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A 19th-century grand piano

The piano is a musical instrument played using a keyboard. It is widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment and for composing and rehearsal. Although the piano is not portable and often expensive, its versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the world's most familiar musical instruments.

Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a padded (often with felt) hammer to strike steel strings. The hammers rebound, and the strings continue to vibrate at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a sounding board that more efficiently couples the acoustic energy to the air. The sound would otherwise be no louder than that directly produced by the strings. When the key is released, a damper stops the string's vibration and the sound. In the Hornbostel-Sachs system of instrument classification, pianos are considered chordophones.

The word piano is a shortened form of pianoforte (PF), the Italian word for the instrument (which in turn derives from the previous terms gravicembalo col piano e forte and fortepiano). The Italian musical terms piano and forte indicate "soft" and "strong" respectively, in this context referring to the variations in sound volume the instrument produces in response to a pianist's touch on the keys: the greater the velocity of a key press, the greater the force of the hammer hitting the strings, and the louder the sound of the note produced. This is in contrast to the predecessor of the piano, the harpsichord, which cannot produce different dynamics depending on how hard the key is pressed.

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Sviatoslav Richter (March 20, 1915 – August 1, 1997) was a Soviet pianist well known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. Richter gave his first concerts outside the Soviet union in Czechoslovakia in 1950. He hated planning concerts years in advance, and in later years took to playing at very short notice in small, most often darkened halls, with only a lamp lighting the score. This setting was supposed to help the audience focus on the music being performed, rather than on irrelevant matters such as the performer's gestures.

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A Steinway & Sons model D grand piano

Steinway & Sons or just Steinway Listeni/ˈstnw/ is an American and German manufacturer of handmade pianos, founded in 1853 in New York City, by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (later Henry E. Steinway). The company's growth led to the opening of a factory and employee village in what is now Astoria, Queens in New York City, followed by a second factory in Hamburg, Germany, in 1880. Its early success has been credited both to the quality of its instruments and its effective marketing, including the company's introduction of Steinway Halls (in German: Steinway-Häuser).

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by Bach. Courtesy of Musopen

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Square piano (Riga, around 1855)
Square piano (Riga, around 1855). The circular red pads to the left and right of the keyboard are for candlesticks.

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Did you know…

… that since the 1950s, piano keys are no longer made from ebony and ivory but plastics?


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