Dr. Josh Wright

Josh Wright never ceases to amaze! 

When I spoke to Dr. Josh Wright about giving a lecture on pedaling, I was not quite sure how it would go, a feeling I did not have prior to any of his previous lectures. True to form, Dr. Wright got the entire audience fully engaged with his easy conversational style, logical flow, varied examples, deft fingers, heavenly sounds, and adept use of technology. He had a picture of his brand (Josh Wright Piano), a camera that helped the audience see his face, a camera that showed the keyboard and his fingers, and a camera that showed his shoes on the pedals! We could see how he changed pedals as he masterfully created different sonorities using different pedaling techniques.

Dr. Wright started the lecture by giving a background of the three pedals — the una corda, sostenuto and damper — and their uses. He talked about how the piano’s hammers flatten over time and leave imprints. They need to be reshaped to have the right tone color. 

“I very much enjoyed the lecture, and it really brought to my attention how different pedaling decisions can influence how a piece sounds or feels. This was nothing I had really appreciated before. So, it was an hour of extremely useful information for me…I am looking forward to the next event!”

“What a valuable lecture!”

He gave pointers on when to use the una corda and damper pedals. For instance, pedals can be used more generously with bright pianos in dry spaces, and in passages in the high registers. Using Ravel’s Jeau D’eau, Dr. Wright illustrated how pedals can produce texture in passages in the upper registers. In general, pedals should be used less with pianos with big basses, in spaces where there tend to be a lot of overtones (e.g., cathedrals), with passages in the lower registers, and when playing dissonant sections or pieces. More than anything, let your ears be your guide!

The period of the piece also affects the use of the pedal. Baroque music requires much less use of pedals. Some world class pianists do not use pedals at all when playing Baroque pieces. For one, harpsichords were the instruments then. If anything, finger pedaling (ultra legato) was used. Today, however, pedals are used for Baroque music. We have the freedom of ornamentation. It is recommended that pedals, if used in Baroque music, should be used cautiously, sparingly. 

Dr. Wright used examples, including Debussy’s Claire de Lune, to show how differently this familiar piece can sound by changing the pedaling technique. Carol Henry was ecstatic that our guest lecturer recommended techniques to address her pedaling challenges in Chopin’s Nocturne in C# minor (posthumous) and Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso. How exciting! So come out and attend future special events. You are sure to learn something and enjoy yourself in the process!