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What do Piano Pedals do?

Those who are not musically inclined or new players still learning the ropes find pianos to be a mystery. People frequently imagine a piano to be a keyboard with rows of black and white keys. The majority of people are unaware that pianos also have hidden pedals that cannot be seen from the outside. They frequently ponder what piano pedals do.

Beginners who do not expect to use an additional set of controls, such as the piano pedals, frequently become alarmed when they do. It’s similar like learning to play the guitar and discovering a completely new aspect of it that you were unaware of. Actually, it’s not that complicated! In order to describe the purpose of each of the pedals you can see at the bottom of a piano, we have put together a guide to the pedals on a piano. You won’t need to wonder again after reading our in-depth guide about piano pedals.

Types of pedals on a piano

Most contemporary acoustic or digital pianos have three pedals. In the past, acoustic pianos had two. Here, we go over each element’s impact on the sound, the best way to use it, and where to locate it in musical notation. Remember that you don’t need to worry about the pedals much right now if you’re just starting off as a novice. Their use is a (relatively) sophisticated approach, therefore you won’t see it used much for a time.

The Damper Pedal

The damper pedal is the first thing you’ll notice on the right. The piano’s internal dampers are managed by this pedal. Little felt pads known as dampers are placed against the piano’s metal strings. The specific damper for each piano key is raised when you push it, causing the piano strings to vibrate and produce sound. The sound ceases when you raise your finger from the key and release it, causing the damper to press against the strings once more. However, EVERY damper is lifted if the damper pedal is depressed with the foot, therefore every note you play will continue to sound even after you stop pushing the key!

The damper pedal can produce a stunning, resonant sound by blending notes; but, if there are too many notes playing at once, the sound may become muddy. For this reason, pianists frequently lift their foot to lower the dampers and “clean” the sound before pressing the damper pedal down again. This allows them to play only a few notes at a time.

The Soft Pedal (Una Corda)

The soft pedal, often known as the “uno corda” pedal, is located on the left. It softens the piano tone a little, as its colloquial name implies. It moves the hammers slightly in a grand piano so that only one string is struck for each note (una corda = one string). The hammers are moved closer to the strings in an upright piano so they can’t strike as powerfully. When you need your piano to be a bit quieter, such as when you’re accompanying a singer or practising early in the morning before anybody else is up, you can use the soft pedal.

The Center Pedal

The sostenuto pedal, which resembles a selective sustain pedal, is sometimes found as the centre pedal on grand pianos. The first note you play will sound even if you lift your finger after pressing the sostenuto pedal, but all subsequent notes will only sound as long as you hold them down. While your hands are occupied playing other notes, you can use this technique to hold out a long note or a piano chord.

To create an extremely quiet and muffled sound, certain upright pianos have a centre pedal that lowers a piece of felt or cloth between the hammers and the strings. This pedal is sometimes referred to as a “practise pedal,” apparently to facilitate piano practise without disturbing others. Other pianos have no centre pedal at all, or if they do, it is merely decorative and serves no purpose.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many pedals does a piano typically have?

A standard grand piano typically has three pedals. From left to right, they are the soft pedal (or una corda), the sostenuto pedal, and the damper pedal (or sustain pedal). However, some upright pianos might only have two pedals, lacking the sostenuto pedal.

What is the purpose of the damper or sustain pedal on the piano?

The damper or sustain pedal is the most frequently used pedal on a piano. When pressed, it lifts all the dampers off the strings, allowing them to vibrate freely. This results in a sustained sound even after you’ve released the keys, leading to a richer and fuller sound.

What does the soft pedal or una corda do?

The soft pedal, also known as the una corda pedal, is typically the leftmost pedal on a piano. When pressed, it shifts the entire action slightly to the side in grand pianos, so that the hammers strike fewer strings. This results in a softer and slightly more muted sound, hence the name “soft pedal”.

What is the sostenuto pedal used for?

The sostenuto pedal, usually the middle pedal, sustains only the notes that are being held down when the pedal is activated, while allowing other notes played to be unaffected. This can be particularly useful for certain pieces of music where sustaining select notes is required.

Should I always use the pedals when playing the piano?

While the pedals can enhance the sound of the piano, they should be used judiciously. Overuse of the pedals, particularly the sustain pedal, can result in a blurred or muddy sound. It’s best to use the pedals as a means to enhance the music, not as a crutch to cover up mistakes or poor technique.

How can I improve my piano pedal technique?

Improving pedal technique involves careful listening and practice. It’s important to listen to the sound you’re producing and adjust your pedaling accordingly. Additionally, practicing specific pedaling exercises can help improve your control and timing. Working with a knowledgeable piano teacher can also be very beneficial in mastering pedaling techniques.