How to Pedal Chords on the Piano or Keyboard - dummies

How to Pedal Chords on the Piano or Keyboard

By Holly Day, Jerry Kovarksy, Blake Neely, David Pearl, Michael Pilhofer

Here, you can see the two most common pedaling indications. On your piano, press the pedal down at the “Ped.” sign, and release (pedal up) at the asterisk or at the bracket ending the line. These indications are always shown below the bass staff.


The notch in the line indicates where to change the pedal, quickly clearing any sustained sound (pedal up) and resetting the sustain (pedal down). Changing the pedal requires careful attention to clearing the harmony cleanly and completely.


Good pedaling is a matter of timing and listening. Your goal is to train your ear to listen for a smooth transition and a clean change from note to note and chord to chord. You don’t want to time your pedaling to match your hands, releasing and then pressing the pedal down as your fingers move from one chord to another; if you do, you’ll hear a gap between chords.

This is because you’re lifting both the keys and the pedal together, so the dampers stop the sound when your fingers leave the keys. You need the sustain pedal down at this time. You have to wait to change the pedal so it happens simultaneously with playing the next chord.

Your heel should stay on the floor, and your toes can rest on the pedal. Some pedals require more weight and pressure, and foot size and power make a difference. You can use your longer toes plus some of the ball of your foot to press down the pedal, but as always go for comfort and ease.

Your ankle is the hinge that allows your foot to move with the least amount of movement and effort. Pedaling shouldn’t affect your general posture, so if you find that you have to shift around or adjust your balance to accommodate pedaling, you may not have started from a good position.

Broken-chord pedaling

In this exercise for broken-chord pedaling, you change the pedal on a single note.


Block-chord pedaling

In this exercise you change going from chord to chord and on any moving lines within the harmony. Listen for smooth transitions!