How Pianos Work

The engineering behind the piano


By: Eric Ji, Journalist

As far as instruments go, there are several types of classes that define each instrument.  An example is wind class, which comprises of clarinets, flutes, saxophones, and other woodwind instruments.  However, the piano is a special case because it falls under the percussion and strings class.  This is because of the design of the piano when it is being built.

In a piano, there are strings, hammers, and keys.  When a key is pressed down, a hammer goes up and hits one of the strings inside.  This action makes the strings produce a sound, and vibrate.  Furthermore, each string in the piano is tuned to a specific note.  This allows the piano to produce unique sounds each time a different key pressed.  After the strings vibrate, they go through a soundboard which causes the sound to vibrate and reverberate.  A soundboard is always equipped in a piano.  The soundboard is the key component of producing a unique noise and giving each piano its own sound.

Keys, hammers, and strings are not the only factors of building a piano.  There are also pedals that each have different uses.  These petals are called the una corda (soft pedal), sostenuto pedal, and the damper pedal (sustaining pedal.)  To start, we will look at the damper pedal.  When the damper pedal is pushed down, it removes the damper pads from the notes which allows the notes to produce a sound for a longer time.  This is because, damper pads, which stop the note from ringing once a finger is lifted off the key, are lifted and allow the notes to play longer even when a finger is taken off the key.  The next pedal is the una corda which shifts the entire mechanics to the right.  This allows the hammer to hit the strings in a different part, which produces a softer and more mute sound while keeping the same tone.  The last pedal on the piano is the sostenuto pedal, which is very similar to the damper pedal.  However, the key difference is that it only releases the damper pad on one note at a time.

The piano is a very complicated instrument to create because of its vast amount of components.  These include, keys, strings, hammers, pedals, and many more components.  Hopefully this article gives a better understanding of the complicated design of the piano.

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