What Are the Foot Pedals On A Piano For (2023)?

The pedals in the piano are the improvised levers that are available at the base of the piano and are used to alter the sounds of the instrument in many different ways. Generally, the modern-day pianos have three pedals that are arranged from the left to the right, and these three pedals, from the order of their arrangement, are,

  • Soft pedal (or una corda)
  • Sostenuto pedal
  • Sustaining pedal (damper pedal)

There are chances that in some pianos there are only two pedals, the right side pedal will be the sustain pedal and the left-sided pedal will be the una corda pedal or the soft pedal. 

Of the three pedals that the piano has, most of the pianists and students getting their lessons will be using the damper pedal often in almost all music pieces they play. The other two pedals however are not used as often as the sustain pedals, but they are capable of adding a lot of color, texture, and variety to the music that one plays. 

Evolution Of The Pedals 

From the very beginning of the piano’s existence until the late 19th century, the pedals of the instrument underwent continuous improvement. Before settling on its current design of three modifying stops, the piano had as little as one modifying stop and as many as six or more over the years. 

The first device to alter the piano’s sound was the una corda, created by Bartolomeo Cristofori. On current pianos, this feature is often controlled via the left pedal. The una corda is sometimes referred to as the “soft pedal” in modern use. Since pushing this pedal causes the action mechanism of a grand piano to physically shift to the right, some people even call it the “shift pedal.” The soft pedal alters the tone’s timbre and color in addition to its volume. The soft pedal became quickly adopted as a regular feature on pianos made by all manufacturers.

Piano manufacturers started triple stringing the notes around the late eighteenth century. This modification altered how the soft pedal worked. The una corda pedal on a contemporary grand piano causes the treble section’s hammers to strike two rather than three strings. (The hammer typically hits one or two bass strings per note when using the bass strings. On the piano, the lowest bass notes are played on a single, heavier string.) 

Because it does not move the action horizontally, the left pedal on a modern upright piano is not actually a soft pedal. This is impossible because the strings are attached to the hammers at such an acute angle that if the action were to travel in the opposite direction, the hammer might hit the incorrect note on one string. The “half-blow” pedal is a more appropriate description for the left pedal on an upright piano. The hammers travel closer to the strings as the pedal is depressed, reducing the distance over which the hammer must swing. Before deciding on the three that are now utilized on the contemporary piano, various novelty pedals and stops were tried out in the early years of piano development. Several of these pedals were employed for special effects, intended to mimic other instruments, whereas others were used to change volume, color, or timbre levels. 

Digital pianos have them built in, whereas electronic keyboards and stage pianos often contain a jack for an external pedal in the twenty-first century. Although more advanced pedals can identify and send a signal for half-pedaling, the actual pedal is typically only a simple switch. On the most affordable home keyboards for novices, this pedal input might be for a pedal that simulates the damper pedal on an acoustic piano electronically. The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) may offer a variety of user-selected pedal options in more expensive and advanced electronic keyboards and sound modules, and the keyboard itself may include an assignable jack or many jacks. Users can choose from a variety of standard MIDI continuous controller (CC) messages for pedals, including CC 64 (sustain pedal), CC 65 (portamento), CC 66 (sostenuto pedal), CC 67 (soft pedal), CC 68 (legato pedal), and CC 69. (“hold 2 pedals”). A user who owns a MIDI controller keyboard can therefore add pedals for some or even all of these choices. Like a grand piano, some digital pianos feature three pedals. 

How To Improve Pedal Usage? 

Your feet ought to be flat on the floor if you are seated properly. Place them so that the left and right pedals are in line with the big toes of both feet. The front part of your foot should be raised and moved forward to operate a pedal. Put the big toe of your foot and the ball of your foot on the rounded end of the pedal. Maintaining a smooth downward pivot while maintaining the heel upon that ground. Avoid releasing the pedal abruptly or striking the bottom terminal too quickly to reduce unnecessary noise. Use your left foot for the soft and sustain pedals and your right foot for the sustain pedal. Try out each one to become accustomed to how it affects the sound. 

Here are 5 tips on how to improve pedal usage: 

  • Play your piece through several times without using any pedals at all. This will ensure a greater understanding and let you to assess your legato fingering, as well as become conscious of legato lines and crisp articulation. After pedaling a piece for some time, it can be startling to hear shortened melodies (and accompanying figures) when you take your foot off the pedal. Aim to generate legato with your fingers rather than the right pedal unless your composition contains a lot of huge intervals or leaps that are tough to join with the fingers. 
  • This can be done initially without using a keyboard by hearing a piece in your brain and deciding in which the sustained pedal might “add” to the tone of a specific passage. An excessive amount of pedal can muddle the rhythm and confuse the passagework. To achieve the desired result, you might need to conduct a lot of testing and develop a habit of releasing the pedal considerably more frequently than you previously did. 
  • Therefore, when determining how long to maintain the pedal depressed in a particular bar or passage, keep an open mind. Even during practice sessions, it can be a good idea to include the usage of the pedal in new ways by keeping the foot depressed for a little bit longer (or perhaps a little bit shorter) than indicated on the score. Once more, use your ear as a compass. 
  • Half-pedaling, half-damping, and flutter (surface or vibrato) pedaling all use a similar approach that involves only slightly depressing the pedal and subsequently the foot—in some cases, as little as an eighth of an inch (depending on the piano). The most popular technique is flutter pedaling, in which the foot quickly oscillates upward and downward to continuously clear the sound. The trick to employing this approach is to gently press the pedal while shaking your foot to prevent damper noise. Such an application will be influenced by your ear and musical taste. 
  • It can be advantageous in some genres, especially Baroque, to “overlap” the fingers, or hold the keys pushed for longer than specified in the scoring, so the sound bleeds into some consecutive notes. This provides a comparable long-lasting effect as the right pedal. However, this method allows for easier sound release control and typically results in less “smudging” than the sustain pedal. 

How To Read Pedal Notions? 

The distinguishing characteristic of an acoustic or digital piano in comparison to other instruments is how the piano pedals work. Learning how, when, and why to employ them can set your performance apart from that of a beginner pianist. Those are piano pedals on an acoustic grand, upright, or piano! What the pedals on a piano do is a common question among musicians. Finally, you can learn more and begin creating music here! The piano’s pedals are such a crucial part that sheet music even includes pedal markings. 

The word “Ped.” instructs you to press the sustain pedal; the extended horizontal line throughout the first measure indicates that you should keep the pedal depressed; the triangle at the start of the second measure indicates that you should press the pedal again; and finally, the vertical line at the end of the subsequent measure indicates that you should lift the pedal permanently. simile in ped. refers to continuing to pedal in the same way. 

The dynamic markings pp, which stands for pianissimo or really quiet, or una corda, which means one string, are used to indicate the soft pedal.

The sostenuto pedal’s notation will resemble the marks for the other soft pedals, with the exception that Sost. will be used in place of the full term “Sostenuto” in the text.

Sostenuto pedals are typically exclusively written for the left hand here, but occasionally you will encounter them wherein they pertain to all the notes written, unless the composer specifies otherwise. 

Some composers make it plain where you should utilize the pedals and give you the option to add when necessary. Pedal marks on printed music indicate where to plant your foot and when to lift it up again. Although each pedal has a slightly different marking, the concept is the same:

Sustain (damper) pedal: Down = “Ped.” Up = “✱”

Sostenuto pedal: Down = “Sost. Ped.” Up = “✱”

Una corda (soft) pedal: Down = “una corda” Up = “tre corda”

Location and the Functions of the Major Piano Pedals

Piano Pedals
Source: Wikipedia

Most of the modern digital or acoustic pianos feature three pedals and the older acoustic pianos have only two pedals. Read through for the location and the function of the three pedals of the piano.

1. Sustain Pedal

The sustain pedal is the right pedal in the piano. The main functions of this piano are that it joins sounds that the fingers alone cannot play. The pedal helps in adding lots of dimension and resonance to the musical chord and it also helps in blending diverse layers of music in a unified texture.

This damper pedal is essentially a piece of felt that is connected with a piece of wood that is connected with a string. When a note is played on the piano, its hammer comes up. When it hits the strong, the damper will raise and will stay in that position, until the pedal is lifted. 

2. Una Corda Pedal

This is the left-most pedal in the piano and it is used predominantly to change the timbre or the quality of the sound, by reducing its percussiveness. It helps in creating a more muffled sound and is generally recognized as a practice pedal, for a pianist who wishes to play quieter notes.

When this pedal is depressed on a grand acoustic piano, then the action of this piano gets slightly shifted to the right, and this allows fewer strings to get stuck with each of its hammers. As the entire action gets shifted, the strings that remain are stuck with each other and make contact with that part of the hammer, which is not often hit. Thus when this pedal is used, it results in a duller sound.

On the upright piano, when this pedal is depressed, then a single thin strip of felt gets lowered between the strings and the hammers, to muffle the sound. Both these types of pedals have similar and different results. But this pedal is not designed to help you play softly, as it sounds, and the pianist should play softly while depressing this pedal, to yield the best effect and the best results.

3. The Sostenuto Pedal

This is the middle pedal in the entire pedal set of the digital piano and the main function of this piano is to sustain the selected notes in the piano, while its other notes remain unaffected, which helps to sustain the bass notes, while its upper melodies stay un-muddled.

When this pedal is depressed, the pedal will catch and hold any dampers that are fully raised from the strings already. It can be used in conjunction with both the other pedals. If the pianist can pull this pedal off successfully, the results will be highly effective. The Sostenuto pedal can be of tremendous help in playing advanced classics much efficiently.

Uses Of The Pedal

The pianist should sit appropriately with their feet flat on the floor. The big toes of both the foot should stay in line with the left and the right pedals. The right food should be used for the sustain pedal and the left foot should be used for the soft and the sostenuto pedals. Many techniques can be used to play these pedals efficiently, such as half-pedaling, delayed or legato pedaling, preliminary pedaling, and simultaneous pedaling. Introducing such techniques to the playing can alter the way that the players play a piece of music.

But pianists should be very sure, not to overuse the pedals and make sure it suits the music. Pianists have to remember that even a fast song can be ruined by holding down the sustain pedal too much. Pianists should also learn to read the pedal notations that the composers have intended in their notes. The pedal markings will show where to place the foot down and where it rises again and is generally denoted as * in the notes.

More Guides:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the main functions of the right pedal? 

  • also known as the damper pedal.
  • sustains the piano’s playing.
  • enables the playing of more notes on the piano.
  • combines the sounds of sustained notes made by the instrument’s various notes.

2. What are the main functions of the left pedal? 

  • There is only one string, or una corda.
  • This is additionally referred to as the Soft Pedal.
  • produces a muffled or muted sound.
  • In order to play fewer single strings, this pedal actually moves hammers inside the piano.
  • Utilize it to play pianissimo or incredibly quiet Dynamic Markers.

3. What are the main functions of the middle pedal? 

  • The middle pedal may serve one of three purposes.
  • Pedal of Sostenuto
  • The pedal for the bass
  • Pedal for practice

4. What are common mistakes to avoid while using a damper pedal? 

  • Avoid overusing the sustain pedal to the point where the notes sound muddy or fuzzy.
  • If you are performing a melodic line, be cautious when you use the sustain pedal because it will hide all the specific notes for each segment. 

5. Why is pedal reading considered essential for any pianist? 

The importance of pedals in creating interesting-sounding piano music cannot be overstated. You can even make your electronic keyboard seem just like a real acoustic piano with the right pedals, thanks to strings that are long enough to let the bass notes ring. 

6. What are common mistakes to avoid while using a soft pedal? 

  • Use this sparingly; else, neither of the notes will sound soft.
  • When you’re finished playing, don’t forget to unlock the pedal; you don’t want to begin a new tune with the pedal stuck in place. 

7. What are common mistakes to avoid while using the Sostenuto pedal? 

  • Make careful to hit the pedal only after you’ve finished playing the note.
  • Be sure to play the notes loudly enough that they continue after you depress the pedal for a sufficient amount of time. 

Being in love with music, Larry started this website to help piano lovers get the most detailed and accurate information with his 5 Years of experience of working in a music store.

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