IT: pianoforte     FR: piano    GER: Klavier


The metal strings of the piano are stretched on a cast iron frame parallel to the soundboard. Vertical pianos ascend in height from small spinets to studio uprights, which can accommodate strings as long as a small grand piano. Grand pianos are horizontal and vary in length from the baby grand (under 5 feet long) to the concert grand (11 feet long). When a piano key is depressed, the damper, which rests on the string, is raised, and a felt hammer strikes the string. There are no dampers in the upper register. In the lowest range there is one string for each note, in the middle to lower ranges, two strings, and in the middle to high range three strings for each note.


FIGURE 6.8  Piano range

The points at which the number of strings changes will vary on different pianos, so an average is shown here.


All pianos are equipped with a damper pedal on the right that raises all dampers from the strings when it is depressed. The una corda pedal on the left shifts the action of the grand piano so that the hammer strikes only one string in the middle range and two strings in the high range. Most grand pianos have a sostenuto pedal located between the other two. If the sostenuto pedal is lowered while keys are depressed,  the dampers over those strings will remain raised until the pedal is released. Pedal indications are shown below.

FIGURE 6.9    Piano pedal indications

Tone Quality

Because the tone of the piano has very little sustaining power but a strong accent, it is often used in a percussive capacity in the orchestra. The lowest notes are gong-like and the highest pitches bell-like and undampened. An extremely wide dynamic range is available from the grand piano.


The piano has few technical limitations. Rapid scales, arpeggios, leaps, tremolo, and trills are possible. Both hands may be used together in the treble or bass regions, or the hands may cross. Block chords should be voiced within an octave or a ninth for each hand. A wide space between intervals in full chords may exist between the thumb and first finger of each hand. Spaces between adjacent fingers should be narrower.

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