Piano Pedalling Exercises

One of the piano’s great assets is the sustain pedal, allowing you to let go of keys without the notes being cut off. Other, older keyboard instruments, such as pipe organs and harpsichords, had no way of doing this (nor are they touch sensitive, another thing that sets the piano apart!)

In traditional pianos, depressing the pedal moves all the dampers (labelled number 15 in the image above) away from the strings (16), allowing them to keep vibrating. Releasing the pedal drops the dampers back onto the strings, deadening the sound. In keyboards, this effect is produced digitally.

Typically you want the pedal ‘on’ most of the time, releasing it only briefly to get rid of old, unwanted notes before catching new ones. In order to do this, your foot should not come up before the new note is sounded. Instead release the pedal just after it sounds and depress it again immediately to catch the new note, holding it down until the next new note sounds.

Here’s a simple exercise to get you started:

The pedal is represented by the long line below the stave, with the little peaks showing where your foot should come up and down. Note that the up-down marks are after the note, not before or at the same time. It may be worth repeating NOTE – UP – DOWN – NOTE – UP – DOWN, as you practice this, until you get used to the action.

To help you with this, I’ve put together a free, single-page PDF with four pedalling exercises (including the one above). Take these as slowly as you need – the aim is to get used to correct pedalling, not simply to get to the end of the exercises! Repeat them as many times and as often as necessary.

Here’s the file: Piano Pedal Exercises.pdf

Broken Chords for Piano

As those of you who take exams as part of your piano learning will be aware, broken chords tend to die out after the first couple of grades. Arpeggios come along and – like the red squirrels around here – those poor broken chords are superseded, never to be seen again, unless you go to the Isle of Wight. Red squirrels, that is…

Broken chords, however, can be seen right there in the comfort of your own living room (or wherever you happen to keep your piano), by simply playing them!

And there great reason to do so. In my blog posts on Practice Chords Progressions and Your First Six Chord Exercises, we looked at why chords are so important for playing the piano and how to start and  progress with them, but one of the best ways to get chords firmly locked into your brain is by using broken chords.

To this end, I have put together a free PDF download with the broken chords for the six keys that make up the C-major family – C, Dm, Em, F, G and Am. Download them below and add them into your piano practice schedule.


Finger-wise, I tend to go with whatever feels most comfortable. As you’ll see in the animation image at the top of the page, I tend to favour 1-2-3, 1-2-4, 1-3-5, but that’s by no means a rule. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Enjoy. And remember: practice isn’t homework, it’s where you learn to play the piano!

ABRSM and RGT Exam Dates for 2017

Somehow it’s almost April already and the Spring terms is nearly at an end… and I’ve not yet posted the dates for the ABRSM and RGT exams. There are two dates you need to know if you’re looking to enter an exam.

The first is the closing date, which is – surprise, surprise! – the last date you can apply to enter an exam in the current term. The closing dates below are for online entries.

The second is the exams date range. This will let you know the window of dates when the exam is likely to be scheduled for. There are options to request specific weeks and these are usually taken into account.

ABRSM Exam Dates

Closing Date Exam Dates
Spring Term 20 January 6 March – 8 April
Summer Term 12 May 12 June – 15 July
Winter Term 29 September 6 Nov – 9 Dec

ABRSM Exam fees are here

RGT Exam Dates

Closing Date Exam Dates
Spring Term 1 February March / April
Summer Term 1 May June / July
Winter Term 1 October Nov / Dec

RGT Exam fees are here