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  • Are the three pedals of the piano needed?

    If you are going to learn PIANO, that means piano, not keyboard nor synthesizer, I mean classic acoustic piano, do you need the three pedals?

    I know that the main pedal is sustain and I know what it does, but I am not sure about what the others do, and I do not know if they are needed really.

    Would not be enough with the sustain pedal?

    Are the other pedals contemplated in the scores?
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  • #2
    The other two pedals, from left to right, are the soft and the sostenuto. The soft reduces the number of strings struck by each hammer, thus lowering the volume a bit and changing the tone. Sostenuto is sort of like a selective sustain; it undampens only the strings of those keys currently held when the pedal is pressed. All other notes trigger as normal.

    As for the frequency of their use, I'll leave that question to the pianists.

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    • #3
      the soft pedal is a nice feature of the piano, but one i'd consider a little bit of a luxury, you can get by fine on most pieces by just playing more gently/expressively on the delicate parts.

      i'd say the same about the sostenuto, it's not often needed as most classical pieces have clear sustain-y sections (big chords and stuff) and then more intricate, fiddly sections and you don't often get one on top of the other.

      although i haven't done the formal AB classical grades, (just my jazz ones) i've learned a load of classical stuff, and i didn't have to utilise the sostenuto pedal at all really until i started learning some grade 7&8 stuff.

      so for now, i wouldn't worry about it, when you're starting out there are far bigger things to work on, fingering, syncopation, using the sustain pedal, etc and they'll take years to perfect, by which time, if you've really gotten into piano, you'll buy yourself a nice one with 3 pedals on anyway x

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      • #4
        Depends on several things.

        On an upright, the left pedal simply places the hammers closer to the strings, so the number of strings struck doesn't change. No changes in timbre, simply less volume. For beginners up to mid level, that's no problem anyway. On a grand, the left pedal slightly moves the entire keyboard sideways so that many keys strike less strings, which not only decreases volume but also changes timbre (at least on good grands). This pedal is thus definitely doing its real purpose on a grand, since you can use it for "changing of colors" when you play, etc. Composers like Beethoven wrote many indications about una corda (left pedal fully on) and tutte le corde (release left pedal) in certain piano compositions. The old pianofortes had an advantage on this, as you could use this pedal at different levels instead of just off/on, something almost impossible to do on most grands nowadays.

        About the middle pedal, when it's a real sustenuto pedal (again, on grands and very rarely on uprights) and not a simple mute pedal (as on many uprights), it's mostly used by composers from around the Debussy era and later. So no use of sustenuto at all in Mozart, Beethoven, etc.

        So it depends on : 1) what "level" you are currently working on (since left and middle pedal are not needed at all until you reach at least mid-level of classical piano practice), 2) which r

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        • #5
          The old pianofortes had an advantage on this, as you could use this pedal at different levels instead of just off/on, something almost impossible to do on most grands nowadays.


          Any ideas as to why this is the case?
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          • #6
            I am still working at the grade 6 / intermediate level (if I understand piano student skill level grades - think familiar pieces from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach and you know the level at which I am practicing). I see have seen only pieces calling for sustain pedal so far, and not in the Baroque era stuff of course. I am working on some jazz/blues compositions for students and those have only sustain pedal too and similarly for my son who has zoomed past me due to his ability to develop muscle memory so quickly (kids are like sponges). Anyway it would certainly be nice to learn how to work with those pedals correctly and expressively, but for the time being I am happy to be working with just the sustain pedal. Some day some time. It is good to have some goals. I will try to remember to ask my piano teacher about this when I have my lesson later this afternoon. When will I see a piece with the other pedals and how often has she encountered using them? Perhaps at some point it is up to the player/composer to decide how to express themselves given the tools at hand.
            <div class="signaturecontainer">Gribs<br />
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            <font size="1"><i>...Music can be used to stimulate mass emotion, while mathematics cannot; and musical incapacity is recognized (no doubt rightly) as mildly discreditable, whereas most people are so frightened of the name of mathematics that they are ready, quite unaffectedly, to exaggerate their own mathematical stupidity.<br />
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            • #7
              Personally, even for Debussy and later composers, I almost never use the middle pedal. It's almost of no use for me and I've been practicing piano for decades. So if you are practicing on an old grand with a great sound that doesn't have a middle pedal, don't worry as it's not really a disadvantage at all.


              Someday for me... I hope I will be able to play Images... maybe when I am around 72, which will be three decades after I started taking lessons.

              Thank for the information. I should really obtain and read some good references on piano instrument construction, mechanics, history, etc.
              <div class="signaturecontainer">Gribs<br />
              <font size="3"><br />
              <font size="1"><i>...Music can be used to stimulate mass emotion, while mathematics cannot; and musical incapacity is recognized (no doubt rightly) as mildly discreditable, whereas most people are so frightened of the name of mathematics that they are ready, quite unaffectedly, to exaggerate their own mathematical stupidity.<br />
              </i><br />
              G.H. Hardy in A Mathematician's Apology (London 1941).</font></font></div>

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              • #8
                If you are going to learn PIANO, that means piano, not keyboard nor synthesizer, I mean classic acoustic piano, do you need the three pedals?

                I know that the main pedal is sustain and I know what it does, but I am not sure about what the others do, and I do not know if they are needed really.

                Would not be enough with the sustain pedal?

                Are the other pedals contemplated in the scores?


                They aren't only needed, unlike AT they are NECESSARY.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Personally, even for Debussy and later composers, I almost never use the middle pedal. It's almost of no use for me and I've been practicing piano for decades. So if you are practicing on an old grand with a great sound that doesn't have a middle pedal, don't worry as it's not really a disadvantage at all.


                  Interesting post! Thanks!

                  I just started learning "Reverie" by Debussy. My Casio Privia has only one "sustain" pedal option, so that's what I use. I'm under no illusion that I'll play this piece like Thiollier but that's ok.

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                  • #10
                    I've only played one classical song that called for the sostenuto and it was while doing a recital in college. Most will never use that pedal. But there ARE cases...
                    CP4 / PC361

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                    • #11
                      Any ideas as to why this is the case?


                      The short and easy answer is it's physically impossible now to strike only one string on modern grands. A piano technician who knows about pianoforte mechanisms could tell more details and this would be very interesting.

                      What I understand is that most of a "normal" modern grand piano keys (except the bass register) can strike either two (soft pedal on) or three string (no soft pedal). So the name una corda which means striking one string for mid and high registers can only be truly done on pianofortes.

                      My guess is it's because they used smaller strings back in the era of the pianofortes. Since modern grands are more robust, and technology improved in many areas, we can now use bigger strings to produce louder sound, etc. The problem though is that the grand piano keyboard and action parts must remain about the same size and weight for physical reasons (you don't want to end up moving 500 g keys or 40 pounds of wood for each key - even with counterweights the inertia/kinetic/potential energy/whatever - and I'm no physicist - would probably make the action impossible to control, etc.).

                      So in other words, since modern strings are stronger and wider, my guess (again I'm not totally sure) is that if we would try to move the action and keyboard farther to strike only one string, we would also strike the first string on the semi-tone neighbor key - so it can't work.

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                      • #12
                        I should really obtain and read some good references on piano instrument construction, mechanics, history, etc.


                        This page here is long but very interesting.

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                        • #13
                          About pedals, I read somewhere there is now an optional fourth soft pedal on Faziolis (but hey - who can afford such a piano anyway).

                          It's basically a second soft pedal - one that moves the keyboard sideways like on a normal grand, and the other that places the hammers closer to the strings like on an upright. So you can choose which soft sound type you want (or maybe push both soft pedals with your left feet for increased effect? We will have to wait for a Fazioli owner to tell us).

                          And also the new "harmonic pedal" by Wendl & Lung (do a Google for more details if needed). Very few chances though that it will still be of any interest in ten years, just like all the "improvements" that tried to make their way for the piano since centuries (see link above given to Gribs).

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                          • #14
                            Most will never use that pedal.


                            My ex-lodger, who was trained to Grade 7 classical level i.e. not quite a fully paid up concert pianist, used to say that the 3rd pedal was just there to scare the crap out of kids when they saw the keyboard move sideways for the first time.
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                            <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>Metrosonus</strong>
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                            <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>swardle</strong>
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                            • #15
                              I got through grade 10 piano and never needed the other 2 pedals... I occasionally used half-pedaling using the damper pedal, but unless your piano is perfectly regulated not all the strings are muted equally.

                              I played with the sostenuto pedal, but never needed it for any of the music I learned. Cool sos effect is to silently play a chord and press the sos pedal... now play something without touching those keys and the chord will slowly start to ring with sympathetic resonance.

                              The soft pedal on our grand was fun because it made cool sympathetic resonance sounds when pressed violently with the damper pedal pressed (not recommended if its a good piano)... on our old upright, if you hammered the soft pedal hard then some of the hammers would hit the strings (different hammers each time). Amusing, but not very musical or necessary.

                              The sostenuto pedal didn't exist when most of the classical composers did their thang... there is still no standard musical notation for the sostenuto pedal.

                              I have never missed the extra pedals on my digital pianos... wouldn't mind having half-pedaling, but don't really miss it.

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