When we left piano in part one, it was starting to look quite a bit like a modern piano. It had a damper pedal, an action that allowed rapid repressing of keys, and the beginnings of the modern grand where starting to show there faces. But did the piano stop there? No, it did not.

Up until the 1820s, all piano hammers had cotton or leather coverings. In 1826, Henri Pape was the first builder to put felt on his hammers. Felt was a more consistent material, permitting wider dynamic ranges as hammer weights and string tension increased.

Another innovation of the time was the sostenuto pedal, which was invented in 1844 and improved in 1874. This pedal was much like the damper pedal in that it allowed the pianist to lift the dampers from the strings and allow notes to ring even after the key was no longer being depressed. However the sostenuto pedal only affects the notes that the pianist wishes to be sustained, while the other notes remain unaffected. Although it is rarely used, it allows for greater expression and more complicated melodies. Because of it’s small amount of use, however, it is frequently omitted in upright pianos.

Many many innovations where introduced in this time period. Although I cannot mention them all here, I will name a few of them.

Three string notes: Most pianos only had two strings per note. As frames got stronger, people started experimenting with 3 strings on some of the higher notes. Generally, the treble notes of a piano have 3 strings each, the tenor and bass notes have 2 strings, and the very lowest notes have one.

A Modern Grand

Sympathetic strings: Sympathetic strings are strings that are not actually  struck, but simply vibrate with the other stings. This produces a richer sound. They are still used today, though are not the most common.

The industrial revolution had a big effect on pianos, just as it did on everything else. Parts where cheaper and of better quality and, consequently, so where the finished products. Since then, pianos have gone over very little change structuraly, but have increased dramatically in popularity. Many new musicians begin on the piano, and it is an excellent instrument for doing just that.

A few interesting piano facts:

Number of keys most modern pianos: 88
Number of strings in most modern pianos: 230
Amount of tension in the strings of an average piano: 18 tons (although this can be up to 30 tons for some grands)
Pianos have a huge range. The can play as low or lower then a double bassoon, the lowest instrument in an orchestra, and can play higher then a piccolo, which is the highest.

And that about wraps up the history of the piano. There is much much more to learn about pianos. If you like to know a little bit about how a piano works, I have a article on this site just for you. May your days of piano playing be filled with fun and wonderful music!

Categories: Instruments