Piano Basics

What Do The 3 Pedals On A Piano Do

All pianos ought to have 3 pedals, except an upright which can also have two. Not only do these 3 pedals have different functions, but they also work differently on a grand and upright piano. Learn how piano pedals work.

Every piano comes with pedals on it. When you play the piano you use your hands to get the keys and your feet work the pedals at the bottom. Most of the pianos have 2 or 3 bottles and even the distal keyboards and synthesizers have them. In fact our digital keyboard can have an option for more foot pedals that can create other sound variations. We will talk a little bit about the function of these pedals on a piano.

Out of the 3 piano pedals, only one pedal has the same function both on an upright and a grand piano. The other two work differently on either. 

Functions of The Piano Pedals 

The Far Right Piano Pedal – (Sustain or Damper Pedal)

To the far right is the damper pedal or the sustain pedal. Many piano players just called this the pedal because it is the most frequently used pedal during play. This is the only pedal whose function is the same on both an upright and the grand piano. 

A piano has something called the dampers inside it. They work as follows. When you press a key the dampers move away from the corresponding string inside and allow it to vibrate as the key hammer hits them. But the instant you release the key the dampers fall back on the string and mutes the sound from it. 

But when you press down the the sustain pedal, the right most pedal, the dampers move away from the strings and stay like that for as long as the pedal stays pressed. This allows the notes to sustain or keep vibrating when they are hit with the hammers creating more of a reverberating and fuller sound. 

Get the course that is the fastest way to learn piano online. Proven and used by thousands all over the world. Get 60 days risk free access.


Una Corda or Soft Pedal (Far Left Pedal)

This pedal works differently in a grand piano and in an upright piano. The Italian name for this pedal is the Una Corda.

Left Pedal On a Grand Piano

When you strike a piano key, a hammer inside the piano hits the corresponding string tuned to that key. The hammers have a padding on the end that makes contact with the strings. There is a cleft in the center of this padding which makes for a greater. Contact with the string. Or I should say strings.

The hammer doesn’t hit just one string because there are 2 to 3 strings for every piano key and note. This is to make the piano louder. Older pianos commonly had 2 while the newer ones will have 3 strings. So the hammer hits all 3 strings… unless.. you press the left pedal on the grand piano. 

On a grand piano pressing this pedal causes the entire set of hammers inside the panel to shift slightly to one side. This means that when you play any key, the hammers only hit one string (una corda) instead of the usual 3, thereby creating a softer sound. Also, the string doesn’t go in the cleft of the hammer but strikes the softer side part, further adding to the sound softening. 

Left Pedal On an Upright Piano

The left pedal on the upright does something very different. It brings the hammer closer to the strings. This makes the keys strike differently and their feel under your finger changes. There is not so much play and you cannot hit the notes very hard. But this doesn’t change the tone of the piano. 

The middle pedal

This pedal appears on almost on grand pianos but may not be present on your upright piano.

Function of middle pedal on a grand piano (the sostenuto pedal)  

Unlike the damper pedal which sustains all notes being played, the middle pedal allows you to sustain a specific note or a group of notes while you continue playing other notes normally. Press the key on your keyboard and while still pressing it press down the middle pedal. You will find that the sound sustains. Now play other notes and you will find that they do not sustain.

Function of middle pedal on an upright piano ( quasi-sostenuto | bass sustain | practise pedal)

On certain upright pianos the middle pedal is called the practice pedal and has an entirely different function. It inserts a layer of felt between the hammers and the strings to make the sound much softer. The idea is to allow you to practice in a quieter environment without disturbing others. There is usually a built-in groove in the upright piano which allows you to lock this pedal in place without having to use your foot to press down on it continuously.

On the older piano this pedal was called the quasi-sostenuto (bass sustain). Unlike a grand piano where this pedal sustains that notes that you play along with it, on an upright piano pressing this pedal removed the dampers from all bass keys of the piano and allowed them to sustain. The reason for this is that most pieces of music that utilise the middle pedal have low notes that hold while other notes are played normally.