how often do people make use of the sustain pedal when playing?

obviously normally its not used much.

but ballads & bossas - sometimes it seems to sound good when you use it on these songs, things can get a bit empty without it. however when you do use it everything seems to get a bit cloudy and you lose that sense of touch.

how do other people approach this?
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i use mine too much. it's a bad habit that i need to break!

i heard keith jarret's teacher did not let him use the sustain pedal
i use it a lot when i play fast :)
...and loud -
use the pedal sparingly (you may have to play a piano sometime that has a pedal that doesn't work - that way you'll be prepared).

in many styles the pedal is operated very similar to the drum bass pedal on a simple march/polka:

down on beat 1
up on beat 2
down on beat 3
up on beat 4

"when in doubt, leave it out"
pedaling technique is as important as piano technique!  let your ear be your guide... as in all things.
i find that i can do more pedalling with a good grand than on an upright.  it seems to me that the upright sounds much muddier when the pedal is used.
my use of the sustain pedal is almost completely unconscious. but my foot knows what it's doing even if i don't. it's very effective.
randy halberstadt used to encourage me to lay off the sustain pedal, the idea being that it made fore a surer hand, it forces you to play with more precision. the piano teacher i'm working with now, on the other hand, has me pedaling practically every chord, especially on ballads. my current piano teacher comes from much more of a classical background than randy, the guy is a technique freak. i think that it is good to practice without using the sustain pedal, but when you do use it, know how to use it right.
when i was taking classical lessons, when i started, my teacher spent as much time teaching me the "right" way to use the sustain pedal as she spent teaching me anything else.

sustain pedal is an important part of piano playing - it releases the beautiful harmonics that partially make the piano the instrument it is.

however, you can release those harmonics if you muddy everything up by keeping the sustain pedal on all the time, obviously.

practicing without using the sustain pedal is a very good idea, especially ballads. you can really work on voice leading and other piano things to make your ballads sound great. then when it's time to use the sustain pedal, you can bring out even more of that color with the harmonics.

there are two big problems that i notice in players. first, some players simply don't know the proper technique.

you press the sustain pedal immediately after you hit nad hold the note(s) that you want to sustain. not at the same time.  if the pedal is already down, keep it down while you hit (and hold!) the new note or chord but then quickly (immediately after the hit) pick it up and put it down again. that way there is no awkward break between the new chord and the next.

keep in mind this:  when you hit a chord that you're going to sustain, don't hit it and takes your hands off.  keep your hands there, keep some weight on that chord, it will help you focus on what you're doing and it's proper technique.

the other problem i see is related to the first- instead of actually using the sustain pedal to help the music sound good, people use it to rest their foot on.

it's not a foot rest, just like you wouldn't rest your elbows on the piano keys when you're playing (though that would be difficult for most of us anyway).

it's all about the proper technique, and of course as someone said, musicality.  there are always reasons to use the pedal in whatever ways you seem.  i've seen people hit a chord staccato and then immediately after put the pedal down. it's a very nice effect that i wouldn't want to overuse, but it can sound cool.

so remember to use the pedal right, you need to think of a few things:

proper technique
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if you play stride or any old jazz that goes from the 40's and down, than using the sustain pedal is crutial. it is important that you do so because the sustain pedal keeps the music in style - accented and syncopated. the style of the music is exactly like what a drummer or gypsy-style guitar does. it goes like this:

1. long (sustain down)
2. short (sustain up)
3. long (sustain down)
4. short (sustain up)

this is exactly what 7 said earlier. if you listen to swing from the forties and down, you will hear this style being played. it is very similar to the march or ragtime. it first went under the hands of  scott joplin. then it began to show in stride piano, drummers, and gypsy style guitar playing.
:-(  i'm sorry to say that i have a very bad habit of overusing the sustain pedal.  i'm a veryyy lazy person, so needless to say, i'm too lazy to hold down notes or connect phrases.  if it's not staccato, it's sustained for me.
just got back from a rehearsal session tonight (using motif es8). somehow, i had forgotten to take my bag containing all my signal/power cables and my sustain pedal. luckily, the rehearsal studio had all the cables i needed, but i had to do without my sustain pedal for the session.

the result? i played the best i have played for a long time, and didn't really miss the pedal at all (although i was sort of pressing it in my imagination). i am going to try doing without the pedal in future sessions to see what happens, as i must definitely have been overusing it.
it's just another effect.  tastefully used it can be very expressive.
i remember listening to george winston use it in interesting ways.
the sustain pedal controls the dampers that keep the strings from vibrating (making sound) unless we have our finger or elbow or foot depressing a piano key.  seeing as my primary intent while sitting on a piano bench is to cause the strings to vibrate i always have my foot either on the sustain pedal or very near it ready to hold it down and allow the strings to vibrate and freely make the sound for which the piano-forte is intended.
chopin said that the use of the sustain pedal is a lifetime study.
on an upright, if you continuously press up and down rhythmically on the pedal with great force you can get all the notes on the piano to sound at once.

you can make the elephant roar!!!
on a slightly different note, does anyone have experience of successfully using the sostenuto pedal on a grand (the middle one)?

i understand it allows you to sustain chords whilst adding staccato lines on top. could be very interesting, but i've never had access to a grand for long enough to get into practising it!

does anyone know of any book that contains information about use of this pedal?

when i used to play trumpet i would sometimes hold down a chord on the piano and sustain it with the sostenuto pedal. i would then weight the pedal down with a heavy book. then i'd blow my horn into the strings of the piano. every time i played a note in the chord, the open strings would resonate, reproducing the pitch. pretty cool sounding effect, you could probably do it just singing.
i don't think there's any need for a book.
the sostenuto pedal will sustain whatever keys you are holding down at the moment you depress the pedal.
keep holding the pedal down to sustain whatever it was while you can play dry, staccato stuff anywhere else on the piano.  
that's what a true sostenuto pedal does, on a grand.  
some pianos have a middle pedal which is nothing but a half-damper pedal (holds the dampers off the lower half notes of the keyboard).
i've got a middle pedal on my console that's a practice pedal.
as i recall (not near a piano to try iy out) you could get basically the same effect by playing the same note in different octaves. long after the open strings stop vibrating from the initial key depression, you can still get a pitch out of those strings by playing the notes in other places on the keyboard. i can't remember if it works better with octaves below or above the open strings.
of course, you may want to sustain an entire chord or cluster.
thanks cyn and jwv76!  i suppose my point was, can anyone point to an instance of the sostenuto pedal being used on a jazz or classical recording? it seems like quite a specialised technique, and i've never come across any music that demanded it, or if i did, i was playing an upright at the time!

concerning my query about books, this is really two questions:

1. is there a symbol for the use of this pedal which is different from the normal sustain pedal symbol, and if so, why is this symbol not given in any of the music theory/notation textbooks?

2. are there any classical pianists out there who can give instances where this pedal is called for in the repertoire?

i have used it in debussy and other impressionism.
i know that jessica williams uses it in jazz.  she will not play on a piano that doesn't have a sostenuto pedal.  but i can't give you a specific example.  she plays inside the piano, too.
re a symbol...  i think i have seen the word "sost." or "sostenuto" next to a pedal marking... you might want to look thru the scores of some impressionist music and see what you can find.  it's not a standard pedal and not all pianos have them.  so, it would not necessarily be in books.
hi dr. jazz,

one example of a classical piece that is greatly helped by the sostenuto pedal is rachmaninoff's prelude in c# minor.  the first few bars feature gigantic 2-hand chords in the bass that ring underneath melodic chords in the treble registers.  (see the wikipedia article for the first few bars of the score:

if you use the sustain pedal instead of the sostenuto pedal to hold the first chord of the first bar, everything gets incredibly muddy by the end of beat two.

by the way, this piece is terribly fun to play on a grand piano.  it's one of the few places you'll see dynamic markings of sffff.

that was one of my favorite things to play as a teenager, but i don't think i used the sostenuto pedal.  it would have helped!
i use the sost pedal to occasionally hold bass tones (i currently play solo or with a guitarist - no bass). so, i'm doing 2 pedals while i play, which works ok unless i start thinking about my feet.
thanks, guys!

i'll just have to save up and get a grand piano to practise my sostenuto technique! i too used to play some of the easier rach preludes - will check them out again...

interesting about jessica williams. a few weeks ago i got hold of her 'victoria concert' album - i'll have another listen and see if i can hear any instances of her using sostenuto...

it is better not to use the sustain pedal a lot especcialy if your playing a bop ar a fast song but it sounds better if you try to emphasize legato instead but you can use the pedal when playing a ballad that way it sounds better.
nb dont use the sustain pedal when you play very high notes in a improvisation and when you glissando.
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