How to Use Foot Pedals and Markings of Foot Pedals on the Piano

Each piano pedal has a specific function.

The piano has three pedals that all have distinctly different effects. Every pianist must learn to distinguish between them. Some pianos only have two pedals. When this is the case, the pedals are the "una corda" and "damper" pedals. Learning how to use the foot pedals and understanding what the various markings means is a basic task for any serious pianist. Proper pedaling technique adds legato to an otherwise detached piece, sustains specific pitches without affecting the melody and softens the melody.

Study the difference between the three piano foot pedals. The "sustain" or "damper" pedal on the right is used for sustaining the notes well after the pianist stops playing them. The "una corda" pedal on the left is used for softening the sound of the piano. This pedal gives the piano a muted feel by striking only one of the three strings for each key. The sostenuto pedal located in the middle will only sustain the notes already depressed before the sostenuto pedal is depressed. In this way, it is possible to sustain a chord while a melody plays over the sustained chords.

Determine which type of pedal suits the composition. This score will usually indicate his below the bass clef staff. If there is an "una corda" marking, use the left pedal. If there is damper pedal marking, use the right pedal. Sostenuto will also be marked in the part.

Press your right heel into the ground while using any of these pedals. Your heel acts as an anchor and allows the foot freedom to rock back-and-forth on each pedal. This is an especially important correct use of the sustain pedal since you want a smooth execution.

Press into the desired pedal by using the ball of your foot. When using a sustain pedal it should come slightly after the notes that are to be affected to get a nice legato feeling. When using the "una corda" pedal, it should be pressed slightly before. When using the "sostenuto" pedal, it must come after.


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