The piano, with its timeless elegance and captivating sounds, is a musical instrument that has held a special place in the hearts of people worldwide for centuries. In addition, beyond its enchanting music, this instrument stows away a treasure trove of piano facts.
Here, we embark on a delightful journey to uncover some of the most intriguing aspects of this beloved instrument.
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A Musical Renaissance
The piano is often associated with classical music, but it has evolved to embrace various genres over the years. From classical compositions by Mozart to iconic jazz performances by legends like Duke Ellington, the piano has proven its versatility and adaptability, making it a cornerstone of musical innovation.
The Grandeur of Grand Pianos
Grand pianos, renowned for their rich sound and elegant appearance, can be massive. The largest concert grand pianos can measure up to nine feet in length and weigh over 1,000 pounds. These colossal instruments demand not only musical skill but also physical strength to play.
The Inner Workings
Pianos are complex machines that consist of over a thousand parts. When a finger presses a key, it triggers a series of actions. The key lifts a felt-covered hammer, which strikes strings that are stretched across a wooden soundboard. The strings vibrate and then produce the beautiful tones we hear.
It’s a symphony of intricate mechanics beneath the keys.
While it may resemble a keyboard instrument, the piano’s categorization aligns with percussion instruments due to its mechanism of sound generation. On the other hand, when you peer inside a piano, you’ll find strings stretched across a soundboard. However, is it a string instrument? You can find out what type of instrument a piano is here.
A Rainbow of Keys
Most pianos have 88 keys, spanning seven octaves and three notes at the lowest end.
Although rare, a handful of pianos have a tonal range that surpasses the standard 88 notes. Among these, the renowned Bösendorfer Imperial stands out as the most famous example, boasting an astonishing 97 keys.
However, piano evolution did not stop at 97 keys. As recent as 2018, Australian piano maker Stuart & Son made the first 108-key piano that covers nine octaves, the Big Beleura, for the Beleura House. As a result, this 108-key piano stretches the limits of traditional acoustic piano technology.
For details about octaves and the number of keys on the piano, check out our post How Many Octaves on a Piano.
The Oldest Surviving Piano
Bartolomeo Cristofori, an Italian instrument maker, is credited with inventing the piano around the year 1700. The oldest surviving piano, built by Cristofori himself in 1720, can be admired at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It’s also a testament to the enduring craftsmanship of these instruments.
Wood has always been a fundamental material in piano construction. The piano’s soundboard, case, and various structural components are traditionally made from different types of wood, such as spruce, maple, and mahogany. These woods were chosen for their resonance and strength.
Still, you may have heard about crystal pianos. These are pianos built with transparent and see-through plastic material, acrylic. A well-known acrylic piano is the Heintzman Crystal Piano. It gained international attention when it was used during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. This piano was a special limited edition creation by Heintzman and is a symbol of the company’s commitment to innovation in piano design.
No More Ivory Keys
Historically, piano keys were made from ivory for the white keys and ebony for the black keys. Ivory provided a smooth and responsive surface for playing.
However, since the mid-century 1900s, the majority of piano manufacturers discontinued their use of ivory on piano keys due to conservation concerns and regulations. Since 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has banned ivory use on pianos and any other furniture or decorative objects.
Keys have been made with synthetic materials in modern pianos.
You can learn more about how to identify ivory keys on a piano here.
Mind the Gap
Ever wonder why the black keys are in twos and threes on the piano keyboard? This arrangement helps pianists distinguish between the keys by touch alone. It’s a tactile aid that aids in playing without looking at the keys.
The Myth of the Broken Piano
The story that dropping a penny inside a piano can ruin it is just a myth. Pianos can withstand the occasional foreign object falling inside. In fact, many pianos contain hidden treasures, including old coins, letters, and other memorabilia.
Moreover, modern musicians explore unconventional sounds by inserting foreign objects into the piano strings, hence altering the sound of a piano. This introduced the concept of Prepared Piano. The new development broke free from the limitations of traditional piano. Check out the article about the Prepared Piano for more details.
Composers and Pianos
One of the interesting piano facts was that famous composers often had deep connections with their pianos. Beethoven, for instance, had a piano he affectionately called his “moonlight” piano, which he used to compose his iconic “Moonlight Sonata.” These instruments hold a special place in the history of music.
The world of the piano has seen legendary performers who pushed the boundaries of what’s possible. Pianists like Franz Liszt were known for their astonishing virtuosity, while artists like Liberace dazzled audiences with their flamboyant styles and shining costumes.
While talking about piano facts, we cannot ignore the technological impact and evolution of digital pianos.
The advent of digital pianos has brought piano music to new heights. Digital pianos can replicate the sound and feel of traditional acoustic pianos while offering modern features like wireless connection, headphone jacks, audio stream, and recording capabilities.
The cost-effectiveness, adaptability, and ability to tailor digital pianos present unparalleled possibilities for a wider spectrum of individuals to possess a piano. Furthermore, the digital capabilities make them a superb selection for musicians at various proficiency levels and engaged in diverse musical styles.
Check out our reviews of the best digital pianos.
In conclusion, these piano facts demonstrate that the piano is not just an instrument; it’s a captivating world filled with history, innovation, and endless musical possibilities.
Its evolution continues to inspire musicians and enchant audiences, ensuring that its timeless melodies will resonate for generations to come. Whether you’re a virtuoso or simply an admirer of beautiful music, the piano has something delightful to offer everyone.