An acoustic piano has dampers that mute the strings when a pressed key is released. Pressing (and holding) the sustain pedal lifts the dampers, allowing the strings to continue ringing after keys are released.

What I'm calling the upper register of the piano: the roughly 20 or so highest keys [depending on the model, (from D6 and up on my upright, often from F#6 on grand)], don't have any dampers — they act as if the sustain pedal is always on, which makes passages in this register necessarily blurry sounding, and staccato impossible.

Surely it would be a simpler designed to just have dampers on all of the keys — Why aren't there dampers in this register?

I thought it might be because these notes are so high in frequency that they their wave envelope would naturally decay too quickly for dampers to have a noticeable effect. But, after some experimentation I've found this not to be the case. The lowest notes in the upper register can be heard distinctly ringing for at least 5 seconds, even with only a moderate press velocity.

I'm sure there must be a good reason that a piano does not have dampers in this register, but what is it?

Why doesn't a piano have dampers for the keys in the upper register?

  • 1
    see also music.stackexchange.com/questions/88141/…
    – AakashM
    May 17, 2022 at 8:33
  • If dampers had been included on the uppermost register of your upright, would there be enough room between the dampers and the upper bridge for the hammers on those strings?
    – Theodore
    May 17, 2022 at 14:11

2 Answers 2


I think the idea is that the high notes don't sustain enough to need damping for clarity of playing. And their constant availability for sympathetic resonance brightens the sound of the whole instrument.

Omitting dampers on the highest notes is a standard design decision. There are arguments for and against it. It's easy to demonstrate blurring of notes in the un-damped register. Not so easy to find occasions in the repertoire where it matters! Perhaps if dampers WERE provided all the way up, more composers would write intricate counterpoint in the top octave? Or would players complain that the brilliance of octave passages and general resonance suffered? Anyway, that is what piano makers have decided on, and composers write for that instrument.

  • 2
    "The high notes don't sustain enough to need damping for clarity of playing": this is addressed in the question ("after some experimentation I've found this not to be the case").
    – phoog
    May 17, 2022 at 10:10
  • 5
    Isn't the question about what those arguments are?
    – Tim
    May 17, 2022 at 10:11
  • The question lists some arguments against it and this answer shows some arguments for it. I believe it answers the question well, and I had never considered the sympathetic resonance aspect before so I definitely learned something new. May 17, 2022 at 15:35
  • @LaurencePayne — I do appreciate the edit. But there now seems to be an apparent contradiction: "the high notes don't sustain enough to need damping for clarity" vs "It's easy to demonstrate blurring of notes in the un-damped register." Please consider tweaking the first sentence slightly to be in agreement with the latter. May 18, 2022 at 22:26
  • @ElementsinSpace The first sentence describes why I think it was decided to design pianos that way. Then I examine that decision.
    – Laurence
    May 18, 2022 at 22:43

There's already enough parts on the piano! Dampers are there to stop strings vibrating. Especially when we don't want them to. Which is why there's the sustain and sometimes sostenuto pedals to release them when we do.

Those higher pitched strings are deemed to not produce much sympathetic vibration, so they don't get the dampers like other lower strings. Unfortunately, the lower ones from that higer bunch, especially on good quality pianos, do vibrate a little - sometimes a little too much - but there's nothing to be done - except extend the line of dampers to include them, which, traditionally, didn't happen - yet.

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