Steinway Piano Pedals

Three Piano Pedals for Three Important Tasks

On a Steinway grand piano there are typically three pedals, each made of heavy brass (an alloy of zinc and copper) with three distinct functions:

  1. Sustain Pedal -- Other names for the sustain pedal include "Sustaining Pedal," "Damper Pedal" and "Loud Pedal." This pedal, when pressed with the foot, lifts the dampers away from all the strings at once, thereby allowing the strings to vibrate unhindered. The sustain pedal allows the pianist to connect the sounds of notes in a smooth, legato fashion. Also, the sustain pedal allows the entire set of strings to vibrate from the energy being released by the strings actually being hit by the hammers. On Steinway grand pianos, the sustain pedal is usually located on the right side of the pedal group.
  2. Soft Pedal -- Also called the una corda (translated as "one string or "one chord"), the soft pedal on grand pianos shifts the entire action sideways so that the hammers being tripped by the keys will only hit one of the strings. The result is a softer sound (called pianissimo). On Steinway grand pianos, the soft pedal is usually located on the left side of the pedal group.
  3. Sostenuto Pedal -- The sostenuto pedal is a type of sustaining pedal, but rather than lift all the dampers away from the strings, this pedal suspends the dampers on notes that are actually activated by the keys on the keyboard, allowing the hands to leave the keys while sustaining the sound. On Steinway grand pianos, the sostenuto pedal is usually located between the sustain and soft pedals.

Caring for Brass Pedals

Although brass is stronger and more resistant to continual use and abuse than other metals, such as copper or bronze, brass is nevertheless susceptible to corrosion and scratching. Over time, the pedals will begin to show ware. It's perhaps wise to leave the work of stripping, polishing and refinishing the pedals to a piano restoration professional. It's important to avoid using harsh, abrasive cleansers, not only because it can damage the laquered brass finish, but also because drips and smudges can easily damage the piano's wood finish.