The piece I am learning has a highly repetitive melody line for the left hand (always the same 4 notes, but not all at once), and I want to apply "sustain" for them, while not applying sustain for the more complex melody played with the right hand at the same time.

Looks like a good case for the middle piano pedal, just that there is no time moment when all four keys on the left are depressed down. Sustain "locks" for me only for the keys that were down when I press the middle pedal.

Ok, then I press the keys slowly at the beginning of the piece (slowly enough to produce no sound), then the middle pedal, and keep the middle pedal down until the end of the piece. But this is my own invention.

How is the middle pedal supposed to be used? Can it be applied for the melody line, or must one play a chord first when all relevant piano keys are pressed, giving you a chance to press the pedal at this time?

4 Answers 4


There is no rule requiring you to use the sostenuto pedal only for notes that have already sounded. In a composition that works as you described, capturing them in advance is a perfectly fine and obvious solution. (In fact, modern compositions sometimes use silent keypresses and the sostenuto pedal for notes that are never sounded, just made to resonate by other notes.)

  • This question is about the middle 'sostenuto' pedal found on some pianos. You seem to be talking about the sustain pedal.
    – Laurence
    May 4, 2017 at 15:02
  • @LaurencePayne Wow, English distinguishes between "sustain pedal" and "sostenuto pedal"?? How... quaint. Fixed. May 4, 2017 at 17:57
  • I'm still not convinced that you realise they're two different pedals that do two different things.
    – Laurence
    May 4, 2017 at 18:08

What you suggest will, indeed do what you describe. If the 4 notes sound good sustained together - which probably means they form a chord rather than a scale - and if that chord doesn't conflict with other harmonies in the piece, you may have invented a useful technique! Give it a try. But listen carefully to the result!

  • They sound nice together, they probably form a chord of some kind.
    – h22
    May 4, 2017 at 15:11

The middle pedal is called the sostenuto pedal. It works as you discovered, holding the dampers off for notes that were sounding when the pedal was pressed. You may find more in the Wikipedia article on piano pedals.


I need to warn you that you should only make people hold down the sostenuto pedal for as long as you want all the held-down notes to sound. This means that, unless you have people let go of the sostenuto pedal, "not all at once" will eventually no longer apply, and listeners will hear all 4 left-hand melody notes at the same time.

  • this would be more appropriate as a comment than an answer
    – Some_Guy
    May 4, 2017 at 12:41
  • @Some_Guy, I'm mainly trying to answer the question's "How the middle pedal is supposed to be used?" I'm willing to edit this answer to make this more clear.
    – Dekkadeci
    May 4, 2017 at 12:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.