I noticed this on a piano I played recently - a small amount of sustain with no pedal and much more with it pressed. It wasn't unpleasant, actually, but is it likely to be:

  • A feature of the piano
  • A serious flaw in the piano
  • Something minor that a tuner/technician/the owner could tweak easily?

3 Answers 3


The sustain (damper) pedal on a studio piano pushes a rod which connects to the lever which connects to the dampers. This is adjustable with a screw, to allow the dampers to rest on the strings (apart from the top octave or so) with the correct pressure, when the pedal is at rest. It sounds like the dampers are not pressing enough. It won't be a feature, and it's something you can do.

It MAY be a serious flaw, like a warped piece of wood, but until adjustment has been done, you won't know.


This is probably caused by at least one of these things:

  1. The damper pedal is slightly out of regulation, and is holding the dampers slightly off the strings. (Easy fix)
  2. The dampers are old and tired and don't dampen as well as they used to. (Expensive to replace)
  3. The dampers are under-built: actually too small for the length of the piano strings, usually in large 80+ year old "upright grand" pianos. (Minor flaw)
  4. The dampers in the bass section aren't working properly, and the bleedthrough you're hearing on the rest of the piano is resonant vibrations in the bass strings. (Could be easy or tricky to fix)
  5. Some "ringing" will always be present due to undamped notes in the high treble. (That's considered a feature)

It's easy to adjust this on an upright piano. Remove the front of the case below the keyboard and you will see an adjustment screw, probably a wing-nut close to the pedal. On a grand piano the pedal mechanism can be a bit more complicated, but simple for a technician to adjust.

If you get different amounts of damping between the bass, mid range, and treble, that could indicate a more serious problem, for instance one of the bearings connecting the lever that lifts all the dampers to the piano frame has cracked and broken. Fixing that properly might involve some metalwork, and in the worst case you have to remove some strings to get access to the problem. That is most definitely a job for a technician, because doing it wrong can crack the iron piano frame, which is terminally fatal.

  • 1
    If the dampers are not fully touching the strings when the pedal is up, adjustment at the pedal may help. On an old piano the balance between some notes not damping and some not releasing can be tricky! It may also be that the felt on the dampers has become hard, and isn't doing its job properly. I strongly suggest you don't make any irreversible changes - leave that to a piano tuner/technician.
    – Laurence
    Mar 1, 2015 at 13:17
  • 1
    The tuner has since been and mostly rectified this. One thing I didn't realise is that the damper doesn't affect the top third (or so) of the keyboard, the high notes are un-damped and so will ring out, but their sustain isn't very long.
    – Mr. Boy
    Mar 2, 2015 at 9:48

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