I have been a pianist for some time now and just wondered about the following when I was fine tuning a piece of music I was working on.

As I was paying attention to my sustain pedal, I realised that weather it's fully depressed or slightly depressed, it feels the same, sound wise.

I remember when I was a beginner using the sustain pedal whilst practicing "fur Elise" and it felt quite loud regardless of the level of pressure I applied. I therefore learnt to play softer with my hands and got the result I wanted. Never thought twice about the sustain pedal.

I owned a Welmar.

My question is:

Is my instrument not capable of making different sounds just by using the sustain pedal? Or is this the way all pianos work?

  • 1
    The answers correctly mention "half pedalling" - but it's fair to say that half pedalling (and also rapid up-down pedal changes) have more effect, and are easier to control, on a medium or large size grand piano than on a small upright, simply because the longer, heavier bass strings of a grand start off with more vibrational energy than a small upright, so it's easier to damp out part of that energy in a controlled way.
    – user19146
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 22:27
  • My family's piano is a (secondhand) upright, and I can easily half-pedal with it.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 14:05

2 Answers 2


There IS a technique of 'half-pedalling' where the pedal is depressed just far enough for the dampers to lift off the strings but still just graze them. If the piano action is perfectly adjusted, it can give a lightly damped effect. It can also damp the treble strings more than the bass ones. The term 'half-pedalling' is also used to describe momentarily releasing the pedal, so that the treble strings are damped but the bass continues relatively undamped. (This works simply because bass strings are heavier and require more damping.)

But these are advanced, subtle effects. Mostly, you can think of the strings being damped, or not damped. The change is at a particular point of the pedal travel. Further depression makes no difference. The pedal is a on/off switch for the dampers, not a volume control.

  • I appreciate the technique reminder. It seems I got a bit "lazy" with it. I will however get my tuner to be more precise when adjusting the pedal. My piano was built in 1984
    – user33232
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 6:12

Modern pianos support half-pedalling, where applying less pressure to the sustain(/damper) pedal results in notes that linger shorter than with a fully depressed sustain pedal but that still linger longer than with no pedals pressed at all.

So, to me, your description does not sound like "the way all pianos work".

How old is your Welmar? I've read that half-pedalling can simulate how fully depressed dampers work on really old pianos (such as the ones of Beethoven's time).

  • 1
    It's at least 20 years old, because that's when Welmar went out of business - but they certainly made good quality pianos, so 20 or even 50 years old isn't a big deal unless the OP's instrument hasn't been looked after very well.
    – user19146
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 22:47

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