The Physics of Piano By ben whitney

Invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco around 1700, the piano is an extremely expressive, beautiful, and powerful instrument.

Parts of the Instrument

Frame: The frame, made of cast iron is responsible for holding most of the piano together. It has to hold the massive force of the string tension (up to 30 tons).

Hammers: These components of the piano strike the corresponding string or strings to the key that was pressed. Pressing down on the key harder makes the hammer hit the string harder, producing a louder sound.

Soundboard: With just strings, a piano would hardly be audible. The strings are connected by the bridge to the soundboard, a large wooden frame that is located underneath the strings. By spreading the mass of the vibrating strings, the sound output is greatly increased.

Pedals: By using these, a pianist can change the quality of the sound the piano makes. The right pedal sustains notes, and the left is used for softer parts of the music.

Strings: The lower strings are substantially large and longer than higher-pitched strings. The smaller and shorter a string is, the higher frequency it will produce. The design of grand pianos reflects this, as you'll see below.

That's why grand pianos have a sort of cut-out in the top right of their design - the upper strings aren't as long as the lower ones.

Piano Tuning

Each octave of keys includes 12 semitones (one half step). Each half step is equally tuned. However, as you reach the extreme lower notes, they're tuned about 30 cents flat. To put that in perspective, each half step is 100 cents. Also, the extreme upper notes are tuned about 30 cents sharp. This is done to be more pleasing to the ear.

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Created By
Ben Whitney
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Created with images by GDJVJ - "The Grand Piano" • Princess Ruto - "Steinway Grand Piano"

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