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How do Pianos Work?

Hitting a key on a piano causes a hammer mechanism to strike a string, producing sound.
When a piano key is struck, it causes the hammer to move and strike the strings.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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Pianos is short for pianofortes, so called because they are so versatile in terms of dynamic. There are six main mechanisms through which pianos work in traditional playing: the pedals, the metal frame, the soundboard and bridges, the action, the casing, and the strings. There are multiple strings for each pitch, three for the treble notes, and two for the tenor notes, and one for the bass notes.

The action includes the keys, the hammers, and the hammer mechanism. Striking a key, causes the hammer mechanism to move and strike the strings. The bridges pick up the vibration of the strings and carry it to the soundboard. The metal frame keeps the strings in tension, and the casing encloses it.

The three standard pedals have three different effects on the sound of pianos. The left pedal, sometimes called the soft pedal, works in one of several ways. It may, for example, either adjust the hammer to the side so that it strikes only two treble strings and one tenor string, which is one way of reducing the sound, or shift the hammer to be closer to the strings, so that the hammerstroke is shortened. The right pedal, sometimes called the loud pedal, undamps the strings, allowing them to vibrate unimpeded. The middle pedal also affects the dampers, raising them, but only those for the notes that are being played when the pedal is engaged.

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When a performance calls for prepared piano, pianos work in a variety of different ways. Prepared pianos are altered in ways that take advantage of a variety of timbre possibilities not attainable in performance otherwise. Prepared pianos may have their strings plucked, scraped, or struck directly by the performer, with hands or an implement. Material, such as paper, may be inserted between or among strings, changing the effects.

Prepared pianos may be partially dismantled, changing the resonance space. Other instruments may be played so that their sound hits the piano strings, causing sympathetic vibrations. Or the casing or metal frame may be struck, creating various other sounds.

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Discuss this Article

chrisinbama
Post 4

@purplespark: There are 6 different types of grand piano. The Petite Grand is a compact grand piano ranging from 4’5” to 4’11” in length. The Baby Grand piano is another type. It ranges from 5’0” to 5”6” in length. If you want a grand piano at home, baby grand pianos are a good choice. They are about ½ the size of a concert grand.

The Medium Grand is about 5’7”. That is probably one of the least used types. There is also what is called a parlor grand, also known as a living room grand piano. It ranges from 5’9” to 6’1” in length. They use the same horizontal configuration as a concert grand but aren’t as long.

The semi concert grand, also known as the professional or ballroom grand is anywhere from 6’5” to 7’5”. The last one is the concert grand and it ranges from 7’6” to 9’6”

PurpleSpark
Post 3

@chrisinbama: What are the different kinds of grand pianos?

chrisinbama
Post 2

@gardenturtle: There are several different types of pianos. I will try to cover a few to give you a better understanding of the varieties.

The most popular pianos are the acoustics. This category includes the grand piano. The Grand pianos got their name from their length. The largest grand piano is 9 feet long. The strings are placed horizontally. These pianos are used mainly for concerts and solos. There are 6 different types of grand pianos.

Another category of pianos are the vertical, or uprights. They got their name because of their height and because the strings are placed vertically. The vertical piano is usually what someone would have in their home or church. There are 6 types of upright pianos.

Electric or digital pianos are another type of piano. They became popular with jazz musicians. Most traveling bands use electric pianos because they can be moved around easily and they don’t have to be re-tuned on every move.

GardenTurtle
Post 1

What are some different types of pianos?

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