A few weeks ago one of my students was having a really tough time getting the feel of syncopated pedaling. She was so frustrated I had her "shelf" the pedaling for a week. To reintroduce the concept we did an off the bench "experiment" that she'll probably never forget.
1- We both sat on the floor flat with our legs stretched out in front
2- Then I had her count a measure of 8th notes aloud (1&2&3&4&).
3- Next we added the "arm stretches" on beat one (Stretch &2&3&4&) and we stretched our arms towards our toes on beat one for a few measures. (The song she was trying to learn had pedal and chord changes on the first beat of each measure)
4-To finish it off, we added the "toe flexes." Chant "Stretch - Up-Down &3&4&" while flexing and pointing our toes after the arm stretches on the following beats
& - Toe Flex
2 - Toe Point
&3&4& - Keep Toes Pointed
I was hopeful that by allowing her to see and feel her foot movements isolated away from the keyboard she would be able to grasp the timing of pedaling.
Initially it feels more natural for many students to want to push the pedal down at the same time as they press their hands down for the chords, but this exercise mimics the desired motions needed for proper pedaling of depressing or changing the pedal slightly after you play the chord.
When she came back after a week of practice I was amazed by the results. The pedaling problem was fixed, and she was so excited that she had memorized the song and asked if she could perform it at our upcoming group lesson. I love it when my crazy late night strokes of ideas yield results!