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How Does a Piano Work?
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Once the finger is off the key
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Hi I’m Molly Wheeler from www.wheelerpianostudio.com here for About.com.  Today I’ll be showing you how the parts of a piano work.We will start with the keyboard parts that we can see.  There are 88 black and white keys on the piano keyboard, but if you look inside the keyboard you can see these keys extend as a part of what is called the piano “action”.  The action is made up of a complicated system of levers that allows the action with which the pianist depresses the strings to transfer to the way the hammers hit the strings. The main parts of the piano action are the hammers that strike the strings and the dampers which are a block of felt that rests on the strings.  When the key is depressed the damper lifts off the string to allow the string to vibrate.  Once the finger is off the key the damper falls to dampen the sound.   You can see that in a grand piano the hammers strike upwards to strike the horizontal strings. In an upright piano the strings are vertical and the hammers strike forward.  Inside the piano you will see the soundboard, which is often made of spruce.  The soundboard amplifies the sound of the piano.  On top of the sound board is a cast-iron plate that is strong enough to maintain all of the tons of pressure from the strings.  Right below the music desk in a grand piano are the tuning pins.  The strings are wrapped around the tuning pins and these pins can be turned to change the pitch of the string. The sound of the piano comes from the vibration of the strings after they have been struck by the hammer.  The shortest strings are the highest notes and the longest are the low notes.  Strings are made of high-tensile steel wire and the longest strings are wrapped in copper.  Since the short strings don’t have much resonance they don’t even need dampers.  Two or three strings, tuned in unison, are employed for the middle and high notes to create a loud sound that matches the resonance of the single, long bass strings. Most pianos are equipped with three pedals.  The right pedal, used with the right foot is called the damper pedal.  When this pedal is depressed all of the dampers lift off the strings so all of the strings are free to vibrate.  This is used to create both an open sounds and for legato or smooth, connected playing. The left pedal, used with the left foot is called the una corda, or one string.  It is often called the soft pedal because it creates a softening effect at the piano.  Its name comes from the fact that when you depress this pedal the hammers shift so that only one or two strings are struck at the high end and the strings are struck off center at the lower end to create the softer sound. The middle pedal is called the sostenuto pedal.  Like the word sostenuto, which means to sustain, you can depress the pedal after you strike a note and it will sustain only that note while you play other notes after it. I hope you have enjoyed your tour of the inner workings of the piano.  For more information visit us on the web at About.com
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