What goes on in, also goes on out
When you study the parts of a piano and how they work together to produce such vibrant sounds, you will have an even deeper appreciation for this musical instrument. Granted, digital pianos use electronic sampling. But exploring an acoustic piano will help you understand the essence of this instrument, even in digital form.
Understand the Infrastructure of a Piano
The many parts of a piano synchronize gracefully to produce its one-of-a-kind sounds. That’s why the way it works is as harmonic as a piano’s sounds.
- As you press a key, a piano’s action forces a hammer upward in a grand piano or forward in an upright.
- The hammer strikes a string.
- The string vibrates, making a musical sound.
- Because the strings are connected to the soundboard, the sound gets amplified.
- As you release the key, the sound stops (unless you’re using the sustaining pedals).
Appreciate All the Parts of a Piano
This flow of movements sounds rather simple. But let’s dissect all the parts of a piano to get a more vivid image of how magnificent this instrument really is.
Action: forces the hammers to hit the strings when the keys are played.
Hammers: one or two layers of felt forged onto a wooden hammer molding under extreme pressure.
Strings: tempered and tuned wires that vibrate to create sounds.
Treble and bass bridges: long pieces of hard maple that allow vibrations to transfer from the strings to the soundboard.
Soundboard: the wooden board at the back of a piano that amplifies the vibrations and sounds.
Plate: an irregularly shaped piece of cast iron bolted to the back of the frame that anchors one end of the piano strings, and withstands much of the pull exerted by them.
Strung back: refers to the piano plate, treble and bass bridges and strings.
Damper: cloth or felt that sits over the strings to prevent vibration until a key is pressed and the damper is lifted.
Sustain pedal: (also damper pedal) pedal on the right that lifts the dampers away from the strings so the tone sustains after the keys are released.
Soft pedal: (also una corda pedal) pedal on the left that mutes the tone by shortening the distance the hammers travel or by shifting the action slightly so fewer strings are struck.
Sostenuto pedal: the function of the middle pedal varies. It may:
- sustain bass tones only.
- produce a ‘rinky tink’ sound.
- function as a “practice pedal”, muffling the sound during practice for more privacy and less disturbance.
Clearly, many parts of a piano must synchronize to create quality sound. This is why it’s important to get your piano tuned regularly.
Now that you know what all goes on inside a piano, you can appreciate the magical sounds that come out of it even more. Understanding the infrastructure can also help you visualize, possibly enhancing your level of play.
If you don’t already own a piano and want to witness this magic in person, head to Lacefield Music and ask to test out a Kawai 506N or even one of their Kawai grand pianos. They’ll happily answer any questions about the parts of a piano or help you determine which piano suits you best!