As your piano tuner Wilmington DE and the surrounding areas, I would like to give you some further information about the various functions of a middle pedal on a piano.
My last article explained how a middle pedal functions when it is set up as a “sostenuto” pedal. Most, but not all, grand pianos have the middle pedal function as a sostenuto. Only a few of the most high-end vertical pianos have this function, and for something that is so rarely used, it is relatively expensive to have installed. Most vertical piano makers choose to have a more commonly used function, called a “mute pedal”. A mute pedal functions by placing a piece of felt between the hammers and the strings when the middle pedal is depressed. The intention is to make the tone exceedingly soft for situations such as a baby sleeping in the house, or for playing late at night when others are sleeping. It is never intended for use in a recital or concert situation. An alternate name for this use is a “practice pedal.” The volume is much less than that which occurs when the left or “soft pedal” is engaged.
Another common use of the middle pedal is as a “bass damper pedal.” This is an inexpensive way to get a somewhat similar result to a true sostenuto pedal. In this arrangement, a pianist will play a bass note or octave, and then engage the bass damper pedal. The bass note or octave will then be sustained, freeing up the left hand so that both hands can be used to play the following phrase. The sound is much muddier than with a true sostenuto, because all the bass dampers are raised, allowing all the bass strings to ring. Overall it is an attempt to get a similar result with considerably less expense in the manufacturing process. Generally, grand pianos that do not have a sostenuto have this bass damper pedal arrangement for the middle pedal.
There are other less common functions of a middle pedal. Often many older upright pianos have had a fake middle pedal that either did nothing or was linked into the left soft pedal, so that it performed the same function as a soft pedal. You might ask why they put the pedal on at all, if it had no distinct function. It seems that people believed if a piano had three pedals it was superior to a piano with only two pedals, so the manufacturers would put three pedals, knowing that the average buyer did not know what function the middle pedal was supposed to have. As a result, piano buyers would be more likely to buy the piano with three pedals.
As your Philadelphia, Eastern Shore MD, Southern NJ and Wilmington DE piano tuning expert, I am available to advise you on the purchase of a new or used piano in order to make sure your piano has the functions appropriate for the use you intend. Kenneth Keith Piano Services knows how important it is for you to choose the piano that’s just right for you.