When playing piano songs develop a sharper sense for the music by focusing on the feel and sound to develop a better sense for when to press on the sustaining pedal
To create a masterpiece an artist utilizes a set of tools available to him. Michaelangelo utilized the hammer to chisel the statue of David then utilized the brush to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. The piano is of course one instrument/tool a musician utilizes to create sounds pleasant to hear. On a more miniscule scale, tools are available that make the music created on the piano that much more beautiful.
One of which is the sustaining pedal. The role of the sustaining pedal is to connect notes together for a smoother sounding playing style. The flip of the pedal releases previously held notes and begins holding new notes.
When pressed with the foot, the pedal mechanism lifts the damping mechanism off the strings inside the belly of the piano.
Not pressed, it stops the strings of un-played notes from vibrating. With the foot stepping on the sustaining pedal, all the strings of the piano are free to vibrate even when only a single note is played. The vibration of unstruck strings is known as sympathetic vibration. It blurs the two notes together for an instant, producing an effect that is pleasing and smooth to the instrument's sound.
Practically when performing on the piano to execute good pedalling, hold the pedal down. sustaining a note, until just after you have played the note on which you're releasing the pedal. Coordination between the foot and fingers is required to not disconnect the notes and maintain a binding legato.
They almost always come hand in hand; applying the sustaining pedal and legato. Legato means to never release the key until the next note has been played. Sounds familiar does it not? The difference is legato is executed with the agility of the fingers while the action on the sustaining pedal is taken by the foot.
Some music sheets do have markings showing when the sustaining pedal should be pressed as shown in the example in Image 1. Many do not. Therefore, it is up to the pianist’s own insight and degree of eloquence that determine when the sustaining pedal is pressed. I started to play Canon in D by Pacheibel recently and there are no markings whatsoever with regards to when to press the sustaining pedal.
The moment when a transition occurs in the music such as, when a phrase ends before a new one begins is the moment when pressing the sustaining pedal makes a significant impact on the listening experience. See Image 2 for the example.
At instances such as these, advantage is taken by pressing the foot on the sustaining pedal to add a subtle richness and sonority to the piano’s sound.
The different ways to express oneself are limitless, making use the vibration of unstruck strings through the pressing of the sustaining pedal is one of them. The arrangement of a set of musical notes too give an idea if the sustaining pedal should be pressed or not. The moment when a rising sequence of notes shifts to a descending one or vice versa is one example.
Group of notes such as a string of semiquavers carry traits that determine the rhythm produced, recognising the patterns in the arrangement of the notes can develop a sharper sense for the music thus a better sense for when to press on the sustaining pedal. Focus on the feel and sound of the music to sharpen it even more and complement it with good technique and precision built through diligent practice.