Piano songs - Canon in D

Good technique for playing piano songs cohenrently involves smart use of the pedal, fingering, chords and timing resulting in a clear rendition

The word I was searching for is ‘coherent’. Wanting a word to describe a piano playing that is clear to an audience or someone close nearby who happened to be listening.


  • What? - Flick the pedal

  • Why? - Rich sonorous sound
  • How? - Blur notes together for a split second

‘Clear ’sounded too plebeian while ‘understandable’ too was a mouthful. So I have decided to go with ‘coherent’.

How do I go about playing a song on the piano so that the music is coherent to an audience?

Your very first audience is going to be yourself. So if you can satisfy your own requirements without compromise, the audience shall be taken care of.

Those requirements can make a long list. To cut it short I am going to focus on what factors most in a piano performance overall.

Understandable rendition of piano songs

In recent weeks, as I struggled to play Canon in D by Pachelbel, I have discovered that I am satisfied most with my piano playing when these factors are working positively in my favor. They are the fingering, pedal, chords and time. All of which are pianistic skills that can be learned and improved on proactively.

These days many of the music score I refer to when playing the piano have notations on where to flick the sustaining pedal. Though, they are merely suggestions, it is comforting to know I am using the pedal as sanctioned by a certain publisher.

Even without the suggestions, the pedal is pressed and released at the end of phrases or at the beginning of phrases. Usually to reflect the change in mood and content of the phrase. Never in mid-phrase. With that principle knowledge obtained you shall not deviate too much from the exact locations to use the sustaining pedal.

Image 1 below is a phrase from Canon in D. Notations on where to use the sustaining pedal is non-existent. I had to rely on my own musical sense to decide where to press the pedal. The arrows show on which note I flicked the pedal. When pressed the notes are connected together resulting in a smoother sounding phrase.


The use of pedal in playing piano songs

The flick of the pedal done quickly releases the previously held notes and begins holding new notes. Pressed, the pedal releases the damping mechanism off the strings of the piano. Not pressed the damping mechanism stops the string of untouched notes from vibrating.

So when I was stepping on the pedal until C (bass clef) and quickly lifted my feet off of it, and then rest my feet on it again on GB (treble clef) and for the rest of the time while I completed the phrase until DA (treble clef) as shown in Image 1, I blurred the notes C and GB together for a split second. Creating a pleasingly smooth effect.

With my feet firmly rested on the pedal, the strings of the piano are free to vibrate resulting in a subtly rich and sonorous sound for the rest of the phrase until DA, at which point I would flick it again.

For fear of being overwhelmed by its difficulty I had been hesitant to learn Canon in D. Since I love it so much I was afraid of the disappointment were I to give up learning it midway because there was the possibility that the level of difficulty of the song was beyond my own level of proficiency. Then I found a book titled the ‘Compound Effect’, it explained how by making even the tiniest of progress eventually they add up to produce the results you desired.

Inspired by the book, I took up the challenge of learning the song by practising it in short sections. Shorter than a bar even. I was going to excel at this song even if it meant gaining proficiency one note at a time.

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