How Does An Acoustic Piano Work?


Illustration Of Playing The Piano

If you are looking at starting to play the piano or maybe you already do but have always wondered how pressing a key produces one of life’s most beautiful sounds, then this is the article for you. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or an advanced pianist before you sit down at your piano bench and start playing, you should educate yourself on how your piano can make the beautiful sounds it does when it is played, this also may help you decide if the piano is the right choice in an instrument for you. How does the piano work? You’re about to find out next.

Illustration How The Hammer And Dampers Hit Piano Strings

So, How Does the Piano Work?

A piano is both classed as a string instrument and a percussion instrument. It falls under both of these instruments as it uses strings to produce the sounds by a component called a hammer that strikes the strings to play a sound. Each note on a piano uses three strings to create a sound, there are two hundred strings inside a piano to support all of these notes. When playing lower notes, these are controlled by longer strings that produce the bass sound, and higher notes require shorter strings to produce a high pitch note.

Some pianos such as grand pianos are often crafted and designed with a curved shape as most notes do not require much room for their strings. A piano has four main parts, they are as follows:

Piano Keys


A piano contains white and black keys. White keys produce natural notes whilst the black keys produce sharp notes. A piano keys extent back into the piano where we cannot see where this creates a lever. When you play a key, the lever jumps similar to a see-saw that you would find in a children’s play park, the lever goes into the air when the key is pressed down.

Piano Hammers


The hammer is located inside the piano, once the lever jumps up when the key is pressed, it causes a felt hammer to strike the string.

Piano Strings


The strings are located inside the piano, once the hammer hits the strings, it causes the string to vibrate and sound the note. Every set of strings within the piano are tuned to a different note; this is why every key you press, you produce a different sound.

Piano Dampers


The Damper is located near the hammer and is part of the lever. When the hammer strikes the strings, the vibration of the string being hit, is the sound you hear. The longer the strings vibrate, the longer we hear the sound play. The sound will stop once you take your finger off of the key as the hammer takes itself off of the strings and the damper will then rest on the strings to stop them vibrating, this brings the note you are playing to a quick end. Whilst this is an elementary and straightforward description of how a piano works, it will give you the basics of how a piano produces a sound. It is beautiful to know what is happening behind the scenes as you play this elegant instrument that stands the test of time.

Muscial Notes

How Does the Soundboard and the Piano Pedals Work?

A piano has many other components than the four above that give its versatility. Inside the piano, there is a soundboard which amplifies the vibrations so that the notes and melodies can be heard throughout the room. The piano has three different pedals at the bottom of the piano, these all vary and adjust the notes you produce but making the notes last longer or by softening the noise.

These pedals work as follows:

This pedal is the farthest to your left. When you play a note typically, the hammer will strike the string producing a louder sound, however, when you press down on the soft pedal, it moves the hammers to one side allowing the hammer to strike fewer strings which creates a quieter sound.

This is the middle pedal and when pressed down it deactivates the dampers with the current notes you are playing. This makes the notes play longer as the strings vibrate for a longer time.

This is the farthest pedal to your right. This pedal raises all the dampers up, which in turn makes every note last longer, it creates a softer and more blended melody when playing.

A pianist won’t need to use these pedals for every melody they play, and when learning the piano, your instructor will most likely leave these pedals to later on. However, it is still lovely to experiment yourself with the types of sounds and notes whilst pressing these pedals.

Illustration Of A Grand Piano

The Types of Pianos

There are two main types of pianos which are grand pianos and upright pianos. Most houses have an upright piano because they are more space-efficient and more economical than grand pianos. When it comes to playing the two types of piano, a grand piano works its levers in a vertical motion and uses gravity to change the notes.

In contrast, the upright piano works its levers in a horizontal direction because of these different setups, it is considered that the grand piano is often considered better than the upright piano however this doesn’t mean it produces a better sound.

Still, over time the springs in an upright piano may wear out which does create unevenness note from the note. When playing notes on an upright piano, you need to let the key come back to the top of the stroke to play it again. In contrast, on the grand piano, you can play a note again after the key is always around one-third of the way from the top this ensures the pianist can produce sounds faster which allows more control.

Woman Teacher Teaching Small Children To Play The Piano

Learning to Play the Piano

Once you have the basics of understanding how the piano works when played, take a seat and start to play. Bring everything you have learned together and become familiar with the notes, sharps and the flats. Try experimenting with playing different notes together to hear what sounds good and what doesn’t. Practise pressing pedals as you play to change the sounding of your music, with this knowledge of the inner workings of your piano, you will have an easier time learning how to play.

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