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#3175470 12/06/21 12:47 PM
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I don't plan to ever perform or even play an AP and in an upright it doesn't seem to change the tone as much as in a grand. Do I still need one? Which famous great pieces require one?

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If you need to ask...

...you probably don't need it.

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Need? Maybe not, but it's an interesting tool in your arsenal. The left pedal is also known as the "una corda" - Italian for "one string."


Grand pianos traditionally use 3 strings for each note, all pitched the same. When you press on the left pedal, there's some mechanical shifting of the hammers so that they only make contact with 1 string.

The net result is the sound is softer - I suppose technically 1/3 of the volume! But it's also a little more than that. When you normally hit a note, you're used to hearing 3 identically pitched strings blending together at once. With the left pedal pressed, you can imagine yourself getting a very pure soloist-like sound.

I think the best way to mentally visualize this is when you want something to sound very delicate. For example, the first 8 bars of Fur Elise.
Start the piece with the una corda down. When you transition to the next 8 bars, pull off the una corda pedal and gradually play louder at the same time - it adds a lot of artistic expression as the sound is not only bigger but also 3 times richer.

You can incorporate it into your playing for quiet delicate intros or use it for accentuating the contrast between sections of a song. It could be used in pop song intros before the rest of the and joins in, or an outro when the rest of the band drops out and its just you and the singer.

Una corda is best experienced on a grand piano. Upright pianos still have a left pedal, but it's a bit of a simulation of this effect. (look this up)

Next time you have an opportunity with a grand, watch the inside of the piano while someone plays with and without the una corda pedal. It's really fascinating how much engineering is at work just to make this happen.

On the other hand, maybe you're better off not spending much time playing a high quality grand piano because you become much more aware of what your digital piano is lacking! :p


The left pedal is really useful also in part because it's very easy to you. Press it for passages when you need, then let go when don't. Timing isn't as critical as sustain pedal (which interestingly, you're technically supposed to hit a split second after you hit the notes you want to sustain).

(The middle pedal I think has by far the most limited use cases and most complexity in using it right - una corda is foolproof, sustain pedal can sound good even if you don't technically activate it at the right time - but yeah, you can take an entire college course on how to best use the pedals)

Last edited by technomaster; 12/06/21 01:53 PM. Reason: more detail
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Due to noise regulations I can't play a grand but I'm asking if it makes a NOTICEABLE ENOUGH difference and hoped to hear from players experienced with both APs and DPs who know what they're lacking... (uprights missing well the grand una corda...)

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I have been playing and performing on acoustic grand pianos for over 60 years. Very, Very, Very few pianos have the una corda set up properly. As a result, I almost never use it, and, when I do, it is usually because the composer - Chopin, Brahms - asks for its use, and even then, very rarely.

A properly set up una corda lowers the relative amplitudes of the upper partials, creating a significantly warmer sound. The hammers hit only two strings and do so in between the normal strike grooves where the felt is less compressed.

Most pianists use this pedal as a 'soft pedal', a sad commentary on their inability to play very softly using the instrument as it was intended. It is, after all, a pianoforte. Keep in mind, the original point of the una corda (single string) was to make it easy for the pianist to tune her instrument by having the hammer hit only a single string. A lever moved the keyboard left or right. When the single strings were all tuned, the lever was returned to its default position and the remaining strings unison matched.

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Marche Funebre uses it, but that raises the question what kind of an effect it has on his grand...

"the original point of the una corda (single string) was to make it easy for the pianist to tune her instrument by having the hammer hit only a single string. A lever moved the keyboard left or right. When the single strings were all tuned, the lever was returned to its default position and the remaining strings unison matched."
That's a very interesting fact. I did not know that.

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The sound change was significant, going from two strings to one string. It quickly became desirable for its tonal shift ability and became a spring-loaded lever for the knee and eventually a pedal.

Most uprights simply move the hammers closer to the strings, thus reducing the ability to impart a large velocity to the hammer. This acts to reduce the amplitude of the upper partials, so actually can work OK.

Some grands can do the same thing.

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I use it quite a bit, but when I say that, don't mean my foot is resting on it for long periods of time. Perhaps I have to reach a bass note that is to be played softly but is a few octaves in a jump(happens alot in Rachmaninoff), then I will press it just for that note, and then release. Could be the other way too, trying to reach high notes. Using that pedal in combination with sustain at certain timings can have great effect in performance.

I do also agree using that pedal is not a substitute for controlling your hands to play a passage at p or pp. That can be a bad habit to get into. I did that in college practice rooms, just playing with the left pedal down to reduce my overall volume ..


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