Sustain pedal

Sustain pedal
Piano pedals from left to right: una corda, sostenuto, and sustain pedal
Location of pedals under the keyboard of the grand piano

A sustain pedal or sustaining pedal (also called damper pedal) is the most commonly used pedal in a modern piano[citation needed]. It is typically the rightmost of two or three pedals. When pressed, the sustain pedal "sustains" all the damped strings on the piano by moving all the dampers away from the strings and allowing them to vibrate freely. All notes played will continue to sound until the pedal is released.

This lets the pianist sustain notes which would otherwise be out of reach, for instance in accompanying chords - and accomplish legato passages (smoothly connected notes)which would have no possible fingering otherwise. Raising the damper pedal also causes all the strings to vibrate sympathetically with whichever notes are being played, which greatly enriches the piano's tone.



A device similar to the damper pedal in effect was invented by the piano pioneer Gottfried Silbermann; it was operated by the player's hands rather than a pedal. A later eminent early builder, Johann Andreas Stein, may have been the first to allow the player to lift the dampers while still playing; his device was controlled by a knee lever.

Until the onset of the Romantic era in music, the damper pedal was considered a special effect, used only in particular circumstances (see Piano history and musical performance). Only with the Romantics did a fairly constant use of the pedal come to be regarded as an essential element of piano sound.

Specifying pedaling in musical compositions

Appropriate use of the pedal is often left to the musician's discretion, but composers and music editors also use pedal marks to notate it. The most common symbol for this is a horizontal line below the grand staff, which lifts up and down with the pedal. An alternative (and older) notation is the use of _indicating_where_the_sustain_pedal_should_be_depressed,_and_an_asterisk_Music-pedaldown.png indicating where the sustain pedal should be depressed, and an asterisk Music-pedalup.svg showing where it should be lifted (see Moonlight Sonata for a famous example). Occasionally there is a general direction at the start of a movement instructing that the sustain pedal be applied continuously throughout. This may be marked with senza sordini ("without dampers"), or similar wording.

In General MIDI, the sustain pedal information is controlled by Control Change number 64 (CC 64).[1]

Sostenuto pedal

The sostenuto pedal is a similar device that sustains only notes which are depressed at the time the pedal is depressed. It is the usual middle of three pedals; but in some upright pianos the middle pedal instead lowers a veil of felt between the hammers and the strings for quiet practising.

Other instruments

  • Electronic keyboards often include a sustain pedal, a simple foot-operated switch which controls the electronic or digital synthesis so as to produce a sustain effect.
  • Vibraphones have sustain pedals that allow the metal bars to ring.
  • Some tubular bells have a sustain pedal.
  • The Cimbalom has a sustain (or damper) pedal which allows its strings to ring or abruptly mutes them.

See also

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • sustaining pedal — noun a pedal on a piano that lifts the dampers from the strings and so allows them to continue vibrating • Syn: ↑loud pedal • Hypernyms: ↑pedal, ↑treadle, ↑foot pedal, ↑foot lever • Part Holonyms: ↑piano …   Useful english dictionary

  • damper pedal — noun : the pedal that controls the set of dampers on a piano called also loud pedal, sustaining pedal * * * Music. a pedal on a piano that when depressed with the foot raises the dampers and permits the strings to vibrate and sustain the tone.… …   Useful english dictionary

  • sostenuto pedal — noun : a selective damper pedal on a piano that enables the performer to sustain selected tones or chords * * * Music. a pedal on a grand piano that raises the dampers, allowing the tone to be sustained for those strings struck at the time the… …   Useful english dictionary

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