Archive for the 'Grand Piano' Category

Explore the Grand Piano
The grand piano is made of three major components. The picture on the right highlighted each major part of the piano.

  1. The Case, which is the wooden housing of the piano.
  2. The Strung Back, which is made of the back frame, soundboard, cast-iron frame, and strings.
  3. The Playing Mechanism, which is the complex system of levers that transmits the actions of the pianist to the hammers that strike the strings.

The modern grand piano must fulfill two roles, that of a musical instrument as well as a piece of furniture. As a musical instrument, the piano must be designed in a way that allows for the best possible acoustics. As a piece of furniture, the piano must have an attractive outer appearance. Over the years, piano designers and manufacturers have strived to achieve a balance between the proper acoustical functionality and a visually appealing form.

Explore the Case

The above picture of the grand piano which highlighted different components of the case.

The Wooden Housing of the Piano
The case is the wooden cabinet that houses the strung back and playing mechanism of the piano. The case must balance both proper acoustics and attractive looks. The purpose of the case is primarily decorative, but the wood also plays an important part in the resonant characteristics of the instrument.

Different Sizes
Grand pianos are produced in a variety of sizes. The case of a modern grand can vary in length from five feet two inches to nine feet ten inches, but different sizes, both smaller and larger, can be special ordered direct from the manufacturer. The different sizes of the grand piano are given their own individual names. The largest pianos (nine feet and larger) are referred to as “concert grands” and are normally found in performance areas. The “living-room grand” or “parlor grand” is about six to seven feet long and can be found in smaller performance venues as well as private rooms that have adequate space. The “baby grand” is about five to six feet long, and is usually found in private homes, teacher studios, and practice studios. The sound of a nine foot grand is generally of better quality than a smaller piano, due to its larger soundboard and longer strings.

Spine, Bentside & Tail
The rim is made of three distinct parts: the spine, the tail, and the bentside.

  • Spine: The long straight portion of the rim that is on the left (bass) side of the piano
  • Bentside: The curved portion of the rim that is on the right (treble) side of the piano. This distinctive shape is a result of the treble strings being shorter than the bass strings.
  • Tail: The portion of the rim that is opposite the keyboard. On modern grand pianos, the tail is curved to match the bentside. Tails on harpsichords and many early pianos were usually straight across.

Construction of the Rim
The shape of the rim is derived directly from the wing-shaped harpsichord. Cristofori used the case of a harpsichord to build his first pianos, and the shape has now become the identifying feature of the grand piano. The rim is made of many thin sheets of wood, called veneers, which are glued, or laminated, together (similar to plywood). If the rim were made of one solid piece of wood, the wood could expand and contract across the grain due to changes in the humidity levels. Over time, this movement of the wood could result in the warping or cracking of the rim. By laminating many thin pieces of wood together and alternating the direction of the grain in each layer, the chance of this harmful expansion and contraction is virtually eliminated. The top (or outside) veneer is usually made of mahogany, and is finished to match the whole piano case. In order to create the distinctive shape of the piano, the long laminated rim slab is put into an iron press, and formed into the proper shape. The rim is glued together, and held in place by clamps until it dries.

Protection and Reflection
The lid, also called the top, is the wooden cover that is hinged to the spine and folds down to protect the interior of the piano when it is not being played. The front half of the lid is folded down when the lid is closed, and folded back when it is raised. The raised lid also serves as a reflecting surface for the sound waves that radiate from the soundboard. The waves come off the soundboard and are then reflected out towards the audience. When the lid is raised, it is held open by a wooden stick called the lid prop. Most lid props have a smaller stick called a half-prop, which can be used to keep the lid partially raised.

Treble, Bass & Point
Three legs support the piano:

  • The bass leg is the leg on the bass (left) side of the keyboard
  • The treble leg is the leg on the treble (right) side of the keyboard
  • The point leg is the leg on the end opposite the keyboard

The treble and bass legs are attached to the bottom of the keybed, and the point leg is attached to a small platform that is found under the tail of the piano. The legs of the piano must be sturdy in order to support the full weight of the instrument – which can weigh over 1000 pounds. The legs are made of solid wood – usually a hardwood such as birch or maple.

The Ferrule & Caster
On many pianos, the wood at the bottom of each leg is slightly flared out. This wider portion of wood is called the ferrule. The wheels that may be attached to the bottom of each leg are called casters, and these allow the instrument to be moved with greater ease.

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