Piano

We explain everything about the piano, its characteristics and what types exist. In addition, we tell you how it originated and how it became popular.

The musician Giovanni Allevi plays the piano in a concert.
The piano produces sound from taut strings that are struck by a hammer.

What is the piano?

The piano It is a percussion string musical instrument, that is, it produces sound from tense strings that are struck by a hammer or lever operated by the performer. In other classifications it is known as simple chordophone. Likewise, musicians who play the piano are known as pianists.

It is a classic instrument, present in most orchestras and musical stages, both for chamber music, accompaniment and as a soloist. Its name comes from Italian musical jargon, where it means “flat”, that is, soft, as opposed to “forte“, this is strong.

This distinction is due to the fact that the first piano in history was designed as a kind of harpsichord, which could produce both strong and weak notes, depending on the intensity with which the keys were pressed, which was quite a novelty. This invention was called in Italian harpsichord with piano and forte (“harpsichord with soft and strong”), a name that was abbreviated to pianoforte and then just piano.

The pianos are made up of a sound box in which a series of hammers impact several taut steel strings, according to the keys that the performer presses on the keyboard. The sound of the strings is amplified by a soundboard at the top, and transmitted to it through a system of bridges. It is, therefore, a string and percussion instrument at the same time.

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See also: Music

Origin of the piano

A harpsichord is richly decorated in the Borromeo Palace.
The piano replaced the harpsichord because of its softer, more sustained sound.

The first piano in history was the work of the Italian manufacturer Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731), who was dedicated to manufacturing harpsichords (instruments with strings and keyboard) and had been hired by Ferdinand II de’ Medici as conservator of instruments. It is unknown when the pianoforteprecursor of the modern piano, emerged for the first time from his workshop, but it is estimated that it was during the last years of the 17th century. There is news of a first piano in the Medici collection in 1709.

He pianoforte was initially little known, until 1711 when it appeared in the Giornale de Letterati d’Italia (“Journal of the Literaries of Italy”) a very enthusiastic article by Francesco Scipione. Since then, The public found that the new device had a much softer and more sustained sound than harpsichords., strident and metallic. There was soon a demand that musical instrument manufacturers were quick to meet, including the famous German organ maker Gottfried Silbermann, who added the modern damper pedal to the new apparatus.

Already in the 1730s the first piano compositions appeared, and the two main schools of piano making, both from Silbermann’s students: the “English school”, in the hands of Johannes Zumpe and Americus Backers; and the “German school”, led by Johann Andreas Stein.

Features of a piano

An orchestra concert has the grand piano in the center.
The piano is found in most orchestras, and can also be used as a soloist.

In general, the modern piano is characterized by.

  • It is a string and percussion instrument at the same time.since it operates through metal strings struck by a hammer activated through the keyboard.
  • It is composed of a set of vibrating metal strings inside a resonance box, equipped with a sound-amplifying harmonic table. A percussion mechanism acts on them, connected to a keyboard made of black and white pieces of ivory or other similar synthetic materials. Some versions of the piano also have three pedals (unichord, tonal and resonance).
  • It is a refined instrument, present in most classical music arrangements. and in most orchestras, although it can be used as a soloist as well.
  • Its vibrating strings must be tightened to tune the soundwhich is usually done before using the instrument.
  • It is a fundamental instrument in Western music and especially European, with an important presence in cinema and television, associated with the haute bourgeoisie or the aristocracy of yesteryear, given that the instrument was always bulky and expensive.
  • Genres such as classical or academic music, jazz, swing, rock and roll and blues They commonly give a leading role to the piano within their instrumental arrangements..
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types of piano

An electronic piano is used in a concert.
The electronic piano generates its sound through an electronic synthesizer.

There are different types of piano, among which are:

  • The grand piano or horizontal piano. This type of piano is characterized by having the soundboard and arrangement of the strings in a horizontal position, so that when the top lid is opened, the sound can emerge without barriers. Depending on their manufacturing measurements, grand pianos can be of different models: mignon (up to 130 cm in length), quarter tail (131 to 189 cm), half tail (190 to 225 cm), three quarter tail (226 to 255 cm) or big tail (256 cm or more).
  • The upright piano or upright piano. Unlike grand pianos, this type of piano has the strings and soundboard in a vertical position, that is, perpendicular to the floor. Depending on its size, there can be four types of upright piano: spinet (less than 98cm tall), console (between 98 and 109 cm), study (110 to 139 cm) and ancient (140 cm or more).
  • The electronic piano. Invented in the 20th century, this type of piano generates its sound not through metal strings, but rather through an electronic synthesizer. This means it can also imitate other instruments and store and play rhythms and tunes. They are usually much cheaper than classic pianos, but their sound quality is much lower.
  • The prepared piano. This is the name given to a piano (generally horizontal) whose strings have been intervened, adding objects inside the sound box to modify the sound obtained. The term was the creation of the American musician and composer John Cage (1912-1992).
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References

  • “Piano” on Wikipedia.
  • “The History of the Invention of the Piano” on Yamaha.com.
  • “Etymology of Piano” in the Online Spanish Etymological Dictionary.
  • “Discovering instruments: the piano” at Amadeus Escuela de Música (Spain).
  • “Piano (musical instrument)” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Categories Art