In the (many) years I've been playing the piano (generally upright only), I've never felt the need to use the left pedal. From what I gather, the left pedal on an upright places the hammers closer to the strings, reducing the velocity of the hammer as it strikes the strings.

However, I (like to) think that I manage the dynamics of a piece perfectly well with just varying the attack of the keys - up to the softest of pianissimo (with the added advantage that I can vary each key individually). Is there any effect on an upright piano that cannot (easily) be achieved without use of the left pedal?

  • 1
    I use the left pedal almost always. Otherwise my wife would have quitt me long ago or thrown me out! Mar 5, 2019 at 13:35
  • You should try it! See if you, and a discreet audience, can tell the difference on the particular piano in use. Mar 5, 2019 at 14:25
  • There's probably an effect, quite likely on any piano, that the soft pedal can do but not merely lowering the volume--otherwise, we wouldn't see una corda instructions on piano music.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 5, 2019 at 16:27
  • @Dekkadeci I know that on grand pianos (as mentioned by Tim below) there is a notable difference, and most music is written with a grand piano in mind. So there does not need to be any noticeable effect (it seems the upright's left pedal is just a poor man's una corda)
    – Sanchises
    Mar 5, 2019 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


Sometimes when accompanying an unamplified singer I put my foot on the soft pedal and leave it there. This allows me to play with a little more verve without overwhelming the voice. In an ideal world I might reposition the piano, or drape it with something. But this isn't an ideal world...


It makes more difference on a grand, where the 'soft' pedal moves across to hit fewer strings, and other strings with softer felt on the hammer. A 'more ethereal sound'.

But your question concerns uprights, where what happens is the hammers are brought closer to the strings, so don't have the same terminal velocity available as when the pedal is untouched. This means that in ppp passages (that's not a typing stutter!), notes can be played more quietly with than without. Problem with trying to play very quietly is that occasionally, we don't press the key quite hard enough - result - no sound.

  • Interesting - are there no uprights which apply a shift? Is this an engineering compromise or merely a cost-savings approach? Mar 5, 2019 at 14:25
  • @CarlWitthoft - not sure, will research. But by and large, uprights are built for the lower cost end of the market - ever seen a concerto played on one? And it's a darned sight easier to move the whole action forward than sideways,So, probably a bit of both, I guess.
    – Tim
    Mar 5, 2019 at 14:29
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    Depending upon the action, using the soft pedal might also increase the speed at which soft passages may be played. Pressing the key a certain distance with a certain acceleration will take a certain amount of time. Reducing the acceleration or limiting the velocity while keeping the distance the same would increase the time. Reducing the distance while keeping acceleration constant will reduce both velocity and time.
    – supercat
    Mar 5, 2019 at 15:16
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    @supercat - sounds like a good answer!
    – Tim
    Mar 5, 2019 at 15:52
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    @Tim: My level of "certain" knowledge is a bit below what I'd want to answer. There's would almost certainly be a measurable improvement in the theoretical maximum speed on some actions, but I don't know if there would be a meaningful improvement on many if any.
    – supercat
    Mar 5, 2019 at 16:04

The left pedal is an integrated function of a piano. Fine if you can reach all the nuances of ppp and mp. I can‘t and there is no eager to me to achieve this without this help. So the answer to your question about existing effects is depending of the abilities of the pianist and his ideas and ideals.

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