Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Importance of Practicing Piano without the Pedal

Learn why you shouldn't use the pedal while practicing piano

In this video, Robert tells you why it is important to practice without the pedal, or at least know when it's time to stop using the pedal

Released on November 20, 2013

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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. Welcome to and We've got a great show for you today. Today's subject is one that's personally important to me and to almost all the great pianists I've ever talked to about such a subject, which is the importance of practicing the piano without the pedal. That's right. What's this all about? Well, you're going to find out quite a bit about it.

First, a little bit of history. Of course, the piano, originally, like the instrument next to me, had no pedals. So you had to be able to connect with the fingers, like on the harp's accord, the predecessor of the piano. No pedal, no sustained pedal there either. Now, did you know, for example, that Johannes Brahms didn't even have a sustained pedal on his practice piano?

Now, why would he want to practice without the pedal so much? Well, you're going to discover that today. Here's a secret. The pedal on the piano as you well know holds all the notes. You put the pedal down, and all the notes hold until you release the pedal. So it can be a wonderful tool to connect things. But actually, the purpose of the pedal, it goes beyond just connecting what you can't connect. It's also an expressive element could be added with the pedal, but how to know where to add the pedal and where not to depend upon the pedal? The only way to really know that is to practice without the pedal a great deal. I'm going to demonstrate with the "Chopin Prelude" in E minor, and I'm going to play it for you, and I'm going to play a mediocre performance first with the pedal, and then I'm going to explain how practicing without the pedal will benefit this.


Now, it's not terrible. But if I were to play that same exact way without the pedal, this is how I'm playing. I'm really depending about the pedal to connect everything. I'm not connecting anything with the fingers. Watch.


So that's what I'm doing. That sounds decent when you add the pedal, but watch the difference. I'm going to play it now with the pedal connecting with the hands.


You get the idea. Now what am I actually doing? Now I'm going to show you the secret. I'm going to play it without the pedal, but notice the tremendous legato I worked to achieve in both hands, not just the melody but even in the repeated chords in the left hand. This is what I'm actually doing to achieve that super legato in control.


So why is that so important? Well, by connecting what you can possibly connect with your fingers, the pedal then becomes used for expressiveness, for making melody notes sing more. So instead of using the pedal as a crutch to connect with you can connect with your hands, you find the best possible fingerings to connect everything as much as possible with your fingers.

The only way, as a matter of fact, to really come up with really great fingering is to practice without the pedals you can hear what you are able to connect and what you can't connect, and work to find fingering that can enable a super legato like that, and then you could end with an absolutely luscious performance of "Chopin Preludes" or other music.

Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin here at and virtualsheetmusic. We'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Frank TheRed * VSM MEMBER * on September 6, 2017 @5:53 am PST
Well, what a surprise! No less than 2 weeks ago, one of my very old friend (she actually is 89 years old and was once a very good pianist) listened to me playing the piano and she told be this: "François, you could try and practice this piece without the pedal."
I did it and sure enough this allowed me to revisit Gershwin's "Summertime" and made it sound much to her and my taste. Merci Ginette! Merci Robert!
Akin-Ajayi Oluwaseun Collins on September 6, 2017 @4:17 am PST
But what can one do when the Piano is not so good?
Robert - host, on September 6, 2017 @11:19 am PST
If the piano isn't beyond repair, a good piano technician can take the piano to a higher level. Otherwise, you can check out pianos we have available. We ship anywhere in the world (free in the continental U.S!)
Akin-Ajayi Oluwaseun Collins on September 7, 2017 @3:33 pm PST
Thanks for your thoughts.
IMQ on July 19, 2017 @8:05 am PST
Thank you for posting this and another a few weeks ago about the use of the pedal. I wish I could get some church "pianists" to see this.
Richard Blocher on July 19, 2017 @7:21 am PST
This is great timing for me, I am working on this piece,since yesterday, and I am going to try this, without the Pedal. God Bless, for sharing this with us. DickBlocher
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