How to adjust the practise/middle pedal

The middle pedal on most Yamaha U1 and U3 pianos is known as the practise pedal. It’s job is to lower the practise felt in front of the hammers so that they do not directly contact the strings. This results in a drastically softer tone which helps keep the neighbours happy.

Sometimes during delivery the mute rail which holds the practise felt can move out of place slightly and so some minor adjustment is need to get it functioning properly again. Also, over time you may find that you want to raise or lower the felt slightly so that the hammers strike a fresh area of felt which would result in a softer tone again.

To check if your practise pedal felt is hanging in the correct place please lift the top lid of your piano so that you can see the hammers. Play up and down the keyboard and make sure that the hammers go straight through to the strings without catching the white practise/mute felt on the way through. If the hammers have a clear run then that’s good news. If the hammers are catching the white felt then see below for how to correct that.

Another problem could be that the felt is hanging too high and so when you press the middle pedal you are not getting the full effects of the muting system. In this case you will need to adjust the mute rail so that it hangs a little lower.

Thankfully, it is very easy to adjust the height of the practise felt so that it works effectively.

  1. Remove the bottom panel of the piano. It is just held in with a
    spring in the centre
  2. See the white thumb screw the is on the vertical rod above the middle pedal
  3. Turn it one way and then the other whilst checking to see if it lowers or raises the felt.

Then it’s just a matter of finding the right place for it to hang so that it is not obstructing the hammers when out of use but that it is also still doing it’s job properly when the pedal is depressed.

How easy was that? The hardest part is probably removing the bottom panel, so make sure you do a nice careful job of that so that you don’t clunk or bang the cabinet at all.

Some notes sound indistinct when using the practise pedal

If some of the notes sound indistinct whilst using the practise pedal it is important to understand what is happening inside.

Fold back the top lid of the piano so that you can see the hammers and dampers etc. You should also notice some lengths of white felt that are suspended above the hammers. Now press the middle pedal down and lock it in place (slide the pedal to the left). Stay stood up so that you can look inside as you play a few notes. You will see that the white felt hangs down inbetween the hammers and the string preventing a direct contact.

You may sometimes notice that if you press one key with the practise pedal engaged the hammer strikes the white felt which can then sometimes make contact with the neighbouring string. This creates an unusual sound as if you’ve played the neighbouring note very softly.

The solution?
The practise pedal is quite a crude invention but it is so far the best that the piano manufacturers have come up with. So I’m afraid this is as good as it gets. One tip to minimising this effect is to avoid using the sustain pedal as this can make it sound worse. The other (more drastic) option is to fit a silent kit to your piano (see here) so that you can play with headphones on. The piano effectively becomes a hybrid acoustic & digital piano.

One other option which could work is to experiment with different thicknesses of felt. It is basic table felt which is cheap to buy and you can replace the felt strips yourself or ask your piano tuner to do that for you.

I hope this article has been of some help. Please email markgoodwinpianos@gmail.com with any questions