Do you ever dream of sitting at the piano and playing your favorite songs with ease, and actually sounding good while doing it? Maybe even impressing your friends and family with your amazing skills?
Well, I’ve got just the thing to help you get there. My latest PIANOLY YouTube Video is all about the piano sustain pedal and the common mistakes that I see all the time. Trust me, playing the sustain pedal correctly can make a huge difference in how you sound on the piano, but the problem is that most people play it WRONG!
I’ll share all of my tips and tricks for using the sustain pedal properly so that you can take your piano playing skills to the next level. And don’t worry, even if you’ve never used the sustain pedal before, I’ve got you covered too!
To help you practice and learn how to use the sustain pedal correctly, I’ve even included a free PDF that you can use alongside the video (link in the description of the video).
So grab a pen and get ready to take some notes, because this video is going to be a game-changer for your piano playing skills.
Click on the link below to watch now!
The truth is that playing the sustain pedal can make you go from sounding very amateur to sounding like you really know what you’re doing on the piano. But I see most people playing the sustain pedal incorrectly. This video will cover those common mistakes and how to play the sustain pedal correctly so that you can stop sounding amateur and start sounding like a pro.
Before we get started, be sure to press the subscribe button and the bell if you’d like to be notified every single time I post a video on how to go from zero to playing your favorite songs on the piano in months, not years.
All right, let’s get into it. The first common mistake I see is students holding the sustain pedal down too long. I’ll show you an example of what that really means, and we’ve got our pedal cam down here. I’m going to play a couple of chords and I’m going to show you what it means when a student is playing it too long.
It turns into a sloppy mess.
Yes, we want the sustain pedal to sustain our notes, but we don’t want it to sustain them to a point where it sounds like a mess.
The second mistake I see is the most common, and you’re probably doing it. It’s changing the sustain pedal at the wrong time. Check out my example of playing it incorrectly at the wrong time.
What students do is they lift the sustain pedal between chords like this, so they put the sustain pedal down while they’re playing a chord and doing this.
This actually defeats the purpose of the sustain pedal, and it actually does absolutely nothing. There’s no difference between you doing that and not even using the sustain pedal at all. We definitely don’t want to do mistake number two. Again, that’s the biggest one I see all of the time.
Then what is the purpose of the sustain pedal? Yes, it is to sustain the notes in between different cords, but there’s a certain technique to do it correctly so that it’s not too sustained or a sloppy mess or just not being sustained at all. Here’s how it sounds when we play the piano without the sustain pedal.
Or with the sustain pedal, and I’m going to play it correctly.
The goal is exactly what I just did. The notes were very nice and smooth and sustained, but I did not create a sloppy mess between my chords. Now we’re going to get into exactly what I did and how to play the sustain pedal correctly.
But before we get to that, let me know which mistake are you making when playing the sustain pedal. Let me know in the comments.
Before we get right to playing the sustain pedal correctly, you want to make sure that you’re sitting the correct distance from the piano, otherwise you’re going to have trouble having the correct technique. What I tell my students is to stretch their arms out and have a fist with their hands and put it at the edge of the piano or what we call the fall board. If you don’t have that, it’s really to the very back of your keys. That’s the distance we should be from the piano, and we also want to be on the front half of the bench. If you have those two things, you’re sitting the correct distance from the piano.
Now let’s get to our feet. Another mistake I make is students put their entire foot on the sustain pedal, that’s also not good and is a common mistake. You actually want your toes to be on the very edge, and I play with my big toe. The reason for that is because I have the most control over the pedal if I do that. If I put my entire foot over the pedal, I have a lot less control. Yes, if you start playing the pedal a lot, you might start driving this way too.
All right. Let’s get started with the cord exercise. The cord exercise has whole notes or notes that we hold for longer to make it easier. All that we’re going to do is play C and then Csus2.
To play the pedal correctly, we’re going to play the chord first and pedal second. Remember this: Chord first, pedal second. I’m going to start with my C major chord here, chord first, pedal second. Then I’m going to go to C suspended two. If you watched very carefully, I did play the chord first and pedal second right after. Watch that again. I’m going to go C major.
I changed the pedal right after I changed the cord. This makes it where it’s very smooth between all of your cords and sustained and clean. This is the correct way to play the sustain pedal. Cord first, pedal second, always. Watch me do this whole exercise.
All right, to make it a little bit more challenging now I’m going to use half notes, so these cords are going to be a little bit faster. I’m going to go like this.
All right. Now notice I actually didn’t change the pedal between playing C major twice. I don’t need to change it there. The correct technique is changing the pedal after a new cord. That’s why I made this exercise like this, so you learn it correctly. Watch again. C again, now I’m going to change it.
All right. You can change the pedal if you want to, but it’s not necessary, between cords that are the same right after the other.
Now, I’m making these pedal exercises have faster and faster cords because getting that coordination is what’s tricky, and the faster the notes are in your hands, the more your brain’s going to go, “Ah!” This is normal. Okay? You have to be really patient. It’s kind of like learning how to ride a bike. But once you get it, you’re going to get it and you’re not even going to think about it. Once you get this technique down and comfortable between your feet and your hands, it’s going to be okay, I promise. All right, let’s do the next exercise.
The next exercise has quarter notes, and it’s going to sound like this.
Change the pedal here. Change the pedal here. Change the pedal here. Again.
Once you get comfortable with that one, I’m going to take you to the most challenging one. It has arpeggios.
Okay, here is our next exercise. It’s an arpeggiated cord exercise. Again, I made this into your pedal exercises because the more challenging your hands are, the more your brain and your hands are going to have trouble sinking. This is basically level number four of learning how to play the sustain pedal correctly.
I’ll show you sustain pedal exercise number four with arpeggios.
Now, this one’s going to be the most tricky, but you’re just going to play C in the next chord, pedal up, down and keep going.
All right, so watch that again so you can see the technique.
The goal is we actually don’t want anyone to notice we’re playing the sustain pedal. We want it to be just so smooth and clean that it’s just floating off into the sky. I don’t know. It’s just supposed to sound really clean, just like this. Even when it’s arpeggio, chord first, pedal second.
All right, now let’s try to play the sustain pedal correctly on a real song that you probably love. Let’s do All Of Me by John Legend.
Here’s an example of a song that repeats the chord a couple of times in the right hand, but I’m not going to change the pedal until the chord changes.
All right, so what I’m doing is even though these chords are repeating in my right hand like this…
I’m not changing it until after I play the next chord, which is D flat.
Now I’m going to change it after I play A flat and after I play E flat.
Watch it one more time. Noticing the technique.
In most popular music, the sheet music will not annotate when to play the pedal, but it does sometimes, and it might look like this, or this. Whenever you see this symbol, that means that’s when you lift the pedal. That’s the one you’re most commonly going to see in popular music. But again, most popular music doesn’t show it at all. But you most likely should still use the sustain pedal.
Let’s say you’re learning a new song and you’re not used to playing the sustain pedal yet, I recommend learning all of the notes and all of the chords first and do everything else first, and then add the sustain pedal at the end because you’re not used to it. Once you’re used to the sustain pedal, it won’t even be really part of learning a new song, because again, it’s like riding a bike. Add these four exercises to your practice routine while you’re getting used to playing the sustain pedal, and you should get used to playing it much more quickly. Don’t forget to download the free sustain pedal exercises PDF. The link to that is in the description of this video.
Be sure to like if this video helped you and subscribe if you would like more videos on how to go from zero to playing your favorite songs on the piano in months, not years. I will see you next time.