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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.

PianoChord C.svg Show new selections PianoChord C.svg

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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 Bösendorfer piano

Bösendorfer (L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH) is an Austrian piano manufacturer, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha. The brand is known for producing pianos with a uniquely rich, singing, and sustaining tone. Bösendorfer is unusual in that it produces 97- and 92-key models in addition to instruments with standard 88-key keyboards. Bösendorfer makes seven models of grand piano (from 5'8" to 9'6") and one vertical piano (52" upright). The 9'6" Imperial Grand is one of the world's largest pianos.

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Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder 1875 cropped.jpg
by Schubert. Courtesy of Musopen

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Some Steinway family members (1890)
Some Steinway family members in 1890

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Did you know…

… that a piano usually has 230 strings and can produce 88 different notes?


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