Why do the top couple of octaves ring on whilst playing?

Every now and again I’ll receive a question from a potential customer or perhaps an existing customer asking why the notes in the top couple of octaves ring on. They don’t stop sounding once you let go of the key like the rest of the keyboard.

To see why this is happening please lift the top lid of your piano and look at the long run of damping felts. For the majority of the keyboard there is one damper felt for every note on the piano but when you get up towards the top end you’ll notice that the dampers suddenly disappear. Look at any grand piano and you’ll see that this is the same there too.

Whilst I’ve never researched this in any depth it seems to me that by leaving those strings undamped it allows them to resonate “in sympathy” with the keys lower down the keyboard. Either way, and whatever the reason for this design, it is not a fault and there are no missing bits from your piano.

I suppose you could hire a technician to put some on for you but he’d probably advise against it and then offer you rather large quote for doing it and then once the work is finished you might find that it sounds a bit daft having those high notes dampened the same as the rest of the keyboard.

So I’m afraid we pianists have no choice but to learn to embrace those high notes ringing on. Maybe it’s time someone invented a 4th pedal so that we can selectively dampen the upper couple of octaves? Anyone fancy patenting that?

Thanks for reading
Mark :)