Piano Pedals Explained to Kids
Piano pedals have to be explained to kids. They are a great mystery to a child at the piano, and are among the first questions they ask. Kids love that there are levers and pedals and buttons on the piano.
Are your children playing with any other musical instrument designed in the Renaissance with 9000 moving parts? Start your demonstration with the pedal on the right, the sustain pedal.
There are three pedals on a full piano, but some have only two pedals. The outer two are the only ones that work of the three unless you are playing a very fine grand piano.
Piano Pedal Is Like Water in Watercolor
We are concerned only with the right and left pedals. The middle pedal can have a wide variety of uses depending on the make and model of the piano. First, I play something that needs pedal very much, like a ballad or the Moonlight Sonata. But I don’t use pedal, so that it sounds very dry and disconnected.
I play it until I can see the child hears the dry quality without the pedal. Then I play the same piece but with sustain pedal (right pedal) so they can hear the glassy sheen of the sustain pedal. They are always impressed with the difference.
Get Kids To Use The Sustain Pedal
Encourage the use of the sustain pedal on pieces where it is appropriate, such as slow songs or the Moonlight Sonata, for example. It doesn’t matter if the child leaves the pedal down, blurring the music. This is a machine, and you can’t learn to drive it without experimenting with the controls.
It’s always interesting for kids to see the inner workings of the piano, so open up the instrument and let them see exactly how the sustain pedal operates. Most kids have never seen the inside of a piano.
Try The Soft Pedal
Next, explain the left pedal, the soft pedal. Once again, demonstrate by playing a piece with and then without the soft pedal. Pressing the pedal makes the sound subtly quieter. With the soft pedal, I always play a game of “who can play softer.” I play a key with the soft pedal on, and then say, “There’s no way you can play a softer note,” and then the child tries.
No matter how softly they play the note, I always say, “Yeah, but I can play it softer,” and attempt to beat them. Don’t stop until they have played a key softer than you. Learning how to use the pedals on a piano is an extremely subtle art.
The details of its mastery are beyond almost all children, but you should introduce their usage and praise any awareness of them.