You’ve seen pianos. They’re sophisticated, beautiful instruments that some people keep in their homes just for display, but have you ever stopped to learn what each of the main parts is called and what they do? How about the accompanying equipment? No?
Well, it’s time to do just that. But don’t worry, it won’t take long.
The piano produces sound every time you hit a key, but what’s really happening is a bit more involved. Put simply though, every time you press that piano key, a hammer hits a tuned string (wire). Each wire is tuned differently to give its specific sound.
Contains the important parts of the piano like the tuned strings. Moreover, the lid protects these parts from humidity, oxidation and dust — all factors that can change the sound produced. On a grand piano, the lid must be open while playing, but closed when not in use. Upright pianos also have lids but these can remain closed when in use. However, they serve the same purpose.
Music Rack / Stand
The music rack serves a very simple purpose — it holds whatever music you are reading from near eye level so that you can focus on that instead of your hands.
Just as the lid protects the inside of the piano, the fall board or fallboard is a hinged cover that comes down over the entire keyboard. It protects the keyboard area and the individual keys from dust and general moisture, which can cause parts to wear out much faster. Keep your fall board down when you aren’t playing.
The heart of the piano! This is where all the action takes place and where the keys live. The keyboard is typically laid out with 88 keys total – with 52 white keys and 36 black keys. There are some exceptions, but for our purposes, this is all you need to know about the number.
You may or may not have noticed that the key pattern repeats on the keyboard, and that’s on purpose.
As you can see in the above diagram, an 88-key piano is broken into seven octaves (a series of eight notes), plus a minor third. Don’t worry, you won’t have to focus on what a “minor third” is. I tell you just so you aren’t left wondering what those extra keys are. Some older pianos were made with 85 keys, which limited them to the seven octaves. Modern manufacturers add the additional three keys for extended range and a fuller, richer sound.
Sound confusing? It’s really not. Notice again that in the above diagram, the same pattern of keys repeats and that’s because that’s exactly what’s happening — each octave has the same keys repeated — seven white keys and five black. Take a moment to look at the piano with that in mind and it becomes much less daunting.
While the bench that usually goes with a piano looks like it’s just a bench, it actually serves multiple purposes. Firstly, these benches typically have a hidden compartment in which musical books and notes can be kept, thus keeping a tidy external appearance. Secondly, some piano benches are height-adjustable to allow you the proper posture (more on that in an upcoming post) while you’re playing. Posture is very important.
Most likely, you won’t need to think about pedals at this point, but if you’re wondering what they do, you’ve come to the right place. Typically, pianos come with three pedals — una corda, sostenuto and sustain. Una corda is the soft pedal and is in the left-most position and serves to soften the sound of each key strike. The middle pedal is called sostenuto and its purpose is to sustain the currently depressed notes so you’re able to go on to play other notes (you’ll love this later on). The third and right-most pedal is the sustain pedal, which is the most commonly used! Similar to the middle pedal, the sustain pedal sustains all the currently played notes while allowing the strings to vibrate sympathetically, which makes for a rich sound.
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