What Do The Pedals Do On A Piano? Find Out In This Blog!
Almost all digital, grand or upright pianos will usually have either 2 or 3 pedals. These pedals may differ slightly depending on the brand and models for specific functionality, but most follow this rule.
Most ‘Grand Pianos‘ (and digital pianos) use the following pedals from left to right…
Una Corda Pedal | Sostenuto Pedal | Sustain Pedal
‘Upright Pianos‘ differ slightly, by having from left to right…
Soft Pedal | Practice Pedal |Sustain Pedal
What does each pedal do?
Sustain Pedal (RHS)
Let’s start with the pedal that most players are first introduced to and use the most. When you play a note on the piano a ‘damper’ is released from the string allowing a hammer to hit the string and the note to play. When you release the key the damper goes back on to the string stopping it from playing. If you hold the right hand ‘sustain pedal’ down this prevents the damper from stopping the note from playing and therefore the sound continues to play and gradually fades away. This is simulated on digital pianos to react in the same way as an acoustic piano. Moreover, releasing the dampers from all the strings allows the other strings in the piano to vibrate sympathetically, creating different harmonics depending upon the notes played.
The Sostenuto Pedal (Middle Pedal On Grand Pianos)
The sostenuto pedal is a ‘selective sustain’ pedal. This is usually only found on grand pianos, but maybe on some sepcific upright pianos too. It works like sustain but only on the notes you decide. To make this work you simply press a note (or notes) down, keep them held down whilst you press the middle sostenuto pedal down; these notes will then sustain but no other notes will. The system resets once you release the pedal so you can then do it again. Digital pianos simulate this grand piano feature if it has 3 pedals.
Una Corda Pedal (LHS – Also ‘Soft Pedal’ On Upright Pianos)
‘Una Corder’ is Italian for ‘one string’. You usually only find ‘Una Corder’ features in grand pianos, digitals and selected high end upright pianos. In a grand piano, this pedal moves the entire key action assembly slightly to the right when it is pressed, shifting the hammers so they only strike one or two of the strings instead of the full three. This results in a slightly quieter, softer sound. Digital pianos simulate this too. I have found that unless you play quite hard you will not hear much difference.
The Soft Pedal (LHS On Upright Pianos)
Another version of the una corda pedal is also known as a soft pedal, sometimes called the ‘half-blow’ is design to replicate the effect of the una corda. The action is fixed in place on an upright piano, so the hammers are pushed closer to the strings when the pedal is pressed. The effect of this pedal is very subtle and many newer pianists will barely notice the change in sound. The hammers are simply closer to the strings when the pedal is pressed, so unless you play very hard it is difficult to hear much change at all.
The Practice Pedal (Middle Pedal On Upright Pianos |’Celeste Pedal’)
The middle Practice Pedal on upright pianos is designed to help quieter play and is also known as the celeste pedal. Many upright pianos come with a practice pedal, this pedal puts a strip of ‘soft felt’ between the hammer and string from a rail called the ‘celeste rail’. This means when you play a note, a hammer hits the felt and then the string making a quieter sound. To lock the felt between the hammers and the strings you simply press the pedal down and push it to the side and it locks in place allowing you to play quietly.
Digital pianos usually simulate the 3 pedals of a grand piano ‘Una Corda | Sostenutu| Sustain’ to give you the best playing experience of a grand piano. On many digital pianos you can change the function of the pedals to do a variety of things other than piano functions. These could be turning effects on/off, or page turning music on an Ipad for example.
I hope this helps you understand what the pedals do on pianos.
Graham Blackledge – Rimmers Music