incentive to practice. I didn't bring a lot of music down with me - I wasn't expecting to need it! Exploring on-line I discover Virtual Music - and your amazing videos. What a wonderful resource and thank you so much for putting it all together.

I am currently working on Bach's Cm Prelude and Fugue. Years ago I would have thought it a piece of cake. Now I have to pay attention even to how I am sitting let alone touch those keys. It has really made an incredible difference to understand how to hold your hands. Hours pass and the 'blackness' of the score no longer scares me!

It might take me longer to really learn these days but the results of persevering - practicing - are so worth while! Perhaps one day I'll get some of my old favorites out again and try to do them justice.

My question for you today is about chord analysis.
I used to have a book that was an encyclopedia of sorts. I wish I had it now, but haven't found anything really useful to me on-line as yet. I could turn to, for example, a page for F and see, on staff, all the chords built on F.
Plenty for guitarists!

I really don't remember everything about notation, aug or dim, except what they sound like. I read the music no problem but couldn't very easily tell you what chords are involved. Mr Simeon suggests playing would be easier if I look at the chords in the pieces - arpeggios- patterns etc. I have struggled to identify them and find there are several ways to go.
How do I notate an inversion? And I don't see why people talk about things greater than the octave - 9th's 13th's!
Is there a digital book you could recommend?

I remember playing Moonlight for a recital when I was12 (OMG, that's 50 yrs ago!) but perhaps I'll go watch your video and check that I have the pedaling right!

A million thanks again for sharing so much of your talent and time on-line.


Marion Lewis.
Robert Estrin - host, on February 24, 2013 @5:53 pm PST

Thank you for sharing your reflections of a musical life! Indeed I am in the initial stages of putting together an online theory resource for students and teachers. Theory is a subject that is seldom taught well. I had the good fortune of studying music with my father Morton Estrin who is the greatest music teacher I have ever encountered. He wrote an introduction music theory book a number of years ago which will be the foundation to this internet music program. It is a long way off at this point, but I am happy to share it with you when the time comes. You can get on my email list by sending an email to
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on February 24, 2013 @8:47 pm PST
Thank you Marion for your comment. Despite very basic, you may be interested in the free E-Book we give to our email subscribers "Basic Music Principles":

Thank you again!
Leslie * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2013 @1:41 am PST
Thank you, Robert, especially for the valuable reminder about the unique qualities that pedals have on various instruments and how they all have their own "response" personalities!(Just like the various "actions" of keyboards!0 It only makes sense that the same would hold true for pedals- great wisdom!!- Thanks, again!
I love all the great masters-- lately I've been kind of having a Bach-fest of sorts, so any approaches to Bach would be welcomed!!
Rajan * VSM MEMBER * on February 23, 2013 @11:41 am PST
Very useful video. Many thanks for this wonderful lesson. Me and all my students are greatly benifited by this. Thanks to
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on February 22, 2013 @6:38 pm PST
Thank you so much for your very useful lessons. My mother who was a pianist is no longer around and I try to keep going on my own, after not having played the piano for several years. I am 68 and my hands have become arthritic, which causes a lot of frustration, I no longer can play pieces I used to play when I was a teenager, now I can barely reach one octave (I always had very small hands was I used to reach 9 keys), The major problem I actually have now is a very sharp pain at the base and underside of the left thumb. Every time I pass the third or fourth finger over the thumb it is like getting a painful stubbing! Can you think of other ecercises can I do to compensate for not being able to practice the scales and arpeggios? I have a lot of the traditional study books available, like several Czerny, Hanon, Heller, etc. I love Czerny's studies best!
Robert Estrin - host, on February 23, 2013 @5:17 pm PST

It is a great challenge playing the piano when hand problems develop. There are several things you can do to help avoid pain and injury.
Think holistically: Healthy diet, supplements and regular exercise which includes stretching such as yoga can be incredibly beneficial.
Warm up your hands before playing. You can run warm water over them or use a heating pad.
Start your practice routine with slow, simpler music so you can acclimate yourself to how your hands feel.
Practice in measured chunks of time to avoid repeated stress. Take regular breaks, walking or stretching.
Always be sensitive to how you feel! Over time you can overcome weakness by building muscle tone.
I experience joint pain in my right thumb if I am away from the piano for any length of time. The challenge is how to get back into shape once muscle tone is lost. I try to never be away from the piano for any length of time to avoid this problem. However, sometimes pianos aren't available on vacation. So, when I return, I am extremely careful to build up my strength as outlined above. The great news is that once enough strength is built up over time, the muscles protect the joints! The challenge is avoiding stress injuries in the process.

So, if you are careful with your approach to the piano and sensitive to how you feel, you may be able to build up enough strength over time in order to overcome some of your physical limitations.

Good luck!

Robert Estrin

Historic Concert Experience

939 E. Santa Ana Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2013 @8:56 am PST
Thank you so much for your suggestions. I was making the mistake of taking long breaks away from the piano, hoping that the thumb problem would get better, but I was wrong.
And also thank you for your lesson on memorizing a piece. As a child I could memorize anything in no time at all, mother was amazed. Now after I suffered a severe concussion a few years ago, it has become very hard to memorize anything new, even simple studies or pieces. But to my surprise, my fingers seem to "remember" what I used to play as a teenager, and fairly difficult pieces!
Robert Estrin - host, on February 24, 2013 @5:55 pm PST

There is a tactile memory that endures. It's as if your hands have a mind of their own! While this type of memory can't be trusted entirely, it is certainly very handy for helping to resurrect pieces that you have studied long ago.
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