The Structure of a Grand Piano

Piano keys are one of several smaller piano components.

The grand piano consists of six main parts that function together to create sound. Each part is expertly crafted and manufactured in a factory. The making of a grand piano is largely still a job that requires craftsmanship and skill. While machines are used in the process, each component is hand-inspected and guided to ensure a high-quality instrument.


The frame is made of iron and is cast out of a single sheet of metal. Since the frame has to support a large amount of tension on the strings, it is necessary to use iron to prevent the frame from breaking under the pressure. The frame sits on top of the soundboard and serves to hold the strings in place through tension nuts that the piano tuner can tighten or loosen to raise and lower the pitch.


The soundboard of the piano is made of spruce. Spruce is a soft wood that can be damaged easily if mishandled. The woods acts to capture the vibrations of the strings and aids in resonating the sound through the rest of the piano. Soft woods, such as spruce, create more dense frequencies and produce a richer tone than hardwoods. Hardwoods have more resonance and penetrate more effectively, but the soft wood of the piano helps to dampen the percussive sound of the hammers hitting the strings.


The lowest strings of the piano are the thickest and produce deep rich bass tones. As the strings go higher, the width of the string shrinks. This makes the top strings capable of greater penetration and the lowest strings capable of substantial resonance. The strings are made out of steel and come in groups of three per pitch. There is a total of 88 groups of strings to corresponding to the 88 keys of the standard piano.


The case on a grand piano is the wooden outside that wraps around the iron frame. The wood of a grand piano is shaped out of a single piece of wood that is formed by pressing it into a mold. The mold then sits in the manufacturing plant under controlled conditions in which moisture and temperature are closely monitored. When the case is ready, the soundboard and frame are lowered inside.


The action holds all of the hammers of the piano. The action is connected to the keyboard so that when a piano key is depressed, it activates a shank that is connected to a hammer with felt padding. The felt hammer then strikes the appropriate string, sending vibrations through the frame and soundboard. This creates the slightly percussive sound that we recognize as a piano.


There are three pedals on a grand piano. The far left pedal, called una corda, will soften the sound of the piano when depressed. The middle pedal, or sostenuto, when depressed will sustain only the notes that were depressed immediately before it was activated. The far right pedal is the damper pedal, and when depressed, it sustains all of the notes. The middle and right pedal are never used at the same time.


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