The Piano- Grandest of Stringed Instruments
is perhaps one of the grandest and most diverse of instruments today. From
painting complex concertos by the most famous pianists on the walls of Carnegie
Hall to the simple living room family song get together, the piano is truly a
“Grand” stringed instrument.
A Brief History
Among musical instruments, perhaps the drum is the oldest known to mankind,
next to the human singing voice. The piano is a more recent development, perhaps
having it's early influence by the hammer dulcimer which preceded the piano's
It was during the middle ages that men tinkered with the development of
stringed instruments that could create tones by the striking of keys on a
keyboard, but perhaps the closest and earliest cousin to the modern-day piano
was the harpsichord and clavichord. The difference between a piano and the other
two keyed instruments has to do with the way the instrument causes the string to
vibrate, thereby creating a tone. Clavichords use metal pieces called tangents
to strike the string, Harpsichords use quills to pluck their strings, while the
piano uses a felted hammer to produce its beautifully resonant and “grand”
The first piano was actually created around 1700 by an Italian Instrument
keeper and maker named Cristofori, made for the Medici Family of Tuscany.
Cristofori was an accomplished harpsichord maker and had extensive knowledge
about the workings of keyed / stringed instruments. Since his time, pianos have
become perhaps one of the most popular instruments decorating famous concert
halls as well as family living rooms around the world.
A Bit About the Construction
In design, the piano has two basic models, with several adaptations: the
upright and the grand.
Tough pianos vary greatly in style and model, they have the same conceptual
framework for creating their eloquent sound.
The cast iron frame holds
an enormous amount of tension – up to 3o tons exerted by the tension in the
The soundboard surrounding
the perimeter of the piano acts as the amplifier for the strings sound
vibrations. Without the soundboard, the piano would have quite a weak
There are more than 200 strings on
an 88 key piano of various thickness and construction to give it the diversity
of notes, all balanced in their ability to produce volume.
The pedals have a few
musical purposes and help to provide dampening or muting strings, as well as
helping them to sustain their tone.
The pinblock acts as the
tuners surface that allows the piano to be in the chordophones with guitars and
other stringed instruments. The pinblock hold one end of the taut string so that
it can be struck to produce sound and is the place where tuners fine tune the
pitch of each string.
The bridge, very much like in an acoustic guitar, transmits the
vibrations of the strings to the soundboard to amplify the sound. In a guitar,
the bridge transmits the vibration of the strings to the top or surface of the
guitar where the sound is amplified in the body and then projected through the
Though the construction of the piano and it's distant cousin, the acoustic
guitar are so very simple,in the hands of an experienced musician, they can be
used to create the most dramatic and awe-inspiring music.
Others in the String Family -
The piano is among a diverse family of beautiful and diverse instruments known
as chordophones as mentioned earlier. A chordophone is simply a class of musical
instrument whereby sound is created by vibrating a string that is taut between
to points. Other equally sophisticated yet simple instruments in this
chordophone family include, banjos, guitars, violins violas, cellos, and harps
just to name a few.
In summary, even a toddler or non-musician can hop up
to a grand piano and accidentally strike a perfect “C”, giving the piano a
welcoming appeal to people of all skill levels and ages. With other stringed
instruments such as the guitar, harp, banjo or violin, success at an early age
is not such a guarantee. From the most novice beginner to the most accomplished
virtuoso, the piano has arguably one of the simplest and yet most complex and
fascinating appeal among all stringed instruments.
Beginning and budding musicians can find the piano to be an invitingly simple
start to a lifelong music career. While novice violin, banjo, and beginner
guitar students will find more
barriers getting a clean sound in their first months bowing, plucking or
strumming, a brand new piano student can touch an ivory key and instantly hear
one of the purest sounds on Earth.
Aaron Schulman has been a musician since 1984 and a guitar player since 1990.
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