Sustain pedal question

Anything about hardware musical instruments.
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fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12300 posts since 5 Jun, 2012 from Portugal

Post Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:01 pm

I hope this is the right forum for my question.

I want to order a bigger Korg MIDI controller (Microkey 61 II), which is 160 euros.

From 200 euros upwards, shipment is free, instead of 20 euros. So I was wondering what else I might need, anyway.

A sustain pedal. However, I am not sure which one to take. There are dozens from Korg, Roland, Yamaha and less well-known brands. Can one use any of them on any MIDI controller or should I take a Korg pedal since the keyboard will be from Korg and has that configurable input thingy?

Actually, I already have a sustain pedal, a Boss FS-5U, but I don't like it at all, it has a weird shape, a tiny edgy lever, a total failure in terms of ergonomics. Nor do I know whether or not it would work with the Korg controller.

Actually, to me all those pedals are weird, the wrong way around somehow. Like on a hi-hat or bass drum, they should have the hinge at the front, not at the back,

JCJR
KVRAF
2352 posts since 17 Apr, 2005 from S.E. TN

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:55 pm

Hi Fluffy

Some keyboards have a global setting so that if the pedal you plug in is "switch on" when you want it to be "switch off", you can change the global setting so that the pedal will work as you want.

Additionally, some keyboards have used auto-sensing for the polarity of the pedal, so that you don't even need to change a global setting. When the keyboard powers up, it reads the sustain input (the synth is assuming that the sustain pedal will not be pressed when you power up). So it will automatically use whatever is the power-up switch position as the "off" position.

There are some keyboards which have neither auto-sensing nor a global setting. With those devices you have to match the proper hardware pedal to the keyboard to get expected behavior.

There are two types of sustain pedal-- Switched vs Continuous.

Switched: The most common type is just a simple switch which is either on or off. Some simple footswitches are wired "normally closed" and the switch BREAKS the connection when pressed, and others are wired "normally open" which MAKES the connection when pressed.

That is why some keyboards are automatically or manually adjustable, so you can use a normally open footswitch with a keyboard which by default expects a normally closed footswitch or vice-versa.

Modifying Switched Pedals: Another thing which I do not know if it is universal, but this detail applies to EVERY footswitch I ever opened up since the 1980's-- They almost always contain a gadget named a microswitch. Some microswitches just have a little plastic nub to press, and others have a hinged lever that presses the little plastic nub. Sometimes the hinged lever has a roller on the end of the lever. Sometimes the ones with little levers are easier to integrate into a chassis, saving machining time making the enclosing device have a feature that will press the tiny plastic nub.

Anyway, MAYBE some pedals only use single pole single throw switches, but single pole double throw microswitches are virtually the same price. I can't recall opening a pedal which did not have a double-throw microswitch.

The double-throw switch has three terminals. There is a common terminal which is always used. Of the remaining two terminals, one is normally open and the other is normally closed. So when the switch is not pressed, one terminal is switched on and the other terminal is switched of. Then when the switch is pressed, the other terminal turns on and the previous terminal turns off.

So if you have some random old footswitch, and need to connect it to a keyboard which does not have adjustable-polarity sensing, you can usually disassemble the switch and un-solder one of the wires, solder it to the un-used terminal, and easily reverse the polarity of your random old footswitch.

Microswitches might not always be labeled, but it is common if you take a light and possibly magnifying glass, there may be tiny low-contrast text markings near the terminals, COM, NO, NC. For common, normally open, and normally closed. So you would leave the wire connected to COM undisturbed, and switch the other wire from NO to NC or vice-versa to reverse the pedal polarity. If the microswitch is not labeled, you need at least a cheap multimeter or hardware store continuity tester to identify which wire to change and which wire to leave alone.

Simple footswitches usually have mono tip-sleeve plugs.

Continuous Sustain Pedals: There are also continuous sustain pedals which have stereo ring-tip-sleeve plugs. The modern ones usually contain a variable resistor rather than a switch. Maybe some of the "vintage" variable sustain pedals just contained multiple switches, dunno.

Some folks like continuous because it can be more realistic for playing piano or rhodes patches, where the instrument can behave different when the pedal is halfway down. I don't have experience with continuous sustain pedals but so far as I know the modern ones are basically "funky shaped expression pedals". Maybe you could plug one into the expression jack of a keyboard and use it as a funky volume or wah pedal. Or possibly you could plug an expression pedal into a continuous-sustain pedal input to get an "extremely odd" sustain pedal action, dunno.

Switched sustain is good enough for my uses. Though unimportant for live performance, continuous sustain pedal sends lots more MIDI messages than a switched sustain pedal, possibly helping clog the midi stream. Also, if editing a track in a pianoroll window, IMO it is much easier to edit switch sustain which is either on or off. It would be more annoying to edit a curvy continuous sustain track. Many piano sounds respond appropriately to continuous sustain, but also there are many which do not. But a dyed-in-the-wool piano player would probably want a continuous sustain pedal anyway.

The "conventional piano-shaped" sustain pedals just try to be shaped and operate similar to piano sustain pedal. I've always used "piano shaped" sustain switches, but maybe its not the most ergonomic unless you want continuous half-pedaling. Maybe a flat generic synth footswitch would be better once one gets used to it, dunno.

I haven't tried it yet (have several piano-style sustain pedals around the house) but my studiologic sl88 studio shipped with a flat square synth footswitch, but at least to the eye it looks somewhat bigger and somewhat taller than the typical generic synth footswitch. Because it seems "beefier" than average synth footswitches, maybe it could be better than a conventional piano sustain, because you wouldn't have to work the shinbone muscle so hard holding the foot up high over the piano-style sustain pedal. Piano style sustain pedals are tall enough that you have to hold the foot "fairly elevated" when not pressing the pedal. Maybe the flat pedal would work just as good for playing and be less fatiguing because the foot doesn't have to be raised so high when the pedal is not pressed. Dunno, maybe will try it some day.

User avatar
fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12300 posts since 5 Jun, 2012 from Portugal

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:06 pm

Wow, so much info, thanks so much.
I have come across the term latched, which I take it also refers to the way the switch works.

Regarding compatibility, I was wondering if I can combine any pedal with any controller in terms of the signal that is sent to the controllers input. They all seem to use the standard 1/4" plug. But who knows what the signal is like...

Yes, I noticed there seem to be two major categories, the piano type with the metal tongue shaped thingy, and the flat rectangular type, which is usually made of plastic and cheaper.

JCJR
KVRAF
2352 posts since 17 Apr, 2005 from S.E. TN

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:45 pm

fluffy_little_something wrote:Wow, so much info, thanks so much.
I have come across the term latched, which I take it also refers to the way the switch works.

Regarding compatibility, I was wondering if I can combine any pedal with any controller in terms of the signal that is sent to the controllers input. They all seem to use the standard 1/4" plug. But who knows what the signal is like...
Though there are probably exceptions, any footswitch with a mono tip-sleeve quarter-inch plug should work plugged in to any synth with a mono tip-sleeve quarter inch jack.

You could find instances where a random combination might result in backwards behavior-- Sustain-on when the footswitch is up and sustain-off when the footswitch is down. In that case you can adjust a setting on the keyboard if such a setting exists. Otherwise you can USUALLY rewire the footswitch by taking it apart and moving one wire.

For decades I'd occasionally buy a footswitch but also many synths and effects came with switches in the box. In my experience the footswitches lasted longer than the synths or effects boxes, so I have a drawer full of footswitches that still work fine. The worst they might need is a drop of oil or changing the polarity.

Latched switches are most often useful with various guitar effects, though you might also want a latched switch for speed control with certain leslie effects or even leslie effects built-in to some synthesizers. For instance after lots of tweaking my FA06 sounds "fairly close" to a hammond and leslie, but so far as I know the footswitch input can't be set to work as latched inside the synth (push once to speed up the leslie, then push again later to slow down the leslie).

With a non-latched footswitch, I have it programmed slow leslie when footswitch is off and fast leslie when footswitch is on. I have to hold the switch down for however long I want fast leslie. If I want fast leslie thruout a 3 minute song I have to hold the switch down for the full 3 minutes. I like to change leslie speed fairly often and it isn't a problem to me. Some synths might be programmable to treat momentary switches as latched, and I could go buy a latched footswitch if I wanted to switch speeds with single footswitch presses, rather than holding the switch down half the time.

On guitar, or even synth, latched switch very useful to control "distortion on vs distortion off" or "echo on vs echo off" without having to stand on the silly switch half the night.

The latched switch turns on and stays on when you press it, and then next time you press the switch it turns off again. It would be possible to use a latched switch for sustain but would behave different than typical. After you press the switch once, the sustain would stay on until you press the switch a second time later on. Maybe some people would like it that way, dunno.

A lot of effects and probably some synth inputs are built so you can get push-on, push-off latched behavior from non-latched momentary switches. So there are many cases where you can get push-on, push-off behavior without needing a latched switch.

Nowadays some keyboards might come wired so that switch inputs also work if you plug in a stereo ring-tip-sleeve plug expression pedal or continuous sustain pedal. I may be remembering wrong, but so far as I recall my FA06 and Studiologic SL88 have some control inputs that will work with either switches or continuous controllers.

I have four piano-style sustain pedals, had em forever. They still work fine. They are all the same old Roland design switches with mono tip-sleeve plugs. They contain double-throw microswitches just like most synth footswitches and sometimes I've rewired them to be compatible with various gear. For instance, for a long time I used one of the piano sustain pedal switches as the open-closed hihat pedal on a homemade electronic drum kit. To me, the piano-style pedal felt better for hihat pedal compared to a generic flat synth footswitch.

There are two common ways to wire a variable resistor to a ring-tip-sleeve plug. About half the pedals are wired one way, and half are wired the other way. Sometimes called "yamaha type" vs "roland type" wiring. All the other brands will generally work good with one of the wiring schemes and not work good with the other wiring scheme. So if you plug an expression pedal or continuous sustain pedal in and it doesn't work right, you would need to change the wiring, which is "usually" simple.

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RichieWitch
KVRian
531 posts since 15 Jun, 2015

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:23 pm

I have an M-Audio sustain pedal that has worked on every controller and every synth I've ever plugged it into. There is a little switch underneath that lets you switch the state of the pedal, depending on how the keyboard reads sustain signals, but other than that, it's always worked perfectly with anything, Yamaha, Korg, Novation, and M-Audio.

User avatar
fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12300 posts since 5 Jun, 2012 from Portugal

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Sat Apr 29, 2017 1:34 pm

OK, so I will get any quality pedal from a good brand and keep my fingers crossed that it works the way it should :)

I won't get this one, though:
https://www.thomann.de/gb/clavia_nord_s ... _pedal.htm
It says fixed polarity and the note on compatibility sounds as if it were not necessarily compatible with keyboards from other brands

Here it says half pedal, what is that about?
https://www.thomann.de/gb/yamaha_fc3_fortepedal.htm

I think I will get this one, it mentions the configurability for Korg keyboards:
https://www.thomann.de/gb/korg_ps3.htm

But it is so cheap, I need to buy something else in order to get around delivery costs :hihi:

User avatar
T-CM11
KVRAF
2253 posts since 31 Jan, 2003 from Ghent, Belgium

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Thu May 04, 2017 12:25 pm

I have this one:
https://www.bax-shop.nl/sustain-pedaal- ... ain-pedaal
Does what I think it should do, works with anything I plug it in and will probably survive a nuclear holocaust.

JCJR
KVRAF
2352 posts since 17 Apr, 2005 from S.E. TN

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Thu May 04, 2017 2:18 pm

fluffy_little_something wrote: Here it says half pedal, what is that about?
https://www.thomann.de/gb/yamaha_fc3_fortepedal.htm
That one is apparently a continuous sustain pedal as I described above. Not all keyboards are wired to recognize a continuous sustain pedal. The "half pedal" is an acoustic piano technique where the pedal is depressed just enough that the string dampers are barely touching the strings. That gives "muted, fast decay" sustain, rather than sustain that rings for a long time, as with pedal full-down.

Some pianists use other dynamic half pedal tricks, such as play a note(s) with full sustain, then quickly "half pump" the pedal before pushing the pedal all the way down again. That quick light-stroke touch of dampers on the strings "partially mutes" the previously played notes but doesn't kill them entirely. The partially muted notes still ring "a little bit" behind whatever new notes you play.

I'm not an artistic enough player to need such effects, but such techniques are basically impossible with an on/off switched sustain, at least on most synth piano patches. Maybe some piano patches envelopes are programmed smart enough that quick pedal pumps might behave as expected even with a switched pedal.

I don't know a lot about continuous sustain pedals. It is hard to google detailed info on them.

I found some references claiming that some of the casio "half pedal" sustains are exactly that, with two switches rather than one-- One switch closes halfway down and the other closes all the way down. But maybe that is wrong. From long ago I recall some early "half pedal capable" devices that used multiple switches rather than continuous controller.

Nowadays, at least some of the continuous sustain pedals apparently work exactly like a continuous expression/volume pedal. It is just hard to find info or detailed pictures of the pedal innards.

I found a couple of pictures, not detailed close shots, of disassembled pedals with easy to see rotary potentiometers in them, same as an expression pedal. Would be interesting to see close detail pictures how the spring loaded sustain pedal action is mechanically coupled to a rotary variable resistor. Continuous sustain pedal could also be made with other usual suspects-- Magnetic sensors, optical sensors, pressure sensors, linear slider resistor rather than rotary pot. But rotary pots are cheap simple and reliable if made properly.

I'm not interested in continuous sustain pedal for sustain usage, but if they are basically funky shaped expression pedals, I might enjoy using one for foot-controlled wah or delay time or maybe even continuous chorus/rotary speed control. I never felt comfortable with expression pedal for wah or continuous chorus speed control. Maybe controlling wah with a continuous sustain pedal would be lots more expressive. Maybe sustain-pedal wah + clavinet would be a fun easy way to play funky rhythms.

User avatar
BertKoor
KVRAF
10742 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Utrecht, Holland

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri May 05, 2017 12:21 am

fluffy_little_something wrote:I want to order a bigger Korg MIDI controller (Microkey 61 II), which is 160 euros.
M'kay... Got it ordered already, or are you still waiting?
fluffy_little_something wrote:So I was wondering what else I might need, anyway. A sustain pedal. However, I am not sure which one to take.
In case of doubt, consult the Owner's Manual. This one is easy to find and I have some bad news for you: there is NO input jack for a sustain pedal on this keyboard. Reason I think is found in the name: MICRO key. Sounds like designed for using while commuting or something...
fluffy_little_something wrote:Actually, I already have a sustain pedal, a Boss FS-5U, but I don't like it at all, it has a weird shape, a tiny edgy lever, a total failure in terms of ergonomics.

Actually, to me all those pedals are weird, the wrong way around somehow. Like on a hi-hat or bass drum, they should have the hinge at the front, not at the back
The FS-5 is a footswitch, not a sustain pedal. That explains the different ergonomics.

To operate a footswitch, you lift your foot towards it and press it.

To operate a sustain pedal, your foot needs to rest with the heel on the ground and with the toes you press the pedal.

To operate a drum pedal (or an expression pedal) your foot rests permanently on the whole pedal.
We are the KVR collective. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Image
My MusicCalc is back online!!

User avatar
fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12300 posts since 5 Jun, 2012 from Portugal

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri May 05, 2017 5:08 am

JCJR wrote:
fluffy_little_something wrote: Here it says half pedal, what is that about?
https://www.thomann.de/gb/yamaha_fc3_fortepedal.htm
That one is apparently a continuous sustain pedal as I described above. Not all keyboards are wired to recognize a continuous sustain pedal. The "half pedal" is an acoustic piano technique where the pedal is depressed just enough that the string dampers are barely touching the strings. That gives "muted, fast decay" sustain, rather than sustain that rings for a long time, as with pedal full-down.

Some pianists use other dynamic half pedal tricks, such as play a note(s) with full sustain, then quickly "half pump" the pedal before pushing the pedal all the way down again. That quick light-stroke touch of dampers on the strings "partially mutes" the previously played notes but doesn't kill them entirely. The partially muted notes still ring "a little bit" behind whatever new notes you play.

I'm not an artistic enough player to need such effects, but such techniques are basically impossible with an on/off switched sustain, at least on most synth piano patches. Maybe some piano patches envelopes are programmed smart enough that quick pedal pumps might behave as expected even with a switched pedal.

I don't know a lot about continuous sustain pedals. It is hard to google detailed info on them.

I found some references claiming that some of the casio "half pedal" sustains are exactly that, with two switches rather than one-- One switch closes halfway down and the other closes all the way down. But maybe that is wrong. From long ago I recall some early "half pedal capable" devices that used multiple switches rather than continuous controller.

Nowadays, at least some of the continuous sustain pedals apparently work exactly like a continuous expression/volume pedal. It is just hard to find info or detailed pictures of the pedal innards.

I found a couple of pictures, not detailed close shots, of disassembled pedals with easy to see rotary potentiometers in them, same as an expression pedal. Would be interesting to see close detail pictures how the spring loaded sustain pedal action is mechanically coupled to a rotary variable resistor. Continuous sustain pedal could also be made with other usual suspects-- Magnetic sensors, optical sensors, pressure sensors, linear slider resistor rather than rotary pot. But rotary pots are cheap simple and reliable if made properly.

I'm not interested in continuous sustain pedal for sustain usage, but if they are basically funky shaped expression pedals, I might enjoy using one for foot-controlled wah or delay time or maybe even continuous chorus/rotary speed control. I never felt comfortable with expression pedal for wah or continuous chorus speed control. Maybe controlling wah with a continuous sustain pedal would be lots more expressive. Maybe sustain-pedal wah + clavinet would be a fun easy way to play funky rhythms.
Ah, OK. I don't think I need that, I am already happy when I manage to use a normal sustain pedal right :hihi:
The fact that releasing the pedal either sustains or ends all notes played is not very musical in my view.

I think a sustain pedal should actually consist of two units: a left pedal for selecting which notes played are to be sustained, i.e. if I don't step on it while playing a new note, it will not be sustained by the right pedal, the sustain pedal as such.

User avatar
Jace-BeOS
KVRAF
4707 posts since 7 Jan, 2005 from Corporate States of America

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri May 05, 2017 6:14 am

RichieWitch wrote:I have an M-Audio sustain pedal that has worked on every controller and every synth I've ever plugged it into. There is a little switch underneath that lets you switch the state of the pedal, depending on how the keyboard reads sustain signals, but other than that, it's always worked perfectly with anything, Yamaha, Korg, Novation, and M-Audio.
If you mean this one:

M-Audio SP-2 | Universal Sustain Pedal with Piano Style Action for Electronic Keyboards https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00063678K/re ... dzbBVG946E

I've the same pedal. If it has not been cheapened by InMusic's ownership of M-Audio, i recommend it. I wish i had an extra two of these myself, but the cheapo plastic ones without polarity switch will have to do for those edge cases.
- dysamoria.com
my music @ SoundCloud

User avatar
fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12300 posts since 5 Jun, 2012 from Portugal

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri May 05, 2017 6:53 am

BertKoor wrote:M'kay... Got it ordered already, or are you still waiting?

In case of doubt, consult the Owner's Manual. This one is easy to find and I have some bad news for you: there is NO input jack for a sustain pedal on this keyboard. Reason I think is found in the name: MICRO key. Sounds like designed for using while commuting or something...


The FS-5 is a footswitch, not a sustain pedal. That explains the different ergonomics.

To operate a footswitch, you lift your foot towards it and press it.

To operate a sustain pedal, your foot needs to rest with the heel on the ground and with the toes you press the pedal.

To operate a drum pedal (or an expression pedal) your foot rests permanently on the whole pedal.
No, I have not ordered, yet.
In the manual it says in the connection drawing:

Pedal switch
(PS-1 pedal switch,
DS-1H damper pedal, etc.)

Yes, the Boss pedal looks more like a switch, but it works as a sustain pedal as well.

User avatar
BertKoor
KVRAF
10742 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Utrecht, Holland

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri May 05, 2017 6:59 am

fluffy_little_something wrote:In the manual it says in the connection drawing:

Pedal switch
(PS-1 pedal switch,
DS-1H damper pedal, etc.
:shrug: You're looking at a different manual than I am.
We are the KVR collective. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Image
My MusicCalc is back online!!

User avatar
fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12300 posts since 5 Jun, 2012 from Portugal

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri May 05, 2017 7:17 am

Indeed :)

Our second-generation microKEY lineup retains those attributes and adds iPad and iPhone support*, plus a damper pedal jack for improved playability. We’ve also added a 49-key model, for the player who needs a few more keys in a still-compact format.

http://www.korg.com/us/products/compute ... /index.php

JCJR
KVRAF
2352 posts since 17 Apr, 2005 from S.E. TN

Re: Sustain pedal question

Post Fri May 05, 2017 11:37 am

fluffy_little_something wrote: I think a sustain pedal should actually consist of two units: a left pedal for selecting which notes played are to be sustained, i.e. if I don't step on it while playing a new note, it will not be sustained by the right pedal, the sustain pedal as such.
I can't ATM think of a "standard" interface which does exactly that. If I understand what you mean.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_ped ... nuto_pedal

Sostenuto pedal as described in the link offers selective sustain, though it doesn't work quite as you describe. Electronic pianos and controller keyboards which support the "three pedal" modules, ought to support trad sostenuto behavior on the middle pedal.

Dunno what percentage of the total universe of synths/piano patches would behave properly when sent sostenuto messages. Maybe a lot or maybe not, dunno. The fellas most interested in having all three piano pedals tend to be selective about the piano synth, so maybe they wouldn't care if some of the cheap piano patches don't do sostenuto.

Maybe sostenuto is hipper than sliced bread but I never messed with it enough to find the function desirable or useful.

As said in the article, not all middle piano pedals do the "true sostenuto". My old 1940's era baldwin grand piano, which I learned on as a kid, is one of the mentioned instruments where the middle pedal only applies sostenuto to the left half of the keyboard. If I'd grown up with a "true sostenuto" functionality then possibly I'd have learned to appreciate and use the function. But probably not. :)

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