I have few questions in regards to playing the sustain pedal.

There is two things that I am wondering:

  • Is the sustain pedal based on the bass clef or treble clef? Or is it both?
  • Does one take into account of rests when using the sustain pedal; if so how?

To give an example and some context, I will be using excerpts from a piece from the movie Tangled, "I See the Light" by Alan Menken.

Example 1:

Bar 1, Measure 1

For the image above:

  • Do we based playing the sustain pedal for the treble clef or bass clef?
  • If we're basing it off the bass clef, do we press the sustain pedal immediately after releasing the first note, "C"?

Example 2:

enter image description here

For the image above:

  • If we're just basing the sustain pedal for the treble clef, do we need to take into account for all the rests when playing the sustain pedal (or how do we)

Sorry I hope I made my question clear enough.

  • 1
    With respect, are you thinking the 'p' at the beginning of the bar is a pedal sign? Usually, if pedal is expected, it will be marked as 'ped', with a sign to tell where to let it go. It's impossible to 'play' a rest while the pedal is in use. And generally, pedal will only be used when all the notes played while it's down sound good together, i.e. belonging to the same chord.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:04

1 Answer 1


There's no general rule. Use it to sustain whatever the music needs to be sustained.

In the first example you showed us, the pedal could "catch" the low C and sustain it throughout the bar. The same harmony persists - it's a C major chord all the way - so there's no chance of an ugly smear. So I'd press it with the first LH note and keep it down for the whole bar.

In the second example, it's not so easy. The chord changes on beat 2. The composer has specifically notated a sustained melody in the RH. He could have done something similar in the LH, but chose not to. And, as you have noticed, there are rests. I would be inclined not to use the sustain pedal at all. I would also suggest that the second example isn't a particularly well thought-out bit of piano writing.

  • As for your answer for the second example, you stated that the composer has specifically notated a sustained melody in the RH - are you referring to "dolce cantabile"? Thanks.
    – T. Nguyen
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 22:53
  • Partly. Also the quarter-notes and the slur.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 16:03

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