Steinway piano mistery pedal

So, I was flying some indoor planes on a concert room where there was this maginficent Steinway concert piano; since I used to play the keyboard some years ago I desacrated the thing trying to remember some tunes; now here comes something that has puzzled me; there were three pedals, one would “cut” the notes, the other stretch them, so far the usual thing, but there was a third pedal (the leftmost one) that did something really unexpected (for me, at least), when I pressed it the whole keyboard raised about 1/2 centimeter and moved to the right a bit more than that. I didn´t notice any change on the sound of the keys, so what is that pedal for?

It’s called una corda, which is Italian for ‘one string’. Most notes on the piano, except for the deep bass ones, have three strings in parallel to give a bigger sound. By moving the hammers and entire keyboard action a few millimeters to one side, the hammers strike only one of those three strings, giving a littler sound.

It’s called the una corda pedal (italian for “one string”), and its effect is to allow the hammer to strike two strings instead of three (one less string, hence the name).


Hands off! I invented that word and it´s all mine! ALL MINE!!! BWAHAHAHA :rolleyes:

The sounds like the pedal I like to stomp on when playing around with the piano at my parents house. You noticed that as you stepped on it the keys raised a bit. Obviosly when you released the pedal the keys came back down. Well if you stomp on it with enough force over and over when the keys come down, some of them will come down hard enough to strike the strings. It makes some sort of weird random song. Try it sometime.

Oh, thanks Jomo Mojo and QED :smiley:

I concur. Different pianos have different setups; on that one, the entire action shifted to the right so that the leftmost string under each and every hammer (xept the single-string pitches) is not played. This results in a softer sound. It’s terribly useful for when you want something terribly soft but don’t have enough finger control to do it right. You’ve noticed, of course, that pressing a key too softly makes no noise whatsoever, and slightly harder makes a noise of some minimum volume. The una corde pedal allows for quieter playing.

the rightmost pedal is almost always the sustain, which lifts all dampers, allowing thhe strings to vibrate continuously after they’ve been struck. You don’t need to hold the key down. The middle pedal usually only lifts the dampers of the keys CURRENTLY pressed, and keeps them lifted as long as the middle pedal is held. This is useful for keeping a particular sound in the back duing complicated passages where you don['t want the melody to get muddy, as it would get with the wsustain pedal. The leftmost pedal is usually the una corde pedal.

Joey, I don´t think it would be well taken if I´d start stomping on a very pricey musical instrument.
Maybe if I tell them it´s modern jazz? runs away

Well you were flying a plane in the room!

Yeah… but it was the kind of plane a mean moth could tear appart. :smiley:

FYI, it’s called the sostenuto.

Interesting tidbit. For uprights, instead of raising and moving the keyboard, which requires, as one might imagine, a bit of intensive mechanics and such, that pedal will instead drop a layer of felt between the hammers and the strings, damping the sound that way.

Grand pianos typically have the right pedal raising all the dampers, the left one una corda, and the middle one sostenuto. The mechanism for lifting all the dampers at once is fairly straightforward, and is standard on cheap uprights too.

But the una corda and sostenuto mechanisms are more sophisticated, and uprights often cut costs by substituting simpler mechanisms.

Instead of una corda, there’s a cheaper sort of “soft pedal” that moves the hammer action closer to the strings. By elementary Newtonian physics, since the hammers get to accelerate through a smaller distance, they strike the strings with less force.

The upright I bought this year has two soft pedals. One is the move-the-hammers-closer type. It gives a moderately soft sound. The other is the interpose-a-felt-strip pedal described by Eonwe. It gives a very soft sound, like the piano is whispering. For practicing at night when everyone else is asleep.

The really cheap substitute for a sostenuto pedal is the one that lifts the dampers on the bass strings only. It works the same as the regular damper pedal, but is limited to the bass range. The idea being that those long chords you want to hold while playing other stuff tend to be mostly in the bass range. Of course, this isn’t helpful all the time. There are pieces where I need to hold a middle-range chord and play staccato, and that just is not possible with this cheap pedal.

I’ve always known this as a “practice pedal.” I’ve never actually heard of anyone using this in performance (then again, you would never find this pedal on a performance piano.) It’s just there so you don’t disturb your neighbors while practicing. In all the pianos I’ve seen, it’s the middle pedal, with the left pedal being the proper soft pedal. (As Jomo has described.)

The only pedals that are really standard on the piano are the damper and some variation of the una corda. The middle pedal can be any of a number of things, as described. Many pianos don’t have the middle pedal, and some don’t even have a soft pedal.

Quite right. I’ve just played on my upright for so long (which only has two pedals, a sustain pedal and a ‘drop in the felt’ pedal) I forgot about the obvious (and more common) move the hammers closer to the strings.

The old upright I grew up with in the parental household accomplished una corda function not by dropping in felt or moving the hammers to the right as with a grand, but by moving the entire hammer assembly closer to the strings. Shorter strike distance = less of a whop when the hammer hits.

The una corda pedal, as Ale discovered, doesn’t really produce a softer tone on a concert grand. Rather, accomplished pianists can use the pedal to change the quality of a tone. The idea is that the hammer strikes only one out of the three strings. The other two strings then start to vibrate sympathetically. Nowadays, hammers are so large that they will strike two strings rather than one when the pedal is depressed, resulting in a less intense effect.