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Music for Kids
The piano is one of the most popular musical instruments in the world. It is used in many styles of music from pop to classical to jazz.
Is the piano a string or percussion instrument?
The piano has the qualities of both a string instrument and a percussion instrument. When the keys are pressed they cause a hammer to strike (like a percussion instrument) a string inside the piano. The sounds and notes that the piano makes comes from the vibration of these strings (like a string instrument).
The piano is generally called a keyboard instrument. This is because it is played the same as many other keyboard instruments such as the organ, harpsichord, electronic keyboards, and synthesizers.
History of the Piano
The first keyboard instrument was the organ in the 3rd century. However, it wasn't until later that the organ started to use keys. In the 14th century, the harpsichord was invented and became popular in Europe. The harpsichord plucked a string and looked somewhat like the pianos we have today. However, plucking the string did not allow for different volumes and expressions to be played.
Around the year 1700 Bartolomeo Cristofori, an Italian harpsichord maker, invented the piano. The piano combined the expression of the clavichord with the volume of the harpsichord. Now musicians could control the volume and the length of notes played giving them much greater expression than with the harpsichord.
The name piano comes from the Italian word pianoforte which means "loud and soft". This is because you could now control the volume of notes when playing the keys.
Types of Pianos
There are two main types of pianos: the grand piano and the upright piano.
Grand piano - in a grand piano the strings and the main frame of the piano sit horizontally. This allows for long strings and also can help with the mechanics of the piano. However, grand pianos can take up a lot of space.
An upright piano
Upright piano - This type of piano was designed to be more compact, especially for a home. The strings and the main frame sit vertically.
There are also electric pianos that produce music with electronics. The keyboard and playing method can be the same as a regular piano, but often the sound can be very different.
Fun Facts about the Piano
- The piano is often used by composers when writing music.
- The shape of the grand piano has been around since the piano was first invented. It is long on one side for the lower sounding bass strings and gets shorter on the other side for the higher sounding treble strings.
- Because of it's versatility, the piano is sometimes called the King of Instruments.
- When you add up all the tension from a typical piano's strings, it totals around 18 tons. A large grand piano can total as much as 30 tons!
- A piano needs to be tuned around twice a year.
- Even though the keys are often called the "ivories" piano keys have not been made from ivory in the last 60 or so years. Today they are made from plastic.
- The greatest pianos are considered to be ones made by Steinway.
More on the piano:
Other musical instruments:
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