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Monday, 30 December 2013

How a Piano Works

The piano perfectly pairs mechanical movement with an infinite range of dynamics of sound. This pairing is made possible by the precision engineering of the piano action and keys, and the wonderful rich tones of vibrating strings. At the heart of the piano, the sound-board projects the sound of vibrating strings after they have been struck by the hammers of the action.

 Wood is meticulously chosen for its acoustic properties and harvested only when a tree is ‘ready’. Foresters are specially trained to know the 'signs' that indicate when a tree is ready! For uninitiated observers, one tree will look pretty much the same as any other, but an expert knows the appropriate time to fell the tree.

Manufacturers like to keep their methods to themselves. Some believe their specifications and particular methods give their pianos a unique sound and tone, and so they are keen to protect their ideas from being copied. 

Glued to the sound-board is a wooden ‘bridge’ linking the strings to the soundboard. Every string passes over the bridge and is kept firmly in position by locating 'bridge-pins' which define one end of the ‘speaking-length’ of the string. The metal frame is fitted - attached around the edges of the soundboard, leaving the soundboard to vibrate freely. 

The frame provides the anchor-points for the strings which travel from the tuning-pin, through an agraffe or over what defines the beginning of the speaking length of the string, across the central part of the soundboard, to the 'bridge' (the end of the speaking length) and finally to the hitch-pin. 

The soundboard is slightly convex in shape. This and the tension of the strings when tuned, produces a sensitive and highly charged unit at the core of the piano. 

The action and the keyboard - dealt with in another post here, are the mechanical link between the pianist and the sounds created by the vibrating strings. 

'How a piano works' is too complicated an issue to cover in a few paragraphs. This post is a general overview and I hope will help give the beginning of a clear understanding of the workings of a piano.

The Piano World

© Steve Burden  

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