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The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by wooden hammers that are coated with a softer material. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.

A piano usually has a protective wooden case surrounding the soundboard and metal strings, which are strung under great tension on a heavy metal frame. Pressing one or more keys on the piano’s keyboard causes a wooden or plastic hammer (typically padded with firm felt) to strike the strings. The hammer rebounds from the strings, and the strings continue to vibrate at their resonant frequency.

These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a soundboard that amplifies by more efficiently coupling the acoustic energy to the air. When the key is released, a damper stops the strings’ vibration, ending the sound. Notes can be sustained, even when the keys are released by the fingers and thumbs, by the use of pedals at the base of the instrument. The sustain pedal enables pianists to play musical passages that would otherwise be impossible, such as sounding a 10-note chord in the lower register and then, while this chord is being continued with the sustain pedal, shifting both hands to the treble range to play a melody and arpeggios over the top of this sustained chord. Unlike the pipe organ and harpsichord, two major keyboard instruments widely used before the piano, the piano allows gradations of volume and tone according to how forcefully or softly a performer presses or strikes the keys.

Most modern pianos have a row of 88 black and white keys, 52 white keys for the notes of the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A and B) and 36 shorter black keys, which are raised above the white keys, and set further back on the keyboard. This means that the piano can play 88 different pitches (or “notes”), spanning a range of a bit over seven octaves. The black keys are for the “accidentals” (F/G, G/A, A/B, C/D, and D/E), which are needed to play in all twelve keys. More rarely, some pianos have additional keys (which require additional strings), an example of which is the Bösendorfer Concert Grand 290 Imperial, which has 97 keys. Most notes have three strings, except for the bass, which graduates from one to two. The strings are sounded when keys are pressed or struck, and silenced by dampers when the hands are lifted from the keyboard. The grand piano has a better sound and gives the player a more precise control of the keys, and is therefore the preferred choice for every situation in which the available floor-space and the budget will allow, as well as often being considered a requirement in venues where skilled pianists will frequently give public performances.

The upright piano, which necessarily involves some compromise in both tone and key action compared to a grand piano of equivalent quality, is nevertheless much more widely used, because it occupies less space (allowing it to fit comfortably in a room where a grand piano would be too large) and is significantly less expensive.

 

 

Acoustic Piano

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