How Many Pedals Does A Piano Have (& What Do They Do?)

Piano pedals play a big and wonderful role in shaping the dynamics and the expressive capabilities of the piano itself. If you're new to the world of pianos, you may be asking how many pedals does a piano have and what their functions are. Especially if you're looking at keyboards and noticing that the pedal situation differs there.

So we'll explore:

  • how many piano pedals there are
  • what the piano pedals do
  • how many pedals a piano keyboard typically has
  • what to look for in a keyboard pedal

The Number of Pedals on a Piano

interesting piano pedalsThere are usually 3 piano pedals

Most traditional pianos, including upright and grand pianos, have 3 pedals. Sometimes you'll see only 2 but generally, there are 3. If you're looking at buying a piano and it only has 2 pedals, that's fine. The middle pedal is very rarely used.

The pedals are close to the floor in the middle of the piano base. 

What the Piano Pedals Are For + Their Names

The 3 pedals are:

  1. Damper Pedal (Sustain Pedal): The pedal on the right is the damper or sustain pedal. When pressed, it lifts all the dampers off the strings, allowing the notes to sustain longer. This pedal enhances the richness and depth of sound. You can read more on how to play this pedal here.
  2. Soft Pedal (Una Corda Pedal): The pedal on the left is the soft or quiet pedal. When engaged, it shifts the entire action mechanism slightly to the right, resulting in a softer and more muted sound.
  3. Sostenuto Pedal: The middle pedal is the sostenuto pedal, which is primarily found on grand pianos. When pressed, it sustains only the notes that are being held down at that moment, while the remaining notes continue to sound normally. This can also be referred to as a "practice pedal" and on many pianos, it doesn't do much.
3 piano pedals labeled for quiet and damper pedal

So for a piano, if you're asking how many pedals does a piano have, there are 3 but the most important one you need to have is the damper or sustain pedal. 

How Many Pedals Does A Piano Keyboard Need?

Many are learning to play piano using electric pianos or piano keyboards these days. I often get to the point in beginner lessons where I need to ask students to go and get a sustain pedal. 

While some keyboards will come with built-in sustain pedals, many don't. And there is typically only one pedal jack or option available. This pedal functions similarly to the damper pedal on a piano, allowing you to sustain notes.

The sustain pedal on a keyboard works by prolonging the sound of the notes when pressed. It simulates the effect of the damper pedal on a piano, lifting the dampers off the strings to sustain the sound. This can be particularly useful when playing legato passages or holding chords.

I'd recommend getting a pedal if you don't have one yet but the trick is getting the right pedal for a keyboard because the wrong ones can be really annoying to use.

Which Pedal Should You Get For A Keyboard

There are a number of different shapes and sizes that keyboard pedals come in. 

First, you need to be sure your keyboard has a jack for this. Look behind it for a jack that says "damper," "sustain," or "pedal." Those are generally the labels used. If you find one, great! If you don't, you'll want to upgrade your keyboard at some stage to include this as it's essential. 

The main types of keyboard pedals look like this:

two stypes of keyboard pedals

I've labeled the one I think is the best type and that's because this is what you want for your keyboard pedal:

  • some weight (so it won't slide away easily while you're using it)
  • some grip on the bottom (so it won't slide away)
  • ability to feel the pedal action (so you know when you're changing the pedal)

While the square pedal is fine, I've had too many times when it has slide further and further away and I just found myself losing it as I was playing. 

The other thing to keep in mind here is that some keyboards may need to have a pedal purchased that's of the same brand. There are universal type pedals but you may also want to match your keyboard's brand. 

This is the pedal I recommend on Amazon. It will work with most brands.

So in conclusion:

Q: How many pedals does a piano have?

A: Three

Q: How many pedals do you need for your keyboard?

A: One

Q: Do you really need a pedal?

A: Yes! They are essential and will help you to really enjoy your playing. 

If you want to learn more about pedals, check out How To Use Piano Pedals and When to Use Piano Pedals.

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