Some pianos have one, some have two, and others have three, but what do all of these pedals actually do?
If you’re going to learn the piano, it’s necessary to know what they are for, so we’re going to walk you through them all!
One thing that applies to all of them is how your foot should be positioned. Make sure that your heel never leaves the floor, there is no reason to pump the pedal using your whole leg!
The Right Pedal
The pedal that is the most used by far by all pianists is the right pedal, known as the sustain pedal. It’s called this because it sustains the notes.
As long as you press it down, the notes you’ve played after you pressed it down keeps sounding.
This pedal is useful because it allows you to give more life to the music since not all notes just instantly die as soon as you’ve played them.
It does this by raising the damper off the keys you’re playing so that the strings can keep vibrating freely.
When you use the sustain pedal you need to make sure that you lift it every once in a while, depending on what notes you’re playing.
Let’s say that you’re playing a C chord for one bar, and in the next bar, you’re going to change it to a G7. It would be problematic to just keep the pedal down because then the two chords would mix and the music would sound blurry and dissonant.
In this example, you’ll need to raise the pedal just after you’ve played the C chord, and not press it down until just after you played the first G7.
The pedal will catch anything you just played, so when you use it, the order is key first, pedal just after. This way you’re making sure it’s not catching anything old you don’t want to keep, but just fresh keys.
The Left Pedal
The left pedal is called the soft pedal, or the una corda pedal, which means ‘one string pedal’. This is because when it was invented, the hammer would strike only one of the two strings attached to each key, making the sound softer.
This is still sort of the case, it’s just that the treble keys have three strings, bass strings two, and the lowest strings just one.
Nowadays, the pedal on a grand piano will move the mechanism slightly so that the hammers strike two or one string and strike the lowest strings with another part of the hammer, softening the sound.
On an upright piano, the soft pedal will just bring the hammers closer to the strings so that the distance is shorter, making the sound softer that way. For this reason, it’s actually not really accurate to call it an una corda pedal on upright pianos, since you’re still playing on all strings.
The Middle Pedal
Not all pianos have a middle pedal, and there are a few different variations as to what it can do.
On some pianos, the middle pedal is super dampening, so that you can practice when the rest of the family have gone to sleep.
Other times it’s what’s called a sostenuto pedal, which works kind of like the sustain pedal, only that you can apply it to specific notes. If you are holding a few keys down when you press the pedal down, it will sustain those, but whatever you play afterward won’t be sustained.
The sostenuto pedal, therefore, allows you to hold long notes and at the same time play short notes that aren’t affected.