The Damper Pedal

Almost every string in a piano has a damper that rests on it and stops it from vibrating.  Grand piano dampers rest on top of the strings and are kept there by gravity.  In a vertical piano, springs hold the dampers against the strings.

When you press on the damper pedal, all the dampers move away from the strings, allowing them to sustain (or to vibrate sympathetically with the strings being played - see the Soundboard essay for information on that).

As you play the damper pedal, you should feel resistance in the pedal after pushing it a very short distance (1/4” is ideal).  All the dampers should move away from the strings at the same time (and to the same distance).  When you release the pedal, the sound should stop, without any lingering tones.

 Some pianists use the damper pedal to create different tonal colors by allowing the damper felt to brush the strings.  But regardless of technique, the sounds created by the dampers should be intentional.

In some pianos, you might hear  faint tones when the dampers leave or return to the strings.  This can be a sign that the damper felt is hard or misshapen, allowing the damper felt to “play” the string.

Damper pedals and their rods and connectors can make a variety of squeaks and clicks when parts are out of adjustment.  Call your technician (and avoid WD-40!).  If a pedal “clunks”, the problem can usually be solved by changing the player’s way of pressing or releasing the pedal.

Dampers and their pedals require regulation and care, just like every other part of the piano.  Ask your technician for more information.