About the Piano

Anyone who's ever taken music lessons or pursued music in any way probably learned at least a little piano along the way. It's a popular tool for learning music and composing songs. Its versatility means it's used world over and equally represented in all forms of music.

This piano is considered to be a chordophone, meaning its sound is produced from vibrating strings. Piano may also be called a keyboard, which refers to the set of keys used to play the instrument.

The word "piano" derives the Italian word "pianoforte," meaning, oddly enough, both "soft" and "strong." This refers to the variety of sound produced by how hard the player presses the keys, which can vary from very, very soft to extremely hard.

History

Since it relies on quite a bit of technology, the piano isn't that old of an instrument. Its earliest ancestor may be the medieval hammered dulcimer. Centuries later, the first instruments utilizing some tool for striking strings finally came about. Clavichords and the harpsichords were invented in the 17th century and used quills to pluck the strings. Housed in a large wooden case, with a keyboard and accompanying bench for the player to sit on, these instruments paved the way for the piano.

Bartolomeo Cristofori, instrument maker for the famed Medici family, created the first piano sometime around 1700. Pianos were slow to grow in popularity. It wasn't until the late 18th century with the Viennese-style of piano making that they really took off. Mozart is actually quite instrumental in promoting the popularity of pianos.

Further refinements and experiments were conducted on the piano, leading to the development of the grand piano in 1777. Tall cabinet pianos had a short burst of popularity in the mid-1800s, but by the turn of the century, pianos had finally settled into the shape we know today.

Components

Pianos are notorious for their dizzying number of components. Because of this, there are as many piano tuners and repairers as there are piano players. Proper piano care entails ensuring that all of its pieces work together to produce the correct sound. Frequent tunings, cleanings, rebuildings, and repairs are all part of owning and playing a piano.

But despite its complexity, the way a piano works is quite simple. Each key on the keyboard represents a different note. To play that note, you hit the key with a varying amount of pressure depending on how loud you want to sound to be. This causes a hammer to strike a corresponding string. The subsequent vibration is the key's sound. Pedals are used to change the notes' tone and sustain.

Nowadays, there are four piano models to choose from: upright, grand, baby grand, and concert grand. Because of their smaller size and price, most homeowners opt for an upright or baby grand. Concert grands are only seen in large concert halls. Pianos are some of the most long-lasting instruments out there, outlasting most of their original owners. Pianos have become cherished family heirlooms as much as they are cherished musical instruments.