The title is pretty self-explanatory, but what I mean is: if you play the C8 note, for example, and keep your finger pressed to play it for a while, it would sound as if you'd just pressed it for a small period of time instead of holding it down. I suppose that is because the sound dies down really fast. So my question is if there is a way to sustain the sound for longer than it usually does.

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    Yes, simply play the desired pitch on a synthesizer with a patch that doesn’t decay or after attack. – jjmusicnotes Jan 11 '18 at 5:22
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    Buy a really, really expensive grand piano! They sustain the higher notes incredibly well. Unfortunately this is not an option for the 99% of us. – Kilian Foth Jan 11 '18 at 7:30
  • My close vote is because you haven't made it clear whether this is a physics question, an interpretation question, or a question of acoustic vs. electronic keyboards. – Carl Witthoft Jan 11 '18 at 12:57

Use of sustain pedal will help, as that un-damps all the strings, some of which will vibrate in sympathy with the high note, due to their harmonics or overtones. Not a whole lot though.


You've accurately described what happens when you play a high note on a piano. That is what a piano does. You could of course capture the sound and prolong it with an external device. Record and loop it. Apply heavy compression (but watch out for the noise floor rising as it struggles to amplify the rapidly decaying sound). You could excite the string by some method other than the piano's hammer. Might br tricky to get a bow onto it, but perhaps some electro-magnetic device like an EBow? http://www.ebow.com/home.php


You can play harmonics on the piano by lightly touching the string at points that are at integer fractions of the string length, essentially dividing the frequency by that fraction.This is in essence the same technique used in guitar. Obviously it is hard to play anything intricate like this, and often requires some reach. A harmonic at 1/4 of C6 or 1/8 of C5, if well performed, could sustain longer than the fundamental C8, despite being the same pitch. This may or may not be what you want. Video

  • Nice trick. I didn't think of that at all. – Todd Wilcox Jan 11 '18 at 17:49

Not without modifying the piano or adding something like a pickup and amplifier to get feedback. That would be expensive, difficult, and wouldn't work well.

You could get a keypress sensing bar that goes on top of your piano keyboard and detects when you press a key and then sends a MIDI NOTE ON signal with the key number and use that to control and external synth that plays a sustained piano sound until you release the key.

If you want it to be a real piano that is not modified, the closest technique would be to play the note repeating very quickly to create a continuing tone. If you play it quietly then the hammer noise will be reduced and further strikes should increase the volume as you excite the strings more. You could doctor the hammer to make it softer and reduce hammer noise.

This is why some consider the piano to be a percussion instrument. It is not meant to sustain or swell.

  • I didn't think 'percussion' meant 'unable to sustain'. Consider a large bell - a percussion instrument... and with some swell, I'd say. And yes, piano is considered to be a percussion instrument - and the lower notes, particularly on a good grand, will go on with a good sustain. – Tim Jan 11 '18 at 17:44
  • @Tim By "sustain" I meant as in indefinitely or for an arbitrary length of time. I suppose I was using it in the sense usually used on synthesizers. You can have a decay on a synth set to 30 seconds or 3 minutes, but that still is not considered a "sustained" note, just a note with a really long decay. – Todd Wilcox Jan 11 '18 at 17:47

The notes F#6 and above on an acoustic piano are undampered anyway, so they ring for the same length of time whether you press and hold the key down or press and release immediately. And as the notes are undampered, use of the sustain pedal will make no difference to the decay time of those highest notes.

See Why do F#6 and higher notes ring more than F6 and lower notes?

  • I beg to differ on use of sustain pedal ! – Tim Jan 11 '18 at 17:45
  • Give it a try with sustain pedal - you should notice a big difference. – Tim Jan 14 '18 at 8:08

Connect a microphone to a compressor and insert the mic into the piano and run the sound through a speaker. The compressor will give you a long powerful decay.

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