Pedals are invaluable accessories for keyboardists. They play a vital role in expanding the expressive capabilities of a keyboard, offering greater control and nuance over the instrument's sound. Whether you're a pianist aiming for a traditional piano sound or a keyboardist in a band, incorporating pedals into your setup can elevate your playing experience. Here are some common pedals for a keyboard and their functions.
Sustain Pedal and Sustain Foot Switch
Sustain pedals (also known as damper pedals) and sustain foot switches are the most essential and widely used pedals for keyboards. While they differ in their physical form and how they are operated, both serve the same purpose, which is to sustain notes or chords played on the digital keyboard. When the sustain function is activated, the notes played continue to sound even after the player releases the keys, adding depth and richness to your playing and enabling you to create sustained chords or melodic lines. They both connect to your keyboard via a designated 1/4" input jack.
Good for beginners, a sustain foot switch is a square, box-shaped pedal that’s compact and portable. It is also convenient in situations where floor space is limited. But, while a foot switch does the job of sustaining your notes, it feels nothing like an acoustic piano pedal.
In contrast, the sustain pedal resembles the traditional piano's sustain pedal with its large, comfortable flat surface, providing a similar feel to the acoustic piano playing experience.
Sustain Pedal with Half-Damper
Dedicated half-damper sustain pedals enable partial damping, sustaining some notes while dampening others for more intricate and nuanced playing techniques. To use this effect, you require a digital piano with half-damper functionality, which may not be present in all models. Verify the specifications of your keyboard to ensure this feature is available.
Polarity of Sustain Pedals
The polarity of a sustain pedal determines how it sends signals to the keyboard. Using the wrong polarity can lead to issues—notes may sustain when released or stop when pressed. To resolve this, consult your digital keyboard's manual, get a pedal with the correct polarity, or opt for a universal pedal with a polarity switch, ensuring compatibility with any keyboard.
A triple-pedal system, also called a three-pedal unit, replicates the pedal setup found on a traditional acoustic grand piano. It provides genuine, piano-like pedaling with sustain, soft, and sostenuto pedals, along with half-damper functionality. In addition to the sustain pedal, the soft pedal softens the tone, while the sostenuto pedal holds only selected notes. By placing the pedals in the correct ergonomic position, the three-pedal unit allows for a seamless transition to an acoustic piano feel.
Many digital piano manufacturers offer these units as accessories that can attach to compatible furniture-style stands. Stand-alone units are also available. However, not all digital pianos support pedal units, so ensure compatibility with your specific keyboard model before purchasing a three-pedal unit.
An expression pedal provides control over volume and dynamics, allowing you to shape the intensity of your playing. By connecting the pedal to a compatible keyboard you can gradually increase or decrease the intensity of the sound to create gradual swells, fade-ins, or fade-outs, and add emotive qualities to your performance.
These pedals enable you to play your keyboard with greater control, tonal variations, and dynamic possibilities, empowering you to convey emotions and breathe life into your performances. As you decide on the ideal pedals for your keyboard setup, it's essential to weigh factors like compatibility, robust build quality, and the specific functionalities that align with your creative ambitions. Ultimately, the selection of pedals should harmonize with your individual requirements and personal preferences.
What are your thoughts on using pedals? Which ones do you prefer using? Tell us in the Comments section, below.