5 fascinerende feitjes over de piano

The venerable experts of Bax Music could offer up a thousand-and-one fascinating facts about the piano, but since no one has time for that, we’ve hand-picked just five!

#1. Pianos Are Really Quiet

In Italian, ‘piano’ literally means ‘quiet’, which doesn’t really make sense since you can play a piano pretty loudly, right? Right. But ‘piano’ is actually a shortened version of the piano’s full name which, according to its inventor, is the ‘cimbal di piano e forte’: a keyboard instrument that can be played both loudly and quietly – since that was the issue that the piano was invented to solve. The grandma of the piano is the harpsichord, which came way before the piano and was (and still is) a perfectly serviceable instrument but with one big drawback: no matter how hard you hit the keys, the notes are played at exactly the same volume. The all-new piano solved all of this and became so popular that the name was quickly shortened, first to ‘pianoforte’ or ‘fortepiano’ and then finally, to just ‘piano’.

The harpsichord:

The piano:

#2. The Sound of Hammers

As we’ve already mentioned, the piano was the follow-up to the harpsichord. While the sound of a harpsichord is made by striking keys to trigger a mechanism that plucks internal strings, the mechanism inside a piano doesn’t pluck the strings, it hammers them. This produces an entirely different sound to the harpsichord. The internal mechanism is also fairly complicated, since the hammer can’t simply rest on the strings after it strikes them, otherwise the strings won’t be able to vibrate and make any sound. Also, the hammer can’t bounce on the strings, instead, it needs to immediately return to its original position after the strings have been struck, ready for the next note. Thankfully, Cristofori (the inventor of the piano), managed to figure all of this out. However, the first piano that he designed in around 1700 sounded very different from the modern piano. You can listen to a real ‘Cristofori piano’ in the clip below.

One of the first pianos:

#3. It Has Way More Parts than You Think

A normal piano has 88 keys, but when you open the cabinet of any average acoustic piano, you’ll immediately notice that there are way more than 88 strings inside. The exact number of strings will vary from model to model, but usually, you’re looking at more than 200! The higher notes have at least three strings per key, otherwise they’ll sound really quiet compared to the other notes, while the lower notes have at least two strings per key and the very lowest note has one. A piano is far more than just keys, hammers and strings, though. In fact, a grand piano made by one of the most renowned piano makers, Steinway, is made up of more than 12,000 parts. The mechanism for just one key is made up of 57 different parts.

#4. The Piano is Massive

The piano has an enormous note range that reaches lower than the lowest pitched instrument of an orchestra and higher than the highest pitched instrument. If you use every finger, you can play up to ten notes at the same time, but when you use a sustain pedal, you can add infinitely more. So you can play the melody, the chords and the bass line at the same time. This means that, with just a piano, you can essentially take on the role of an entire band or orchestra and accompany other musicians, like a singer. It’s no surprise then, that the piano has been one of the most popular musical instruments for centuries and there are libraries full of pieces written for the piano that really show off its massive range.

#5. Professional Tuning Only

If you’re lucky enough to have an acoustic piano, then it’ll need tuning up around once a year. This isn’t because your piano will immediately start sounding out of tune after a year, but it will start sounding a little off. While beginner pianists might not notice it, a freshly tuned piano has a slightly cleaner and brighter sound. Also, tuning a piano absolutely must be left to a professional, otherwise you risk causing damage as well as pretty bad sound. Tuning a piano is a lot more difficult than you might think. To give you an idea of just how difficult it is: it can take a piano tuner three years of training before they’re qualified. You could try tuning your piano using software, but really, tuning software is only designed to serve as a tool. It’s much more important for a piano tuner to train their ear, simply because every piano is different. Above all, mastering the art of tuning with the help of a tuning fork doesn’t happen overnight.

See also…

» Digital Piano
» Stage Pianos
» All Keyboard Instruments & Accessories

» How to Make Most of Your Piano Lessons
» Why Adults Give Up Playing the Piano Far Too Soon
» The Piano: History, Construction and More
» How Does a Piano Make Sound?
» Classical Piano Music for Beginners: 6 Well-Known Compositions
» Acoustic or Digital Piano? Which One Should You Go For?
» Playing the Piano: Correct Posture & Hand Position
» The Three Piano Pedals: What Are They For?
» How to Record a Piano
» What is Velocity Sensitivity?
» Learn to play piano or keyboard: also for adults
» How to play basic piano chords
» What’s the difference between a keyboard and a digital piano?

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