How Many Pedals Does A Modern Piano Have?

Are you an aced pianist, amateur, or just passionate about classical piano music? If so, probably you have seen or used the pedals on a piano under the keyboard. Sometimes it is presented in a different quantity. So, how many pedals does a modern piano have?

how many pedals does a modern piano have

The modern piano has three pedals: una corda (one string), damper, and sostenuto pedals. In which cases do pianists use them? How to purpose pedals on a piano? How to read a notation with pedaling and compose it?

What is the reason why some pianos have three pedals and others only two? Meet everything about it in today’s article, become aware of all the secrets of the perfect chord sustain, and become a talented pianist!

Types of Piano Pedals

When you look under the piano you observe that there are three pedals. The grand piano has a soft/una corda pedal, sostenuto, damper/ sustain, and a modern upright piano has only sostenuto and damper pedals.

Such things make the note maintain longer by emphasizing the softer dynamics; consequently, it intensifies the emotions, that music wants to present and allows it to play softly. Undoubtedly, this part of a grand piano journey is crucial and indispensable; let’s reveal how to write and produce music, that makes the heart beat again together!

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Sustain Pedal (Right)

The sustain pedal, also called a “damper” pedal, is the furthest to the right, therefore the third pedal. The right pedal’s main functions:

  • Bringing a noteworthy reflection of a sound.
  • A muting function.
  • Intermixing a composite of the neighboring notes to unity.
  • Matching the keys, which finger can’t physically join.

The conception of how the sustaining pedal works is clear: after the key is played the hammer of the piano rises and heats the string, and the damper (a wooden detail on which the string sits) raises and stays until the note disappears or you fingered the key off. If you remove the feet this detail moves to the original position of the remaining strings.

Once a Polish world-famous pianist Artur Rubinshtein said that it’s a damper pedal is “the soul of the piano”. And it really is because the sustaining pedal makes your composition should loudlier and deeper.

Soft Pedal/ Una Corda Pedal (Left)

The soft pedal is located on the left side of the piano, that’s why it’s usually called a left pedal. Its main functions of it are:

  • Reducing the percussiveness in order to change the tone.
  • Therefore, it’s used as a “practice” pedal because it lowers the sound.
  • Producing the muffling effect.

However, the conception of how it works is different on a grand piano versus an upright piano. Speaking about the first one, depressing the leaver the hammer rails are moving to the right, hence, the hammer strikes only a string instead of three strings. That’s the origin of the name “Una Corda”, which means one string.

Mentioning the upright piano and older acoustic pianos, the principle of functioning is a bit distinctive. For a period you are pushing a soft-pedal the hammers closer to each other. This is limiting the distance of its hitting the piano strings. Nevertheless the dissimilarity of labor in linking, the cushion pedal is providing the same effect on the right and acoustic piano: the softening and muting effects.

The example of the soft pedal impact is presented in the contextures of the French composer Claude Debussy; for instance, the composition “Greensleeves” is rich in the utilization of the una corda pedal.

Sostenuto Pedal (Middle)

The sostenuto pedal location is the middle area; its impact resembles the damper one. Many pianists assume that the middle pedal has only one function: sustaining identified keys, while other keynotes remain unaffected (frequently used for bass notes).

However, the aced composers assure, that the sostenuto pedals are very multifunctional levers for practicing, making the sostenuto as well as a damper sound.

The main difference between the dumper and the middle pedal is: that if the second one is pressed the already played sounds are held until you weak it and get a softer sound. Interestingly, the bass effect is available only in upper-middle C notes. And again, the famous composers, which used a middle pedal were Debussy and Ravel.

On old acoustic pianos, a sostenuto pedal is absent. Instead of the middle pedal were a bass pedal and a celeste (aka practicing) pedals. It helps to play quieter and make a duller sound.

Digital Pedals

In the 21st century, electronic digital pianos are becoming more and more popular. It’s mobile and has an extensive manifold of keyboards (including organ, upright/acoustic piano, and other instruments). However, as for soft, sustain selected notes and other pedals?

digital piano sustein pedal

Most modern pianos come without a pedal; it is just integrated into the entire keyboard. What’s more, you can buy an additional sustain pedal and plug it into a special ¼ input jack with pedal markings. Unluckily, there are not any equivalents to the sostenuto and una corda pedal. However, most of its sockets support them; so, you should try to find and practice pedals. 

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Speaking about the digital upright pianos, it comes with a classic three-pedals settlement (like an acoustic piano). The ambassadors of most European pianos (for instance, Alexa Feser) assure, that you should incorporate your practice with a stand-alone sustain if your digital device doesn’t support it initially.

Why Are There 3 Pedals On A Piano?

The evolution of the piano pedal encouraged that nowadays digital and grand pianos have three pedals. The sequence of it is una corda, sostenuto, and damper pedals. Each pedal provides a possibility to change the tone of played music.

For its part, the sustain pedal is used for making a deeper composition; it makes the music sound more united. When the pianist plays, it also helps him/her to ease the process because the sustain pedal matches the neighboring notes, which human fingers can’t match physically. 

Why Do Some Pianos Have Only 2 Pedals?

If you are an owner of a keyboard instrument with two pedals it probably means:

  • You have an older acoustic piano.
  • Some grand pianos have this quantity of levers.
  • You have an electronic piano.
  • Most European pianos continue to have only two pedals.
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The relevance of two pedals makes the composition sounds thicker. When you are pressing a key, the hammers strike two strings. It makes the sound more significant and louder.

What Are The 3 Pedals On Piano Used For?

  • The sostenuto pedal (the middle side) – is a multifunctional pedal that is almost similar to the dumper one. Only the notes in the upper-middle C zone sustain bass notes and are loud, without a noisy noise. 
  • The una corda/ soft pedal (the left side) – is a pedal, which is reducing the percussiveness. Vividly and frequently used among starters as a practicing lever. The origin of its name is the working conception; the hammer strikes only one string. 
  • The sustain pedal (the right side) – is the soul of the piano. Unites the composition making the perfect sound. It accents the bass notes and makes the sound louder. 

How To Use Piano Pedals?

If you have a piano, come to it and sit to play. If you are not – just remember the instructions for playing the piano using the pedals. First of all, remember that you must be seated correctly, your feet must be firmly planted on the floor, and your toes must be pressing and releasing the lever.

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Also bear in mind that your left foot must be posited on the una corda and sostenuto pedals, the right foot must pull the sustain pedal! Meet a guide on using piano pedal variations and practice to impact the desired effect, impress the audience and make their heart beat again!

Delayed/ Legato Pedaling

If you want to impress the effect when one note dives into the next try a delayed/ legato pedaling. The main priority of this method among others; it does not to make the sound muddy.

To get such an outcome try to press the pedal when the note is already done, and release it when you are playing it. This manner is one of the most popular among beginners and amateurs as well as the aces.

Half Pedaling

Do you intense to get a slightly rich tone without blurring? Try to use a half-pedaling! The conception is clear: you are pressing the sustain pedal partly. This action makes the dampers touch the strings only a bit.

Such a method was often used by such famous composers as Beethoven on his “Moonlight sonata”. The configuration of the first-mentioned pianist sounds less dry; however, we can only predict in which parts he used this method because in his notations you wouldn’t find the signs of pedals, unfortunately.

Preliminary Pedaling

Professional pianists don’t recommend using the preliminary pedaling method very often in order to prevent a bassy composition. Hence, it makes the sound ring louder and deeper. To achieve such an effect you have to push the sustain pedal before you depress the key and play the note.

Simultaneous Pedaling

To achieve emphasis and more percussive sound you should try a simultaneous technique. To get such effects you have to push down a pedal at the same moment when you are playing a note. That’s why simultaneous pedaling is also called rhythmic or direct.

Common Mistake: Overusing The Sustain Pedal

The regular questionnaire among pianists says that most of them sometimes dissemble producing a noisy and muddy sound. The reason for this is banal: the overusing of the sustain pedal.

To prevent it, try to release a sustain pedal and use instead the legato/ delayed pedaling. Just press the lever after you play the next note (a detailed instruction is mentioned above) in such case the dampers will need a period for muting the strings.

It’s also useful to compare your record to the one of a professional pianist or classic. It helps your ears to find a gap in your playing. Also remember the rule of thumb, when the composition is made of neighboring notes.

Once a genius and piano classic Debussy said: “…abusing the pedal is only a means of covering up a lack of technique, making a lot of noise to drown the music you’re slaughtering!”. If an overusing of the sustain pedal is your problem, take the words of this French into account!

How To Read Pedal Notation?

We are almost near the end of our piano journey. Let’s reveal which aspects you are already aware of:

  • What are the piano pedals.
  • How to use it.
  • What is pedaling.
  • An instruction on pedaling.
  • How to prevent the abuse of the sustain pedal.

Remember we talked about how to read piano tabs? However, do you know how to read a pedal notation and compose it? Probably, you are not. Thereby, we are going to study this topic!

Notating The Damper Pedal

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Notating The Damper Pedal

Let’s imagine a note blank that starts with middle C. The sign “PED” informs that you have to start pressing the sustain pedal. If you see an extended horizontal line across before the second measure – depress the pedal. The triangle in the scheme asks to refresh the pedal.

The mark “PED. SIMILE” recounts to continue pedaling in the same way. The vertical line instructors you to finish. Reading the notation isn’t as hard as it seems, innit?

Notating The Soft Pedal

PP” means pianissimo or very quiet and is the mark for soft-pedal notation. If you see a marking like this, it means that you should play the chords having the soft pedal depressed. You may also try to use the sostenuto pedal with some basic and well-known piano chords as well.

Talking about the digital keyboards, they have another advantage: you can explore the wide world of guitar and bass effects pedals! Delay pedals, reverb pedals, fuzz, overdrive, octave pedals, and more! If you are curious, there is truly no end to the sounds you can explore down that pathway with pedals on the piano! 

Perhaps you don’t want to make the only sounds from a piano? Digital pianos can adjust themselves to sound like any instrument or percussion, or even play samples of voices.

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Conclusion And Final Words

Today we had a durable journey to the world of piano and revealed such topics as:

  • How many pedals do the different types of pianos have?
  • Type of pedals and their usage.
  • Pedaling.
  • Common mistake: overpedaling.
  • Pedal notations.

Pedals help to sound notes differently. For instance, if you use a damper pedal, you will get a deep and loud melody. Instead, if you wish to train and lower the sound you should use an una corda pedal. 

What’s more, you may also try to use the different methods of pedaling: legato, direct, preliminary, half, etc. This article also mentioned how to solve the problem of abusing it. We also learned how to read, play and compose a pedal notation. Hope that you found all answers to your questions here!

I invite you to read my articles also about how long it takes to learn piano and how to take care of your piano.

Best regards, your Lucy.

4 thoughts on “How Many Pedals Does A Modern Piano Have?”

    • Julia, thanks for your comment! Yes, there really are some grand pianos with 4 pedals – this is the F308 grand piano of the Italian company Fazioli and the grand pianos of the Australian company Stewart&Sons. They also have an enlarged keyboard – 97, 102, and even 108 keys. The fourth pedal is similar to the left pedal in an upright piano. It brings the hammers closer to the strings, so the sound becomes quieter, but the timbre of the sound does not change. This makes it easier to play glissandos and fast pianissimo passages. The fourth pedal is located to the left of traditional piano pedals.


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