Piano Pedals: What to Do With those Pedals, or are They a Foot Rest?

There are three pedals on the piano: the damper pedal on the right, played with the right foot; the soft pedal called the Una Corda, on the left, played with the left foot; and the sostenuto pedal in the middle, played with the left foot. In all cases, the end of the pedal should contact the ball of the foot

in line with the big toe. The heel of the foot stays on the floor at all times, and the foot remains touching the pedal at all times.

The Damper Pedal raises the damper (hammers) off the strings at once, and holds them off, so that if the fingers are removed from the keys, the sounds does not stop, as the pedal is still holding the dampers of the strings.

Now let’s work with the most common pedal, the damper pedal. The damper pedal is used for the purpose of playing legato, or purposefully allowing 2 or more tones to ring at the same time to create harmony, and/or for a rhythmic purpose.

Playing legato means to connect your sounds without silence between the notes. Hold the first key and keep it vibrating until the next note is played, then release the first note. This can be easily accomplished through your finger action if all the keys in your song are within close proximity of each other. If there is a huge span between the keys, then it is impossible for the fingers to play legato, for the hand will have to be moved to a new position to reach the key.

By using the damper pedal, you can connect these tones and retain the sounds of legato.


1. Play middle C, and at the same time depress the damper pedal.

2. Hold the damper pedal in the depressed position.

3. Lift your hand and move it up the piano to play a high C.

4. At the exact moment you play the high C, Lift and depress the damper pedal very fast.

How do you know you are playing the pedal correctly? All you have to do is listen. If you release the pedal too soon, you will hear silence between the two notes. If you release the pedal too late, there will be a point where both tones will be ringing.

Playing the pedal correctly takes practice, go slow and listen carefully. How do you know when to use the pedal? Change the pedal when you do not want tones ringing together. Change the pedal on every chord change. In classical music, it is customary to analyze the composition and when the composer is changing chords, change the pedal. Composers will write in phrases, which are similar to sentences, if the same chord is used, but the phrase changes, you would change the pedal when the phrase ends and a new phrase starts. As you progress in your lessons and gain knowledge about music theory, you will be able to analyze the music and this will guide you as to when to change the pedaling.