So we looked at the most important pedal, sustain in Just Pedalling Part 1.  In this post we’ll look at the remaining 2 pedals.  The left pedal correctly named the “Una Corda” pedal is an Italian term with a translation that simply means ‘one string’.  On every piano, 6 out of the 7 octaves of notes have more than one string.  This means then that one hammer is either striking 3 strings simultaneously or 2 strings (depending on how low).  The very bottom notes only have one string.  If you depress the left pedal on a grand, watch the keys because the ENTIRE keyboard shifts about an 1/8 of an inch to the right.  Physically what is happening is that the hammers are shifted out of alignment so that they are no longer hitting 3 strings but rather two (one string is left off – thus una corda).  And so the piano becomes quieter because it is not hitting all 3 strings.  But something else is happening.  Piano hammers get grooves in them because they strike the same position all the time.  When you depress the U.C. (una corda)  (funny… my teacher used to simply write U.C. in my music… apparently we were supposed to know what that was about…lol) the piano also takes on a different sound due to the fact that the alignment of the grooves in the hammers are also out of sync.  This strike of the hammer is now on ‘fresh’ ungrooved felt and makes the piano not only quieter, but mellower. (is mellower even a word?)  So that is the CORRECT way U.C. is to work.  On uprights, the keyboard cannot move and so it operates COMPLETELY different.  Due to the fact that there is no side to side movement, how does one make the piano quieter? Simply by installing a governor – which is a ceiling or a cap on the volume.  If you try and clap your hands but only allow your hand to go only 5″ apart, how loud can you clap? Not that loud because distance creates velocity and velocity, volume.  In the case of piano hammers, uprights simply move the hammers closer to the strings to create the pseudo soft playing effect.  Is it effective? Not really… for 2 reasons.  One is that the touch gets drastically affected.  When the hammers move forward, most pianos then have ‘gaps’ in the touch because it has travelled the hammers towards the strings.  Problem 2 – there is no ‘fresh felt’ kind of sound like grands have.  It doesn’t move the hammers out of the grooves.

Well… just when i thought i’d cover 2 pedals on one post, i’ve run out of both steam and time.  Stay tuned for pedalling #3 on the sostenuto pedal… and the 4 variations! It’s a doozer!