What Do Piano Pedals Do & Used For?

Some pianos come with pedals at your feet, and some do not have them at all. So, why do some of these instruments include pedals? These pedals can greatly impact how your piano sounds while you play it. 

However, learning how to use these pedals can be separate from learning how to use your keys. Please continue reading to learn everything you need to know about what piano pedals do and how you can use them.

How Piano Pedals Change Your Sound

The pedals at the feet of your piano can alter the sound of your music by: 

  • Prolonging a tone
  • Vibrating your strings all together
  • Or lifting all the dampers off your piano strings

Thus, the sound from your piano will be different than it would be if you did not use the pedals at all. These pedals affect the tone of your keys significantly. So, to determine if these pedals are right for you, it would be best to play around with them and see how it alters the sound of each key on your piano.

Why Piano Pedals are Important

Without the pedals on the piano, you are limited to only the sounds that your keys can emit. Sometimes, you can greatly improve the music you make by slightly altering the tone by using the foot pedals on your piano. These pedals allow you to enrich your music in any way you see fit, including obvious changes or subtle alterations to your music.

When you use the pedals, you can activate new sounds that you could not use without these devices. Some music requires pedal use if you want to play it right. Meanwhile, you will also run into music that does not use piano pedals. So, if your piano does not come with any pedals, it is not the end of the world, and you can still be a master piano player.

The Three Types of Piano Pedals

Some pianos come with no pedals, and some panels come with one pedal, but most Modern pianos come with three pedals. For this discussion, we will use the three-pedal piano as our example, and you can convert this knowledge to apply to any other piano types you have. You can find these pedals on classical pianos and electronic keyboards, and they work the same way.

1. Soft Pedal

The soft pedal, also called the Una Corda, is located on the far left of the three pedals you will find at the bottom of your piano. This pedal allows you to soften the noise your piano makes so that you will have a subtle relaxing effect. So, if you are playing music and you notice that you would prefer some of your notes to soften, then you can utilize the Una Corda to achieve this goal.

2. Sostenuto Pedal

The Sostenuto Pedal is located in the center of the three pedals on your piano. This pedal allows you to hold notes longer than you have locked with your fingertips. You can use your other pedals and conjunction with this one, so you are not limited to a single noise effect. Many people consider this the least important pedal on the piano, and some modern pianos will not even include it.

3. Sustain Pedal

The sustain pedal is located at the right of the pedals and allows you to hold notes even when you let go of the key. The way this works is that this pedal removes the dampeners from the strings, which is also why many people dubbed this the dampener pedal. It is easier to compress pedals with your right foot, which is why piano manufacturers keep the sustain pedal on the right instead of any other position.

What Is Half Pedaling?

Half pedaling is when you compress the pedals only halfway instead of up or down. This method allows you to get partial effects on your music, so you do not have to commit to a sound effect. Having this control over your piano’s sound is a great way to control your music.

Sometimes, you will notice there is a piano playing that you want some effect on your music, but you do not want to overdo it. In this situation, half-pedaling is the way to go.

How To Work With Piano Pedals?

Now that you know how piano pedals affect your music, it is time to learn how to use them. It will take practice and trial and error before you nail the piano pedals and gain confidence in your sound control.

Follow these steps to begin working with your piano pedals.

1. Flatten your feet on the floor:

Practice keeping your feet in one place during your piano play, even before you use your pedals. This way, you all have to urge to move while you play your piano which could greatly affect your foot placement on your pedals

2. Match up your feet with the soft pedal and sustain pedal:

After you feel comfortable keeping your feet in one spot during your piano session, start practicing with your feet lined up to the pedals. However, do not apply your feet to them just yet. You can line up your feet by matching your toes with the heel of the pedals so that you do not affect your music while you play.

3. Lift the toes of your feet but keep your heels planted on the floor:

Once you feel comfortable playing with your feet lined up with the pedals, you can lift your toes and apply the head of your foot onto the pedal without compressing it. Listen to your music while you play to ensure that you are not pressing down during your piano session in altering your music by mistake. When people reach a difficult part of their music, they subconsciously press down on their feet and compress the pedal.

4. Alternate feet when you want to use the Sostenuto Pedal:

The Sostenuto Pedal will be the least used pedal during most songs you play. So, when you want to use your center, you will have to alternate your feet from the pedals they rest on.

However, remember to replace your feet on their original pedals after you have finished using the Sostenuto pedal. Otherwise, you could compress this pedal by mistake when you try to push the pedals on your right or left foot

5. Keep feet on the soft pedal and sustain pedal positions while you play:

When you are ready to use pedals regularly during your music, you will need to rest the tips of your feet on the pedals while you play. This way, you all have to look down at your feet and distract yourself from your music during practice sessions.

Eventually, you will be so used to maintaining your footing in the spots you are supposed to that you will not even have to think about it. The hard part is building up that muscle memory to remember where your feet go while you play your piano.

Can You Learn To Play Piano Without Pedals?

Do not fret if you purchased a piano and realize it did not come with any pedals, do not fret. You can still you will learn how to play piano without the use of foot pedals.

These devices are only handy if you want to alter your pre-existing notes during your music play. So, you might not have as much control over your piano sound, but you can still learn how to play without the pedals.

Many new pianists do not learn how to use the pedals until they have mastered the regular notes and get the hang of playing the instrument. So, while you might want to invest in a piano with foot pedals eventually, it is not a big deal if you are a beginner.

Which Piano Pedal Is Most Important?

The Sustain pedal is the most important pedal you can use on your piano, which is why it is under your right foot. Most people have an easier time using and controlling their right foot than their left foot.

So, piano manufacturers work to make it convenient for you to use the pedal that you will use more often during your music play.

Final Thoughts

Using piano pedals could significantly impact the way that your music sounds. However, having these pedals is not necessary when learning how to play the piano. Most new learners do not use these pedals until they feel confident about the keys on the piano. When you want to use these pedals, you will spend some time evaluating them and seeing how they sound with each note you play.

You can use many pedal techniques to make your music sound exactly how you desire. However, the first thing you will want to do is learn the basics of foot placement before you try any special techniques. Otherwise, you could hit the wrong pedal when you mean to have a different sound effect emit from your piano.

About the Author Linda Ritter

Linda Ritter is a passionate pianist and a songwriter for more than 7 years. With a Masters in Music, she has explored the world of music and has collaborated with several musicians and brands like Roland, Tune Core, and plenty of blogs.