What is Piano: Definition and 77 Discussions

The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700 (the exact year is uncertain), in which the strings are struck by wooden hammers that are coated with a softer material (modern hammers are covered with dense wool felt; some early pianos used leather). It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys (small levers) that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.
The word "piano" is a shortened form of pianoforte, the Italian term for the early 1700s versions of the instrument, which in turn derives from gravicembalo col piano e forte (key cymbal with quieter and louder) and fortepiano. The Italian musical terms piano and forte indicate "soft" and "loud" respectively, in this context referring to the variations in volume (i.e., loudness) produced in response to a pianist's touch or pressure on the keys: the greater the velocity of a key press, the greater the force of the hammer hitting the strings, and the louder the sound of the note produced and the stronger the attack. The name was created as a contrast to harpsichord, a musical instrument that does not allow variation in volume; compared to the harpsichord, the first fortepianos in the 1700s had a quieter sound and smaller dynamic range.A piano usually has a protective wooden case surrounding the soundboard and metal strings, which are strung under great tension on a heavy metal frame. Pressing one or more keys on the piano's keyboard causes a wooden or plastic hammer (typically padded with firm felt) to strike the strings. The hammer rebounds from the strings, and the strings continue to vibrate at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a soundboard that amplifies by more efficiently coupling the acoustic energy to the air. When the key is released, a damper stops the strings' vibration, ending the sound. Notes can be sustained, even when the keys are released by the fingers and thumbs, by the use of pedals at the base of the instrument. The sustain pedal enables pianists to play musical passages that would otherwise be impossible, such as sounding a 10-note chord in the lower register and then, while this chord is being continued with the sustain pedal, shifting both hands to the treble range to play a melody and arpeggios over the top of this sustained chord. Unlike the pipe organ and harpsichord, two major keyboard instruments widely used before the piano, the piano allows gradations of volume and tone according to how forcefully or softly a performer presses or strikes the keys.
Most modern pianos have a row of 88 black and white keys, 52 white keys for the notes of the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A and B) and 36 shorter black keys, which are raised above the white keys, and set further back on the keyboard. This means that the piano can play 88 different pitches (or "notes"), spanning a range of a bit over seven octaves. The black keys are for the "accidentals" (F♯/G♭, G♯/A♭, A♯/B♭, C♯/D♭, and D♯/E♭), which are needed to play in all twelve keys. More rarely, some pianos have additional keys (which require additional strings), an example of which is the Bösendorfer Concert Grand 290 Imperial, which has 97 keys. Most notes have three strings, except for the bass, which graduates from one to two. The strings are sounded when keys are pressed or struck, and silenced by dampers when the hands are lifted from the keyboard. Although an acoustic piano has strings, it is usually classified as a percussion instrument rather than as a stringed instrument, because the strings are struck rather than plucked (as with a harpsichord or spinet); in the Hornbostel–Sachs system of instrument classification, pianos are considered chordophones. There are two main types of piano: the grand piano and the upright piano. The grand piano has a better sound and gives the player a more precise control of the keys, and is therefore the preferred choice for every situation in which the available floor-space and the budget will allow, as well as often being considered a requirement in venues where skilled pianists will frequently give public performances. The upright piano, which necessarily involves some compromise in both tone and key action compared to a grand piano of equivalent quality, is nevertheless much more widely used, because it occupies less space (allowing it to fit comfortably in a room where a grand piano would be too large) and is significantly less expensive.
During the 1800s, influenced by the musical trends of the Romantic music era, innovations such as the cast iron frame (which allowed much greater string tensions) and aliquot stringing gave grand pianos a more powerful sound, with a longer sustain and richer tone. In the nineteenth century, a family's piano played the same role that a radio or phonograph played in the twentieth century; when a nineteenth-century family wanted to hear a newly published musical piece or symphony, they could hear it by having a family member play a simplified version on the piano. During the nineteenth century, music publishers produced many types of musical works (symphonies, opera overtures, waltzes, etc.) in arrangements for piano, so that music lovers could play and hear the popular pieces of the day in their home. The piano is widely employed in classical, jazz, traditional and popular music for solo and ensemble performances, accompaniment, and for composing, songwriting and rehearsals. Although the piano is very heavy and thus not portable and is expensive (in comparison with other widely used accompaniment instruments, such as the acoustic guitar), its musical versatility (i.e., its wide pitch range, ability to play chords, louder or softer notes and two or more independent musical lines at the same time), the large number of musicians - both amateurs and professionals - trained in playing it, and its wide availability in performance venues, schools and rehearsal spaces have made it one of the Western world's most familiar musical instruments.

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  1. J

    Leverage, MOI, mass, distance from fulcrum for piano key mechanism

    I am trying to determine tradeoffs in how piano keys are weighted. Piano hammer weight and the behavior of the mechanical parts in a piano action yields a spread of roughly 5:1 in leverage - every gram of weight added to the hammer adds roughly five grams at the key. Piano keys (the wooden...
  2. M

    Does a Slowing Piano Exert More Force Than the Man Pushing It?

    Albeit the simple question, I am a bit confused on whether the correct answer choice is (B) or (C). When the piano is slowing down, shouldn't the force received by the piano be a bit greater than the force received by the man?
  3. S

    Video demonstration of playing an invisible piano

    This is a demonstration on what he there calls a Graphene piano. I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS, in all honesty; unless someone here can instruct me differently:
  4. mishima

    Piano Keyboard, detecting multiple keys pressed

    I have an old piano keybed I am trying to turn into a midi controller for a synthesizer. The keybed has 32 keys and is just a matrix of diodes and buttons. There are 2 buttons per key (2 buttons per note pressed on the piano). This is for MIDI velocity, ordinarily the time between the two...
  5. Bob Walance

    A standard piano keyboard juxtaposed with a 'balanced' keyboard

    I enjoy music and have acquired a certain level of relative pitch. That is, I attempt to be able to identify musical intervals and chords such that I can play along with the music that I'm listening to. The guitar is a good instrument for me because of its simple layout . However, piano has...
  6. A

    Troubleshooting Wave Velocity on a Piano Wire

    angular frequency= 50 rad/s= 2*pi*frequency frequency= 7.96 Hz k=2*pi/wavelength k=2*pi/(2*1.6m) = 1.96 velocity=angular frequency/ k velocity=50/ 1.96 = 25.5 m/s For some reason this velocity is wrong
  7. A

    Work Required to Move a Piano Onto a Truck

    Homework Statement Movers must push a piano onto a truck, the bed of which is a height 1.35 m above the ground. To do this they will use a frictionless ramp. If the piano has a mass of 1806.0 kg and the movers push it up the slope at a constant velocity, how much work do they need to do on it...
  8. K

    Why no work when carrying piano on your back down a hallway?

    In a physics articles and texts they say You don't perform a work when carrying a heavy object over a long corridor or if you are carrying a piano on your back down a hallway, you are not actually doing any real work But why? Since you're using force and energy to move an object with mass...
  9. I

    MHB Piano Club Problem: Finding Hours for Elevens & Twelves

    so if a= elevens and b= twelves, the number of hours for elevens are C(a,a-2) times 2, and the number of hours for twelves are C(b,b-2) times 4. I don't know where to go from here
  10. B

    Deduction of the equation of frequencies of a piano

    I'd like of know from where originated the funcion f(n) presented in this page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_key_frequencies)!? Probably, f(n), is the solution of some differential equation and I'd like of understand how this diff equation was architected. If someone can answer this...
  11. B

    Doubt about the behavior of a string of a piano

    Two doubts: First, when the hammer hits any string, the string begins to vibrate, until here, no problems, but, the vibration decays over time and this decay is linear, exponential or assume another form? Second, when the hammer hits a string and the string begins to vibrate, it vibrates in...
  12. B

    Solving for Time: Piano Falling Down Ramp

    You have a piano that you have just pushed to the top of the 3m long ramp that goes into the truck. The ramp is at a 20-degree angle. You think your friend has a grip on it and she think you do when you all let go. How long do you have before the piano gets to the bottom of the ramp? Assume...
  13. F

    Improve Piano Sound: How to Slow Down Dampers for a Cleaner Performance

    Hello all, I am a live sound engineer looking for a creative way to slow down the dampers on a grand piano as the pedal is released. When the piano pedal is depressed, the dampers lift off of the strings, and when the pedal is released, the dampers come back down on the strings to mute them...
  14. Nicosia1

    What is the Intersection of Computer Programming and Music in Nicosia?

    I am a computer programmer, mostly in Windows, but a little bit into open source, Linux and Java. I work a lot in javascript and SQL of one kind or another, both of which are utilized somehow via all common platforms. I am also interested in music, physics, and chemistry. I play piano and...
  15. A

    Thermal Expansion of piano wire

    I'd like to setup an Excel spreadsheet to demonstrate the expected change in string frequency due to small changes in temperature. How should I go about doing this? This is the data from the piano that I can gather: -string length -string diameter -string area -string/partial frequency How do...
  16. B

    Inverted Piano Action: Benefits and Drawbacks

    Hello! I have a question about grand piano action design. As a quick primer, the way a piano works is basically that each key is a lever mounted on a fulcrum, so when a player presses a key, the other end of that lever rises. A hammer is attached to the other end of the key, and when that end...
  17. G

    Music Exploring the Role of Piano in Choral Music

    Hi everyone. I have a question on the role of piano in choral music. Piano seems to be the "default" instrument for accompaniment in many choral works. May I know why is piano the "preferred" instrument? Thanks!
  18. S

    Public Piano Concert: Staged Performance Pretty Good

    Even if this performance was "staged", it was pretty good:
  19. M

    What Is the Period of Middle C on a Piano?

    Homework Statement Middle C on a finely tuned piano vibrates 262 times per second. What is the period of the wave? Homework Equations T =1/f The Attempt at a Solution Im just really confused.
  20. M

    Coefficient of Friction of a piano

    Homework Statement Two men loading a 900 kg piano onto a truck lose control and the piano slips, rolling down the loading ramp. The ramp is a 12 degree incline that is 3.2m long. If the piano accelerates down the ramp at 0.4m/s^2, find the coefficient of rolling friction. Homework...
  21. M

    Solved it Nope. - Piano slipping down a ramp

    Solved it! Nope. -- Piano slipping down a ramp Homework Statement Two men loading a 900 kg piano onto a truck lose control and the piano slips, rolling down the loading ramp. The ramp is a 12 degree incline that is 3.2 m long. How long does it take the piano to reach the bottom of the ramp...
  22. L

    Learning piano or programming?

    I want to learn something new. Something that takes time to accomplish and that would 'enrich' me somehow. I thought about learning programming or learning playing the piano. I tried both at a very elementary level and find them both fascinating, but only would have the time (and energy!) for...
  23. Saladsamurai

    How Can I Find Free Sheet Music Online?

    I recently started taking piano lessons. I have been wanting to for a long time, but school always got in the way. Now I have all of the time in the world to practice. I have been taking lessons for about a month now and I am really enjoying it. I have played music (flute, french horn, cello...
  24. N

    How do I build an electro magnet strong enough to vibrate piano strings?

    I would like to build an electro magnet capable of causing piano strings to vibrate without the strings being struck first. As long as the hammers are up, the strings would vibrate on their own accord. An E-bow, used by guitarist for the same purpose, will (sort of) work on a limited range on...
  25. N

    Power to life a piano question

    Power to lift* a piano A piano of mass 200 kg is lifted vertically by a 0.5 hp motor. Given that 746 watt = 1 hp, how long will it take the motor to lift the piano to an apartment that is 20 m above the ground? Not really sure how to start this question, so any explanation would be greatly...
  26. N

    Calculating Forces and Acceleration of a Grand Piano

    Homework Statement Three movers are applying forces F1 = 100 N [W20°N], F2 = 200 N [E40°S], and F3 = 300 N [S] on a 300-kg grand piano. If μK for the piano is 0.10, determine a) the net force acting on the piano b) the acceleration of the piano The Attempt at a Solution I got...
  27. wolram

    Proper Disposal of an Upright Piano: Tips and Precautions

    Would it be best to unscrew everything first or just smash it to pieces?
  28. R

    MATLAB How Can I Improve My MATLAB Piano Synthesis to Sound Less Like a Kazoo?

    Hello, I'm not sure if this is the right place to write this thread, but I have a question about attempting to synthesize a piano in MATLAB. I am very new to MATLAB and DSP in general and my project is trying to create a piano sound using whatever means (FM synthesis, additive synthesis...
  29. A

    Physics based piano sound synthesis

    I'm working on the mathematically modeled piano synthesizer. Right now I'm using modal based approach, where the sound is formed by a sum of exponentially decaying sinusoids (harmonics). Right now I can calculate frequencies of sinusoids (taking inharmonicity into account, of course). For...
  30. E

    Curious does anyone play the piano

    hey I am just curious does anyone play the pina i really have a few questions ??thank you
  31. G

    Piano Wire Fatigue Experiment: Calculating Stress and Modulus"

    Hi All I am the new at the forum and would be very grateful for help about my Lab. I am doing the postgraduate course of Biomedical Engineering. We had a Lab about the fatigue of piano wire, as a part of materials science module. During the experiment, high strength piano wire was tested by...
  32. T

    Calculating the Work Done by Normal Force on a Sliding Piano

    A 330-kg piano slides 3.6 m down a 28º incline and is kept from accelerating by a man who is pushing back on it parallel to the incline. The effective coefficient of kinetic friction is 0.40 what is the work done by the normal force? If someone could let know how to find FN, would it...
  33. X

    Calculating Coefficient of Friction for Moving a Piano

    can anyone show me the solution in this problem: A 1,000-N piano is moved 20 meters across a floor by a horizontal force of 350 N. Find the coefficient of friction.
  34. O

    What Was the Original Frequency of the Piano's Out of Tune A Note?

    Homework Statement Ok so a piano tuner plays an out of tune A note on his piano and then strikes his 440 hz tuning fork. He notices a beat of 2 Hz. When he loosens the piano string and plays the note again, the beat goes to 4 hz. What was the frequency of the note before he loosened the...
  35. D

    Nonlinearity of Piano hammers help

    I am doing a research essay in high school on researching the nonlinearity of piano hammers, but I am stuck on planning the experiment. Basically my topic is like this paper http://paws.kettering.edu/~drussell/Publications/pianohammer.pdf. However, since I am only in high school, I have trouble...
  36. C

    Work Done by T1 and T2 in Lowering a Piano

    The two ropes seen in Figure Ex11.9 are used to lower a 235 kg piano 5.5 m from a second-story window to the ground. How much work is done by each of the three forces? (T1 = 1820 N andT2 = 1110 N) t1 is 45degrees north of east t2 is 60degrees north of west w = J T1 = J...
  37. F

    How can multiple pulleys decrease the force needed to lift a piano?

    In raising a 51 kg piano with a pulley system, workers note that for every 2m of rope pulled down, the piano rises only 0.2m . Ideally, how much force is required to lift the piano? I know the answer is 50 N because it's on my review sheet for a test, but I don't know how it was found. Could...
  38. P

    Calculating Force to Move Piano Down Ramp

    Homework Statement A man pushes on a piano with mass 190 {\rm kg} so that it slides at constant velocity down a ramp that is inclined at 15.8^\circ above the horizontal floor. Neglect any friction acting on the piano. Calculate the magnitude of the force applied by the man if he pushes...
  39. Math Is Hard

    Who Is Mindaugas Piečaitis and What is the CATcerto?

  40. T

    Lowering a Piano with 2 ropes.

    Homework Statement The two ropes are used to lower a 244.37 kg piano 9.47 m from a second-story window to the ground. How much work is done by gravity force? (T1=1805 N, q1=64°, T2=1112 N, q2=44°.) How much work is done by T1 force? How much work is done by T2 force? Homework Equations...
  41. A

    Calculating Tension of Steel Wire in Piano to Tune to Middle C

    Homework Statement A steel wire in a piano has a length of 56.8 cm and a mass of 5.0 g. To what tension must this wire be stretched in order that the fundamental vibration correspond to the note of middle C (f = 261.6 Hz)? Homework Equations u*(f2L)^2 = F The Attempt at a...
  42. S

    Piano and Physics: Exploring Other Connections

    Homework Statement This is more of a general question: In what ways (besides mechanical), can physics be applied to Pianos? I'm already onto strings and energy, but are there any other ways? Homework Equations The Attempt at a Solution
  43. S

    Calculating Work: Lowering a Piano with Two Ropes

    Homework Statement The two ropes are used to lower a 267.18 kg piano 5.34 m from a second-story window to the ground. How much work is done by gravity force? (T1=1864 N, θ1=64°, T2=1231 N, θ2=50°.) How much work is done by T1 force? How much work is done by T2 force? Homework Equations...
  44. M

    Build a "Piano" with Solenoids: Material Selection & Diagrams

    I was thinking that it's possible to make a sort of "piano" using solenoids. If you had a spring to reset it, and the "keys" of the "piano" activated simple contact switches, it could be done, right? It wouldn't be a terrible strain on the batteries if the contact were as short as pressing...
  45. J

    Old Fender Rhodes electric piano

    Hello everyone! I have an old Fender Rhodes electric piano I am rebuilding and I have a question. It uses a stereo pan circuit which pans the signal back and forth between the left and right amplifiers. It does this with a simple oscillator circuit that drives two 2N3053 transistors (now...
  46. E

    What Classical Piano Pieces Should an Intermediate Player Learn Next?

  47. M

    Calculating Mass Needed for Piano String Resonance at 260 Hz

    Question: On a piano, middle C's 260 Hz. What mass is needed then to suspend from a hanger for resonance at 260 Hz for your string (in the absence of a tuning fork)? Is this sensible? Given: mstring = 0.0003 kg Lstring = 1.809 m (entire length of string) L = 1.370 m (length between fixed...
  48. I

    Does a piano string slowly stretch (creep) over time?

    Ok, I need some help settling another piano tuner argument. When a piano string breaks and is replaced with a new one, it takes many tunings until it becomes stable. It can be brought to the correct pitch, and will seem to stay there, but in a few days it has dropped in pitch drastically...
  49. E

    Playing Piano: Tips for Improving Pinky Muscle Strength

    Does anyone here play piano? I recently learned Fur Elise but the more I play it the more my pinky muscle gets sore and usually I just have to quit in the middle of the song from these weird pinky muscle spasms. Does anyone know how I can make my pinky muscle stronger? Will it eventually be...