20 Interesting Facts About The Piano
The piano is probably the instrument that has defined music in the past 100 years. The harpsichord was the original instrument, which had a mechanism of plucking the strings. Over time, the piano was developed and the mechanism went from plucking strings to hitting them with hammers.
There are now many different types of pianos, ranging from grand pianos, digital pianos through to synthesizers, and yes, you can still buy a harpsichord if you wish!
Here are twenty interesting facts about this amazing instrument.
1. The first piano was invented in 1709
The first piano was built in 1709 by Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori.
It was an upgrade from the most popular instrument of the day; the Harpsichord. Originally called ‘gravicèmbalo col piano e forte’ which, in Italian, means harpsichord with loud and soft. The name was later shortened to ‘fortepiano’, and then finally to just ‘piano’.
It was incredibly expensive. In fact, only the rich and royalty could afford them. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that they became more publicly available.
2. there Are only three original cristofori pianos remaining
There are only three original Cristofori pianos in the world. All the others have been lost or destroyed over the years.
They are located at the National Museum of Musical Instruments in Rome, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Museum of Musical Instruments, Leipzig University in Germany.
3. the piano has...
…over 12,000 parts, 10,000 of which are moving!
It is an enormous amount of small pieces that need to work perfectly together; one of the reasons why they are still fairly expensive. And talking of money…
4. The world's most expensive piano
This piano was designed for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, by Heintzman Pianos, a Canadian piano manufacturer.
This unique piano was named the Crystal Piano because it’s created out of transparent materials. Being transparent, it means you can see how the inner workings of the piano move when it’s being played.
After the Olympics, the piano was put up for auction, with the anonymous winner paying $3.22 million! That’s the equivalent of at least 32 Steinways!
5. The piano is actually a Percussion Instrument
Yes, we know a piano has strings; but technically it’s classified as a percussion instrument!
The sound is made when the hammers inside the piano hit the strings. This therefore makes it a percussion instrument.
6. How many strings?
To produce the highest highs, and lowest lows in pitch, the piano has 230 strings.
These strings have an enormous of tension on them; close to 20 tons of pressure on the strings. So don’t stand close if you think one is going to snap…
7. The grand piano is faster than...
…the Upright Piano. Yes, you read it right! It probably not noticeable to most pianists; however, the action on a grand piano is faster than the one on an upright, allowing you to play much faster.
The grand piano has something called a repetition lever, giving the pianist the chance to repeat the notes when the key is only half way up.
Sadly, on an upright, the vertical action requires the key to go all the way up before it is reset – hence the slower playing!
8. What is the world's largest piano?
Adrian Mann was 21 years old when he started building his massive piano, which weighs 1.4 tonnes and measures 5.7 metres in length!
Adrian is a piano tuner from New Zealand. He must be dedicated as he spent 4 years of his life creating this gigantic instrument.
9. When was the digital piano invented?
Although the acoustic piano was invented in the 1700’s, the digital piano was invented until 1980!
The search for an electronic instrument, however, actually began in the 1920’s.
By the 1960’s, the synthesizer became popular, and finally, in the 1980’s, the modern digital piano was released to the market.
10. Why does the piano need tuning?
The strings inside the piano over time become slackened; this changes the pitch of the piano and makes it sound ‘out of tune’. To combat this, regular tuning of the piano will help keep it in shape for many years to come.
A new piano should be tuned three to four times a year, and then twice yearly thereafter. Pianos also tend to stay in tune much better when they are not kept in overly damp or dry environments.
Digital pianos on the other hand don’t need tuning (surprise, surprise!) – however they are electric, so keep those glasses of wine away…
11. The piano was originally called...
…the pianoforte because of its ability to play notes both quietly, which the Italian word is ‘piano’, and loudly, and which the Italian word is ‘forte’.
12. The range on the piano is Phenomenal
Did you know that the range of the piano goes from the lowest note that is played on a Double Bass (the largest string instrument), through to the highest note you can play on a piccolo (similar to a flute, but playing one octave higher).
That’s the entire range of the orchestra in one instrument!
13. Yes, we are superstitious...
…and is this is an unlucky number, move onto the next fact!
14. Elephants were harmed in the making of this...
For a very long time, people have referred to playing the piano as ‘tinkling the ivories’. And yes, it’s true. The keys were made with ivory, but thankfully this practice stopped in the 1940’s.
Piano manufacturers now use plastic. Much better for the planet…
15. Middle C is a lie...
Sorry to break your entire understanding of the piano, but the exact middle of a piano is NOT middle C.
It is actually the space between E and F to the right middle C.
16. There is no such thing as 'the loud pedal'
I am always amused when people discuss ‘the loud pedal’ on a piano. It’s a strange idea, because there has never been that feature on a piano, and never will be!
The pedal on the left is the ‘Una corda’ pedal. It moves the hammers closer to the string, which makes the piano sound softer. It also subtly changes the tone.
The middle pedal is a sostenuto pedal. It sustains only the notes you press, and then allows you to play others without sustain. However, just to confuse matters, on some upright pianos, the middle pedal has a different function of a ‘practice pedal’. This enables a piece of felt to be lowered in front of the strings, muffling the sound. Meaning the rest of you house doesn’t have to listen to your Rachmaninoff at full volume!
The right pedal is the sustain pedal and is used the most often. This simply opens the strings and stops the dampeners from stopping the strings to vibrate, causing the sustaining sound.
17. It is the world's most popular instrument
Statistic think that around 25% of the US population can play the piano to a basic extent. That’s 82,000,000 people in the US alone!
18. There really was a giraffe piano
Early upright pianos were made according to the design of upright harpsichord – it had strings rising from keyboard level. As a result, they were very tall.
This was obviously an issue, for the majority of houses had a smaller room hight than we have today. So by taking the strings down to floor level, John Isaac Hawkins made the upright piano shorter and more suitable for homes.
19. Is it really grand?
The term Grand was first used all the way back in 1777. It references the oldest piano in Britain, which was made by Americus Backers in 1772. This piano is known to be the oldest homemade piano in the world.
20. How many models are there?
Over the last 100 years, there have been more than 5,000 piano models built by over 500 manufacturers. Evidence that the piano truly is, the King of all instruments.
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