In most of the pianos that we see today, the Sostenuto pedal does not exist. Only the pianissimo (una corda) and the sustain (damper) pedals can be seen. Throughout the time that I've been studying music, I have never come across any place to use the Sostenuto pedal of the piano. Whenever there is the need of a pedal to be used, most of the time it is the damper pedal. And when the piece should be played very soft (I mean softer than really soft), it is advisable to use the pianissimo pedal. But, I have no idea where to use the Sostenuto pedal on a piano. Of course its purpose is defined as: "sustaining a selected set of notes while keeping the others unaffected". Are there any examples of classical or modern music in which the Sostenuto pedal is used? Any links would be useful too.

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    Well, unlike the other pedals, Sostenuto doesn't really make any difference to the sound, it merely holds down keys without needing fingers for it. So there's not really a need to ever write this in the score, it would be up to the performer to recognise situations in which the pedal could make a passage easier to play (or allow it to be played at all, the way the notes demand). Oct 30, 2017 at 19:30

7 Answers 7


You rarely need it, but when you do, it's indispensable! A few examples come to mind:

  • Claude Debussy: Clair de Lune. Second page, Tempo rubato. The left hand needs to hold some low octaves, then jump up to play some chords above middle C. Considering that it's Impressionistic music, and the dynamic marking is pp, you might be able to fudge it with the damper pedal, but it wouldn't sound as good.

    Debussy Clair de Lune excerpt

  • Sergei Rachmaninoff: Prelude in c♯ minor. The sostenuto pedal is extensively used throughout the piece. You might be able to fudge the opening using just the damper pedal, but if you tried to play the last page using the damper pedal, it would be a horrible dissonant mess (especially with the sffff dynamic markings and accents!)

    Rachmaninoff Prelude in c♯ minor excerpt

  • Maurice Ravel: Sonatine. The last two bars of the second movement require the sostenuto pedal. In fact, the left-hand chord starts with a tied grace note just before the beat, just to give you a chance to catch it with the sostenuto pedal.

    Ravel Sonatine excerpt

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    Debussey's La Cathedrale Engloutie also uses the sostenuto pedal.
    – Heather S.
    Aug 26, 2018 at 3:59
  • None of these pieces is performed with sostenuto pedal. All of them use damper pedal only.
    – Aaron
    Jan 29, 2021 at 5:37
  • @Aaron How would you play these passages without the sostenuto pedal and still make them sound as intended? Jan 29, 2021 at 5:40
  • That question is deserving of its own post -- probably a separate one for each piece, because each would be handled slightly differently. However, one key element is the word "intended". Damper pedal allows the piece to be played precisely as the composers intended, just not precisely as they're notated. It's a key distinction: the notation reflects an abstract musical meaning in these cases, rather than a literal one.
    – Aaron
    Jan 29, 2021 at 5:50

in the left hand piano music, i think there is no way to play the piece without using sostenuto pedal , because you have to play in the two staves using one hand , however the composer doesnt give any mark that refer to use the sostenuto pedal , korngold suite op.23 for left hand piano enter image description here


As a composer, I am very aware of this capability on professional instruments and use it often. I have taken to naming the pedals Ped. I - sustain, Ped. II - sostenuto, and Ped. III - una corda. I do not think that I am unique in using these designations, but really cannot remember the first time I saw them (if I did). Here us an excerpt from my work Élégie, for euphonium and piano: enter image description here

  • How often have you instructed players to use 2 pedals at the same time (e.g. Ped. I and Ped. III)?
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 19, 2020 at 11:43

Notice that the examples given above are all pieces written in the late 19th C and later. The sostenuto pedal wasn't even invented until 1844, so it makes sense that it would take some time before that was explored and used by many composers. Not only that, but just a little while later, piano began to be explored in different ways, particularly in regards to "preparations" and other ways of interacting directly with the strings, beginning in the 1920s. In my observations, since then, more people seem to have explored that avenue of writing rather than using the piano pedals to their fullest. Pianos have also had to compete with electronic instruments. In light of this, there is unfortunately not a whole lot of piano music that uses the sostenuto pedal.


There are some required uses of the sostenuto pedal in the Piano Variations of Aaron Copeland and the Piano Sonata of Elliot Carter.


Lachenmann's Serynade makes extensive, and very effective use of the sostenuto pedal. Rather more uptight stylistically, you can find instances in the piano music of George Benjamin. Many more examples in the music of our own time.


Percy Grainger's arrangement of Faure's Après un Reve requires extensive use of the sostenuto pedal, and it's marked throughout the piece. It many instances it really is required.

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