Page 1 of 1

What are the three pedals for on a grand piano?

PostPosted: 15 May 2018 23:45
by Hugh-AR
When we play our keyboards there are so many 'electronic' variables we can utilise it's not always easy to keep on top of everything as we play. We often think that playing a 'mechanical' instrument like a piano must be much easier as there is not much to take into consideration other than 'playing the notes'. Yes, we can play the notes softly, or loudly, but what else would we have to think about?

For starters, there is the foot pedal on the right, which I always used to call the Loud Pedal .. which apparently is the incorrect terminology as it is actually called the Damper, or Sustain Pedal. When this is depressed, it lifts the 'dampers' off the strings so they continue to sound when you take your hands off the keys. So that's one thing to think about when playing a piano. I used to use this a lot when I played the piano, as I would play an octave with the left hand, put my foot down on the pedal while my hand moved across to play a chord .. then as I hit the chord, lift my foot off the pedal so the bass sound stopped.

Now on a Grand Piano there are normally three Pedals, and I never knew what the other two were for until today. I remember a quip by Victor Borge who stated that "the pedal in the middle is to separate the other two! ".

The video below explains the function of all three pedals, and it is the one in the middle that I find most interesting. If you press the pedal in the middle just after you play a chord the dampers will 'lift' just on those notes you have played .. and any other notes played after can be played 'staccato' style. If you used the right hand pedal then all the notes would continue to sound making a real mishmash of the sound. So that would be a technical thing to consider when playing a Grand piano.

One learns something new every day!


Re: What are the three pedals for on a grand piano?

PostPosted: 07 Sep 2018 13:48
by Hugh-AR
The 'official' names and explanations for the three pedals are:


The sustain pedal (the rightmost pedal) is the most frequently used of all pedals, and is also the most essential to playing certain pieces. This is why sustain pedal inputs feature even on beginner level home keyboards.

To understand what it does, it’s worth considering the mechanics of how an acoustic piano works. Essentially, a piano consists of a series of strings, which are hit by hammers when keys are pressed, causing them to ring. When the key is released, the hammer returns to its place, resting on the strings, causing the note to stop ringing.

To prevent strings from other (un-played) notes resonating when notes are hit, a damper bar sits on the strings, keeping those strings deadened.

When the sustain pedal is depressed, this damper bar is lifted. The result is that notes will continue to ring after keys are released- i.e. they sustain.

A side effect of this on an acoustic piano is that the strings of other, un-played notes will also resonate gently, adding richer harmonics to the overall sound. This is known as sympathetic resonance, and many digital pianos now replicate this effect.


Notated S.P., Sost. Ped., or ThP

Of all of the typical pedals on a piano, the sostenuto (middle pedal) is the one that tends to cause the most confusion. However, it is similar to the sustain pedal, in a sense. When depressed, only the notes that are being played at the point the pedal is used will sustain, whilst notes played after this will not. The sustained notes will hold until the pedal is released.

This enables the player to hold bass notes or chords, whilst playing staccato melodies over the top, for example.


Notated Una Corda, with Tre Corde or Tutte Le Corde to release pedal.

The leftmost pedal is the Una Corda pedal, which is sometimes known as the soft pedal. Again, to understand what this does, it’s worth taking a look at how an acoustic piano works. The strings on an acoustic piano are usually grouped into threes for each note, and tuned in unison to create a richer fuller tone (this is also the reason that acoustic pianos sound so dreadful when out of tune). When a key is pressed, the hammer normally hits all of these strings simultaneously.

When the una corda pedal is depressed on a grand piano, the internal piano action is shifted to the right, such that the hammers hit only two strings, resulting in a softer sound.

Historically, this pedal would result in the hammers hitting only one string (hence the name, meaning ‘one string’)- nowadays, due to the space constraints within piano cabinets, two strings are hit. This changes both tone and volume.

In an upright piano, there is even less physical space. As a result, the una corda pedal works by moving the hammers closer to the strings. This results in lower volume, but without altering overall tone.

On a digital piano, these effects are recreated digitally. Sometimes, when using a different sound, such as strings or organ, the pedals can be assigned to do more appropriate functions (triggering Leslie on an organ sound, for example).

Like riding a bike, or driving a car, understanding how to use the pedals takes a bit of time and practice. However, knowing what they do is the ideal place to start, and, once you’ve got the hang of using them (like riding a bike), you’ll never forget.

The information above is from the Dawsons Music Website: ... a-piano-do

Re: What are the three pedals for on a grand piano?

PostPosted: 21 Sep 2018 22:39
by Hugh-AR
This year Bronwyn and I have been to the Isle of Wight to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary. The cottage (bungalow) we rented in Brighstone had the added attraction of having a piano that I was permitted to play. This turned out to be a Kawai acoustic Grand Piano .. with three pedals, so I was able to confirm for myself what they did.

I must admit, it was a bit of a shock to see all those keys move across to the right, giving a 'softer' played note. I did check out what happened on the upright piano at the local pub, and can confirm that those keys did not move to the right. What seemed to happen with that piano is that all the keys moved, some up and some down .. and stayed like that. An old piano that presumably had seen better days.

Going back to the Kawai Grand Piano, it had a beautiful sound. I just wish that when I had started playing the piano at the age of about 11, someone had explained how to use these pedals properly. All the emphasis in those days seemed to be to 'read the notes' and play classical music.

In particular, I have always loved the sound of a dropped 10th, 'Charlie Kunz' style ie. play the E just before the first beat of the bar, and play the C on the first beat of the bar, an octave lower .. all with the left hand. The technique here is to push the 'loud pedal' (sustain pedal) firmly down before the first beat of the bar (ie. with the E) and not to release it until the chord is played on the 'off beat'. Perfecting this as a youngster would have held my interest and really got me going. As it was, I got nowhere with learning how to play the piano and packed it in after passing my Grade 2 exams.