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Piano

Piano

Overview
The piano is a musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 played by means of a keyboard
Musical keyboard
A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument, particularly the piano. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the...

. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 and jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

 and accompaniment
Accompaniment
In music, accompaniment is the art of playing along with an instrumental or vocal soloist or ensemble, often known as the lead, in a supporting manner...

, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

 and rehearsal
Rehearsal
For other uses, see Rehearsal or Dress rehearsal A rehearsal is a preparatory event in music and theatre that is performed before the official public performance, as a form of practice, and to ensure that all details of the performance are adequately prepared and coordinated for professional...

. Although not portable and often expensive, the piano's versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the world's most familiar musical instruments.

Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a felt
Felt
Felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing woollen fibres. While some types of felt are very soft, some are tough enough to form construction materials. Felt can be of any colour, and made into any shape or size....

-covered hammer to strike steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 strings.
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Encyclopedia
The piano is a musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 played by means of a keyboard
Musical keyboard
A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument, particularly the piano. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the...

. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 and jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

 and accompaniment
Accompaniment
In music, accompaniment is the art of playing along with an instrumental or vocal soloist or ensemble, often known as the lead, in a supporting manner...

, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

 and rehearsal
Rehearsal
For other uses, see Rehearsal or Dress rehearsal A rehearsal is a preparatory event in music and theatre that is performed before the official public performance, as a form of practice, and to ensure that all details of the performance are adequately prepared and coordinated for professional...

. Although not portable and often expensive, the piano's versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the world's most familiar musical instruments.

Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a felt
Felt
Felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing woollen fibres. While some types of felt are very soft, some are tough enough to form construction materials. Felt can be of any colour, and made into any shape or size....

-covered hammer to strike steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 strings. The hammers rebound, allowing the strings to continue vibrating at their resonant frequency
Resonance
In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at a greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. These are known as the system's resonant frequencies...

. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge
Bridge (instrument)
A bridge is a device for supporting the strings on a stringed instrument and transmitting the vibration of those strings to some other structural component of the instrument in order to transfer the sound to the surrounding air.- Explanation :...

 to a sounding board that more efficiently couples
Coupling (physics)
In physics, two systems are coupled if they are interacting with each other. Of special interest is the coupling of two vibratory systems by means of springs or magnetic fields, etc...

 the acoustic energy to the air. The sound would otherwise be no louder than that directly produced by the strings. When the key is released, a damper stops the string's vibration. See the article on Piano key frequencies
Piano key frequencies
This is a virtual keyboard showing the absolute frequencies in hertz of the notes on a modern piano in twelve-tone equal temperament, with the 49th key, the fifth A , tuned to 440 Hz...

 for a picture of the piano keyboard and the location of middle-C. In the Hornbostel-Sachs
Hornbostel-Sachs
Hornbostel–Sachs is a system of musical instrument classification devised by Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs, and first published in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie in 1914. An English translation was published in the Galpin Society Journal in 1961...

 system of instrument classification, pianos are considered chordophone
Chordophone
A chordophone is any musical instrument that makes sound by way of a vibrating string or strings stretched between two points. It is one of the four main divisions of instruments in the original Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification....

s.

The word piano is a shortened form of pianoforte, the Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 word for the instrument (which in turn derives from the previous terms "gravicembalo col piano e forte" and fortepiano
Fortepiano
Fortepiano designates the early version of the piano, from its invention by the Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1700 up to the early 19th century. It was the instrument for which Haydn, Mozart, and the early Beethoven wrote their piano music...

). The musical terms "piano" and "forte" mean "quiet" and "loud," and in this context refers to the variations in volume of sound the instrument produces in response to a pianist
Pianist
A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...

's touch on the keys: the greater a key press's velocity, the greater the force of the hammer hitting the string(s), and the louder the note produced.

Early history




The piano was founded on earlier technological innovations. The first string instrument
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

s with struck strings were the hammered dulcimer
Hammered dulcimer
The hammered dulcimer is a stringed musical instrument with the strings stretched over a trapezoidal sounding board. Typically, the hammered dulcimer is set on a stand, at an angle, before the musician, who holds small mallet hammers in each hand to strike the strings...

s. During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, there were several attempts at creating stringed keyboard instrument
Keyboard instrument
A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument which is played using a musical keyboard. The most common of these is the piano. Other widely used keyboard instruments include organs of various types as well as other mechanical, electromechanical and electronic instruments...

s with struck strings. By the 17th century, the mechanisms of keyboard instruments such as the clavichord
Clavichord
The clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces...

 and the harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 were well known. In a clavichord the strings are struck by tangents, while in a harpsichord they are plucked by quills. Centuries of work on the mechanism of the harpsichord in particular had shown the most effective ways to construct the case, soundboard, bridge, and keyboard.

The invention of the modern piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori
Bartolomeo Cristofori
Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco was an Italian maker of musical instruments, generally regarded as the inventor of the piano.-Life:...

 (1655–1731) of Padua
Padua
Padua is a city and comune in the Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 212,500 . The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, who was employed by Ferdinando de' Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany, as the Keeper of the Instruments. He was an expert harpsichord maker, and was well acquainted with the body of knowledge on stringed keyboard instruments. It is not known exactly when Cristofori first built a piano. An inventory made by his employers, the Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 family, indicates the existence of a piano by the year 1700; another document of doubtful authenticity indicates a date of 1698. A friend of the family by the name of Sebastian LeBlanc suggested the idea to switch the black and white keys The three Cristofori pianos that survive today date from the 1720s.

While the clavichord allowed expressive control of volume and sustain, it was too quiet for large performances. The harpsichord produced a sufficiently loud sound, but had little expressive control over each note. The piano was likely formed as an attempt to combine loudness with control, avoiding the trade-offs of available instruments.

Cristofori's great success was solving, with no prior example, the fundamental mechanical problem of piano design: the hammer must strike the string, but not remain in contact with it (as a tangent remains in contact with a clavichord string) because this would dampen
Damping
In physics, damping is any effect that tends to reduce the amplitude of oscillations in an oscillatory system, particularly the harmonic oscillator.In mechanics, friction is one such damping effect...

 the sound. Moreover, the hammer must return to its rest position without bouncing violently, and it must be possible to repeat a note rapidly. Cristofori's piano action
Action (piano)
The piano action mechanism, or the key action mechanism, or simply the action of a piano or other musical keyboards, is the mechanical assembly which translates the depression of the keys into rapid motion of a hammer, which creates sound by striking the strings. Action can be referred to a pianos...

 was a model for the many different approaches to piano actions that followed. Cristofori's early instruments were made with thin strings, and were much quieter than the modern piano—but compared to the clavichord (the only previous keyboard instrument capable of dynamic nuance via the keyboard) they were much louder and had more sustain.

Cristofori's new instrument remained relatively unknown until an Italian writer, Scipione Maffei, wrote an enthusiastic article about it (1711), including a diagram of the mechanism. This article was widely distributed, and most of the next generation of piano builders started their work due to reading it. One of these builders was Gottfried Silbermann
Gottfried Silbermann
Gottfried Silbermann was an influential German constructor of keyboard instruments. He built harpsichords, clavichords, organs, and fortepianos; his modern reputation rests mainly on the latter two.-Life:...

, better known as an organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 builder. Silbermann's pianos were virtually direct copies of Cristofori's, with one important addition: Silbermann invented the forerunner of the modern damper pedal, which lifts all the dampers from the strings simultaneously.

Silbermann showed Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 one of his early instruments in the 1730s, but Bach did not like it at that time, claiming that the higher notes were too soft to allow a full dynamic range. Although this earned him some animosity from Silbermann, the criticism was apparently heeded. Bach did approve of a later instrument he saw in 1747, and even served as an agent in selling Silbermann's pianos.

Piano-making flourished during the late 18th century in the Viennese school
First Viennese School
The First Viennese School is a name mostly used to refer to three composers of the Classical period in Western art music in late-18th-century Vienna: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven. Franz Schubert is occasionally added to the list.In German speaking countries, the...

, which included Johann Andreas Stein
Johann Andreas Stein
Johann Andreas Stein, was an outstanding German maker of keyboard instruments, a central figure in the history of the piano...

 (who worked in Augsburg
Augsburg
Augsburg is a city in the south-west of Bavaria, Germany. It is a university town and home of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben and the Bezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is, as of 2008, the third-largest city in Bavaria with a...

, Germany) and the Viennese makers Nannette Streicher
Nannette Streicher
Nannette Streicher née Stein was a German piano maker, composer, music educator and writer.-Life:...

 (daughter of Stein) and Anton Walter
Anton Walter
Anton Walter was a builder of pianos. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians describes him as "the most famous Viennese piano maker of his time".-Life:...

. Viennese-style pianos were built with wood frames, two strings per note, and had leather-covered hammers. Some of these Viennese pianos had the opposite coloring of modern-day pianos; the natural keys were black and the accidental keys white. It was for such instruments that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

 composed his concertos
Piano concerto
A piano concerto is a concerto written for piano and orchestra.See also harpsichord concerto; some of these works are occasionally played on piano...

 and sonatas
Piano sonata
A piano sonata is a sonata written for a solo piano. Piano sonatas are usually written in three or four movements, although some piano sonatas have been written with a single movement , two movements , five or even more movements...

, and replicas of them are built today for use in authentic-instrument performance of his music. The pianos of Mozart's day had a softer, more ethereal tone than today's pianos or English pianos, with less sustaining power. The term fortepiano
Fortepiano
Fortepiano designates the early version of the piano, from its invention by the Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1700 up to the early 19th century. It was the instrument for which Haydn, Mozart, and the early Beethoven wrote their piano music...

is nowadays often used to distinguish the 18th-century instrument from later pianos.
In the period lasting from about 1790 to 1860, the Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

-era piano underwent tremendous changes that led to the modern form of the instrument. This revolution was in response to a preference by composers and pianists for a more powerful, sustained piano sound, and made possible by the ongoing Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 with resources such as high-quality piano wire
Piano wire
Piano wire, or "music wire", is a specialized type of wire made for use in piano strings, as well as many other purposes. It is made from tempered high-carbon steel, also known as spring steel.-Manufacture and use:...

 for string
Strings (music)
A string is the vibrating element that produces sound in string instruments, such as the guitar, harp, piano, and members of the violin family. Strings are lengths of a flexible material kept under tension so that they may vibrate freely, but controllably. Strings may be "plain"...

s, and precision casting for the production of iron frame
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

s. Over time, the tonal range of the piano was also increased from the five octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s of Mozart's day to the 7⅓ or more octaves found on modern pianos.

Early technological progress owed much to the firm of Broadwood
Broadwood and Sons
Broadwood and Sons is an English piano manufacturer, founded in 1728 by Burkat Shudi and continued after his death in 1773 by John Broadwood.- Early history :...

. John Broadwood
John Broadwood
John Broadwood was the Scottish founder of the piano manufacturer Broadwood and Sons.-Life:Broadwood was born 6 October 1732 and christened 15 Oct 1732 at St Helens, Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, and grew up in Oldhamstocks, East Lothian...

 joined with another Scot, Robert Stodart, and a Dutchman, Americus Backers, to design a piano in the harpsichord case—the origin of the "grand". They achieved this in about 1777. They quickly gained a reputation for the splendour and powerful tone of their instruments, with Broadwood constructing ones that were progressively larger, louder, and more robustly constructed. They sent pianos to both Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

 and Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

, and were the first firm to build pianos with a range of more than five octaves: five octaves and a fifth during the 1790s, six octaves by 1810 (Beethoven used the extra notes in his later works), and seven octaves by 1820. The Viennese
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 makers similarly followed these trends, however the two schools used different piano actions: Broadwoods were more robust, Viennese instruments were more sensitive.

By the 1820s, the center of innovation had shifted to Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, where the Pleyel
Pleyel et Cie
Pleyel et Cie is a French piano manufacturing firm founded by the composer Ignace Pleyel in 1807. In 1815, he was joined by his son, Camille, as a business partner. The firm provided pianos to Frédéric Chopin, and also ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, where Chopin performed his first — and...

 firm manufactured pianos used by Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

 and the Érard firm manufactured those used by Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

. In 1821, Sébastien Érard
Sébastien Érard
Sébastien Érard , born Sébastien Erhard, was a French instrument maker of German origin who specialised in the production of pianos and harps, developing the capacities of both instruments and pioneering the modern piano....

 invented the double escapement action
Action (piano)
The piano action mechanism, or the key action mechanism, or simply the action of a piano or other musical keyboards, is the mechanical assembly which translates the depression of the keys into rapid motion of a hammer, which creates sound by striking the strings. Action can be referred to a pianos...

, which incorporated a repetition lever (also called the balancier) that permitted a note to be repeated even if the key had not yet risen to its maximum vertical position. This facilitated rapid playing of repeated notes, and this musical device was pioneered by Liszt. When the invention became public, as revised by Henri Herz
Henri Herz
Henri Herz was a pianist and composer, Austrian by birth, and French by domicile.Herz was born Heinrich Herz in Vienna...

, the double escapement action gradually became standard in grand pianos, and is still incorporated into all grand pianos currently produced.

Other improvements of the mechanism included the use of felt hammer coverings instead of layered leather or cotton. Felt, which was first introduced by Henri Pape in 1826, was a more consistent material, permitting wider dynamic ranges as hammer weights and string tension increased. The sostenuto pedal
Sostenuto
In music, sostenuto is a term from Italian which means "sustained." It occasionally implies a slowing of tempo, though more often it refers to a very legato style in which the notes are performed in a sustained manner beyond their normal values....

 (see below), invented in 1844 by Jean Louis Boisselot and improved by the Steinway
Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway , is an American and German manufacturer of handmade pianos, founded 1853 in Manhattan in New York City by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg...

 firm in 1874, allowed a wider range of effects.

One of the major technical innovations that helped to create the sound of the modern piano was the use of a strong iron frame. Also called the "plate", the iron frame sits atop the soundboard, and serves as the primary bulwark against the force of string tension. The increased structural integrity of the iron frame allowed the use of thicker, tenser, and more numerous strings. In a modern grand the total string tension can exceed 20 tons. The single piece cast iron frame was patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

ed in 1825 in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 by Alpheus Babcock
Alpheus Babcock
Alpheus Babcock was a piano and music instrument maker in Boston, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the early 19th century...

, combining the metal hitch pin plate (1821, claimed by Broadwood on behalf of Samuel Hervé) and resisting bars (Thom and Allen, 1820, but also claimed by Broadwood and Érard). Babcock later worked for the Chickering & Mackays
Chickering and Sons
Chickering and Sons was an American piano manufacturer located in Boston, known for producing award-winning instruments of superb quality and design. The company was founded in 1823 by Jonas Chickering and James Stewart, but the partnership dissolved four years later...

 firm who patented the first full iron frame for grand pianos in 1843. Composite forged metal frames were preferred by many European makers until the American system was fully adopted by the early 20th century.

Other important advances included changes to the way the piano was strung, such as the use of a "choir" of three strings rather than two for all but the lowest notes, and the implementation of an over-strung scale in which the strings are placed in two separate planes, each with its own bridge
Bridge (instrument)
A bridge is a device for supporting the strings on a stringed instrument and transmitting the vibration of those strings to some other structural component of the instrument in order to transfer the sound to the surrounding air.- Explanation :...

 height. (This is also called "cross-stringing
Cross-stringing
Cross-stringing is a method of arranging piano strings inside the case of a piano so that the strings are placed in a vertically overlapping slanted arrangement, with two heights of bridges on the soundboard instead of just one. This permits larger, but not necessarily longer, strings to fit...

". Whereas earlier instruments' bass strings were a mere continuation of a single string plane, over-stringing placed the bass bridge behind and to the treble side of the tenor bridge area. This crossed the strings, with the bass strings in the higher plane.) This permitted a much narrower cabinet at the "nose" end of the piano, and optimized the transition from unwound tenor strings to the iron or copper-wrapped bass strings. Over-stringing was invented by Jean-Henri Pape
Jean-Henri Pape
Jean-Henri Pape was a distinguished French piano maker in the early 19th century.Pape was born in Sarstedt in 1787. He arrived in Paris in 1811 and secured employment with Pleyel, whose piano workshops he directed for several years. In 1815, he established his own manufacture of pianos, and almost...

 during the 1820s, and first patented for use in grand pianos in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 by Henry Steinway, Jr. in 1859.
Duplex scaling, patented in 1872 by Theodore Steinway, enhanced the voice of each note by using sympathetic vibration
Sympathetic resonance
Sympathetic resonance is a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness. The classic example is demonstrated with two similar tuning-forks of which one is mounted on a wooden box. If the other one is...

. Short lengths of non-speaking wire were bridged by the aliquot throughout much of upper range of the piano, always in locations that caused them to vibrate in conformity with their respective overtones—typically in doubled octaves and twelfths. Somewhat similar systems were developed by Julius Blüthner
Julius Blüthner
Julius Ferdinand Blüthner was a German piano maker and founder of the Blüthner piano factory....

 (Aliquot stringing
Aliquot stringing
Aliquot stringing is the use of extra, unstruck strings in the piano for the purpose of enriching the tone.-History:Julius Blüthner invented the aliquot stringing system in 1873....

, 1873), as well as Taskin (1788), and Collard (1821). Each used more distinctly ringing, undamped vibrations to modify tone, except the Blüthner Aliquot stringing which uses an additional string that is separately damped.

Some early pianos had shapes and designs that are no longer in use. The square piano
Square piano
The square piano is a piano that has horizontal strings arranged diagonally across the rectangular case above the hammers and with the keyboard set in the long side. It is variously attributed to Silbermann and Frederici and was improved by Petzold and Babcock...

 (not truly square, but rectangular) was cross strung at an extremely acute angle above the hammers, with the keyboard set along the long side. This design is attributed to Gottfried Silbermann or Christian Ernst Friderici on the continent, and Johannes Zumpe
Johannes Zumpe
Johannes Zumpe was a leading maker of early English square pianos, a form of rectangular piano with a compass of about five octaves. The pianos sounded like mellow harpsichords, and had a damper stop in the left cheek of the case....

 or Harman Vietor in England, and it was improved by changes first introduced by Guillaume-Lebrecht Petzold
Guillaume-Lebrecht Petzold
Guillaume-Lebrecht Petzold was a piano maker in Paris in the early 19th century.Petzold was born 2 July 1794 in Lichtenhayn, a village in Saxony near Meißen. His father, a Protestant minister, wanted him to learn an artistic trade and in April 1798 brought him to Dresden where he apprenticed with...

 in France and Alpheus Babcock
Alpheus Babcock
Alpheus Babcock was a piano and music instrument maker in Boston, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the early 19th century...

 in the United States. Square pianos were built in great numbers through the 1840s in Europe and the 1890s in America, and saw the most visible change of any type of piano: the iron-framed, over-strung squares manufactured by Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway , is an American and German manufacturer of handmade pianos, founded 1853 in Manhattan in New York City by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg...

 were more than two-and-a-half times the size of Zumpe's wood-framed instruments from a century before. Their overwhelming popularity was due to inexpensive construction and price, although their tone and performance were limited by narrow soundboards, simple actions and string spacing that made proper hammer alignment difficult.
The tall, vertically strung upright grand was arranged like a grand set on end, with the soundboard and bridges above the keys, and tuning pins below them. The term was later revived by many manufacturers for advertising purposes. Giraffe, pyramid and lyre pianos were arranged in a somewhat similar fashion in evocatively shaped cases.

The very tall cabinet piano was introduced about 1805 and was built through the 1840s. It had strings arranged vertically on a continuous frame with bridges extended nearly to the floor, behind the keyboard and very large sticker action. The short cottage upright or pianino with vertical stringing, made popular by Robert Wornum
Robert Wornum
Robert Wornum was a piano maker working in London during the first half of the 19th century. He is best known for introducing small cottage and oblique uprights and an action considered to be the predecessor of the modern upright action which was used in Europe through the early 20th century...

 around 1815, was built into the 20th century. They are informally called birdcage pianos because of their prominent damper mechanism. Pianinos were distinguished from the oblique, or diagonally strung upright made popular in France by Roller & Blanchet
Blanchet (harpsichord makers)
The Blanchet family were French harpsichord-makers from the late-17th century to the mid-19th century, by which time they had become piano makers....

 during the late 1820s. The tiny spinet
Spinet
A spinet is a smaller type of harpsichord or other keyboard instrument, such as a piano or organ.-Spinets as harpsichords:While the term spinet is used to designate a harpsichord, typically what is meant is the bentside spinet, described in this section...

 upright was manufactured from the mid-1930s until recent times. The low position of the hammers required the use of a "drop action" to preserve a reasonable keyboard height.

Modern upright and grand pianos attained their present forms by the end of the 19th century. Improvements have been made in manufacturing processes, and many individual details of the instrument continue to receive attention.

History and musical performance



Much of the most widely admired piano repertoire
Piano repertoire
Piano repertoire is a term that refers to the collection of music any person or group of persons is able and ready to perform on a piano. A repertoire for a piano may commonly be translated into a trio and played with a cello, a violin, and a piano.-History:...

, for example, that of Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

, Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, and Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

, was composed for a type of instrument (the pianoforte) that is rather different from the modern instruments on which this music is normally performed today. Even the music of the Romantics, including Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

, Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

, Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

, Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 and Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

, was written for pianos substantially different from modern pianos.

Modern piano



Physics


When the key is struck, a chain reaction occurs to produce the sound. First, the key raises the wippen, which forces the jack against the hammer roller (or "knuckle"). The hammer roller then lifts the lever carrying the hammer. The key also raises the damper; and immediately after the hammer strikes the wire it falls back, allowing the wire to resonate. When the key is released the damper falls back onto the strings, stopping the wire from vibrating. The vibrating piano strings themselves are not very loud, but their vibrations are transmitted to a large soundboard that moves air and thus converts the energy to sound. The irregular shape and off-center placement of the bridge ensures that the soundboard vibrates strongly at all frequencies. (See Piano action for a diagram and detailed description of piano parts.)

There are three factors that influence the pitch of a vibrating wire.
  • Length: All other factors the same, the shorter the wire, the higher the pitch.
  • Mass per unit length: All other factors the same, the thinner the wire, the higher the pitch.
  • Tension: All other factors the same, the tighter the wire, the higher the pitch.


A vibrating wire subdivides itself into many parts vibrating at the same time. Each part produces a pitch of its own, called a partial. A vibrating string has one fundamental and a series of partials. The most pure combination of two pitches is when one is double the frequency of the other.

For a repeating wave, the velocity, v, equals the wavelength, λ, times the frequency, f.

v = λf

On the piano string, waves reflect from both ends. The superposition of reflecting waves results in a standing wave pattern, but only for wavelengths λ = 2L, L, L/2, … = 2L/n, where L is the length of the string. Therefore the only frequencies produced on a single string are f = nv/(2L). Timbre is largely determined by the content of these harmonics. Different instruments have different harmonic content for the same pitch. A real string vibrates at harmonics that are not perfect multiples of the fundamental. This results in a little inharmonicity
Inharmonicity
In music, inharmonicity is the degree to which the frequencies of overtones depart from whole multiples of the fundamental frequency....

, which gives richness to the tone but causes significant tuning challenges throughout the compass of the instrument.

Striking the piano key with greater force increases the amplitude of the waves and therefore the volume. From pianissimo (pp) to fortissimo (ff) the hammer velocity changes by almost a factor of a hundred. The hammer contact time with the string shortens from 4 ms at pp to less than 2 ms at ff. If two wires adjusted to the same pitch are struck at the same time, the sound produced by one reinforces the other, and a louder combined sound of shorter duration is produced. If one wire vibrates out of synchronization with the other, they subtract from each other and produce a softer tone of longer duration.

Types


Modern pianos have two basic configurations (with subcategories): the grand piano and the upright piano.

Grand


In grand pianos, the frame and strings are horizontal, with the strings extending away from the keyboard. The action lies beneath the strings, and uses gravity as its means of return to a state of rest.

There are many sizes of grand piano. A rough generalization distinguishes the concert grand (between about 2.2 m and 3 m/9.84 feet long) from the parlor grand or boudoir grand (about 1.7 m to 2.2 m) and the smaller baby grand (around 1.5 m).

All else being equal, longer pianos with longer strings have larger, richer sound and lower inharmonicity
Inharmonicity
In music, inharmonicity is the degree to which the frequencies of overtones depart from whole multiples of the fundamental frequency....

 of the strings. Inharmonicity is the degree to which the frequencies
Frequency
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

 of overtone
Overtone
An overtone is any frequency higher than the fundamental frequency of a sound. The fundamental and the overtones together are called partials. Harmonics are partials whose frequencies are whole number multiples of the fundamental These overlapping terms are variously used when discussing the...

s (known as partials or harmonic
Harmonic
A harmonic of a wave is a component frequency of the signal that is an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency, i.e. if the fundamental frequency is f, the harmonics have frequencies 2f, 3f, 4f, . . . etc. The harmonics have the property that they are all periodic at the fundamental...

s) sound sharp
Sharp (music)
In music, sharp, dièse , or diesis means higher in pitch and the sharp symbol raises a note by a half tone. Intonation may be flat, sharp, or both, successively or simultaneously...

 relative to whole multiples of the fundamental frequency. This results from the piano's considerable string stiffness; as a struck string decays its harmonics vibrate, not from their termination, but from a point very slightly toward the center (or more flexible part) of the string. The higher the partial, the further sharp it runs. Pianos with shorter and thicker strings, i.e. small pianos with short string scales, have more inharmonicity. The greater the inharmonicity, the more the ear perceives it as harshness of tone.

Inharmonicity requires octaves to be "stretched"
Pseudo-octave
A pseudo-octave, pseudooctave, or paradoxical octave in music is an interval whose frequency ratio is not 2:1 , that of the octave, but is perceived or treated as equivalent to this ratio, and whose pitches are considered equivalent to each other as with octave equivalency...

, or tuned to a lower octave's corresponding sharp overtone rather than to a theoretically correct octave. If octaves are not stretched, single octaves sound in tune, but double—and notably triple—octaves are unacceptably narrow. Stretching a small piano's octaves to match its inherent inharmonicity level creates an imbalance among all the instrument's intervallic relationships, not just its octaves. In a concert grand, however, the octave "stretch" retains harmonic balance, even when aligning treble notes to a harmonic produced from three octaves below. This lets close and widespread octaves sound pure, and produces virtually beatless perfect fifth
Perfect fifth
In classical music from Western culture, a fifth is a musical interval encompassing five staff positions , and the perfect fifth is a fifth spanning seven semitones, or in meantone, four diatonic semitones and three chromatic semitones...

s. This gives the concert grand a brilliant, singing and sustaining tone quality—one of the principal reasons that full-size grands are used in the concert hall. Smaller grands satisfy the space and cost needs of domestic use.

Upright/vertical


Upright pianos, also called vertical pianos, are more compact because the frame and strings are vertical. The hammers move horizontally, and return to their resting position via springs, which are susceptible to degradation. Upright pianos with unusually tall frames and long strings are sometimes called upright grand pianos. Some authors classify modern pianos according to their height and to modifications of the action that are necessary to accommodate the height.
  • Studio pianos are around 42 to 45 inches tall. This is the shortest cabinet that can accommodate a full-sized action located above the keyboard.
  • Console pianos have a compact action (shorter hammers), and are a few inches shorter than studio models.
  • The top of a spinet
    Spinet
    A spinet is a smaller type of harpsichord or other keyboard instrument, such as a piano or organ.-Spinets as harpsichords:While the term spinet is used to designate a harpsichord, typically what is meant is the bentside spinet, described in this section...

    model barely rises above the keyboard. The action is located below, operated by vertical wires that are attached to the backs of the keys.
  • Anything taller than a studio piano is called an upright.

Other types


The 19th century saw the introduction of the toy piano
Toy piano
The toy piano, also known as the kinderklavier , is a small piano-like musical instrument. The present form of the toy piano was invented in Philadelphia by a 17-year-old German immigrant named Albert Schoenhut. He worked as a repairman at Wanamaker's department store, repairing broken glass...

.

In 1863, Henri Fourneaux invented the player piano
Player piano
A player piano is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via pre-programmed music perforated paper, or in rare instances, metallic rolls. The rise of the player piano grew with the rise of the mass-produced piano for the home in...

, which plays itself from a piano roll
Piano roll
A piano roll is a music storage medium used to operate a player piano, piano player or reproducing piano. A piano roll is a continuous roll of paper with perforations punched into it. The peforations represent note control data...

. A machine perforates a performance recording into rolls of paper, and the player piano replays the performance using pneumatic devices. Modern equivalents of the player piano include the Bösendorfer
Bösendorfer
Bösendorfer is an Austrian piano manufacturer, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha. The brand is known for producing pianos with a uniquely rich, singing, and sustaining tone...

 CEUS and the Yamaha disklavier, using solenoids and MIDI rather than pneumatics and rolls.

A silent piano
Silent piano
A silent piano is an acoustic piano where there is an option to silence the strings by means of an interposing hammer bar. A silent piano is designed for private silent practice. In the silent mode, sensors pick up the piano key movement...

 is an acoustic piano having an option to silence the strings by means of an interposing hammer bar. They are designed for private silent practice.

Edward Ryley invented the transposing piano
Transposing piano
A transposing piano is a special piano with a mechanism activated by the player to transpose. This mechanism allows the keyboard to change position in relation to the action...

 in 1801. It has a lever under the keyboard as to move the keyboard relative to the strings so a pianist can play in a familiar key while the music sounds in a different key.

The prepared piano
Prepared piano
A prepared piano is a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects between or on the strings or on the hammers or dampers....

, present in some contemporary art music, is a piano with objects placed inside it to alter its sound, or has had its mechanism changed in some other way. The scores for music for prepared piano specify the modifications, for example instructing the pianist to insert pieces of rubber, paper, metal screws, or washers in between the strings. These either mute the strings or alter their timbre. A harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

-like sound can be produced by placing or dangling small metal buttons in front of the hammer.

Electric piano
Electric piano
An electric piano is an electric musical instrument.Electric pianos produce sounds mechanically and the sounds are turned into electrical signals by pickups. Unlike a synthesizer, the electric piano is not an electronic instrument, but electro-mechanical. The earliest electric pianos were invented...

s use electromagnetic pickups
Pickup (music technology)
A pickup device is a transducer that captures mechanical vibrations, usually from suitably equipped stringed instruments such as the electric guitar, electric bass guitar, Chapman Stick, or electric violin, and converts them to an electrical signal that is amplified, recorded, or broadcast.-...

 to amplify the sound of the strings. Playing a note loudly causes the electric signal to clip
Clipping (audio)
Clipping is a form of waveform distortion that occurs when an amplifier is overdriven and attempts to deliver an output voltage or current beyond its maximum capability...

, and the player can incorporate the distortion into his or her expressive range.

Digital piano
Digital piano
A digital piano is a modern electronic musical instrument, different from the electronic keyboard, designed to serve primarily as an alternative to a traditional piano, both in the way it feels to play and in the sound produced. It is meant to provide an accurate simulation of a real piano. Some...

s use digital sampling
Sampling (signal processing)
In signal processing, sampling is the reduction of a continuous signal to a discrete signal. A common example is the conversion of a sound wave to a sequence of samples ....

 technology to reproduce the sound of each piano note. Digital pianos can be sophisticated, with features including working pedals, weighted keys, multiple voices, and MIDI interfaces. However, when one depresses the damper pedal (see below) on such an instrument, there are no strings to vibrate sympathetically. The synthesis software of some higher end digital pianos, such as the Yamaha Clavinova series, or the Kawai MP8 series, incorporates physical models
Physical modelling synthesis
In sound synthesis, physical modelling synthesis refers to methods in which the waveform of the sound to be generated is computed by using a mathematical model, being a set of equations and algorithms to simulate a physical source of sound, usually a musical instrument...

 of sympathetic vibration.

With the advent of powerful desktop computers, highly realistic pianos have become available as affordable software modules. Some of these modules, such as the 2004 Synthogy's Ivory, use multi-gigabyte piano sample sets with as many as 90 recordings, each lasting many seconds, for each of the 88 (some have 81) keys under different conditions. Additional samples emulate sympathetic resonance, key release, the drop of the dampers, and simulations of piano techniques like re-pedaling to augment these conditions. Some other software modules, such as Modartt's 2006 Pianoteq
Pianoteq
Pianoteq is a software, MIDI-controlled, stand alone or VSTi musical instrument, which uses virtual modeling techniques to emulate the piano, and also harpsichord, electric piano and vibraphone...

, use no samples whatsoever and are a pure synthesis of all aspects of the physicalities that go into the creation of a real piano's sound.

Today, piano manufactures take advantage of innovative pianos that play themselves via a CD or MP3 player. Similar in concept to a player piano, the PianoDisc or iQ systems allow pianos to "play themselves" when the software interprets a certain file format. Such additions are quite expensive, often doubling the cost of a piano. These pianos are available in both upright and grand.

Keyboard



Almost every modern piano has 36 black keys and 52 white keys for a total of 88 keys (seven octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s plus a minor third, from A0 to C8). Many older pianos only have 85 keys (seven octaves from A0 to A7). The highest-quality piano manufacturers extend the range further in one or both directions.

Some Bösendorfer
Bösendorfer
Bösendorfer is an Austrian piano manufacturer, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha. The brand is known for producing pianos with a uniquely rich, singing, and sustaining tone...

 pianos, for example, extend the normal range down to F0, with one other model going as far as a bottom C0, making a full eight octave range. These extra keys are sometimes hidden under a small hinged lid that can cover the keys to prevent visual disorientation for pianists unfamiliar with the extra keys. On others, the colors of the extra white keys are reversed (black instead of white).

The extra keys are added primarily for increased resonance from the associated strings; that is, they vibrate sympathetically with other strings whenever the damper pedal is depressed and thus give a fuller tone. Only a very small number of works composed for piano actually use these notes. More recently, the Stuart and Sons company has also manufactured extended-range pianos, with the first 102 key piano. On their instruments, the frequency range extends from C0 to F8, which is the widest practical range for the acoustic piano. The extra keys are the same as the other keys in appearance.

Small studio upright acoustical pianos with only 65 keys have been manufactured for use by roving pianists. Known as gig pianos and still containing a cast iron harp
Frame
A frame is a structural system that supports other components of a physical construction.Frame may also refer to:-Engineering & construction:* A-Frame, a basic structure designed to bear a load in a lightweight economical manner...

, these are comparatively lightweight and can be easily transported to and from engagements by only two people. As their harp is longer than that of a spinet or console piano, they have a stronger bass sound that to some pianists is well worth the trade-off in range that a reduced key-set offers.

The toy piano
Toy piano
The toy piano, also known as the kinderklavier , is a small piano-like musical instrument. The present form of the toy piano was invented in Philadelphia by a 17-year-old German immigrant named Albert Schoenhut. He worked as a repairman at Wanamaker's department store, repairing broken glass...

 manufacturer Schoenhut started manufacturing both grands and uprights with only 44 or 49 keys, and shorter distance between the keyboard and the pedals. These pianos are true pianos with action and strings. The pianos were introduced to their product line in response to numerous requests in favor of it.

Pianos have been built with alternative keyboard systems, e.g., the Jankó keyboard
Janko keyboard
The Jankó keyboard is a musical keyboard layout for a piano designed by Paul von Jankó in 1882.Based on the premise that the hand can barely stretch more than a 9th on the piano, and that all scales are fingered differently, Jankó's new keyboard had two interlocking 'manuals' with three...

.

Standard pedals


Pianos have had pedals, or some close equivalent, since the earliest days. (In the 18th century, some pianos used levers pressed upward by the player's knee instead of pedals.) Most grand pianos in the US have three pedals: the soft pedal
Soft pedal
The soft pedal is one of the standard pedals on a piano, generally placed leftmost among the pedals. On a grand piano this pedal shifts the whole action including the keyboard slightly to the right, so that hammers which normally strike all three of the strings for a note strike only two of them....

 (una corda), sostenuto, and sustain pedal
Sustain pedal
A sustain pedal or sustaining pedal is the most commonly used pedal in a modern piano. It is typically the rightmost of two or three pedals. When pressed, the sustain pedal "sustains" all the damped strings on the piano by moving all the dampers away from the strings and allowing them to vibrate...

 (from left to right, respectively), while in Europe, the standard is two pedals: the soft pedal and the sustain pedal. Most modern upright pianos also have three pedals: soft pedal, practice pedal and sustain pedal, though older or cheaper models may lack the practice pedal. In Europe the standard for upright pianos is two pedals: the soft and the sustain pedals.

The sustain pedal
Sustain pedal
A sustain pedal or sustaining pedal is the most commonly used pedal in a modern piano. It is typically the rightmost of two or three pedals. When pressed, the sustain pedal "sustains" all the damped strings on the piano by moving all the dampers away from the strings and allowing them to vibrate...

 (or, damper pedal) is often simply called "the pedal", since it is the most frequently used. It is placed as the rightmost pedal in the group. It lifts the dampers from all keys, sustaining all played notes. In addition, it alters the overall tone by allowing all strings, including those not directly played, to reverberate.

The soft pedal
Soft pedal
The soft pedal is one of the standard pedals on a piano, generally placed leftmost among the pedals. On a grand piano this pedal shifts the whole action including the keyboard slightly to the right, so that hammers which normally strike all three of the strings for a note strike only two of them....

 or una corda pedal is placed leftmost in the row of pedals. In grand pianos it shifts the entire action/keyboard assembly to the right (a very few instruments have shifted left) so that the hammers hit two of the three strings for each note. In the earliest pianos whose unisons were bichords rather than trichords, the action shifted so that hammers hit a single string, hence the name una corda, or 'one string'. The effect is to soften the note as well as change the tone. In uprights this action is not possible; instead the pedal moves the hammers closer to the strings, allowing the hammers to strike with less kinetic energy. This produces a slightly softer sound, but no change in timbre.

On grand pianos, the middle pedal is a sostenuto
Sostenuto
In music, sostenuto is a term from Italian which means "sustained." It occasionally implies a slowing of tempo, though more often it refers to a very legato style in which the notes are performed in a sustained manner beyond their normal values....

 pedal. This pedal keeps raised any damper already raised at the moment the pedal is depressed. This makes it possible to sustain selected notes (by depressing the sostenuto pedal before those notes are released) while the player's hands are free to play additional notes (which aren't sustained). This can be useful for musical passages with pedal point
Pedal point
In tonal music, a pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign, i.e., dissonant harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functions as a "non-chord tone", placing it in the categories alongside suspensions, retardations, and passing...

s and other otherwise tricky or impossible situations.

On many upright pianos, the middle pedal is called the "practice" or celeste pedal. This drops a piece of felt between the hammers and strings, greatly muting the sounds. This pedal can be shifted while depressed, into a "locking" position.

There are also non-standard variants. On some pianos (grands and verticals), the middle pedal can be a bass sustain pedal: that is, when it is depressed, the dampers lift off the strings only in the bass section. Players use this pedal to sustain a single bass note or chord over many measures, while playing the melody in the treble section. On the Stuart and Sons piano as well as the largest Fazioli
Fazioli
Fazioli Pianoforti is a piano manufacturing company based in Sacile, Italy.Fazioli currently produces 110 pianos a year from its single factory, and has annual revenues of €6 million.- History :...

 piano, there is a fourth pedal to the left of the principal three. This fourth pedal works in the same way as the soft pedal of an upright piano, moving the hammers closer to the strings.

Unusual pedals



The rare transposing piano
Transposing piano
A transposing piano is a special piano with a mechanism activated by the player to transpose. This mechanism allows the keyboard to change position in relation to the action...

 (such as owned by Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin was an American composer and lyricist of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history.His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band", became world famous...

) has a middle pedal that functions as a clutch
Clutch
A clutch is a mechanical device which provides for the transmission of power from one component to another...

 that disengages the keyboard from the mechanism, enabling the keyboard to be moved to the left or right with a lever. The entire action of the piano is thus shifted to allow the pianist to play music written in one key so that it sounds in a different key.

There were three piano companies to include extra pedals other than the standard two or three. Two of these companies offered a piano with four pedals (Crown and Schubert Piano Co.), and Wing and Son of New York offered a five-pedal piano from approximately 1893 through the 1920s. There is no mention of the company past the 1930s. Labeled left to right the pedals are Mandolin, Orchestra, Expression, Soft, and Forte (Sustain). The Mandolin pedal produces a sound similar to a vibrato feel by bouncing a set of small hammers against the strings, enabling the piano to mimic a mandolin, guitar, banjo, zither and harp. The Orchestra (Orch) pedal used a similar approach, lowering a set of metal-tipped felt strips in between the hammers and the strings. This extended the life of the hammers when the Orch pedal was used, a good idea for practicing, and created an echo-like sound that mimicked playing in an orchestral hall.

The pedalier piano, or pedal piano
Pedal piano
The pedal piano is a kind of piano that includes a pedalboard, enabling bass register notes to be played with the feet, as is standard on the organ....

, is a rare type of piano that includes a pedalboard, enabling bass register notes to be played with the feet, as is standard on the organ
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

. There are two types of pedal piano: the pedal board may be an integral part of the instrument, using the same strings and mechanism as the manual keyboard, or, less frequently, it may consist of two independent pianos (each with its separate mechanics and strings), which are placed one above the other, a regular piano played by the hands and a bass-register piano played by the feet. This was developed primarily as a practice instrument for organists, although there is a small repertoire written specifically for the instrument.

Construction


Many parts of a piano are made of materials selected for strength and longevity. This is especially true of the outer rim. It is most commonly made of hardwood, typically maple or beech, and its massiveness serves as an essentially immobile object from which the flexible soundboard can best vibrate. According to Harold A. Conklin, the purpose of a sturdy rim is so that "the vibrational energy will stay as much as possible in the soundboard instead of dissipating uselessly in the case parts, which are inefficient radiators of sound."

Yet Bösendorfer, the Austrian manufacturer of high quality pianos, constructs their rim from spruce, the very same wood that the soundboard is made from. Their idea is to concertedly involve the cabinet in the projection and coloration of sound. The loss of energy into the Bösendorfer case alters the instrument's tone, giving it perhaps less power but a complex and unusually resonant sound.
The finest hardwood rims are made by laminating thin (hence flexible) strips of hardwood, bending them to the desired shape immediately after the application of glue. This system was developed by Theodore Steinway in 1880. The thick wooden posts on the underside (grands) or back (uprights) of the piano stabilize the rim structure, and are made of softwood for stability. The requirement of structural strength, fulfilled by stout hardwood and thick metal, makes a piano heavy; even a small upright can weigh 136 kg (300 lb), and the Steinway
Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway , is an American and German manufacturer of handmade pianos, founded 1853 in Manhattan in New York City by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg...

 concert grand (Model D) weighs 480 kg (990 lb). The largest piano built, the Fazioli
Fazioli
Fazioli Pianoforti is a piano manufacturing company based in Sacile, Italy.Fazioli currently produces 110 pianos a year from its single factory, and has annual revenues of €6 million.- History :...

 F308, weighs 691 kg (1520 lb).

The pinblock, which holds the tuning pins in place, is another area where toughness is important. It is made of hardwood, (typically hard maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

 or beech
Beech
Beech is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America.-Habit:...

), and is laminated for strength, stability and longevity. Piano strings (also called piano wire
Piano wire
Piano wire, or "music wire", is a specialized type of wire made for use in piano strings, as well as many other purposes. It is made from tempered high-carbon steel, also known as spring steel.-Manufacture and use:...

), which must endure years of extreme tension and hard blows, are made of high carbon steel. They are manufactured to vary as little as possible in diameter, since all deviations from uniformity introduce tonal distortion. The bass strings of a piano are made of a steel core wrapped with copper wire, to increase their mass whilst retaining flexibility. If all strings throughout the piano's compass were individual (monochord), the massive bass strings would overpower the upper ranges. Makers compensate for this with the use of double (bichord) strings in the tenor and triple (trichord) strings throughout the treble.
The plate, or metal frame, of a piano is usually made of cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

. It is advantageous for the plate to be very massive. Since the strings vibrate from the plate at both ends, vibrations absorbed by the plate result in energy loss to the desired (efficient) sound transmission channel, namely the bridge and the soundboard. While some manufacturers use cast steel in their plates, most prefer cast iron. Cast iron is easy to cast and machine, has flexibility sufficient for piano use, is much more resistant to deformation than steel, and is especially tolerant of compression. Plate casting is an art, since dimensions are crucial and the iron shrinks about one percent during cooling.

Including an extremely large piece of metal in a piano is potentially an aesthetic handicap. Piano makers overcome this by polishing, painting, and decorating the plate. Plates often include the manufacturer's ornamental medallion. In an effort to make pianos lighter, Alcoa
Alcoa
Alcoa Inc. is the world's third largest producer of aluminum, behind Rio Tinto Alcan and Rusal. From its operational headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Alcoa conducts operations in 31 countries...

 worked with Winter and Company piano manufacturers to make pianos using an aluminum plate
Aluminum piano plate
A piano with an aluminum piano plate, called the Alumatone plate, was created in the late 1940s by Winter and Company, piano manufacturers, and Alcoa, a manufacturer of aluminum and aluminum products. The metal frame of a piano, often called the plate or harp, anchors both ends of the strings,...

 during the 1940s. Aluminum piano plates were not widely accepted, and were discontinued.

The numerous grand parts and upright parts of a piano action are generally hardwood
Hardwood
Hardwood is wood from angiosperm trees . It may also be used for those trees themselves: these are usually broad-leaved; in temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen.Hardwood contrasts with softwood...

, e.g., maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

, beech
Beech
Beech is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America.-Habit:...

, or hornbeam
Hornbeam
Hornbeams are relatively small hardwood trees in the genus Carpinus . Though some botanists grouped them with the hazels and hop-hornbeams in a segregate family, Corylaceae, modern botanists place the hornbeams in the birch subfamily Coryloideae...

. However, since WWII, makers have used some plastics. Early plastics were incorporated into some pianos in the late 1940s and 1950s, but proved disastrous because they lost strength after a few decades of use. The Steinway
Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway , is an American and German manufacturer of handmade pianos, founded 1853 in Manhattan in New York City by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg...

 firm once incorporated Teflon
Polytetrafluoroethylene
Polytetrafluoroethylene is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that finds numerous applications. PTFE is most well known by the DuPont brand name Teflon....

, a synthetic material developed by DuPont
DuPont
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company , commonly referred to as DuPont, is an American chemical company that was founded in July 1802 as a gunpowder mill by Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. DuPont was the world's third largest chemical company based on market capitalization and ninth based on revenue in 2009...

, for some grand action parts in place of cloth, but abandoned the experiment due to excessive friction and a "clicking" that developed over time. (Teflon is "humidity stable" whereas the wood adjacent to the Teflon swells and shrinks with humidity changes, causing problems.) More recently, the Kawai firm built pianos with action parts made of more modern materials such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and the piano parts manufacturer Wessell, Nickel and Gross has launched a new line of carefully engineered composite parts. Thus far these parts have performed reasonably, but it will take decades to know if they equal the longevity of wood.

In all but the poorest pianos the soundboard is made of solid spruce
Spruce
A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea , a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal regions of the earth. Spruces are large trees, from tall when mature, and can be distinguished by their whorled branches and conical...

 (that is, spruce boards glued together along the side grain). Spruce's high ratio of strength to weight minimizes acoustic impedance
Acoustic impedance
The acoustic impedance at a particular frequency indicates how much sound pressure is generated by a given air vibration at that frequency. The acoustic impedance Z is frequency dependent and is very useful, for example, for describing the behaviour of musical wind instruments...

 while offering strength sufficient to withstand the downward force of the strings. The best piano makers use quarter-sawn, defect-free spruce of close annular grain, carefully seasoning it over a long period before fabricating the soundboards. This is the identical material that is used in quality acoustic guitar soundboards. Cheap pianos often have plywood
Plywood
Plywood is a type of manufactured timber made from thin sheets of wood veneer. It is one of the most widely used wood products. It is flexible, inexpensive, workable, re-usable, and can usually be locally manufactured...

 soundboards.

In the early years of piano construction, keys were commonly made from sugar pine. Today they are likely to be made of spruce or basswood. Spruce is typically used in high-quality pianos. The black keys were traditionally made from ebony
Ebony
Ebony is a dense black wood, most commonly yielded by several species in the genus Diospyros, but ebony may also refer to other heavy, black woods from unrelated species. Ebony is dense enough to sink in water. Its fine texture, and very smooth finish when polished, make it valuable as an...

 and the white keys were covered with strips of ivory
Ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

, but since ivory-yielding species are now endangered and protected by treaty, plastics are now almost exclusively used. Also, ivory tends to chip more easily than plastic. Legal ivory can still be obtained in limited quantities. The Yamaha firm invented a plastic called "Ivorite" that they claim mimics the look and feel of ivory; it has since been imitated by other makers.

Care and maintenance



Pianos need regular tuning to keep them on pitch, which is usually the internationally recognized standard concert pitch of A4 = 440 Hz. The hammers of pianos are voiced to compensate for gradual hardening, and other parts also need periodic regulation. Aged and worn pianos can be rebuilt or reconditioned. Often, by replacing a great number of their parts, they can perform as well as new pianos. Older pianos are often more settled and produce a warmer tone.

Piano moving should be done by trained piano movers using adequate manpower and the correct equipment for any particular piano's size and weight. Pianos are heavy yet delicate instruments. Over the years, professional piano movers have developed special techniques for transporting both grands and uprights, which prevent damage to the case and to the piano's mechanics.

Tuning



The relationship between two pitches, called an interval
Interval (music)
In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

, is the ratio of their absolute frequencies
Frequency
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

. Two different intervals are perceived as the same when the pairs of pitches involved share the same frequency ratio. The easiest intervals to identify, and the easiest intervals to tune, are those that are just
Just intonation
In music, just intonation is any musical tuning in which the frequencies of notes are related by ratios of small whole numbers. Any interval tuned in this way is called a just interval. The two notes in any just interval are members of the same harmonic series...

, meaning they have a simple whole-number ratio. The term temperament
Musical temperament
In musical tuning, a temperament is a system of tuning which slightly compromises the pure intervals of just intonation in order to meet other requirements of the system. Most instruments in modern Western music are tuned in the equal temperament system...

refers to a tuning system that tempers the just intervals
Just intonation
In music, just intonation is any musical tuning in which the frequencies of notes are related by ratios of small whole numbers. Any interval tuned in this way is called a just interval. The two notes in any just interval are members of the same harmonic series...

 (usually the perfect fifth
Perfect fifth
In classical music from Western culture, a fifth is a musical interval encompassing five staff positions , and the perfect fifth is a fifth spanning seven semitones, or in meantone, four diatonic semitones and three chromatic semitones...

, which has the ratio 3:2) to satisfy another mathematical property; in equal temperament, a fifth is tempered by narrowing it slightly, achieved by flattening its upper pitch slightly, or raising its lower pitch slightly. A temperament system is also known as a set of bearings.

Tempering an interval causes it to beat
Beat (acoustics)
In acoustics, a beat is an interference between two sounds of slightly different frequencies, perceived as periodic variations in volume whose rate is the difference between the two frequencies....

, which is a fluctuation in perceived sound intensity due to interference between close (but unequal) pitches. The rate of beating is equal to the frequency differences of any harmonics that are present for both pitches and that coincide or nearly coincide.

Piano tuning is the act of adjusting the tensions of the piano's strings, thereby aligning the intervals among their tones so that the instrument is in tune
Musical tuning
In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:* Tuning practice, the act of tuning an instrument or voice.* Tuning systems, the various systems of pitches used to tune an instrument, and their theoretical bases.-Tuning practice:...

. The meaning of the term in tune in the context of piano tuning is not simply a particular fixed set of pitches
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

. Fine piano tuning carefully assesses the interaction among all notes of the chromatic scale, different for every piano, and thus requires slightly different pitches from any theoretical standard. Pianos are usually tuned to a modified version of the system called equal temperament
Equal temperament
An equal temperament is a musical temperament, or a system of tuning, in which every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio. As pitch is perceived roughly as the logarithm of frequency, this means that the perceived "distance" from every note to its nearest neighbor is the same for...

 (see Piano key frequencies
Piano key frequencies
This is a virtual keyboard showing the absolute frequencies in hertz of the notes on a modern piano in twelve-tone equal temperament, with the 49th key, the fifth A , tuned to 440 Hz...

 for the theoretical piano tuning
). In all systems of tuning, each pitch is derived from its relationship to a chosen fixed pitch, usually A440.

Role


The piano is a crucial instrument in Western classical music, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, film, television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, and most other complex western musical genres. A large number of composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

s are proficient pianists—and because the piano keyboard offers an easy means of complex melodic and harmonic interplay—the piano is often used as a tool for composition.

See also


General
  • Jazz piano
    Jazz piano
    Jazz piano is a collective term for the techniques pianists use when playing jazz. The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument's combined melodic and harmonic capabilities...

  • Musica Obscura
    Musica obscura
    Musica Obscura Editions is a publisher of rare hard-to-find piano music.Established in 1973 by Dr John Dowd, Musica Obscura Editions has become an institution among classical pianists...

  • Piano extended technique
    Piano extended technique
    Piano extended techniques are those in which unorthodox or unconventional techniques are used to create the sound.-Techniques:* prepared piano, i.e. introducing foreign objects into the workings of the piano to change the sound quality* string piano, i.e...

  • Piano transcription
    Piano transcription
    A piano transcription is a piece of music played on one or more pianos that is an approximation of a source piece of music. The source may be music for a solo instrument or voice, an ensemble of instruments and/or voices, or even a piece originally for solo or ensemble piano...

  • Piano trio
    Piano trio
    A piano trio is a group of piano and two other instruments, usually a violin and a cello, or a piece of music written for such a group. It is one of the most common forms found in classical chamber music...

  • PianoForte Foundation
    PianoForte Foundation
    The PianoForte Foundation is a non-profit organization that presents classical and jazz piano concerts in Chicago, Illinois. Established in 2005 by piano dealer Thomas Zoells, the PianoForte Foundation presents over 60 concerts each year in downtown Chicago and the surrounding...

  • Street piano
    Street piano
    A street piano is a piano placed in the street which passersby are encouraged to play. The best known example comes from the Play Me, I'm Yours project by artist Luke Jerram. The concept originated quite by accident in Sheffield, England....

  • String piano
    String piano
    String piano is a term coined by American composer-theorist Henry Cowell to collectively describe those pianistic extended techniques in which sound is produced by direct manipulation of the strings, instead of or in addition to striking the piano's keys...


Technical
  • Agraffe
    Agraffe
    An agraffe is a part found on some pianos. The agraffe is a guide at the tuning-pin end of the string, screwed into the plate, with holes through which the strings pass. It anchors the strings, ensures proper height and determines the speaking length of the string. Quality agraffes are usually made...

  • Aliquot stringing
    Aliquot stringing
    Aliquot stringing is the use of extra, unstruck strings in the piano for the purpose of enriching the tone.-History:Julius Blüthner invented the aliquot stringing system in 1873....

  • Piano acoustics
    Piano acoustics
    Piano acoustics are those physical properties of the piano which affect its acoustics.-String length and mass:The strings of a piano vary in thickness, and therefore in mass per length, with bass strings thicker than treble. A typical range is from 1/30 inch for the highest treble strings to 1/3...


Related lists
Piano compositions category
Related instruments
  • Electric piano
    Electric piano
    An electric piano is an electric musical instrument.Electric pianos produce sounds mechanically and the sounds are turned into electrical signals by pickups. Unlike a synthesizer, the electric piano is not an electronic instrument, but electro-mechanical. The earliest electric pianos were invented...

  • Electronic keyboard
    Electronic keyboard
    An electronic keyboard is an electronic or digital keyboard instrument.The major components of a typical modern electronic keyboard are:...

  • Electronic piano
    Electronic piano
    An electronic piano is a keyboard instrument designed to simulate the timbre of a piano using analog circuitry....

  • Harmonichord
    Harmonichord
    A Harmonichord is a kind of upright piano, in which the strings are set in vibration not by the blow of the hammer but by indirectly transmitted friction.- Description :...

  • Keyboard instruments
  • Keytar
    Keytar
    A keytar is a relatively lightweight keyboard that is supported by a strap around the neck and shoulders, similar to the way a guitar is supported by a strap. Keytars allow players a greater range of movement compared to conventional keyboards, which are placed on stands...

  • Organ
    Organ (music)
    The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

     and Pipe organ
    Pipe organ
    The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...


Other
  • Pianos
    Pianos
    Pianos is a two-story bar/restaurant/live music venue in the Lower East Side section of Manhattan at 158 Ludlow Street.Its stage attracts local and national alternative rock groups as well as DJs, though a more typical performance consists of smaller name local and touring acts...

  • Pianist
    Pianist
    A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...


External links