A piano is an amazing thing . . .  A Marvel to Behold.

 

At least, it serves as furniture.  At the most, it is a musical instrument that can stir souls.

 

The box – its been wood for a long time now.  Sometimes a piano is a small upright, no more than maybe 44 inches tall.  Sometimes it can be a tall one, 60 inches at least.  The wood might be black, brown, painted any number of colors.

 

Then there are the grand piano style.  Baby grands at 4 feet long, and anything up to 9 feet long is a good grand.  I hear tell of 12 feet long, but I’ve never seen one.

 

Brand names – Steinway, Baldwin, Sohmer (which is what we have), Hamilton, Bosendorfer, and so many more.  You could get one from Sears catalog in the old days.  Nowadays, you can get a totally electronic one from Yamaha.

 

But some things don’t change.

 

88 keys, some black some white, in a specific pattern.  (Okay, sometimes there are smaller ones – 64 keys is rather popular, especially in the electronic piano sizes….)  Nonetheless, that pattern makes sense.  Take a look – white keys the full length of the piano, with the black keys in a pattern of 2s and 3s.

 

To the piano player, the note of C is immediately to the left of the pair of black keys.  If there were a black key between every white key, there would be no way to discern where any of the notes were, much less the C.  Thank God for sensible patterns.

 

Music theory has no place here – scales and arpeggios and all that are for the musicians to worry about.  A piano, as a mechanism – that in itself is intricate beyond belief.

 

Consider how one key works.  Press down any one of the keys, and a rather intricate series of levers interact to force a felt covered wooden hammer to strike a very specific string and bounce back, ready to play in a flick of another finger.  That series of levers has to be well-adjusted so that the same energy on each of the 88 keys produced the same amount of sound on the appropriate string – and by the way, on many pianos, there are a pair of strings for each hammer.  Some even have 3.  And that key, once struck, must allow the lever system to bring the hammer back.  No hammer should rest against the string, which would result in a rather muffled and ugly sound.

 

Now you have a pianist using all ten fingers.  Those keys need to work in proper rhythm and tone and desired level of loudness – a machine that, when properly regulated, can perform rapidly and smoothly.

 

Those strings – some are wound metal, some are solid wire.  Those wires need to be stretched to the appropriate amount of stretch that will produce the pitch desired… and with 2 or 3 strings per key, there’s a good deal of regulation required here, too.

 

So, the next time you see or hear a piano, think about what’s in there.  The piano as we know is has been around since the fifteen hundreds – and that, my dear reader, makes for an impressive invention.

 

 

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