You probably already know that the piano is one of the world’s most favorite musical instruments. It has significantly contributed to both classical and modern music. The piano was first created in the early 1700s but evolved into its current form all the way up until the early 1900’s! It originated from the harpsichord, which was only able to play softly and tenderly. The harpsichord worked by plucking the strings, much like we play the guitar, but the piano changed all that. It evolved into a system of hammers striking the keys. This changed a lot of what the instrument was able to do.
The piano was formally called pianoforte, (a name of a small Italian instrument) because it can play notes quietly (piano) and loudly (forte). It can be played to produce calm and soothing music (think of the most beautiful Chopin Nocturnes) or vibrant, exciting music (think Rachmaninov!). The piano has transformed in shape and size so many times over the years. It has 12,000 parts of which 10,000 pieces are moving, and all these must work correctly to get the best sound from the musical instrument.
A few little warm up facts: The middle of the piano is not middle C, but is actually the space between E and F above the middle C. Piano keys are called “ivories”, but since 1940 they were no longer made of ivory, but of plastic. Now, the instrument has evolved and adapted to different forms dependant on the musical style, or space requirement. From grand pianos, uprights, digital pianos, and synthesizers the keyboard is a very versatile instrument. The word ‘Grand’ was first used in 1777. And in 1772, Americus Backers made the oldest homemade piano in Britain.
Here are 5 interesting facts about this incredible instrument:
1. Piano as “The King Of Musical Instruments”
The piano is the king of musical instruments for obvious reasons (though organs were the first to claim that title). First, the piano is one of the beautiful instruments you can play and enjoy. It’s an instrument with impressive size, and can play melody and accompaniment at the same time, making it a truly complete instrument. Also, the piano is hailed as the king because of its most comprehensive range of notes, which is lower than a 16-foot pedal note you have on an organ and is also higher than the top note of piccolo.
The pedal you see on the right is the sustain pedal and is being used often. The left pedal is the damper pedal that moves the hammers closer to the strings, and it makes the sound softer – much simpler than an organ! Some pianos also have a middle pedal, which sustains only the notes you press and continues that while you play others without sustain. A piano is a versatile instrument, and with all these properties, you can see why it has taken the term “The King of Musical Instruments.”
2. Is The Piano A String Or Percussion Instrument?
One of the causes of disagreement among musicians is whether the piano is a string or percussion instrument. Of course, we see the main feature of the piano, which is the strings all the way through. These are made of steel. Up to 230 strings are needed for the piano to make its full sound and each string holds about 170 pounds of tension. That is also why tuning the piano is for a specialist. The sound is produced by tiny hammers hitting the strings inside the piano, placing it among the percussion section with a symphony orchestra. So, the piano is considered a percussion instrument.
3. Strings Tension in Piano
It may surprise you to know that the piano has 220-230 strings (3 for each pitch!), made from steel, strung very tightly to produce the sound that we have come to love when hit by the hammers. Each string holds 168 pounds of tension, so total tension for standard pianos is 18-20 tons. The largest grand pianos hold 30 tons of tension. That is why tuning a piano is a job for a specialist.
4. The invention of Digital Pianos
The acoustic piano has existed since the 1700s. The need for an instrument in the music studio that didn’t need tuning and was easily recorded resulted in the invention of the synthesizer in the 1960s. Eventually, the modern digital piano was introduced in the 1980s, paving the way for many possibilities in the musical world. The digital piano helps in resolving many disadvantages of the acoustic piano, including the ability to directly amplify their instrument, save space, no tuning costs, and can practice silently with a set of headphones.
5. Grand Piano Is Actually Faster Than Upright Piano
The grand piano allows you to play faster than its smaller cousin because of its action. A grand piano can be as large as 9 feet (technically they are 8 feet, 11- inch) but include a repetition lever that allows the pianist to repeat notes when the key is half way up. There is no such room for this technology in an upright. So, what you save on space, you also lose on action and adaptability.
This beautiful instrument, going through centuries of change, has become the favorite instrument for many people. At Cadenza Music Academy, you will have all it takes to master the piano. Sign up with Cadenza Music Academy today and begin the journey of exploring this beautiful instrument.