What Do The Pedals On A Piano Do?

We are going to discuss plenty about the pedals on a piano and what their purpose is. 

The pedals may enhance the sound of your piano playing. You will learn the process from the moment you set foot on the pedal to the end when the sound of the piano stops. If you want to learn a little more about piano playing and the purpose of those three pedals, keep reading.

With that said, let’s dive right in.

What Are Those Three Pedals On a Piano?

You have the soft, sostenuto, and sustain pedals from left to right. We are going to explain the purpose of these pedals and why they are essential to the sound of your piano playing. 

These pianos are a fixture of many old-school pianos. However, we are beginning to see these on digital pianos as well. If you are starting as a beginner on piano, these pedals should be nothing to worry about until you become more advanced.

But regardless, if you want to learn the ins and outs of an instrument you’ll be accustomed to for the long term, it’s good to understand every nook and cranny of it. Now, let’s do a complete breakdown of each pedal starting from left to right:

Soft (Left Pedal)

First up, we’ll be taking a look at the soft pedal; this is also known as the ‘Una Corda pedal.

When engaging this pedal, you make the note softer (hence the name). When using this pedal, you’ll also notice that the hammer will hit one of the strings instead of three (thus, ‘Una Corda’ means one string).

As you play around, hit a key or two and take note of the sound. Then, you should press on the pedal and hit the same keys again. You’ll notice that the sound is muted more.

On a grand piano, the una corda pedal will allow the hammer to hit two strings as opposed to an acoustic piano.

Sostenuto (Middle Pedal)

You will notice that this and the sustain pedal will be similar. To begin, if you engage this pedal while playing the notes, the sound will hold. The sound is not affected if you continue to hold on to the pedal while pressing down on other keys.

Sostenuto pedals are the newest pedals to be added to pianos. They have been added at some point in the 20th century but don’t get used often. That isn’t to say it’s pointless to include it.

Usually, this pedal was used by many composers that mainly used the piano for their compositions.

Sustain (Right Pedal)

Finally, you have the sustain pedal, also known as the damper pedal; this is intended to damper the sound of your notes.

This pedal will allow the notes to carry for longer periods when engaged. So even if your fingers are no longer touching the keys, you’ll be able to hear the sound draw out until it stops.

Any piano music that you listen to will often utilize the sustain pedal. Many professional pianists do it all the time. However, as you get advanced, this pedal might just become your best friend, depending on the music that you play.

Using the Pedals

So now you know what the pedals do; the next question is when to use them. First thing to be aware of is that your sitting position will play an important role. You want to make sure that you are sitting straight and the front of your feet are close to the pedals.

The ball of your foot should be resting on the rounded part of the pedal you want to use. Press your foot down smoothly while keeping the heel planted on the floor. You want to be in control of the pedal and not release it too fast as it can affect the sound.

Your right foot will often be used for the sustain pedal. Likewise, your left foot will be used for the left and middle pedals; this will take a little practice in knowing which foot to use.

As I have mentioned before, this is an advanced technique that will take time and practice. So if you are starting, don’t worry about it.

It wouldn’t hurt to try some of the pedaling techniques you can put to good use. This includes delayed pedaling, which allows you to press down after playing a note. Or you can try half-pedaling.

Half-pedaling is when you slightly press down on the sustain pedal, so the dampers gently touch the strings. If you are looking for a rich sound, this is the technique that you want to go with. If you want a sample of what it sounds like, Beethoven’s piano music will be something to listen to.

Preliminary pedaling involves engaging with the sustain pedal before playing a note. You press down on the pedal, press the key, and produce a deep and rich sound. This is a pedaling tactic that isn’t often used but it never hurts to try for the fun of it.


Now that you know what the pedals on a piano do, it may be worth trying out with practice. No matter the genre of music we play, we know that the pedals can prove themselves useful. 

Now all that’s left to do is try it yourself. Remember, practice consistently, and you’ll be able to get it down packed.