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Piano
Steinway Model D.JPG
Steinway grand piano
Keyboard instrument
Hornbostel-Sachs classification 314.122-4-8
(Simple chordophone with keyboard sounded by hammers)
Inventor(s) Bartolomeo Cristofori
Developed Early 18th century
Playing range
Range of piano.JPG

The piano is a musical instrument which is played by means of a keyboard. Widely used in Classical music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music, and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal. Although not portable and often expensive, the piano's versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the world's most familiar musical instruments.

Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a felt-covered hammer to strike steel strings. The hammers rebound, allowing the strings to continue vibrating at their resonant frequency.[1] These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a sounding board that couples the acoustic energy to the air so that it can be heard as sound. When the key is released, a damper stops the string's vibration. See the article on Piano key frequencies for a picture of the piano keyboard and the location of middle-C. Pianos are string instruments. According to the Hornbostel-Sachs method of music classification, they are grouped with chordophones.

The word piano is a shortened form of the word pianoforte, which is derived from the original Italian name for the instrument, clavicembalo [or gravicembalo] col piano e forte (literally harpsichord with soft and loud). This refers to the instrument's responsiveness to keyboard touch, which allows the pianist to produce notes at different dynamic levels by controlling the speed with which the hammers hit the strings.

Contents

History

Early history

Grand piano by Louis Bas of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, France, 1781. Earliest French grand piano known to survive; includes an inverted wrestplank and action derived from the work of Bartolomeo Cristofori (ca. 1700) with ornately decorated soundboard.
Early piano replica by the modern builder Paul McNulty, after Walter & Sohn, 1805

The piano is founded on earlier technological innovations. The first string instruments with struck strings were the hammered dulcimers originating from the Persian traditional musical instrument santur.[2] During the Middle Ages, there were several attempts at creating stringed keyboard instruments with struck strings,[3] the earliest being the hurdy gurdy which has uncertain origins.[4] By the 17th century, the mechanisms of keyboard instruments such as the clavichord and the harpsichord were well known. In a clavichord the strings are struck by tangents, while in a harpsichord they are plucked by quills. Centuries of work on the mechanism of the harpsichord in particular had shown the most effective ways to construct the case, soundboard, bridge, and keyboard.

The invention of the modern piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) of Padua, Italy, who was employed by Prince Ferdinand de Medici as the Keeper of the Instruments. He was an expert harpsichord maker and was well acquainted with the previous body of knowledge on stringed keyboard instruments. It is not known exactly when Cristofori first built a piano. An inventory made by his employers, the Medici family, indicates the existence of a piano by the year 1700; another document of doubtful authenticity indicates a date of 1698.[citation needed] The three Cristofori pianos that survive today date from the 1720s.[5]

While the clavichord allowed expressive control of volume and sustain, it was too quiet for large performances. The harpsichord produced a sufficiently-loud sound, but had little expressive control over each note. The piano was likely formed as an attempt to combine loudness with control, avoiding the trade-offs of available instruments.

Cristofori's great success was in solving, without any prior example, the fundamental mechanical problem of piano design: the hammer must strike the string, but not remain in contact with it (as a tangent remains in contact with a clavichord string) because this would damp the sound. Moreover, the hammer must return to its rest position without bouncing violently, and it must be possible to repeat a note rapidly. Cristofori's piano action served as a model for the many different approaches to piano actions that followed. While Cristofori's early instruments were made with thin strings and were much quieter than the modern piano, compared to the clavichord (the only previous keyboard instrument capable of minutely controlled dynamic nuance through the keyboard) they were considerably louder and had more sustaining power.

Cristofori's new instrument remained relatively unknown until an Italian writer, Scipione Maffei, wrote an enthusiastic article about it (1711), including a diagram of the mechanism. This article was widely distributed, and most of the next generation of piano builders started their work because of reading it. One of these builders was Gottfried Silbermann, better known as an organ builder. Silbermann's pianos were virtually direct copies of Cristofori's, with one important addition: Silbermann invented the forerunner of the modern damper pedal, which lifts all the dampers from the strings at once.

Silbermann showed Johann Sebastian Bach one of his early instruments in the 1730s, but Bach did not like it at that time, claiming that the higher notes were too soft to allow a full dynamic range. Although this earned him some animosity from Silbermann, the criticism was apparently heeded. Bach did approve of a later instrument he saw in 1747, and even served as an agent in selling Silbermann's pianos.[6]

Piano making flourished during the late 18th century in the Viennese school, which included Johann Andreas Stein (who worked in Augsburg, Germany) and the Viennese makers Nannette Streicher (daughter of Stein) and Anton Walter. Viennese-style pianos were built with wood frames, two strings per note, and had leather-covered hammers. Some of these Viennese pianos had the opposite coloring of modern-day pianos; the natural keys were black and the accidental keys white.[7] It was for such instruments that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his concertos and sonatas, and replicas of them are built today for use in authentic-instrument performance of his music. The pianos of Mozart's day had a softer, clearer tone than today's pianos or English pianos, with less sustaining power. The term fortepiano is nowadays often used to distinguish the 18th-century instrument from later pianos.

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In the period lasting from about 1790 to 1860, the Mozart-era piano underwent tremendous changes that led to the modern form of the instrument. This revolution was in response to a consistent preference by composers and pianists for a more powerful, sustained piano sound, and made possible by the ongoing Industrial Revolution with technological resources such as high-quality steel, called piano wire, for strings, and precision casting for the production of iron frames. Over time, the tonal range of the piano was also increased from the five octaves of Mozart's day to the 7¼ or more octaves found on modern pianos.

Broadwood square action

Early technological progress owed much to the firm of Broadwood. John Broadwood joined with another Scot, Robert Stodart, and a Dutchman, Americus Backers, to design a piano in the harpsichord case—the origin of the "grand". They achieved this in about 1777. They quickly gained a reputation for the splendour and powerful tone of their instruments, with Broadwood constructing ones that were progressively larger, louder, and more robustly constructed. They sent pianos to both Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, and were the first firm to build pianos with a range of more than five octaves: five octaves and a fifth during the 1790s, six octaves by 1810 (Beethoven used the extra notes in his later works), and seven octaves by 1820. The Viennese makers similarly followed these trends, however the two schools used different piano actions: Broadwoods were more robust, Viennese instruments were more sensitive.

Erard square action

By the 1820s, the center of innovation had shifted to Paris, where the Pleyel firm manufactured pianos used by Frédéric Chopin and the Érard firm manufactured those used by Franz Liszt. In 1821, Sébastien Érard invented the double escapement action, which permitted a note to be repeated even if the key had not yet risen to its maximum vertical position. This facilitated rapid playing of repeated notes, and this musical device was pioneered by Liszt. When the invention became public, as revised by Henri Herz, the double escapement action gradually became standard in grand pianos, and is still incorporated into all grand pianos currently produced.

One of the major technical innovations that helped to create the sound of the modern piano was the use of a strong iron frame. Also called the "plate", the iron frame sits atop the soundboard, and serves as the primary bulwark against the force of string tension. The increased structural integrity of the iron frame allowed the use of thicker, tenser, and more numerous strings. In a modern grand the total string tension can exceed 20 tons. The single piece cast iron frame was patented in 1825 in Boston by Alpheus Babcock, combining the metal hitch pin plate (1821, claimed by Broadwood on behalf of Samuel Hervé) and resisting bars (Thom and Allen, 1820, but also claimed by Broadwood and Érard). Babcock later worked for the Chickering & Mackays firm who patented the first full iron frame for grand pianos in 1843. Composite forged metal frames were preferred by many European makers until the American system was fully adopted by the early 20th century.

Other innovations for the mechanism included the use of felt hammer coverings instead of layered leather hammers. Felt hammers, which were first introduced by Henri Pape in 1826, were a more consistent material, permitting wider dynamic ranges as hammer weights and string tension increased. The sostenuto pedal (see below), invented in 1844 by Jean Louis Boisselot and improved by the Steinway firm in 1874, allowed a wider range of effects.

Other important technical innovations of this era included changes to the way the piano was strung, such as the use of a "choir" of three strings rather than two for all but the lower notes, and the use of different stringing methods. With the over strung scale, also called "cross-stringing", the strings are placed in a vertically overlapping slanted arrangement, with two heights of bridges on the soundboard instead of just one. This permits larger, but not necessarily longer, strings to fit within the case of the piano. Over stringing was invented by Jean-Henri Pape during the 1820s, and first patented for use in grand pianos in the United States by Henry Steinway, Jr. in 1859.

Duplex scaling: Treble strings of a 182 cm. grand piano. From lower left to upper right: dampers, main sounding length of strings, treble bridge, duplex string length, duplex bridge (long bar perpendicular to strings), hitchpins

With duplexes or aliquot scales, which was patented in 1872 by Theodore Steinway, the different components of string vibrations are controlled by tuning their secondary parts in octave relationships with the sounding lengths. Similar systems developed by Blüthner (1872), as well as Taskin (1788), and Collard (1821) used more distinctly ringing undamped vibrations to modify tone.

Some early pianos had shapes and designs that are no longer in use. The square piano had horizontal strings arranged diagonally across the rectangular case above the hammers and with the keyboard set in the long side. This design is attributed to Gottfried Silbermann or Christian Ernst Friderici on the continent, and Johannes Zumpe or Harman Vietor in England and it was improved by changes first introduced by Guillaume-Lebrecht Petzold in France and Alpheus Babcock in the United States. Square pianos were built in great numbers through the 1840s in Europe and the 1890s in America, and saw the most visible changes of any type of piano: the celebrated iron framed over strung squares manufactured by Steinway & Sons were more than two and a half times the size of Zumpe's wood framed instruments from a century before. Their overwhelming popularity was due to inexpensive construction and price, although their performance and tone were often limited by simple actions and closely spaced strings.

The mechanism in upright pianos is perpendicular to the keys.

The tall, vertically strung upright grand was arranged like a grand set on end, with the soundboard and bridges above the keys, and tuning pins below them. The term was later revived by many manufacturers for advertising purposes. Giraffe, pyramid and lyre pianos were arranged in a somewhat similar fashion in evocatively shaped cases.

The very tall cabinet piano was introduced about 1805 and was built through the 1840s. It had strings arranged vertically on a continuous frame with bridges extended nearly to the floor, behind the keyboard and very large sticker action. The short cottage upright or pianino with vertical stringing, made popular by Robert Wornum around 1815, was built into the 20th century. They are informally called birdcage pianos because of their prominent damper mechanism. Pianinos were distinguished from the oblique, or diagonally strung upright made popular in France by Roller & Blanchet during the late 1820s. The tiny spinet upright was manufactured from the mid-1930s until recent times. The low position of the hammers required the use of a "drop action" to preserve a reasonable keyboard height.

Modern upright and grand pianos attained their present forms by the end of the 19th century. Improvements have been made in manufacturing processes, and many individual details of the instrument continue to receive attention.

History and musical performance

Much of the most widely admired piano repertoire, for example, that of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, was composed for a type of instrument that is rather different from the modern instruments on which this music is normally performed today. Even the music of the Romantics, including Liszt, Chopin, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, was written for pianos substantially different from ours.

Modern piano

A schematic depiction of the construction of a pianoforte (Part names are listed in the illustration's file)

Types

Modern pianos come in two basic configurations (with subcategories): the grand piano and the upright piano.

Grand

Steinway grand piano in the White House
Upright piano by August Förster
Vertical Piano Action

In grand pianos, the frame and strings are horizontal, with the strings extending away from the keyboard. There are several sizes of grand piano. A rough generalization distinguishes the concert grand (between about 2.2 m and 3 m/9.84 feet long) from the parlor grand or boudoir grand (about 1.7 m to 2.2 m) and the smaller baby grand.

All else being equal, longer pianos with longer strings have larger, richer sound and lower inharmonicity of the strings. Inharmonicity is the degree to which the frequencies of overtones (known as partials, partial tones, or harmonics) depart from whole multiples of the fundamental frequency. Pianos with shorter and thicker strings (e.g., baby grands) have more inharmonicity. The longer strings on a concert grand can vibrate more accurately than the shorter, thicker strings on a baby grand, which means that a concert grand's strings will have truer overtones. This allows the strings to be tuned closer to equal temperament in relation to the standard pitch with less "stretching" in the piano tuning. Full-size grands are usually used for public concerts, whereas smaller grands, introduced by Sohmer & Co. in 1884, are often chosen for domestic use where space and cost are considerations.

A grand piano action has a repetition lever for each key. If the key is pressed repeatedly and fairly quickly this repetition lever catches the hammer close to the strings, which assists the speed and control of repeated notes and trills.

Upright

Upright pianos, also called vertical pianos, are more compact because the frame and strings are vertical. The hammers move horizontally, and are returned to their resting position by springs which are prone to wear and tear.

Upright pianos with unusually tall frames and long strings are sometimes called upright grand pianos. Some authors classify modern pianos according to their height and to modifications of the action that are necessary to accommodate the height.

  • Studio pianos are around 42 to 45 inches tall. This is the shortest cabinet that can accommodate a full-sized action located above the keyboard.
  • Console pianos have a compact action (shorter hammers), and are a few inches shorter than studio models.
  • The top of a spinet model barely rises above the keyboard. The action is located below, operated by vertical wires that are attached to the backs of the keys.
  • Anything taller than a studio piano is called an upright.

Other types

Steinway player piano

Toy pianos began to be manufactured in the 19th century.

In 1863, Henri Fourneaux invented the player piano, which plays itself from a piano roll without the need for a pianist. A performance is recorded onto rolls of paper with perforations, and the player piano replays the performance using pneumatic devices. Modern equivalents of the player piano include the Bösendorfer CEUS and the Yamaha Disklavier, using solenoids and MIDI rather than pneumatics and rolls.

A silent piano is an acoustic piano having an option to silence the strings by means of an interposing hammer bar. They are designed for private silent practice.

The transposing piano was invented in 1801 by Edward Ryley. It has a lever under the keyboard used to move the keyboard relative to the strings so that a pianist can play in a familiar key while the music sounds in a different key.

The prepared piano, encountered in some contemporary art music, is a grand piano which has objects placed inside it to alter its sound, or which has had its mechanism changed in some other way. The scores for music for prepared piano specify the modifications, for example instructing the pianist to insert pieces of rubber, or paper, or metal screws or washers, in between the strings. These either mute the strings or alter their timbre.

Available since the 1980s, digital pianos use digital sampling technology to reproduce the sound of each piano note. Digital pianos can be sophisticated, with features including working pedals, weighted keys, multiple voices, and MIDI interfaces. However, when the damper pedal (see below) is depressed on such an instrument, there are no strings to vibrate sympathetically. Physical models of sympathetic vibration are incorporated into the synthesis software of some higher end digital pianos, such as the Yamaha Clavinova series, or the KAWAI MP8 series.

With the advent of powerful desktop computers, highly realistic pianos have become available as affordable software modules. Some of these modules, such as Synthogy's Ivory released in 2004, use multi-gigabyte piano sample sets with as many as 90 recordings, each lasting many seconds, for each of the 88 (some have 81) keys under different conditions, augmented by additional samples to emulate sympathetic resonance, key release, the drop of the dampers, and simulations of piano techniques like re-pedaling. Some other software modules, such as Modartt's Pianoteq released in 2006, use no samples whatsoever and are a pure synthesis of all aspects of the physicalities which go into the creation of a real piano's sound.

In recent times, piano manufactures have superseded the old fashioned pianola or player piano with new innovative pianos which play themselves via a CD or MP3 Player. Similar in concept to a player piano, the PianoDisc or iQ systems installed in select pianos will 'play themselves' when prompted by a certain file format designed to be interpreted by software installed and connected to the piano. Such additions are quite expensive, often doubling the cost of a piano and are available in both upright and grand pianos.

Keyboard

Keyboard of a Steinway grand piano

Almost every modern piano has 36 black keys and 52 white keys for a total of 88 keys (seven octaves plus a minor third, from A0 to C8). Many older pianos only have 85 keys (seven octaves from A0 to A7), while some manufacturers extend the range further in one or both directions.

Some Bösendorfer pianos extend the normal range downwards to F0, with one other model going as far as a bottom C0, making a full eight octave range. These extra keys are sometimes hidden under a small hinged lid that can be flipped down to cover the keys in order to avoid visual disorientation in a pianist unfamiliar with the extended keyboard. On others, the colors of the extra white keys are reversed (black instead of white).

The extra keys are added primarily for increased resonance from the associated strings; that is, they vibrate sympathetically with other strings whenever the damper pedal is depressed and thus give a fuller tone. Only a very small number of works composed for piano actually use these notes. More recently, the Stuart and Sons company has also manufactured extended-range pianos, with the first 102 key piano. On their instruments, the frequency range extends from C0 to F8 which is the widest practical range for the acoustic piano. The extra keys are the same as the other keys in appearance.

Small studio upright acoustical pianos with only 65 keys have been manufactured for use by roving pianists. Known as gig pianos and still containing a cast iron harp, these are comparatively lightweight and can be easily transported to and from engagements by only two people. As their harp is longer than that of a spinet or console piano, they have a stronger bass sound that to some pianists is well worth the trade-off in range that a reduced key-set offers.

The toy piano manufacturer Schoenhut started manufacturing both grands and uprights with only 44 or 49 keys, and shorter distance between the keyboard and the pedals. These pianos are true pianos with action and strings. The pianos were introduced to their product line in response to numerous requests in favor of it.

Pedals

Standard pedals

Piano pedals from left to right: una corda, sostenuto, and sustain pedal

Pianos have had pedals, or some close equivalent, since the earliest days. (In the 18th century, some pianos used levers pressed upward by the player's knee instead of pedals.) Most grand pianos in the US have three pedals: the soft pedal (una corda), sostenuto, and sustain pedal (from left to right, respectively), while in Europe, the standard is two pedals: the soft pedal and the sustain pedal. Most modern upright pianos also have three pedals: soft pedal, practice pedal and sustain pedal, though older or cheaper models may lack the practice pedal. Again, in Europe the standard for upright pianos is two pedals: the soft and the sustain pedals.

The sustain pedal (or, damper pedal) is often simply called "the pedal", since it is the most frequently used. It is placed as the rightmost pedal in the group. It lifts the dampers from all keys, sustaining all played notes. In addition, it alters the overall tone by allowing all strings, even the ones not directly played, to reverberate.

The soft pedal or una corda pedal is placed leftmost in the row of pedals. In grand pianos, it shifts the entire action, including the keyboard, to the right, so that the hammers hit only one of the three strings for each note (hence the name una corda, or 'one string'). The effect is to soften the note as well as to change the tone. In uprights, this action is not possible, and so the pedal moves the hammers closer to the strings, allowing the hammers to hit the strings with less kinetic energy to produce a softer sound, but with no change in timbre.

On grand pianos, the middle pedal is a sostenuto pedal. This pedal keeps raised any damper that was already raised at the moment the pedal is depressed. This makes it possible to sustain some notes (by depressing the sostenuto pedal before notes to be sustained are released) while the player's hands are free to play other notes. This can be useful for musical passages with pedal points and other otherwise tricky or impossible situations.

On many upright pianos, there is a middle pedal called the 'practice' or celeste pedal. This drops a piece of felt between the hammers and strings, greatly muting the sounds.

There are also non-standard variants. On some pianos (grands and verticals), the middle pedal can be a bass sustain pedal: that is, when it is depressed, the dampers lift off the strings only in the bass section. This pedal would be used only when a pianist needs to sustain a single bass note or chord over many measures, while playing the melody in the treble section. On the Stuart and Sons piano as well as the largest Fazioli piano, there is a fourth pedal to the left of the principal three. This fourth pedal works in the same way as the soft pedal of an upright piano, moving the hammers closer to the strings.[8]

Unusual pedals

An upright pedal piano

The rare transposing piano, of which Irving Berlin possessed an example, had a middle pedal that functioned as a clutch which disengages the keyboard from the mechanism, enabling the keyboard to be moved to the left or right with a lever. The entire action of the piano is thus shifted to allow the pianist to play music written in one key so that it sounds in a different key. The pedalier piano, or pedal piano, is a rare type of piano that includes a pedalboard, enabling bass register notes to be played with the feet, as is standard on the organ. There are two types of pedal piano: the pedal board may be an integral part of the instrument, using the same strings and mechanism as the manual keyboard, or, less frequently, it may consist of two independent pianos (each with its separate mechanics and strings) which are placed one above the other, a regular piano played by the hands and a bass-register piano played by the feet.

Construction

Many parts of a piano are made of materials selected for sturdiness. In quality pianos, the outer rim of the piano is made of a hardwood, normally maple or beech. According to Harold A. Conklin, the purpose of a sturdy rim is so that "the vibrational energy will stay as much as possible in the soundboard instead of dissipating uselessly in the case parts, which are inefficient radiators of sound."

View from below of a 182-cm grand piano. In order of distance from viewer: softwood braces, tapered soundboard ribs, soundboard. The metal rod at lower right is a humidity control device.

The rim is normally made by laminating flexible strips of hardwood to the desired shape, a system that was developed by Theodore Steinway in 1880. The thick wooden braces at the bottom (grands) or back (uprights) of the piano are not as acoustically important as the rim, and are often made of a softwood, even in top-quality pianos, in order to save weight. The requirement of structural strength, fulfilled with stout hardwood and thick metal, makes a piano heavy; even a small upright can weigh 136 kg (300 lb), and the Steinway concert grand (Model D) weighs 480 kg (990 lb). The largest piano built, the Fazioli F308, weighs 691 kg (1520 lb).

The pinblock, which holds the tuning pins in place, is another area of the piano where toughness is important. It is made of hardwood, (often maple) and generally is laminated (built of multiple layers) for additional strength and gripping power. Piano strings (also called piano wire), which must endure years of extreme tension and hard blows, are made of high quality steel. They are manufactured to vary as little as possible in diameter, since all deviations from uniformity introduce tonal distortion. The bass strings of a piano are made of a steel core wrapped with copper wire, to increase their mass whilst retaining flexibility. If the strings in the treble section were only single, they would be quiet compared with the bass strings because of their smaller diameter, so they are doubled in higher and tripled in the highest octaves.

Cast iron plate of a Steinway grand piano

The plate, or metal frame, of a piano is usually made of cast iron. It is advantageous for the plate to be quite massive. Since the strings are attached to the plate at one end, any vibrations transmitted to the plate will result in loss of energy to the desired (efficient) channel of sound transmission, namely the bridge and the soundboard. Some manufacturers now use cast steel in their plates, for greater strength. The casting of the plate is a delicate art, since the dimensions are crucial and the iron shrinks by about one percent during cooling.

The inclusion in a piano of an extremely large piece of metal is potentially an aesthetic handicap, which piano makers overcome by polishing, painting and decorating the plate. Plates often include the manufacturer's ornamental medallion and can be strikingly attractive. In an effort to make pianos lighter, Alcoa worked with Winter and Company piano manufacturers to make pianos using an aluminum plate during the 1940s. The use of aluminum for piano plates, however, did not become widely accepted and was discontinued.

The numerous grand parts and upright parts of a piano action are generally hardwood (e.g. maple, beech. hornbeam). However, since World War II, plastics have become available. Early plastics were incorporated into some pianos in the late 1940s and 1950s, but proved disastrous because they crystallized and lost their strength after only a few decades of use. The Steinway firm once incorporated Teflon, a synthetic material developed by DuPont, for some grand action parts in place of cloth, but ultimately abandoned the experiment due to an inherent "clicking" which invariably developed over time. (Also Teflon is "humidity stable" whereas the wood adjacent to the Teflon will swell and shrink with humidity changes, causing problems.) More recently, the Kawai firm has built pianos with action parts made of more modern and effective plastics such as carbon fiber; these parts have held up better and have generally received the respect of piano technicians[citation needed].

The part of the piano where materials probably matter more than anywhere else is the soundboard. In quality pianos, this is made of solid spruce (that is, spruce boards glued together at their edges). Spruce is chosen for its high ratio of strength to weight. The best piano makers use close-grained, quarter-sawn, defect-free spruce, and make sure that it has been carefully dried over a long period of time before making it into soundboards. In cheap pianos, the soundboard is often made of plywood.

Piano keys are generally made of spruce or basswood, for lightness. Spruce is normally used in high-quality pianos. Traditionally, the black keys were made from ebony and the white keys were covered with strips of ivory, but since ivory-yielding species are now endangered and protected by treaty, plastics are now almost exclusively used. Also, ivory tends to chip more easily than plastic. Legal ivory can still be obtained in limited quantities. The Yamaha firm invented a plastic called "Ivorine" or "Ivorite" that mimics the look and feel of ivory; it has since been imitated by other makers.

Care and maintenance

A piano tuner

Pianos need regular tuning to keep them up to pitch, which is usually the internationally recognized standard concert pitch of A4 = 440 Hz. The hammers of pianos are voiced to compensate for gradual hardening, and other parts also need periodic regulation. Aged and worn pianos can be rebuilt or reconditioned. Often, by replacing a great number of their parts, they can be made to perform as well as new pianos. Older pianos are often more settled and produce a warmer tone.[citation needed]

Piano moving should be done by trained piano movers using adequate manpower and the correct equipment for any particular piano's size and weight.[citation needed] Pianos are heavy yet delicate instruments. Over the years, professional piano movers have developed special techniques for transporting both grands and uprights which prevent damage to the case and to the piano's mechanics.

The piano at the social center in the 19th century (Moritz von Schwind, 1868). The man at the piano is Franz Schubert.

Role

The piano is a crucial instrument in Western classical music, jazz, film, television, and most other complex western musical genres. A large number of composers are proficient pianists—and because the piano keyboard offers an easy means of complex melodic and harmonic interplay—the piano is often used as a tool for composition.

Pianos were, and still are, popular instruments for private household ownership. Hence, pianos have gained a place in the popular consciousness, and are sometimes referred to by nicknames including: "the ivories", "the joanna", "the eighty-eight", "the black(s) and white(s)", and "the little joe(s)". Playing the piano is sometimes referred to as "tickling the ivories".

See also

General
Technical
Related lists
Related instruments

Notes

  1. ^ "Hammer Time" by John Kiehl, Wolfram Demonstrations Project.
  2. ^ David R. Peterson (1994), "Acoustics of the hammered dulcimer, its history, and recent developments", Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 95 (5), p. 3002.
  3. ^ Pollens, Stewart (October 1995). "The Early Pianoforte". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521417295.  Chapter 1.
  4. ^ Baines, Anthony (May 1976). "Reviewed work(s): Die Drehleier, ihr Bau und ihre Geschichte by Marianne Bröcker". The Galpin Society Journal 29: 140–1. doi:10.2307/841885. 
  5. ^ Erlich, Cyril (May 1990). "The Piano: A History". Oxford University Press, USA; Revised edition. ISBN 0198161719. 
  6. ^ Palmieri, Bob & Meg (May 2003). "The Piano: An Encyclopedia". Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415937962. . "Instrument: piano et forte genandt" [was] an expression Bach also used when acting as Silbermann's agent in 1749."
  7. ^ "The Viennese Piano". http://www.ptg.org/resources-historyOfPianos-viennese.php. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  8. ^ "Fourth pedal". Fazioli. http://www.fazioli.com/eng/quarto_pedale.php. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 

References

  • The authoritative New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (available online by subscription), contains a wealth of information. Main article: "Pianoforte".
  • The Encyclopædia Britannica (available online by subscription) also includes much information on the piano. In the 1988 edition, the primary article can be found in "Musical Instruments".
  • The Piano Book by Larry Fine (4th ed. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts: Brookside Press, 2001; ISBN 1-929145-01-2) gives the basics of how pianos work, and a thorough evaluative survey of current pianos and their manufacturers. It also includes advice on buying and owning pianos.
  • Giraffes, black dragons, and other pianos: a technological history from Cristofori to the modern concert grand by Edwin M. Good (1982, second ed., 2001, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press) is a standard reference on the history of the piano.
  • The Early Pianoforte by Stewart Pollens (1995, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) is an authoritative work covering the ancestry of the piano, its invention by Cristofori, and the early stages of its subsequent evolution.

Further reading

  • Schejtman, Rod (2008). Music Fundamentals. The Piano Encyclopedia. ISBN 978-987-25216-2-2. http://www.pianoencyclopedia.com. 
  • Banowetz, Joseph; Elder, Dean (1985). The pianist's guide to pedaling. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34494-8. 
  • Carhart, Thad (2002) [2001]. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-375-75862-3. 
  • Fine, Larry; Gilbert, Douglas R (2001). The Piano Book: Buying and Owning a New or Used Piano (4th edition). Jamaica Plain, MA: Brookside Press. ISBN 1-929145-01-2. http://pianobook.com. 
  • Lelie, Christo (1995). Van Piano tot Forte (The History of the Early Piano). Kampen: Kok-Lyra.  (Dutch)
  • Loesser, Arthur (1991) [1954]. Men, Women, and Pianos: A Social History. New York: Dover Publications. 
  • Parakilas, James (1999). Piano roles : three hundred years of life with the piano. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08055-7. 
  • Reblitz, Arthur A. (1993). Piano Servicing, Tuning and Rebuilding: For the Professional, the Student, and the Hobbyist. Vestal, NY: Vestal Press. ISBN 1-879511-03-7. 

External links


Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Pianos keyboard with notes.svg

Contents

How to read piano music

Piano music contains two staves: the treble staff and the bass staff. Notes higher than middle C are usually placed on the treble staff while notes lower than middle C are usually placed on the bass staff. Another name for the Treble Clef is the G Clef. The line that passes through the centre of the swirling part of the Treble Clef is the G line. The G just above Middle C sits on this line. Another name for the Bass Clef is the F Clef. The line that passes through the two dots of the Bass Cleff is the F line. The F just below Middle C sits on this line. Music notes are either placed in spaces or on lines. Moving from a line note to the very next space note in piano music is the same as moving from one white key to the very next white key on the piano. Moving from one note to the next is called a step (or a 2nd). The best approach to figuring out note names is by counting steps after having learned the main landmarks: Middle C, G line, F line, Treble C, and Bass C. Treble C is found on line 3 of the treble staff. Bass C is found on line 2 of the bass staff.

How to play major scales

C Major

C major scale.png

You can use the following fingering for the notes for the right hand

C D E F G A B C
1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5

For the left hand, you can do

C D E F G A B C
5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1

D Major Right hand fingering

D E F# G A B C# D
1 2 3  1 2 3 4  1

Left hand fingering

D E F# G A B C# D
5 4 3  2 1 3 2  5

The numbers represent the fingers.

  1. 1 represents the thumb.
  2. 2 the index finger.
  3. 3 the middle finger.
  4. 4 the ring finger.
  5. 5 the little finger (pinky).

For the left hand, what you have to do is to pass the thumb under the other fingers.

Case studies

Here are suggestions for piano studies (listed by difficulty) To participate in these case studies, one should have the music readily available. Each one of these studies and pieces should be reviewed and practiced carefully with a perfect technique and the best possible position of the hands, before moving on to the next item in the list. Remember they are only suggestional.

  • Getting familiar with scales, arpeggios, broken chords, etc.
  • Hanon: The virtuoso Pianist in 60 exercises
  • Short pieces from The Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach by Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Nineteenth-Century Pedagogical Character Pieces such as those of Cornelius Gurlitt or Friedrich Burgmuller
  • School of Speed and Other Studies by Carl Czerny.
  • Mikrokosmos of Bela Bartok
  • Tewntieth-Century Character pieces such as those of Dimitri Kabalevsky, Alexander Gretchaninoff or Samuel Maykapar
  • Two- and Three-Part Inventions of Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Multi-movement sonatinas such as those of Muzio Clementi
  • More difficult Nineteenth-Century Character Pieces such as those of Robert Schumann, Edvard Grieg or Felix Mendelssohn
  • More Complex Sonata forms such as those of Franz Josef Haydn or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Nocturnes of Frederic Chopin
  • Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky
  • Preludes and Fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier
  • Sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Etudes by Frederic Chopin
  • Etudes-Tableaux by Serguei Rachmaninoff
  • Douze Études d'exécution transcendante by Franz Liszt
  • Other works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Chopin

Technique

To achieve a perfect technique and total virtuoso piano playing, one must consider several critical factors, these must be reviewed and taken into account at all times. One of the most important is to have a position of the hands as relaxed as possible, without any unnecessary tension at the wrists and the rest of the hand. Another factor to be taken into account is that when we play there must be a connection between the fingers, just at the time one of the fingers rises, the other lowers. In other words: there should never be a silence (no matter how minimal) between the two notes, nor should the notes sound simultaneously (even in a lapse of microseconds). Another factor that is important is the position of the hands, which should always be light and playing with the pads of the fingers (not fingertips). Another point that should be taken into account is that the speed of your fingers has to be equal. Normally, there are many mediocre pianists whose fingers 2 and 3 have much more strength and speed than those 4 and 5. This must be avoided. At this particular point, Hanon helps a lot, enlisted in the works above.

See also

This page was requested at Wikiversity:Requests

You may want to get involved at Basic Blues & Rock or Jazz if you are interested in playing piano, organ or keyboards within those Music genres.

Musical Notation Article

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also piano

Contents

German

Wikipedia-logo.png
German Wikipedia has an article on:
Piano

Wikipedia de

Piano

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /piˈaːno/

Noun

Piano n.

  1. piano (a keyboard musical instrument)

Declension

This German entry was created from the translations listed at piano. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see Piano in the German Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) April 2008


Wikibooks

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Wikibook Development Stages
Sparse text 00%.svg Developing text 25%.svg Maturing text 50%.svg Developed text 75%.svg Comprehensive text: 100%.svg
DuplexScaling.jpg

Piano is a very fun instrument to play. It has black and white keys for different notes, each of which has a name (eg. C, D, E, F, G, A, and B for the white notes).

Contents


Simple English


The piano (or pianoforte to give it its proper name) is a musical instrument with a keyboard. A normal piano has 88 keys. Pianos use the keys to move hammers that hit strings inside, making a sound. Pianos come in two basic shapes: grand pianos and upright pianos. The piano has been an extremely popular instrument in Western classical music since the late 18th century. A person who plays the piano is called a pianist.

Contents

History

The piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori of Padua, Italy. He made his first piano in 1709. It developed from the clavichord which looks like a piano but the strings of a clavichord are hit by a small blade of metal called a “tangent” [1]. In the piano the strings are hit by a hammer. The early pianos, like the clavichords, harpsichords and organs that were used at that time, had a much shorter keyboard than they do today. Gradually the keyboard became longer until it had the 88 notes (7 octaves plus three notes) of the modern piano.

At first the instrument was called the “fortepiano”. This means “loud-soft” in Italian. It was given this name because it could be played either loudly or softly, depending on how hard the note was hit (the harpsichord could not do this, and the clavichord could only make a tiny difference between louder and softer). Later this name changed to “pianoforte”. This is normally shortened to “piano”. The word “fortepiano” is sometimes used to describe the pianos of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In some languages, such as Russian, “fortepiano” is the normal word for a piano.


Although the piano was invented at the beginning of the 18th century, it was not until 50 years later that it started to become popular. The first time the piano was played in a public concert in London was in 1768 when it was played by Johann Christian Bach[2]. The upright piano was invented in 1800 by John Isaac Hawkings. Seven years later T. Southwell invented “overstringing”. This means that the strings for the low notes go diagonally across the soundboard so that they can be longer and make a much bigger sound.

The early pianos had strings that were fastened to a frame made of wood. They were not very heavy, but they were not very strong or loud, so they could not be heard very well in a big concert hall. In 1825 the cast-iron frame was invented in America. This made the piano much stronger so that it could make a bigger sound and the strings were not likely to break.

Piano parts

A piano has a keyboard with white keys and black keys. When a key is pressed down, the damper comes off the string and a hammer hits the string. It hits it very quickly and bounces off so that the string is free to vibrate and make a sound. When the player takes his finger off the key the damper falls back onto the string and the sound stops. The strings are stretched very tightly across the frame, passing over a bridge on the way. The bridge touches the soundboard. This means that the vibrations are sent to the soundboard. The soundboard is a very important part of the piano. If it is damaged the piano will not make a good sound.

The mechanism which makes the hammer bounce off the string very quickly is called the “escapement”. In 1821 Sebastian Erard invented a kind of double escapement. This made it possible to repeat the note very quickly. The hammer only touches the string for about one thousandth of a second. The hammers are covered with felt which is a mixture of wool, silk and hair.

The piano has two pedals. Larger pianos have three.

  • The damper pedal - This pedal is on the right. When a pianist presses it down with his right foot, any notes he plays will keep on sounding even when he takes his finger(s) off the note(s). This is because there are dampers (they look a bit like the hammers) that rest on all the strings. When the pianist holds the right pedal down all the dampers come off the strings so that the strings are free to vibrate. When a note is played, that note will continue to sound. Some other strings will also vibrate very lightly (this is called “sympathetic vibration”). It will make the sound smoother and richer. Pianists have to learn how to use the pedal well. This will depend on such things as the style of the music, the size of the piano, the size of the room and whether there is a lot of furnishing there.
  • The soft pedal - The soft pedal is on the left. When a pianist presses it down with his left foot, the notes sound quieter. On a grand piano the whole keyboard and action shift a bit to the left so that the hammers only hit two strings instead of three. Also the parts of the felt which hit the string are softer because they have not become hard with lots of use. The soft pedal is normally kept down for the whole of a piece or the whole of a section of a piece. This pedal is sometimes called the una corda pedal. Una corda means: one string. This is because in the early pianos it was possible to press the pedal a little way so that the hammers hit two strings, then press it further so that they hit only one string. This is why the sign to tell a pianist to use the left pedal is “una corda”. To cancel the left pedal the composer writes “tre corde” (“three strings”) in the music.
  • The middle pedal is called the sostenuto pedal. Like the right pedal, it keeps the sound going, but it only affects notes that are already being played at the moment when the middle pedal is pressed down. This makes it possible to keep one chord going while playing other notes that will not carry on. All concert grand pianos have a sostenuto pedal, and some modern upright pianos do as well. Some upright pianos have a middle pedal that is not a sostenuto pedal at all, but a practice pedal. It makes the sound very quiet indeed so that a pianist can practise without disturbing other people. The practice pedal can usually be pressed down and put in a slot so that it will stay in place.

Famous piano composers

Once the piano became popular in the late 18th century many composers wrote music for the piano. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart started to learn on harpsichords when he was very small, but the piano was becoming popular when he was a young man and he wrote many sonatas and concertos for the piano. Franz Joseph Haydn also wrote a lot of piano music. Ludwig van Beethoven was a very famous pianist before he became very famous as a composer. His piano compositions include 5 concertos and 32 sonatas. In the Romantic period many composers wrote for the piano. They include Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Franz Liszt. Later composers include Sergei Rakhmaninov, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich and Bela Bartok.

Famous piano players

Some famous piano players from the early days of the piano include Dussek, Mozart, Clementi, John Field and Chopin. In the 19th century Franz Liszt was a very great influence on the piano by composing and performing very difficult music. Other great pianists include Clara Schumann and Anton Rubinstein. 20th century pianists include Artur Schnabel, Vladimir Horowitz, Josef Hofmann, Wilhelm Kempff, Dinu Lipati, Claudio Arrau, Artur Rubinstein, Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Brendel. Among the greatest pianists today are Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Leif Ove Andsnes, Boris Berezovsky and Evgeny Kissin.

Pianists who play popular music include Liberace, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, Little Richard, Elton John, Billy Joel, Thelonious Monk, Tori Amos and Ray Charles. Perhaps the greatest jazz pianist was Fats Waller.

Playing the piano

The piano has been a very popular instrument ever since the mid 18th century when it soon replaced the clavichord and the harpsichord. By the early 19th century the sound that the piano made was big enough to fill large concert halls. Smaller pianos were made for use in people’s homes. At first these included square pianos and giraffe pianos, later on the upright pianos became popular for home use. Pianos are not often used in orchestras (if they are, they are part of the percussion section). They may, however, be used for piano concertos (pieces for solo pianist accompanied by orchestra). There is a vast amount of music written for piano solo. The piano can also be used together with other instruments, in jazz groups, and for accompanying singing.

Music for the piano is normally written on two staves: the upper stave is for the right hand, the lower stave for the left hand. Much of the time the right hand music is written in the treble clef, the left hand music in the bass clef.

Pianists have to learn many things. It is important to sit comfortably with a straight back so that hands can reach all the keys. The hands should be shaped like a ball so that the fingers are curved. They should be able to control the sound they make with the weight of the arm and fingers. Lots of practice is needed to become a good pianist. Some people can play the piano very well “by ear”, but learning to read music helps a person to become a better pianist and musician. Playing the piano helps people to understand harmony because the piano can play chords.

Pianos need to be tuned regularly. A piano tuner is a person whose job it is to tune pianos.

Piano (the musical term)

The Italian word “piano” (abbreviated to “p”) is used in music to show that music should be played softly. It is pronounced in the Italian way (Pee-AH-no). When we talk about the musical instrument we pronounce it the English way (PYAN-no).

References

  1. The New Dictionary of Music and Musicians ed Stanley Sadie; 1980. vol 4, p.458
  2. The New Dictionary of Music and Musicians ed Stanley Sadie; 1980. vol 14, p.691

Other pages

Other websites

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