Pianoforte FAQ

The pianoforte (commonly refered to as piano) is a popular instrument for a good reason. Not only does it have a boundless ability to represent melody, accompany orchestra and vocalists, the pianoforte is accessible and fun to play. In fact, learning to play the pianoforte is practically a rite of passage for many children around the world.

How and when did the pianoforte evolve?

Like so many beautiful creative works, music was cultivated and carefully curated in Florence, Italy, according to Pianoeducation.org. The fertile background of the Renaissance brought forth many advances in music. Advances in mechanical creations combined with the urge for more music, more complete melody and expressive sound gave rise to Bartolomeo Cristofori's brainchild-the pianoforte-in the 1700s.

What was the first pianoforte like?

The first pianoforte was actually a lot like a 60-key harpsichord. It combined features of percussion and strings, which when hit by the hammers produced a wide variety of sounds. The pianoforte was different from the harpsichord in that hammers hitting the strings replaced the plucking of strings.

What types of pianofortes are there?

Pianofortes vary widely in appearance but the same basics apply-hammer, strings and keys. Most pianos have 88 keys today, but there is a concert grand piano that boasts a whopping 96 keys. It's almost 10 feet long and weighs about a ton. These pianos can operate mechanically or by a computer program. The variety of pianofortes available today include grand pianos and baby grand pianos whose soundboard and strings are horizontally oriented, or upright pianos in which the soundboard stands vertically.

What are pianoforte pedals for?

The pedals on a pianoforte modify the sound vibrations the piano makes. The left pedal is known as the soft pedal. It is depressed in order to create soft sound more easily. The middle pedal is called a sostenuto pedal or practice pedal. On grand pianos this pedal captures or isolates only the notes being played or held by the fingers of the musician at the time. Upright pianos use a different tactic to augment the sound of a true sostenuto pedal. The right pedal is called the damper pedal. Its purpose is to release the felt dampers or depress them, controlling the sound and length of sound vibration.

Do all pianos sound the same?

No two pianos can ever sound exactly the same. Older pianos tend to have softer and warmer tones due to the materials and hand-manufacturing. New pianos are not necessarily better than older pianos. It is important to play a piano before purchase to be sure the sound is favorable to your ear. There are many wonderful pianoforte makers with sounds that range from bright and crisp to warm and rounded.

What is the best location for the pianoforte?

A controlled climate is key to maintaining the sound and health of the pianoforte. Vast changes in humidity and temperature can damage the delicate inner workings of the pianoforte-a costly and disappointing mistake. Keep the pianoforte located on an inside wall of the building and away from bright sunlight. Your piano should have ample space around it in order to maximize sound quality. Never push the piano up against a wall; leave a foot or two of space instead.

Does my pianoforte need maintenance?

Every piano should be checked and tuned, particularly after a move. It is best to leave the piano tuning to a professional. The inside of a piano has hundreds of strings at super high tension. The wooden block the strings are set into is very vulnerable to cracking and the felts on the hammers are easy to mangle. A good piano tuner also has the equipment and ear trained to do the job properly.

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