Watch how, for instance, Valentina Lisitsa releases her final chord of Chopin's Op. 9, no. 2 by pulling her hands up from the keyboard. Such a lift isn't reserved for slower music; this even happens at faster tempi, as we see with Horowitz at the end of Chopin's G-minor ballade.

Contrast this with Yundi Li, who seems to pull his hands away and down from the keyboard at the conclusion of Chopin's Op. 48, no. 1 nocturne.

Do these actions somehow affect the inner mechanism of the keyboard, and in turn affect the actual sound that is produced?

2 Answers 2


There's a little bit of key noise and the rate of damper drop and any resulting damper noises are affected by release. At the highest levels of performance and tone, these noises are important even if they are very quiet.

Besides that fairly minor audible impact, my understanding of release is that it is a combination of ergonomic and visual. Piano technique involves a lot of specific hand motions and different pianists favor different kinds of motion for their particular style and arm and hand mechanics. My point is that a lot of hand and arm motions may seem meaningless from a sound perspective, but as a player they help reinforce an almost dance-like attitude that informs technique. It's only at the very end of a piece that the release of a note is not also preparation for playing the next note, so in the middle of a piece, release is still important from a technique perspective. Developing a completely different release technique just because it's the last note seems like a lot of trouble for no benefit.

And there is the visual component of a live performance. All kinds of musicians move in all kinds of ways that can make a lot of difference to no difference in the sound, but the movements are all justified in terms of performance visuals, as long as they don't interfere with technique, and many movements are part of technique, as noted above.

  • Yes, gestures can play a part in supporting technique, and I think that's important. They're also a part of each person's playing style. However, as my piano teacher pointed out, they can be overdone.
    – dwilli
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 23:06

A piano generates a sound like any other instrument. In Music Synthesis we call the shape the sound makes the ADSR pattern (Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release).

The original question is about the release on a piano.

Ignoring the technical aspects of the piano action, let’s focus on the two main ways you can release sound on a piano.

1) You depress the key with your finger, and you pull your finger off the key.

The way you pull your finger off of the key can have a large impact on the sound. Slow, fast Music, it doesn’t really matter. It is about how long you keep you finger engaged within the millimeters of release space you have access to. The goal with this is to shape the ADSR pattern in a way to your liking, just as a brass or woodwind player would do. It can create an abrupt sound stop or a sound that sounds like it is being muffled (from the dampers/hammers/whatever you want to call it). There is an entire world of color to be had in the release of the sound. Do not believe anybody that says it makes no difference.

2) You do the same thing but you depress the sustain pedal and release the sound with the pedal.

Here the release is controlled by the foot pedals, which can create all kinds of changes to the ADSR patterns. Play a note with the pedal fully depressed, then remove your foot as fast as possible to get a sense of the sound. After that, do it again, but this time release the pedal as slow as you can so it is fully released but you still have some sound. You should hear a large difference in the color of the tone as the dampers get closer to the strings.

Between using the release of the individual attacks to using the pedals to control release, one can create a huge variety of colors on the piano. So yes is the answer to the original question in that how you release the piano affects the sound.

Here is an article talking about the Bach Prelude in C that contains two recording. The second contains a great example of how the sound is impacted by the release. It is easy to hear. Recorded on a Yamaha C7 concert grand piano.


  • 1
    No you can't. In upright and grand pianos alike, the hammer is 'thrown' at the string. Once this has happened, which is BEFORE it hits the string, that's the end of any control over the hammer. What you CAN control is the speed at which the damper approaches the string as the key is lifted. It's subtle. On a badly-regulated piano a slow approach can sound bad. But there is some control.
    – Laurence
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 23:16
  • Don't deface your answers, please. You can delete it if you wish.
    – user39614
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 0:58
  • @KMC -- you should have your two user accounts merged. You should only have one, and this will allow you to edit your posts without needing approval. But, you should also refrain from introducing insults and throwing temper-tantrums in your posts.
    – user39614
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 3:03
  • @KMC - please use the Contact Us link at the bottom to request account merge. And Be Nice in future. Remember that whether you are wrong or right in what you think happens, there is never a need to be rude to others who disagree.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 8:38
  • Expressing contempt is very different than throwing a temper tantrum. Thanks for the moral directives. /rolls eyes.
    – KMC
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 8:50

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