Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Use the Pedal on the Piano - Part 3

Master the art of pedaling with this 3rd video.

In this third and last video of a multi-part series, Robert talks about specialty uses of the pedal, such as changing the effect of the beginning of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata.

Released on October 1, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin here at with the continuing series, 'The Art of Pedaling'. In the first,we covered the basic essentials of pedaling, that is, to clear the harmonies by coming up exactly on the change of harmonies and going right back down. The second part talk about the nuance. That's right, you can use the pedal to color your music, provided you practice without the pedal first so you know what you can connect and then use the pedal more than just to connect what you can connect but to enhance the tone of key notes. Today, we're going to talk about some specialty uses of the pedal. For example, in the Pathetique Sonata Beethoven starts off with forte-pianos on certain chords. Now if I play this again, I'm going to play it first without any pedal at all and the piano naturally gets a forte-piano because the piano being a percussion instrument, you play a cord and it keeps getting softer. So it almost works without a pedal at all to get that effect. It's a little bit dry but it kind of works. Now, there are many ways to approach these forte-pianos; I've heard pianists do all sorts of things. One technique is to just start with a pedal down so you get this boomy sound and then let it go so it gets soft right away, giving you the forte-piano.

Watch, I put the pedal down before I play and then it definitely accentuates the forte-piano on those cords. I've even heard some pianists do a quick pedal and a quick release and put the pedal right back down again to get this sound. So there are many ways to approach this. And you're going to find that not only will you find different solutions for getting this forte-piano effect, some drastic,, some more subtle, but you can also find that different pianos have very different characteristics of sustain acoustics of the room. Everything plays into it. But you can experiment with your music and see what sounds you can come up with. You will notice when you listen to different pianists play the same pieces, pedaling is often drastically different among artists. The choices that are made are personal. Your trademark that you put on your music, depending on what you like and what you want to say, musically. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at in this continuing series of 'The Art of Pedaling'. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

LaurelGibson * VSM MEMBER * on July 4, 2018 @5:14 pm PST
Wonderful! Thank you so much....I didn't know I had forgotten that, and now I'm restored and inspired again (at 73) Smiley Face
Robert A Estrin - host, on July 6, 2018 @5:12 pm PST
I am very pleased to offer inspiration! Thanks for sharing that with me.
Cheryl Giles on October 8, 2014 @5:54 am PST
I have played for ballet classes for the past five years. It has been a tremendous adjustment because you must keep an immaculately steady beat for the dancers. That goes against everything I have been taught and the style in which I played. How do you play impressively with absolutely no rhythm change?
I notice that you play with many small "push/pulls" as I was taught. Can't do that for ballet. Hmmmm.
Robert - host, on October 11, 2014 @10:53 am PST
Some styles of music have very regular beat. A lot of Baroque music for example has little sway in tempo. Even when practicing Romantic period music which often has rubato in the tempo, practicing with the metronome provides a frame of reference for how much freedom you are allowing yourself in performance. Often times pianists who practice and play alone the vast majority of the time play with too much abandon to be able to collaborate with other musicians. So, your ballet accompanying will serve you well playing with others!
LaurelGibson * VSM MEMBER * on July 4, 2018 @5:17 pm PST
Thank you for playing for the ballet students. That's why I became a pianist when I got too tall for ballet....Save your beautiful nuances for piano performance. Now, you are an accompanist like in a marching band or recording studio. You lead by following (a strict discipline).
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 1, 2014 @5:42 pm PST
Great lesson, I seem to use the pedal by what I feel is right, at least what it feels right to me ... Smiley Face
... and my cat is not completely deaf after all! He picked up his head at a certain cord you played.
Robert - host, on October 1, 2014 @6:16 pm PST
So, your cat has some sophisticated tastes in music! Ultimately how to pedal is an intuitive process. The most important rule is that it sounds good.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 2, 2014 @10:30 am PST
... and while I had my small equestrian center for 21 years, the radio in the barn was tuned to WETA 90.9 all day long (like all my other radios). Classical music seemed to have a relaxing effect for the horses, except for operas, they appeared to be irritated. I had been a dressage instructor and I had Lipizzan horses. I designed several rides to music for my students, Pas-de-Deux, Quadrilled, and even a ride with 12 participants. That Dr. Beat metronome was a great helper for chosing the music for walk, trot and canter.
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