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The Soft Pedal (Read 594 times)

Offline imnotapianist

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The Soft Pedal
« on: August 13, 2021, 05:48:04 AM »
I've heard some very interesting insights about the soft pedal throughout the internet, and sometimes it's very confusing.

Boris Berman said that piano is done with the fingers, not the soft pedal.
(around 1:00). With that logic then why do we need a soft pedal in the first place, if softness can be done with the fingers alone? And does that devalue all the other pianists out there, like Trifinov, Zimmerman, and Argerich, who use the soft pedal extensively? That even devalues Chopin himself, who almost always used the pedal.

Leon Fleisher says that applying the soft pedal partly is like being a little bit pregnant. Funny.
&t=2444s (1:01:00) But I feel like the soft pedal also acts in gradients, just like the fingers do. Why does Fleisher refer to it as an all-or-nothing occurrence?

Feel free to add what other pianists say, or your opinions, about the soft pedal. I feel like this is a very controversial topic from my experience and I want to hear more perspectives on this phenomenon. 

 

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Offline dogperson

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Re: The Soft Pedal
«Reply #1 on: August 13, 2021, 07:23:59 AM »
First, I don’t consider it to be the ‘soft pedal’ but the una corda pedal.  If I want to play softer,’I use my fingers; if I want to change the tonal sound, I use the una corda, as it does change the tone.  Use it and listen to the changes it does make.  Applied in sections for tone and letting your fingers play softer when you only want to change dynamics opens up an option for real variety. 

Offline quantum

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Re: The Soft Pedal
«Reply #2 on: August 13, 2021, 08:44:13 AM »
Think this as two separate elements being controlled: volume or loudness, and tonal richness or which overtones you wish to be present in the sound. 

The fingers control the key velocity, and thus how loud a note is played.  The una corda (on a grand) controls how you shape the overtones of that note.  On many verticals the left pedal commonly moves the hammers closer to the strings, but does not shift them to strike the string with a different part of the hammer. 

Both key velocity changes and application of una corda can result in the perceived softening of sound.  These techniques can be applied independently or together in differing gradients that make available a gamut of sound of which to choose. 



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Offline j_tour

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Re: The Soft Pedal
«Reply #3 on: August 13, 2021, 08:20:04 PM »
But I feel like the soft pedal also acts in gradients, just like the fingers do. Why does Fleisher refer to it as an all-or-nothing occurrence?

Your main questions have been answered pretty well, but this one:  you're right.

It's not something you can rely on, but if you look at the action while depressing the una corda pedal, obviously, the hammers shift slightly.

I don't have enough subtlety to "work" the pedal to reliably hit in between two or three strings, but it's certainly not just "on" and "off."

That said, it's probably impractical for a pianist to work the una corda pedal while also doing a bunch of other stuff.

And, I haven't observed yesterday playing on a grand how much using sustain pedal alongside the una corda interferes with the sound overall.

I suspect Fleisher was speaking in terms of what one can achieve practically, in performance, with the effect.
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Offline lelle

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Re: The Soft Pedal
«Reply #4 on: August 14, 2021, 01:22:17 AM »

Leon Fleisher says that applying the soft pedal partly is like being a little bit pregnant. Funny.
But I feel like the soft pedal also acts in gradients, just like the fingers do. Why does Fleisher refer to it as an all-or-nothing occurrence?

I don't think he means it as an all or nothing - just that she should be more consistent with it. Like "I'm using it a little" - "no, either you are using it or you are not". I wouldn't read too much into it. Because on a well regulated grand you can definitely do several variants - una corda, due corde and tre corde (or however you say it in italian :P) and for different effects.

Offline dw4rn

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Re: The Soft Pedal
«Reply #5 on: August 20, 2021, 09:35:34 AM »
I don't think he means it as an all or nothing - just that she should be more consistent with it. Like "I'm using it a little" - "no, either you are using it or you are not". I wouldn't read too much into it.

I also think that how one should understand what Fleisher says, otherwise it makes no sense at all. It's a lot easier to understand what Berman is after. Yes, you can ask:
With that logic then why do we need a soft pedal in the first place, if softness can be done with the fingers alone? 
...but then we must ask you, have you really never noticed that dynamic changes can be done with the fingers alone? ::)

It would be interesting to know how often you all actually use the soft pedal? Do you sort of always keep the foot close to use it now and then, or do you save it for special occasions, so to speak? I guess it depends very much on the individual qualities of the instrument you are playing, repertoire etc, but I like to use it often and in all kinds of repertoire.   

Offline anacrusis

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Re: The Soft Pedal
«Reply #6 on: August 29, 2021, 09:36:24 PM »
Advanced techniques for the soft pedal includes using it during forte to gain access to extra colors and holding it down during a crescendo and releasing it at the end to get an extra surge of sound. You absolutely don't need to limit yourself to using it for soft and "airy" passages.

Offline dw4rn

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Re: The Soft Pedal
«Reply #7 on: August 31, 2021, 07:15:26 AM »
Advanced techniques for the soft pedal includes using it during forte to gain access to extra colors and holding it down during a crescendo and releasing it at the end to get an extra surge of sound. You absolutely don't need to limit yourself to using it for soft and "airy" passages.

Great ideas! I think I want to rephrase my earlier question and ask if anyone has any favorite examples of unexpected but effective use of the soft pedal!?