Every time a piano key is pressed on a grand piano, around 50 parts connected to the key have to come together to produce the sound of a single note. This complex instrument is made of over 7,000 parts connected to 88 keys.1 Continue reading to find out how these parts work together to produce sound on a piano.
How Does a Piano Work?
The 88 keys on a piano produce notes of three varying pitches: high notes, low notes, and very low notes. Piano keys that produce high notes are connected to three strings, keys that produce low notes are connected to two strings, and keys that produce very low notes are connected to one string. Therefore, a piano can have around 230 strings tuned to all the different notes depending on the model.
Each of these keys is connected to one or more hammers that strike the string or strings. This impact causes the strings to vibrate, and this produces the sound of the note that the strings are tuned for. The vibration of the strings then passes across the soundboard, which is built directly under the strings. The sound resonates throughout the area of the soundboard and gets amplified.
What are the Functions of the Other Parts?
The dampers and pedals also play an important part in the piano’s sound. All these parts are integral to playing expressive piano music.
Dampers are small wooden blocks with felt pads attached to the bottom. Dampers are mechanized to quiet the sound as soon as the key is released. The dampers come down to rest on the strings from above as soon as the finger is lifted from the key and stop the string vibrations.2
Dampers can also be controlled with the help of pedals. Generally, American pianos have three pedals and European pianos have two. The right pedal lifts the dampers from all the strings and it is also called the sustaining pedal. This allows the strings to vibrate and the sound of the note to continue after the key is released.3
The function of the pedals on the left can vary depending on the piano model. The pedal to the extreme left is called a soft pedal and moves the hammers lower or to the side. This makes the notes sound softer when the strings are struck. The middle pedal, depending on the piano, either lifts the dampers for the notes being played at the time or it may also lift the dampers for all the low notes.
This is just a simplified explanation of how this complex instrument works. The piano has many more parts that are equally important to the production of sound. An exploration that is worth making if you found this brief explanation interesting.
We hope this BYJU’S FutureSchool article has enriched your knowledge of music. If you want more music resources, you can sign up for a FREE trial class where you can learn live in a 1:1 setting with knowledgeable instructors—or check out some more helpful articles.
1. Music for Kids: How the Piano Works. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.ducksters.com/musicforkids/how_the_piano_works.php
2. The Piano Deconstructed. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.piano.christophersmit.com/damper.html
3. The Structure of the Piano:What is a Piano’s “Action”? – Musical Instrument Guide – Yamaha Corporation. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.yamaha.com/en/musical_instrument_guide/piano/mechanism/mechanism003.html