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So I recently upgraded from an (old) electric keyboard to an actual piano, and to no surprise, the music sounds a lot better with the sustain pedal pressed down.

But the problem comes due to the fact that this thing obviously did not exist on my old keyboard so I had to play all my music without it, but now that I have it and the sheets don't exactly label when to step and when to let go, and if I step on it the entire way through the bass gets REALLY messy after just a few lines.

Now if I suddenly let go at random time, the "echo" halts almost too abruptly, making a "whoa, what the hell" kind of situation for listeners and myself. And if play the entire music without stepping on the sustain pedal the music sounds REALLY dry.

So I'm stuck here.

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Pedal along with the rhythm and the chord progression of the music you are playing. Depress the pedal when you play a chord. Let go of the pedal when the chord changes to a new chord, and/or when the sustained notes and overtones pile up into a dissonant sound. –  Wheat Williams Jul 3 at 0:29
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If the music involves a lot of rapid melodic playing, you'll want to use the pedal less. If the music involves long slow passages where the chords don't change as often, use the pedal more. –  Wheat Williams Jul 3 at 0:31
    
Many electric keyboards support sustain pedals! It would be the first thing I would recommend to anybody learning keyboards - get a good sustain pedal! –  Lee Kowalkowski Jul 25 at 8:15

4 Answers 4

A lot of the time, you won't be pressing the sustain pedal anyway. Yes, it sounds 'good', but you're already tiring of the novelty.

Timing is all. Press the pedal AFTER you play a note/chord, and release your hand while the pedal's still down. When the next note is ready to be played, press that note, let pedal go, and press pedal again before lifting finger.This probably sounds quite complex. To an extent it is, but once you get the timing, your playing will be a lot less muddy. Try this all very slowly, and you'll hear the smooth transition between notes/chords, with no bleeding between each.

There's more, and I'll try to find a good link for you later.

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A good way to begin learning proper pedal is to release the pedal after every time the line changes (marked by slurs), when the chord changes, every other beat, and every beat. Listen to each of these and try hear the difference. Depending on the music, some of these will sound better than others and you will learn what fits and what does not.

Typically, slow melodic songs will sound best after every chord/line change, whereas more complex music can become muddled and confused with too much sustain and is better to be changed more frequently. As you practice it will become more natural, but experiment and learn what is best.

As for the actual timing of pedal, try to add pedal right when you play the notes, if not a fraction of a second later and release at the same time as your hands. You can use the sustain

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Generally, being aware of phrases and when the harmony changes is key to playing the sustain pedal well. After you know where the phrase or harmony ends, you should change pedal. Typically you will play the note, and then release the pedal and press down again (before the next note)-- this is called delayed pedaling, which is probably the most commonly used and it's probably the one you will practice a lot if you are a beginner. I would also make a note that it's possible to press the pedal "lightly", "heavily", etc, and have a noticeably different sound.

Nonetheless, there is an endless variety of pedaling techniques and what it all boils down to is not your foot action or even the actual score (depending on the composer and edition), but your ears. You need to pedal as you hear in real time especially when you're changing venues or the weather changes, etc.

This pianist wrote a very good introductory guide to using the pedals here and she outlines three major techniques in pedaling and emphasizes the importance of listening and in fact, playing without the pedal when practicing. Good luck!

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I teach jazz piano, so this involves a lot of improvisation. I notice my students using the sustain pedal just as a 'comfort aid' rather than in a musical way and I usually encourage them to lay off the pedal unless they are playing a slow piece. Anything mid tempo or faster tends to blur the harmony when the sustain is used badly. Sometimes they think they are sounding better and in fact it just makes things worse when one harmony is blurred into the next.

http://www.learnjazzpianoonline.com/lessons.html

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