What Type of Instrument is a Piano?

Is Piano String or Hammered or Percussion Instrument ? How does a Piano Work?
man playing piano. what type of instrument is a piano

We all have seen a piano, some small and some big. What type of instrument is a piano and how does a piano work. Read this article to find these answers!

1. What is a Piano?

So, what type of instrument is a piano? A piano is an acoustic, musical instrument that was invented in the Italian Republic around the year 1700, however, the precise year is still unknown. The performing artist or musician uses this keyboard, which has a row of keys or tiny levers that he presses with his fingers and thumbs to force the hammer and strike the strings to produce music. (See The History of Mariachi)

2. What is the History of Piano?

Bartolomeo Cristofori of the Italian Republic was the creator of the first piano. Although, a similar instrument called the harpsichord was already in use at the time. He felt dissatisfied with the musicians’ lack of command over the volume levels of a harpsichord. So, he switched out the plucking mechanism with a hammer to form the fashionable piano that is used today. It was initially called clavicembalo col piano e forte, which meant a harpsichord that can play soft as well as loud noises. It was later shortened to its now common name, piano.

3. What are the Elements of a Piano?

Pianos have over 12000 individual elements, with six main components namely the keyboard, hammers, dampers, bridge, cavity resonators, and strings. Most of the elements are made using a strong and durable material. The outer rim is typically made of hardwood (mainly from maple or beech).  It ensures that the wave energy is retained within the cavity resonator as much as possible, rather than dissipating uselessly within the case, creating unnecessary sound. Additionally, the wooden hammers are coated with a softer material like leather. However, today’s popular hammers are coated with strong wool felt.

4. How Many Keys in a Piano?

As a thumb rule, almost every modern piano has 52 white keys and 36 black keys that making a total of 88 keys. There are seven octaves plus a minor third, from A0 to C8. Several older pianos only have 85 keys that have seven octaves from A0 to A7. Read more to know what type of instrument is a piano and how it works. (See Why Do Pianos Have 88 Keys?)

5. Do Pianos Have Pedals?

Since the beginning of time, pianos have had pedals or something equivalent. Some pianos in the eighteenth century had levers pulled upwards instead of pedals.

  • In the United States, most grand pianos have three pedals namely the soft pedal (una corda), sostenuto, and sustain pedal.
  • In Europe, pianos have two pedals that are soft pedal and sustain pedal.
  • The modern upright pianos have three pedals: soft pedal, practice pedal, and sustain pedal.
  • Certain older or cheaper models might lack the practice pedal.

6. How Does a Piano Work?

Now that you know what type of instrument is a piano, let’s see how it works. When the key on the keyboard of the piano is pressed, a series of reactions occurs leading to the production of sound. The key raises the wippen mechanism, which forces the jack against the hammer roller or knuckle. Then, the hammer roller raises the lever carrying the hammer. The key also elevates the damper, which falls back quickly after the hammer strikes the wire, allowing the wire to vibrate, thus producing sound.

When the key is released, the previously elevated damper falls back into the strings, stopping the vibratory wire and hence the sound. This answers the question of how does a piano work.

7. Why does a Piano have a Loud Noise?

The vibratory strings of the piano are not that loud, by themselves. However, the vibrations they create are transmitted to an oversized cavity resonator that moves air and converts the generated energy into sound. The irregular form and off-center placement of the bridge ensure that the cavity resonator vibrates powerfully even with the slightest degree of frequency. The damper keeps the note to sound till the key or the sustain pedal is released by the player.

8. What are the Factors affecting Volume?  

Three factors affect the pitch of a vibratory wire, i.e., length, mass, and tension. The shorter, thinner, and tighter wire will produce a higher pitch as opposed to long, thick & loose one. A vibratory wire subdivides itself into several elements vibrating at the same time. Every part produces a pitch of its own, known as a partial. A vibratory string has a primary and a series of partials. The purest combination of two pitches is when one is double the frequency of the other. (See How Do You Play The Sitar?)

9. Is Piano a Percussion Instrument?

If you still couldn’t guess what type of instrument is a piano, then the answer is that it is classified as a string instrument because the sound it produces comes from the vibrations of strings. It can also be classified as a percussion instrument since the hammer strikes those strings.

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