Pedal studies that really work

Yesterday the Maryland State music teachers sent me the gift of 4 terrific students to work with in a master class. The subject of pedaling came up several times. This is one of those topics that most of us devote too little time to in the lesson. It can be tedious and time-consuming; and it always seems like there’s something more interesting to talk about.

I found the answer to this problem in an old publication (copyright 1906!). It’s First Pedal Studies, by Jessie L. Gaynor, it’s a gem, and it’s still in print.

Below you’ll see part of the first and last pages of the book. Under each staff there is a rhythm line for the pedal. It’s not for beginners, as you can see; second year is a good time to introduce it. I go through the book slowly: I assign one of the 22 studies each week. Very soon they become not only useful pedagogically but satisfying musically.

Once the routine is familiar to a student, she learns it on her own. If I see if the level is getting to high for that, I simply discontinue assignments and pick them up when appropriate.

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