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Today we are going to be looking at the best sustain pedals for digital pianos & MIDI keyboards. I believe that sustain pedals are often overlooked & having one that works properly is important for serious musicians.
I spent 5 years touring & testing out different sustain pedals in order to reach a conclusion that highlights the most reliable sustain pedals.
Best Sustain Pedals – A Quick Glance
|Editor’s Pick||Roland DP10||
|Runner Up||Korg PS-1||
|Budget Pick||M-Audio SP-2||
When I first started touring, my sustain kept sticking during shows and holding notes down. I ended up realizing that it was because it was a problem with having cracked software and a laptop wasn’t properly updated.
What Is A Sustain Pedal?
The sustain pedal is the most common in music and especially in the piano world. This allows you to play a note or chord and have the note right out even though your hands aren’t still pressing the notes down.
It is essential for any serious musician as you will need to sustain notes out during different parts of songs. Having the right product for MIDI keyboards is necessary for all musicians.
MIDI keyboards are my favorite on the market today. I recently spent 2 weeks testing out different MIDI controllers and you can check out what I learned about my favorites here.
No matter what kind of keyboard you are using, you will find yourself desiring this tool. I think it’s kind of an overlooked product as so many companies make them. I hope you find what you need in this post and find it helpful.
How Much Money Should I Spend On A Sustain Pedal?
This depends on how often you want to replace it. Something that will increase the lifetime of your product is to not stomp as hard as you can on it. This sounds like common sense, but when you perform live it’s easier said than done. This tip will increase the life of your product by a lot.
Let’s take a look below at the best sustain pedals currently available.
1) KORG PS-1
The Korg PS-1 is the best sustain pedal for touring musicians. With its steel frame construction and reliability, it’s currently my favorite selection.
A lot of sustain pedals are currently built poorly and break after a few weeks, this has lasted me years at a time.
I like this because technology has made it great for MIDI controllers.
A lot of sustain pedals are put together poorly and the rubber falls off after a couple shows making them slide around. This is put together a lot better than most and won’t fall apart on you right away.
Having something that is made of metal also helps because cheap products can fall apart fairly quickly if not tightened weekly.
2) M-Audio SP-2
The M-Audio SP-2 is the best sustain pedal on a budget. While it’s extremely inexpensive, it also comes with a break it and replace it type of deal. I’ve broken a few of these in my day, but they still last you a decent amount of time and work well.
There is a polarity switch so you can switch from having positive and negative polarity.
This just means that you can have it so when you hit a note it automatically sustains, rather than having to use your foot to sustain. I typically don’t like this function on any pedal, but some people like to have it.
3) Yamaha FC-5
The Yamaha FC5 is a fantastic sustain pedal. I like this because the spring-action feels really good with your foot. I’ve played on quite a few sustain pedals in which the spring action just doesn’t cut it.
This isn’t your traditional sustain pedal as it is rectangle-shaped, but for live use, I prefer these.
These aren’t going to break as fast as M-Audio products.
You can change the polarity on this and it works with products other than just Yamaha keyboards.
4) Roland DP-10
The Roland DP-10 is a built extremely solid and is your traditional style sustain pedal.
This is overall the best traditional style sustain pedal that I have used on the market. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the cord could be a little bit longer for when you need extra length.
5) Casio SP-20
The Casio SP-20 surprised me when playing on it the other day. I do like Casio, but in the past, I have run across some of their products that I just found to be super entry-level.
This is not the case in any way with this product. As you can see, it is a traditional style that has a sleek design.
Something to note with this is that it is rather slim compared to other products. The cable is really nice and doesn’t rip easily and I think this is something I look for in products as it’s frustrating replacing them.
Things To Consider When Buying A Sustain Pedal
Live Or Studio?
Are you using your sustain pedal for live music or for studio sessions? This is important because some of them have rubber stoppers on the bottom and keep them from moving.
Traditional Or Foot Pedal?
The difference between these is that the traditional resembles a piano sustain pedal.
The foot-switch products are little square box-shaped sustain pedals that can be preferred. I only use the foot style because I find the traditional is a pain to try and hit with my foot when performing live. The square products are lower on the ground and my foot doesn’t kick it as much.
How Much Use Do You Want To Get?
You can find ones for very cheap, the problem is that some of them break easily. The difference between using a sustain pedal with a normal keyboard and with a MIDI keyboard is that you want to make sure everything is working properly if using with a MIDI controller.
If yours has problems sticking then it will send MIDI messages to your laptop and your synthesizers will stick too. This is frustrating when performing live.
How To Use Sustain Pedals?
This may sound like a silly question, but some people might not have a ton of experience playing the piano yet. I believe this is personally of the more important techniques in playing the piano. Having proper technique with sustaining notes is going to take you a long way.
You will notice that songs with have pedaling patterns for you to follow and if you don’t properly follow these, the songs really won’t sound the way they should. Now, this is an easier technique to learn, but don’t take it for granted.
How To Keep It Feeling Brand New
A big tip here is to make sure that the screws are always tightened on the sides of your products. These screws are what is going to keep your device from falling apart on you from heavy use. I have run through dozens of these just from being lazy and not wanting to tighten them.
It is really easy to do and it is one of those things that will put life into your device if you just take the time.
Protect Your Sustain Pedal On Stage
Be sure that when you’re playing shows you don’t leave your cord hanging out of your keyboard in open range. I like to gaff tape mine to the back of my instruments and make sure the cord can’t be stepped on. The cords are very cheap and they can get ruined pretty easily. Make sure that you try and just baby them so you’re not going through a bunch of products.
When picking a sustain pedal for your MIDI keyboard or digital piano, there is a lot to consider. We hope this guide broke down exactly what you want to look for and helped you decide which is right for your needs. If you found this helpful, leave us a comment below!
Thanks, I found this very helpful. Some good advice on longevity of the pedal, cords and connections. On my pedal, I’ve been putting duct tape under it to stop moving around. I’ll probably buy the Roland pedal when the tape runs out.
Thanks for the note, Rich. Yeah, sustain pedals can be tricky. When touring, I always had 1-2 backups in our utility case just in case mine would break.
Hi Chris, how are you? Writing from Argentina, this is definitely a good post, thank you. I bought an APC40 MKII MIDI controller some time ago, and wanted to be able to record and loop my guitar without touching Ableton (my computer), and I think a need a footswitch to do that. Really I don’t know if I need this to do it, and if I do, which footswich should I buy? Just a regular amazon footswitch or a special one for this midi controller? And if I buy one, could I use like a sustain pedal also? So i could kill 2 birds of one shot, and then use the same footswitch as a sustain pedal for my piano. Sorry, but I don’t understand much about midi controller’s and the general things I should know. Thank you.
Hi there valentin,
Thanks for the comment and question. I would go with a sustain pedal as well. Any on this list would be great. As well as a top seller on Amazon. If you’re going entry-level for the sustain, those ones on Amazon will be perfect. Cheers
Hi Chris, Thank you for this very helpful and informative article. I just bought an NI Komplete Kontroll S88 MK II and will be using it exclusively in my home studio. I am a guitar player and a novice keyboard player trying to improve. For a beginner, do you recommend the traditional style pedal (like the Roland FP-10) or the little square footswitch type? For the novice, does it matter much in terms of developing a good pedalling technique?
I’ve had an M-Gear SP-2 for almost two years now, and it continues to work as advertised. Granted, I don’t gig with it, but I do put in 2-4 hours a day at practice, so it is definitely being used. Another reason for switchable polarity is different keyboard makers’ default sustain setting may be either ‘on’ or ‘off’, and some are hardwired that way (i.e., not changeable in software), so the only way to switch the function is via the pedal itself. That will bite you with pedals without the polarity switch, as they are designed to only be used with their same brand keyboard(s). Also, not an issue for live, but for practice the cheaper pedals tend to squeak or click when using, which may drive folks some nuts. Finally, it should be noted higher-end pedals like the Roland DP-10 support ‘half damper’ effect, which simulates the partial damping of an acoustic piano. Granted, the keyboard in question would also need to support half damping for it to recognise the pedal being only partially depressed.
I am a baby-boomer and compose and record music in my home studio, mostly in the orchestral and world music genres. I have a Motif XS8 Keyboard which I purchased in 2009. I use a Yamaha FC4A Sustain Pedal. However due to some neuropathy at the bottom of my feet, sometimes I lose adequate feeling of contact between my right foot and the pedal which disrupts the flow of the music. ( I have also tried a similar Roland sustain pedal and have the same problem.) These pedals are narrow, smooth and slippery which doesn’t help. Are there any sustain pedals that are wider and more course on contact), OR, other alternatives that have the same sustain features? Also, I wonder if there could be or is a collaboration among a musician, engineer and neurologist or O.T. to address this common neuropathy problem, resulting in adaptive equipment? Thanks, Bill