Robert Estrin - piano expert

A Piano with Four Pedals?

Learn more about these unique pianos

In this video, Robert talks about those few pianos with four pedals, and discusses the purpose of the fourth pedal.

Released on November 9, 2016

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robert: Hi and welcome to livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com. I am Robert Estrin. Today's question is: Are there any pianos with four pedals? Of course you've seen pianos with three pedals, the standard. Occasionally even two. But what about four pedals? Well the answer to this is surprising. The answer is yes, there are some pianos with a fourth pedal. But I wonder, what the heck does a fourth pedal do? Well, let's get into this a little bit.

First of all a quick refresher on on what the three pedals do and then I'll tell you what the fourth pedal does. As in Stuart & Sons, the beautiful hand built pianos made in Australia, they feature this fourth pedal. Okay, of course the right pedal, this damper pedal enables all the notes to curry their sounds even after you release your hands. Of course, all pianos, virtually all pianos have a sustain or damper pedal. The left pedal, is regarded as the soft pedal, but technically, it's a Unicorna pedal. Meaning, one string. Because, it shifts the whole action. You can actually see the keys move over so the hummer strikes two of the strings instead of three of the strings dead on. So, you get a different tone. It's a change of tonal color that you get. And yes, it indeed is softer.

The middle pedal is a selective hold pedal, which only holds, It's a Sostenuto pedal, it sustains the notes to stay down when you play it but not additional notes that are played after the middle pedal is down. I know that sounds confusing but I got a video on that subject too.

Now, I'm gonna talk a little bit about upright pedals because they do not do the same thing as grand pedals and there's a reason why I'm bringing this up. On upright, sure the damper pedal, the right pedal does all the notes but the other pedals generally do different things. The left pedal does one thing that's quite interesting, and that is, it actually will make the action. The hammers go closer to the strings. It doesn't change the tone but it does change the touch, making it harder to play loud. Because you cant get as much momentum on the strength of the hummer hitting the string. Indeed, this is what the fourth pedal does on a Stuart & Sons and perhaps other pianos. Any of you know any other pianos with four pedals? Because that's what it does.

So, you can get a change of colors with the Unicorna which shifts the action to the side, getting only two of the three strings to be hit squarely, but you could also change the touch so that you can play as loud or it's easier to play softly. So, that's what the fourth pedal does. And it could be a very expressive device, help for certain passages that are difficult to play as quietly as you like with your hands, you can then use the pedal as an assist.

Of course the middle pedal on uprights do a host of different things and I have videos on that topic as well. So, thank you so much for joining me, Robert at livingpianos.com also virtualsheetmusic.com... look forward to seeing you next time.
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Gabriel R. S. on November 10, 2016 @11:42 am PST
Great video as always! However, I do think there are other piano manufacturers that have a forth pedal that does different things. Say Feurich Vienna, for exaple, has a "P├ędale Harmonique", that is kind of the inverse of the Sostenuto. See more here: http://www.feurich.com/es/pedale-harmonique/

Anyway, what if they decide to make a 5 pedal piano! That would be interesting... Best regards and keep the fantastic videos coming, Robert!
reply
Robert Estrin - host, on November 10, 2016 @9:03 pm PST
Yes, there are many permutations of extra pedals on pianos and more are likely to come in the future. However, since there is no standard, these remain predominantly the domain of the few people who have these instruments in private homes and studios. Someone not accustomed to playing instruments with 4 pedals would most likely be ill-equipped to deal with them.
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on November 9, 2016 @6:48 pm PST
On a related issue which could be helped by modern technology...I'm thinking here about the fact that the piano is limited to "tempered tuning", which is in fact a compromise that is actually "out of tune" with true tuning...It seems to me that makers of electronic pianos could incorporate programs that could change the tuning of the piano, by adjusting some control switch, to give the true pitch of the "scale" a piece of music was written in. I wonder if any piano maker has tried to do this?
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on November 9, 2016 @4:34 pm PST
Very interesting, I had never seen a piano with 4 pedals. But I have seen some with only 2 pedals. The right one is the usual one, but in this case what does the second one do? it replaces the middle of the three or the left one?
Oluwaseun Collins on November 9, 2016 @11:09 am PST
Love this explanation, thanks.
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