What’s so special about the piano? Discover an array of piano facts below
Imagine having the ability to play an entire piece of music with several melodies, countermelodies, harmonies, and chords using only a single instrument and one performer. Now, imagine no more, because you can do exactly this with a piano! At the fingertips of a good pianist, the piano itself can transform into an orchestra.
Pianos certainly are special instruments, but this isn’t the only feature that makes the piano so special. Pianos are extremely versatile instruments that can be used in all styles of music, including classical, jazz, rock, country, folk, pop, soul, gospel, and even hip-hop!
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Piano History Facts
When was the piano invented?
The first piano is credited to have been built in Italy around 1700 by Bartolomeo Cristofori. Cristofori named this first piano un cimbalo di cipresso di piano e forte, meaning “a keyboard made of cypress with soft and loud.” Over time, this was shortened to just fortepiano or pianoforte, meaning the “loud-soft instrument” or “soft-loud instrument.” Today, we shorten it even more and call it simply a piano.
Did other keyboard instruments exist before the invention of the piano?
Yes! Before the piano was invented, one of the most popular instruments was the harpsichord. The harpsichord’s invention date is unknown, but it was most likely created during the Medieval Era. It looks very similar to the piano, but operates quite differently. Inside the acoustic piano, strings are struck by little wooden hammers, while inside the harpsichord strings are plucked by a plectrum, which is a small pin that plays the string like a pick on a banjo. The plectrum is operated by pressing a key on a keyboard, similar to the way hammers in a piano are operated.
Another keyboard instrument that preceded the piano was the pipe organ. The organ is an ancient instrument and probably dates to the 3rd century BCE in Greece. Unlike the piano and harpsichord, the organ does not have any strings inside of it. Instead, air is pumped through pipes. The musical sound is created when the keys of the keyboard are pressed, opening the pipes and allowing the air to flow through, similar to blowing through a flute. Different “stops” (buttons that open certain pipes) create different sounds, so an organ can actually sound similar to a full orchestra!
Facts About Piano Players
There are so many famous pianists throughout history that it is really difficult to talk about them all. The piano is such a versatile instrument that there have been pianists in the classical and jazz traditions as well as in rock music, Indian classical music, country, gospel, folk, and so many other styles. To learn more about some of these famous musicians, check out this other Hoffman Academy blog article on Famous Piano Players!
Interesting Facts About the Piano
What kind of instrument is the piano?
The acoustic piano can be classified within several musical instrument categories. Its sound is produced when little wooden hammers covered in felt strike metal strings that are stretched across a frame. These strings mean that the instrument is a stringed instrument, like a violin, harp, or guitar. In order to operate these hammers, the performer must depress keys laid out on a keyboard. The presence of this keyboard means that it can also be a keyboard instrument along with the organ, accordion, and harpsichord. Finally, the piano can be classified as a percussion instrument, like the timpani, vibraphone, or marimba. This classification may surprise you, but a percussion instrument is simply an instrument that makes sound by the means of one object striking another. The action of the hammers within the piano striking the strings allows the piano to be classified this way!
What is the difference between an acoustic and electronic piano?
Do you have an acoustic piano or an electronic keyboard at home? An important fact to note about the electronic keyboard is that it doesn’t fall into the same categories as the acoustic piano. Since this instrument operates electronically and has no strings or hammers inside it, it isn’t a stringed instrument or percussion instrument. It is still a keyboard instrument, but it also falls under the additional electronic instrument category, like the synthesizer, theremin, and ondes martenot.
Fun Piano Facts
Here are a few more fun piano facts for you!
- Acoustic pianos have 88 keys!
- Most of the piano keys have 3 strings each, though the lowest have just one or two. As a result, the average piano has around 230 strings total.
- There are many different types of pianos, including the grand piano, upright piano, spinet, and electronic piano.
- It’s important to tune acoustic pianos every 6 months, but electronic pianos never need to be tuned!
- You don’t need to be a virtuoso to enjoy playing this instrument. So much music has been written for the piano that there is music for any level of ability in many different styles!
We at Hoffman Academy think that the piano is a fascinating instrument and are glad that you are interested in learning more about it! If you would like to read more facts about the piano, check out this Hoffman Academy blog article: 10 Things You Should Know About the Piano! We wish you a wonderful day full of music-making and joy!