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“Why doesn’t the soft pedal work?”

On many occasions when visiting a new client to tune their piano I have been asked to “please sort out the left-hand pedal – it doesn’t seem to do anything..”  The Soft Pedal should make the piano sound softer, right?

The piano in question is normally a standard overstrung upright, and in most cases I find myself having to explain that it is working, and doing all it’s designed to do!

On most upright pianos, all that happens when you press the left hand pedal is that the hammers are moved nearer to the strings – this does not alter the tone but simply gives less momentum. This makes the touch of the keys feel different, as there is a feeling of some “slack” before the hammer starts to move.

…it enables the pianist to play more softly

So, as the hammers are only travelling about half their normal distance, this pedal is more correctly called the “half-blow” pedal, and perhaps the best way to explain how to make use of this device is to say that it enables the pianist to play more softly. 

You may also be interested in our pages about piano pedals, common piano terminology and types of piano.