19th Century Pianos, Aristocracy, Antebellum

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The Piano – A string instrument that was an emblem of money, status, and class during the antebellum period.  The parlor, the centerpiece of the antebellum estates of the well-heeled, was not complete without a piano, preferably one imported, specially made, hand-crafted and well-tuned.  A piano, the ultimate status symbol, represented cultural refinement, educational accomplishment, and of course wealth.  The average piano sold for about $300.00 at a time when the average antebellum American yearly household income was about $290.00.


Families gathered around their pianos in the evenings and the instrument was the focal point of their interaction.  The piano was key in courtship, as couples would dance at balls to piano music and provide opportunities for male-female interaction that was otherwise forbidden by the current mores of the time.

Private piano concerts were popular and though there are notable male virtuosos on the instrument, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Gottschalk, Thomas Bethune, etc., it was every young lady who was expectant of marriage who was required to have a full repertoire from proper training on the instrument, as the piano was regarded mostly as a lady’s instrument during antebellum times.

“PIANO. n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor.  It is operated by pressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.” – Ambrose Bierce (American Writer, Journalist, 1842-1914)

From Wikipedia

The social history of the piano is the history of the instrument’s role in society. The piano was invented at the end of the 17th century, had become widespread in Western society by the end of the 18th, and is still widely played today.

“Jeunes filles au piano” (“Girls at the Piano” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, painted in 1892. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.


Early years

At the time of its origin around the year 1700, the piano was a speculative invention, produced by the well-paid craftsman and inventor Bartolomeo Cristofori for his wealthy patron Ferdinando de Medici, Grand Prince of Florence. As such, it was an extremely expensive item. For some time after its invention, the piano was largely owned by royalty (e.g. the kings of Portugal and Prussia); see Fortepiano for details. Even later on, (i.e. throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries), pianos were financially beyond the reach of most families, and the pianos of those times were generally the property of the gentry and the aristocracy. Visiting music masters taught their children to play the piano.

Pianos and women

Both Parakilas[1] and Loesser[2] emphasize a connection during this period between pianos and the female sex. Piano study was apparently more common for girls than boys.[3] It was also widely felt that ability to play the piano made young women more marriageable.

Emma Wedgwood Darwin

Women who had learned to play as children often continued to play as adults, thus providing music in their households.[4]. For instance, Emma Wedgwood (1808–1896), the granddaughter of the wealthy industrialist Josiah Wedgwood, took piano lessons from none other than Frédéric Chopin, and apparently achieved a fair level of proficiency. Following her marriage to Charles Darwin, Emma still played the piano daily, while her husband listened appreciatively.

A number of female piano students became outright virtuose, and the skills of woman pianists inspired the work of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, who dedicated difficult-to-play works to their woman friends.[5] However, careers as concert musicians were typically open only to men (an important exception was Clara Schumann).

The spread of the piano

Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the middle class of Europe and North America increased in both numbers and prosperity. This increase produced a corresponding rise in the domestic importance of the piano, as ever more families became able to afford pianos and piano instruction. The piano also became common in public institutions, such as schools, hotels, and public houses. As elements of the Western middle class lifestyle gradually spread to other nations, the piano became common in these nations as well, for example in Japan.

To understand the rise of the piano among the middle class, it is helpful to remember that before mechanical and electronic reproduction, music was in fact performed on a daily basis by ordinary people. For instance, the working people of every nation generated a body of folk music, which was transmitted orally down through the generations and sung by all. The parents of Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) could not read music, yet Haydn’s father (who worked as a wheelwright) taught himself to play the harp, and the Haydn family frequently played and sang together. With rising prosperity, the many families that could now afford pianos and music adapted their home-grown musical abilities to the new instrument, and the piano became a major source of music in the home.

Amateur pianists in the home often kept track of the doings of the leading pianists and composers of their day. Professional virtuosi wrote books and methods for the study of piano playing, which sold widely. The virtuosi also prepared their own editions of classical works, which included detailed marks of tempo and expression to guide the amateur who wanted to use their playing as a model. (Today, students are usually encouraged to work from an Urtext edition.) The piano compositions of the great composers often sold well among amateurs, despite the fact that, starting with Beethoven, they were often far too hard for anyone but a trained virtuoso to play perfectly. Evidently, the amateur pianists obtained satisfaction from coming to grips with the finest music, even if they could not perform it from start to finish.[6]

A favorite form of musical recreation in the home was playing works for four-hand piano, in which the two players sit side by side at a single piano. These were frequently arrangements of orchestral works, and in the days before recordings served to spread knowledge of new orchestral music to places lacking an orchestra. Sometimes members of the household would sing or play other instruments along with the piano.

Parents whose children showed unusual talent often pushed them toward professional careers, sometimes making great sacrifices to make this possible. Artur Schnabel’s book My Life and Music[7] vividly depicts his own experience along this lines, which took place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century.

19th Century, Pianos, History

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Early history

Grand piano by Louis Bas of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, France, 1781. Earliest French grand piano known to survive; includes an inverted wrestplank and action derived from the work of Bartolomeo Cristofori (ca. 1700) with ornately decorated soundboard.

Early piano replica by the modern builder Paul McNulty, after Walter & Sohn, 1805

The piano is founded on earlier technological innovations. The first string instruments with struck strings were the hammered dulcimers. [2] During the Middle Ages, there were several attempts at creating stringed keyboard instruments with struck strings,[3] the earliest being the hurdy gurdy, which has uncertain origins.[4] By the 17th century, the mechanisms of keyboard instruments such as the clavichord and the harpsichord were well known. In a clavichord the strings are struck by tangents, while in a harpsichord they are plucked by quills. Centuries of work on the mechanism of the harpsichord in particular had shown the most effective ways to construct the case, soundboard, bridge, and keyboard.

The invention of the modern piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) of Padua, Italy, who was employed by Prince Ferdinand de Medici as the Keeper of the Instruments. He was an expert harpsichord maker and was well acquainted with the previous body of knowledge on stringed keyboard instruments. It is not known exactly when Cristofori first built a piano. An inventory made by his employers, the Medici family, indicates the existence of a piano by the year 1700; another document of doubtful authenticity indicates a date of 1698.[citation needed] The three Cristofori pianos that survive today date from the 1720s.[5]

While the clavichord allowed expressive control of volume and sustain, it was too quiet for large performances. The harpsichord produced a sufficiently-loud sound, but had little expressive control over each note. The piano was likely formed as an attempt to combine loudness with control, avoiding the trade-offs of available instruments.

Cristofori’s great success was in solving, without any prior example, the fundamental mechanical problem of piano design: the hammer must strike the string, but not remain in contact with it (as a tangent remains in contact with a clavichord string) because this would damp the sound. Moreover, the hammer must return to its rest position without bouncing violently, and it must be possible to repeat a note rapidly. Cristofori’s piano action served as a model for the many different approaches to piano actions that followed. While Cristofori’s early instruments were made with thin strings and were much quieter than the modern piano, compared to the clavichord (the only previous keyboard instrument capable of minutely controlled dynamic nuance through the keyboard) they were considerably louder and had more sustaining power.

Cristofori’s new instrument remained relatively unknown until an Italian writer, Scipione Maffei, wrote an enthusiastic article about it (1711), including a diagram of the mechanism. This article was widely distributed, and most of the next generation of piano builders started their work because of reading it. One of these builders was Gottfried Silbermann, better known as an organ builder. Silbermann’s pianos were virtually direct copies of Cristofori’s, with one important addition: Silbermann invented the forerunner of the modern damper pedal, which lifts all the dampers from the strings at once.

Silbermann showed Johann Sebastian Bach one of his early instruments in the 1730s, but Bach did not like it at that time, claiming that the higher notes were too soft to allow a full dynamic range. Although this earned him some animosity from Silbermann, the criticism was apparently heeded. Bach did approve of a later instrument he saw in 1747, and even served as an agent in selling Silbermann’s pianos.[6]

Piano making flourished during the late 18th century in the Viennese school, which included Johann Andreas Stein (who worked in Augsburg, Germany) and the Viennese makers Nannette Streicher (daughter of Stein) and Anton Walter. Viennese-style pianos were built with wood frames, two strings per note, and had leather-covered hammers. Some of these Viennese pianos had the opposite coloring of modern-day pianos; the natural keys were black and the accidental keys white.[7] It was for such instruments that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his concertos and sonatas, and replicas of them are built today for use in authentic-instrument performance of his music. The pianos of Mozart’s day had a softer, clearer tone than today’s pianos or English pianos, with less sustaining power. The term fortepiano is nowadays often used to distinguish the 18th-century instrument from later pianos.

Comparison of piano sound
19th century piano sound
Frédéric Chopin‘s Étude Op. 25, No. 12, on an Erard piano made in 1851

Modern piano sound
The same piece, on a modern piano

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For more details on this topic, see Innovations in the piano.

In the period lasting from about 1790 to 1860, the Mozart-era piano underwent tremendous changes that led to the modern form of the instrument. This revolution was in response to a consistent preference by composers and pianists for a more powerful, sustained piano sound, and made possible by the ongoing Industrial Revolution with technological resources such as high-quality steel, called piano wire, for strings, and precision casting for the production of iron frames. Over time, the tonal range of the piano was also increased from the five octaves of Mozart’s day to the 7¼ or more octaves found on modern pianos.

Broadwood square action

Early technological progress owed much to the firm of Broadwood. John Broadwood joined with another Scot, Robert Stodart, and a Dutchman, Americus Backers, to design a piano in the harpsichord case—the origin of the “grand”. They achieved this in about 1777. They quickly gained a reputation for the splendour and powerful tone of their instruments, with Broadwood constructing ones that were progressively larger, louder, and more robustly constructed. They sent pianos to both Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, and were the first firm to build pianos with a range of more than five octaves: five octaves and a fifth during the 1790s, six octaves by 1810 (Beethoven used the extra notes in his later works), and seven octaves by 1820. The Viennese makers similarly followed these trends, however the two schools used different piano actions: Broadwoods were more robust, Viennese instruments were more sensitive.

Erard square action

By the 1820s, the center of innovation had shifted to Paris, where the Pleyel firm manufactured pianos used by Frédéric Chopin and the Érard firm manufactured those used by Franz Liszt. In 1821, Sébastien Érard invented the double escapement action, which permitted a note to be repeated even if the key had not yet risen to its maximum vertical position. This facilitated rapid playing of repeated notes, and this musical device was pioneered by Liszt. When the invention became public, as revised by Henri Herz, the double escapement action gradually became standard in grand pianos, and is still incorporated into all grand pianos currently produced.

One of the major technical innovations that helped to create the sound of the modern piano was the use of a strong iron frame. Also called the “plate”, the iron frame sits atop the soundboard, and serves as the primary bulwark against the force of string tension. The increased structural integrity of the iron frame allowed the use of thicker, tenser, and more numerous strings. In a modern grand the total string tension can exceed 20 tons. The single piece cast iron frame was patented in 1825 in Boston by Alpheus Babcock, combining the metal hitch pin plate (1821, claimed by Broadwood on behalf of Samuel Hervé) and resisting bars (Thom and Allen, 1820, but also claimed by Broadwood and Érard). Babcock later worked for the Chickering & Mackays firm who patented the first full iron frame for grand pianos in 1843. Composite forged metal frames were preferred by many European makers until the American system was fully adopted by the early 20th century.

Other innovations for the mechanism included the use of felt hammer coverings instead of layered leather hammers. Felt hammers, which were first introduced by Henri Pape in 1826, were a more consistent material, permitting wider dynamic ranges as hammer weights and string tension increased. The sostenuto pedal (see below), invented in 1844 by Jean Louis Boisselot and improved by the Steinway firm in 1874, allowed a wider range of effects.

Other important technical innovations of this era included changes to the way the piano was strung, such as the use of a “choir” of three strings rather than two for all but the lower notes, and the use of different stringing methods. With the over strung scale, also called “cross-stringing“, the strings are placed in a vertically overlapping slanted arrangement, with two heights of bridges on the soundboard instead of just one. This permits larger, but not necessarily longer, strings to fit within the case of the piano. Over stringing was invented by Jean-Henri Pape during the 1820s, and first patented for use in grand pianos in the United States by Henry Steinway, Jr. in 1859.

Duplex scaling: Treble strings of a 182 cm. grand piano. From lower left to upper right: dampers, main sounding length of strings, treble bridge, duplex string length, duplex bridge (long bar perpendicular to strings), hitchpins

With duplexes or aliquot scales, which was patented in 1872 by Theodore Steinway, the different components of string vibrations are controlled by tuning their secondary parts in octave relationships with the sounding lengths. Similar systems developed by Blüthner (1872), as well as Taskin (1788), and Collard (1821) used more distinctly ringing undamped vibrations to modify tone.

Some early pianos had shapes and designs that are no longer in use. The square piano had horizontal strings arranged diagonally across the rectangular case above the hammers and with the keyboard set in the long side. This design is attributed to Gottfried Silbermann or Christian Ernst Friderici on the continent, and Johannes Zumpe or Harman Vietor in England and it was improved by changes first introduced by Guillaume-Lebrecht Petzold in France and Alpheus Babcock in the United States. Square pianos were built in great numbers through the 1840s in Europe and the 1890s in America, and saw the most visible changes of any type of piano: the celebrated iron framed over strung squares manufactured by Steinway & Sons were more than two and a half times the size of Zumpe’s wood framed instruments from a century before. Their overwhelming popularity was due to inexpensive construction and price, although their performance and tone were often limited by simple actions and closely spaced strings.

The mechanism in upright pianos is perpendicular to the keys.

The tall, vertically strung upright grand was arranged like a grand set on end, with the soundboard and bridges above the keys, and tuning pins below them. The term was later revived by many manufacturers for advertising purposes. Giraffe, pyramid and lyre pianos were arranged in a somewhat similar fashion in evocatively shaped cases.

The very tall cabinet piano was introduced about 1805 and was built through the 1840s. It had strings arranged vertically on a continuous frame with bridges extended nearly to the floor, behind the keyboard and very large sticker action. The short cottage upright or pianino with vertical stringing, made popular by Robert Wornum around 1815, was built into the 20th century. They are informally called birdcage pianos because of their prominent damper mechanism. Pianinos were distinguished from the oblique, or diagonally strung upright made popular in France by Roller & Blanchet during the late 1820s. The tiny spinet upright was manufactured from the mid-1930s until recent times. The low position of the hammers required the use of a “drop action” to preserve a reasonable keyboard height.

Modern upright and grand pianos attained their present forms by the end of the 19th century. Improvements have been made in manufacturing processes, and many individual details of the instrument continue to receive attention.

History and musical performance

Much of the most widely admired piano repertoire, for example, that of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, was composed for a type of instrument that is rather different from the modern instruments on which this music is normally performed today. Even the music of the Romantics, including Liszt, Chopin, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, was written for pianos substantially different from ours. Modern piano

A schematic depiction of the construction of a pianoforte (Part names are listed in the illustration’s file)


Modern pianos come in two basic configurations (with subcategories): the grand piano and the upright piano.


Steinway grand piano in the White House

Upright piano by August Förster

Vertical Piano Action

In grand pianos, the frame and strings are horizontal, with the strings extending away from the keyboard. There are several sizes of grand piano. A rough generalization distinguishes the concert grand (between about 2.2 m and 3 m/9.84 feet long) from the parlor grand or boudoir grand (about 1.7 m to 2.2 m) and the smaller baby grand.

All else being equal, longer pianos with longer strings have larger, richer sound and lower inharmonicity of the strings. Inharmonicity is the degree to which the frequencies of overtones (known as partials, partial tones, or harmonics) depart from whole multiples of the fundamental frequency. Pianos with shorter and thicker strings (e.g., baby grands) have more inharmonicity. The longer strings on a concert grand can vibrate more accurately than the shorter, thicker strings on a baby grand, which means that a concert grand’s strings will have truer overtones. This allows the strings to be tuned closer to equal temperament in relation to the standard pitch with less “stretching” in the piano tuning. Full-size grands are usually used for public concerts, whereas smaller grands, introduced by Sohmer & Co. in 1884, are often chosen for domestic use where space and cost are considerations.

A grand piano action has a repetition lever for each key. If the key is pressed repeatedly and fairly quickly this repetition lever catches the hammer close to the strings, which assists the speed and control of repeated notes and trills.


Upright pianos, also called vertical pianos, are more compact because the frame and strings are vertical. The hammers move horizontally, and are returned to their resting position by springs, which are prone to wear and tear. Upright pianos with unusually tall frames and long strings are sometimes called upright grand pianos. Some authors classify modern pianos according to their height and to modifications of the action that are necessary to accommodate the height.

  • Studio pianos are around 42 to 45 inches tall. This is the shortest cabinet that can accommodate a full-sized action located above the keyboard.
  • Console pianos have a compact action (shorter hammers), and are a few inches shorter than studio models.
  • The top of a spinet model barely rises above the keyboard. The action is located below, operated by vertical wires that are attached to the backs of the keys.
  • Anything taller than a studio piano is called an upright.

Other types

Steinway player piano

Toy pianos began to be manufactured in the 19th century.

In 1863, Henri Fourneaux invented the player piano, which plays itself from a piano roll without the need for a pianist. A performance is recorded onto rolls of paper with perforations, and the player piano replays the performance using pneumatic devices. Modern equivalents of the player piano include the Bösendorfer CEUS and the Yamaha Disklavier, using solenoids and MIDI rather than pneumatics and rolls.

A silent piano is an acoustic piano having an option to silence the strings by means of an interposing hammer bar. They are designed for private silent practice.

The transposing piano was invented in 1801 by Edward Ryley. It has a lever under the keyboard used to move the keyboard relative to the strings so that a pianist can play in a familiar key while the music sounds in a different key.

The prepared piano, encountered in some contemporary art music, is a grand piano with objects placed inside it to alter its sound, or that has had its mechanism changed in some other way. The scores for music for prepared piano specify the modifications, for example instructing the pianist to insert pieces of rubber, or paper, or metal screws or washers, in between the strings. These either mute the strings or alter their timbre.

Available since the 1980s, digital pianos use digital sampling technology to reproduce the sound of each piano note. Digital pianos can be sophisticated, with features including working pedals, weighted keys, multiple voices, and MIDI interfaces. However, when the damper pedal (see below) is depressed on such an instrument, there are no strings to vibrate sympathetically. Physical models of sympathetic vibration are incorporated into the synthesis software of some higher end digital pianos, such as the Yamaha Clavinova series, or the KAWAI MP8 series.

With the advent of powerful desktop computers, highly realistic pianos have become available as affordable software modules. Some of these modules, such as Synthogy’s Ivory released in 2004, use multi-gigabyte piano sample sets with as many as 90 recordings, each lasting many seconds, for each of the 88 (some have 81) keys under different conditions, augmented by additional samples to emulate sympathetic resonance, key release, the drop of the dampers, and simulations of piano techniques like re-pedaling. Some other software modules, such as Modartt’s Pianoteq released in 2006, use no samples whatsoever and are a pure synthesis of all aspects of the physicalities that go into the creation of a real piano’s sound.

In recent times, piano manufactures have superseded the old fashioned pianola or player piano with new innovative pianos that play themselves via a CD or MP3 Player. Similar in concept to a player piano, the PianoDisc or iQ systems installed in select pianos will ‘play themselves’ when prompted by a certain file format designed to be interpreted by software installed and connected to the piano. Such additions are quite expensive, often doubling the cost of a piano and are available in both upright and grand pianos.

[edit] Keyboard

Keyboard of a Steinway grand piano

Further information: Musical keyboard

Almost every modern piano has 36 black keys and 52 white keys for a total of 88 keys (seven octaves plus a minor third, from A0 to C8). Many older pianos only have 85 keys (seven octaves from A0 to A7), while some manufacturers extend the range further in one or both directions.

Some Bösendorfer pianos extend the normal range downwards to F0, with one other model going as far as a bottom C0, making a full eight octave range. These extra keys are sometimes hidden under a small hinged lid that can be flipped down to cover the keys in order to avoid visual disorientation in a pianist unfamiliar with the extended keyboard. On others, the colors of the extra white keys are reversed (black instead of white).

The extra keys are added primarily for increased resonance from the associated strings; that is, they vibrate sympathetically with other strings whenever the damper pedal is depressed and thus give a fuller tone. Only a very small number of works composed for piano actually use these notes. More recently, the Stuart and Sons company has also manufactured extended-range pianos, with the first 102 key piano. On their instruments, the frequency range extends from C0 to F8, which is the widest practical range for the acoustic piano. The extra keys are the same as the other keys in appearance.

Small studio upright acoustical pianos with only 65 keys have been manufactured for use by roving pianists. Known as gig pianos and still containing a cast iron harp, these are comparatively lightweight and can be easily transported to and from engagements by only two people. As their harp is longer than that of a spinet or console piano, they have a stronger bass sound that to some pianists is well worth the trade-off in range that a reduced key-set offers.

The toy piano manufacturer Schoenhut started manufacturing both grands and uprights with only 44 or 49 keys, and shorter distance between the keyboard and the pedals. These pianos are true pianos with action and strings. The pianos were introduced to their product line in response to numerous requests in favor of it.

[edit] Pedals

[edit] Standard pedals

Piano pedals from left to right: una corda, sostenuto, and sustain pedal

Main article: Piano pedals

Pianos have had pedals, or some close equivalent, since the earliest days. (In the 18th century, some pianos used levers pressed upward by the player’s knee instead of pedals.) Most grand pianos in the US have three pedals: the soft pedal (una corda), sostenuto, and sustain pedal (from left to right, respectively), while in Europe, the standard is two pedals: the soft pedal and the sustain pedal. Most modern upright pianos also have three pedals: soft pedal, practice pedal and sustain pedal, though older or cheaper models may lack the practice pedal. Again, in Europe the standard for upright pianos is two pedals: the soft and the sustain pedals.

The sustain pedal (or, damper pedal) is often simply called “the pedal”, since it is the most frequently used. It is placed as the rightmost pedal in the group. It lifts the dampers from all keys, sustaining all played notes. In addition, it alters the overall tone by allowing all strings, even the ones not directly played, to reverberate.

The soft pedal or una corda pedal is placed leftmost in the row of pedals. In grand pianos, it shifts the entire action, including the keyboard, to the right, so that the hammers hit only one of the three strings for each note (hence the name una corda, or ‘one string’). The effect is to soften the note as well as to change the tone. In uprights, this action is not possible, and so the pedal moves the hammers closer to the strings, allowing the hammers to hit the strings with less kinetic energy to produce a softer sound, but with no change in timbre.

On grand pianos, the middle pedal is a sostenuto pedal. This pedal keeps raised any damper that was already raised at the moment the pedal is depressed. This makes it possible to sustain some notes (by depressing the sostenuto pedal before notes to be sustained are released) while the player’s hands are free to play addditional notes (which will not be sustained). This can be useful for musical passages with pedal points and other otherwise tricky or impossible situations.

On many upright pianos, there is a middle pedal called the ‘practice’ or celeste pedal. This drops a piece of felt between the hammers and strings, greatly muting the sounds. Often this pedal can be shifted while depressed, into a “locking” position.

There are also non-standard variants. On some pianos (grands and verticals), the middle pedal can be a bass sustain pedal: that is, when it is depressed, the dampers lift off the strings only in the bass section. This pedal would be used only when a pianist needs to sustain a single bass note or chord over many measures, while playing the melody in the treble section. On the Stuart and Sons piano as well as the largest Fazioli piano, there is a fourth pedal to the left of the principal three. This fourth pedal works in the same way as the soft pedal of an upright piano, moving the hammers closer to the strings.[8]

[edit] Unusual pedals

An upright pedal piano

The rare transposing piano, of which Irving Berlin possessed an example, has a middle pedal that functions as a clutch that disengages the keyboard from the mechanism, enabling the keyboard to be moved to the left or right with a lever. The entire action of the piano is thus shifted to allow the pianist to play music written in one key so that it sounds in a different key. The pedalier piano, or pedal piano, is a rare type of piano that includes a pedalboard, enabling bass register notes to be played with the feet, as is standard on the organ. There are two types of pedal piano: the pedal board may be an integral part of the instrument, using the same strings and mechanism as the manual keyboard, or, less frequently, it may consist of two independent pianos (each with its separate mechanics and strings), which are placed one above the other, a regular piano played by the hands and a bass-register piano played by the feet.

[edit] Construction

Many parts of a piano are made of materials selected for sturdiness. In quality pianos, the outer rim of the piano is made of a hardwood, normally maple or beech. According to Harold A. Conklin, the purpose of a sturdy rim is so that “the vibrational energy will stay as much as possible in the soundboard instead of dissipating uselessly in the case parts, which are inefficient radiators of sound.”

View from below of a 182-cm grand piano. In order of distance from viewer: softwood braces, tapered soundboard ribs, soundboard. The metal rod at lower right is a humidity control device.

The rim is normally made by laminating flexible strips of hardwood to the desired shape, a system that was developed by Theodore Steinway in 1880. The thick wooden braces at the bottom (grands) or back (uprights) of the piano are not as acoustically important as the rim, and are often made of a softwood, even in top-quality pianos, in order to save weight. The requirement of structural strength, fulfilled with stout hardwood and thick metal, makes a piano heavy; even a small upright can weigh 136 kg (300 lb), and the Steinway concert grand (Model D) weighs 480 kg (990 lb). The largest piano built, the Fazioli F308, weighs 691 kg (1520 lb).

The pinblock, which holds the tuning pins in place, is another area of the piano where toughness is important. It is made of hardwood, (often maple) and generally is laminated (built of multiple layers) for additional strength and gripping power. Piano strings (also called piano wire), which must endure years of extreme tension and hard blows, are made of high quality steel. They are manufactured to vary as little as possible in diameter, since all deviations from uniformity introduce tonal distortion. The bass strings of a piano are made of a steel core wrapped with copper wire, to increase their mass whilst retaining flexibility. If the strings in the treble section were only single, they would be quiet compared with the bass strings because of their smaller diameter, so they are doubled in higher and tripled in the highest octaves.

Cast iron plate of a Steinway grand piano

The plate, or metal frame, of a piano is usually made of cast iron. It is advantageous for the plate to be quite massive. Since the strings are attached to the plate at one end, any vibrations transmitted to the plate will result in loss of energy to the desired (efficient) channel of sound transmission, namely the bridge and the soundboard. Some manufacturers now use cast steel in their plates, for greater strength. The casting of the plate is a delicate art, since the dimensions are crucial and the iron shrinks by about one percent during cooling.

The inclusion in a piano of an extremely large piece of metal is potentially an aesthetic handicap, which piano makers overcome by polishing, painting and decorating the plate. Plates often include the manufacturer’s ornamental medallion and can be strikingly attractive. In an effort to make pianos lighter, Alcoa worked with Winter and Company piano manufacturers to make pianos using an aluminum plate during the 1940s. The use of aluminum for piano plates, however, did not become widely accepted and was discontinued.

The numerous grand parts and upright parts of a piano action are generally hardwood (e.g. maple, beech. hornbeam). However, since World War II, plastics have become available. Early plastics were incorporated into some pianos in the late 1940s and 1950s, but proved disastrous because they crystallized and lost their strength after only a few decades of use. The Steinway firm once incorporated Teflon, a synthetic material developed by DuPont, for some grand action parts in place of cloth, but ultimately abandoned the experiment due to an inherent “clicking” that invariably developed over time. (Also Teflon is “humidity stable” whereas the wood adjacent to the Teflon will swell and shrink with humidity changes, causing problems.) More recently, the Kawai firm has built pianos with action parts made of more modern and effective plastics such as carbon fiber; these parts have held up better and have generally received the respect of piano technicians[citation needed].

The part of the piano where materials probably matter more than anywhere else is the soundboard. In quality pianos, this is made of solid spruce (that is, spruce boards glued together at their edges). Spruce is chosen for its high ratio of strength to weight. The best piano makers use close-grained, quarter-sawn, defect-free spruce, and make sure that it has been carefully dried over a long period of time before making it into soundboards. In cheap pianos, the soundboard is often made of plywood.

Piano keys are generally made of spruce or basswood, for lightness. Spruce is normally used in high-quality pianos. Traditionally, the black keys were made from ebony and the white keys were covered with strips of ivory, but since ivory-yielding species are now endangered and protected by treaty, plastics are now almost exclusively used. Also, ivory tends to chip more easily than plastic. Legal ivory can still be obtained in limited quantities. The Yamaha firm invented a plastic called “Ivorine” or “Ivorite” that mimics the look and feel of ivory; it has since been imitated by other makers.

[edit] Care and maintenance

A piano tuner

Pianos need regular tuning to keep them up to pitch, which is usually the internationally recognized standard concert pitch of A4 = 440 Hz. The hammers of pianos are voiced to compensate for gradual hardening, and other parts also need periodic regulation. Aged and worn pianos can be rebuilt or reconditioned. Often, by replacing a great number of their parts, they can be made to perform as well as new pianos. Older pianos are often more settled and produce a warmer tone.[citation needed]

Piano moving should be done by trained piano movers using adequate manpower and the correct equipment for any particular piano’s size and weight.[citation needed] Pianos are heavy yet delicate instruments. Over the years, professional piano movers have developed special techniques for transporting both grands and uprights, which prevent damage to the case and to the piano’s mechanics.

19th century piano makers, designers, Antebellum

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Antebellum piano makers; Chickering, Steinway, Knabe, Pleyel

Steinway grand piano

Steinway & Sons

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For other uses, see Steinway (disambiguation).
Steinway & Sons
Steinway-logo 4.jpg
Industry Musical instruments
Founded March 5, 1853

Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway, (pronounced /ˈstaɪnweɪ/ ( listen)) is an American and German manufacturer of handmade[4] pianos, founded in 1853 in New York City, by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (later Henry E. Steinway).[5] The company’s growth led to the opening of a factory and employee village in what is now Astoria, Queens in New York City,[6] followed by a second factory in Hamburg, Germany, in 1880.[7] 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).[8]

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg’s dedication was: “To build the best piano possible”.[9] He established at his company three basic principles: “Build to a standard, not a price”, “Make no compromise in quality”, and “Strive always to improve the instrument”.[10] Research and inventions by the company have earned it so far around 130 patents,[11][12][13] a greater number than any other piano company.[14]

After merging with the Selmer Company in 1995, Steinway’s current affiliates include the Boston and Essex lines of pianos. The Selmer Company, today named Conn-Selmer, is a subsidiary of Steinway.

Steinway holds 12 Royal Warrants,[15][16] including one from HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.[1

Foundation and growth

Steinway family members in 1890

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, piano maker of the Steinweg brand, emigrated from Germany to America in 1850 with his wife and six of their seven children.[18] The son Christian Friedrich Theodor Steinweg remained in Germany, and continued making the Steinweg brand of pianos. In 1853, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg founded Steinway & Sons. His first workshop was in a small loft at the back of 85 Varick Street in Manhattan, New York City.[19] The first piano produced by Steinway & Sons was given the number 483 because Steinweg had built 482 pianos in Germany before founding the company. Number 483 was sold to a New York family for $500, and is now displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.[20] A year later, demand was such that the company moved to larger premises at 82-88 Walker Street. It was not until 1864 that the family anglicized their name from “Steinweg” to “Steinway”.[21]

Steinway’s factory in New York City, United States, 1876

By the 1860s, Steinway had built a new factory and lumber yard. Now 350 men worked at Steinway, and production increased from 500 to 1,800 pianos per year. The pianos themselves underwent numerous substantial improvements through innovations made both at the Steinway factory and elsewhere in the industry, based on emerging engineering and scientific research, including developments in the understanding of acoustics.[22] Almost half of the company’s around 130 patented inventions were developed by the first and second generations of the Steinway family. Soon Steinway’s pianos won several important prizes at exhibitions in New York City, Paris and London.[23] By 1862, Steinways pianos had received more than 35 medals in USA alone.[24]


Sudden Mania to become Pianists created upon hearing Steinway’s Pianos at the Paris Exposition.
This lithograph by Amédée de Noé a.k.a. Cham conveys the wild popularity of the Steinway piano, the musicality of which has just been demonstrated by famed pianist Desiré Magnus, at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris.[147] (Harper’s Weekly, August 10, 1867, reporting on the world exposition)

The Steinway company and the family members have won numerous awards, including the following:[148][149][150]

  • In 1839, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg exhibited pianos at the State Trade Exhibition at the Aegis Church in Brunswick, won top prize, and made a sale to the Duke.
  • In 1854, Steinway attended its first exhibition in the United States – the Metropolitan Mechanics Institute fair in Washington, D.C. Henry Steinway Jr.’s design won 1st Prize.
  • In 1855, Steinway exhibited at the American Institute Exhibition in The Crystal Palace at 6th Avenue and 42nd St. in New York City. There, it won its first Gold Medal “for excellent quality”. A reporter wrote the following: “Their square pianos are characterized by great power of tone, a depth and richness in the bass, a full mellowness in the middle register and brilliant purity in the treble, making a scale perfectly equal and singularly melodious throughout its entire range. In touch, they are all that could be desired.”
  • In 1855-1862 Steinway pianos received 35 medals in USA alone.[24]
  • In 1862, for the International Exhibition in London, Steinway shipped two square pianos and two grand pianos to England (two to Liverpool and two to London), and won 1st Prize.
  • In 1867, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Steinway won three awards – the Grand Gold Medal of Honor “for excellence in manufacturing and engineering pianos”, the grand annual testimonial medal, and an honorary membership in the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. These medals won in Europe increased the demand for Steinway pianos, thus the reason the family looked into opening a store in London. The 1867 Exposition Universelle established Steinway as the leading choice for pianos in Europe.[147]


Chickering and Sons was an American piano manufacturer located in Boston, known for producing award-winning instruments of superb quality and design. The company was founded in 1823 by Jonas Chickering and James Stewart, but the partnership dissolved four years later. By 1830 Jonas Chickering became partners with John Mackay, manufacturing pianos as Chickering & Company, and later Chickering & Mackays until the senior Mackay’s death in 1841, and reorganized as Chickering & Sons in 1853. Chickering pianos continued to be made until 1983.

Jonas Chickering made several major contributions to the development of piano technology, most notably by introducing a one-piece, cast-iron plate to support the greater string tension of larger grand pianos.

Chickering was the largest piano manufacturer in the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century, but was surpassed in the 1860s by Steinway. In 1867, Jonas’s son Frank Chickering had the Imperial Cross of the Legion of Honour, then one of the world’s most prestigious non-military awards, bestowed upon him by Emperor Napoleon III for services to the art of music, one of more than 200 awards the piano manufacturer garnered over the years. In 1843 he incorporated his concept for a cast iron frame in a concert grand piano, and an improved version of this piano received unparalleled praise at the first International Exposition held in 1851 at the Crystal Palace, London, winning the top awards.


Franz Liszt and Edvard Grieg endorsed and used Chickerings for their concerts and the virtuoso Louis Moreau Gottschalk would only perform on a Chickering, the piano makers were his number one choice.  A Chickering was first delivered to the White House in 1857.  It was on a Chickering grand that the blind, slave genius, Thomas Bethune “Blind Tom” thrilled President Buchanan in the White House.  Abraham Lincoln had a Chickering grand delivered to the White House.


Ignace Joseph Pleyel (June 18, 1757 – November 14, 1831) was an Austrian-born French composer of the Classical period.




Early years

He was born in Ruppersthal in Lower Austria, the son of a schoolmaster named Martin Pleyel. He was the 24th of 38 children in the family.[1] While still young he probably studied with Johann Baptist Vanhal, and from 1772 he became the pupil of Joseph Haydn in Eisenstadt. As with Beethoven, born 13 years later, Pleyel benefited in his study from the sponsorship of aristocracy, in this case Count Ladislaus Erdődy (1746–1786). Pleyel evidently had a close relationship with Haydn, who considered him to be a superb student.

Among Pleyel’s apprentice work from this time was a puppet opera Die Fee Urgele, (1776) performed in the marionette theater at the palace of Eszterháza and in Vienna. Pleyel apparently also wrote at least part of the overture of Haydn’s opera Das abgebrannte Haus, from about the same time.

Pleyel’s first professional position may have been as Kapellmeister for Count Erdődy, although this is not known for certain. Among his early publications was a set of six string quartets, his Opus 1.

Pleyel Museum and his birthplace, Ruppersthal, Lower Austria

In the early 1780s, Pleyel visited Italy, where he composed an opera (Ifigenia in Aulide) and works commissioned by the King of Naples.

Strasbourg 1783–1795

Attracted to the benefits associated with an organist position, Pleyel moved to Strasbourg, France in 1783 to work alongside Franz Xaver Richter the mâitre de chapelle at the Strasbourg Cathedral.[2] The Cathedral was extremely appealing to Pleyel as it possessed a full orchestra, a choir, and a large budget devoted to performances.[3] After establishing himself in France, Pleyel voluntarily called himself by the French version of his name, Ignace. While he was the assistant mâitre de chapelle at Strasbourg Cathedral, he wrote more works than during any other period in his musical career (1783–1793).[4] At the cathedral, he would organize concerts that featured his symphonies concertantes and liturgical music.[5] After Richter’s death in 1789, Pleyel assumed the function of full mâitre de chapelle. In 1788 Pleyel married Françoise-Gabrielle Lefebvre, the daughter of a Strasbourg carpet weaver. The couple had four children, the oldest being their son Camille. Maria Pleyel, née Moke (1811–1875), the wife of Camille, was one of the most accomplished pianists of her time.

In 1791, the French Revolution abolished musical performances in church as well as public concerts. Seeking alternative employment, Pleyel traveled to London, where he led the “Professional Concerts” organized by Wilhelm Cramer. In this capacity Pleyel inadvertently played the role of his teacher’s rival, as Haydn was at the same time leading the concert series organized by Johann Peter Salomon. Although the two composers were rivals professionally, they remained on good terms personally.

Just like Haydn, Pleyel made a fortune from his London visit. On his return to Strasbourg, he bought a large house, the Château d’Ittenwiller in nearby St. Pierre.

With the onset of the Reign of Terror in 1793 and 1794, life in France became dangerous for many, not excluding Pleyel. Pleyel was brought before the Committee of Public Safety a total of seven times due to the following: his foreign status, his recent purchase of a château, and his ties with the Strasbourg Cathedral.[6] He was subsequently labeled a Royalist collaborator. The outcome of the Committee’s attentions could easily have been imprisonment or even execution. With prudent opportunism, Pleyel preserved his future by writing compositions in honor of the new republic. All were written in Strasbourg at times surrounding the Terror. Below are the pieces composed with dates of publication and details:[7]

  1. La Prise de Toulon (“The capture of Toulon“) for solo and 3 voice choir with piano accompaniment. (19 February 1794)
  2. Hymne de Pleyel chanté au Temple de la Raison (“Hymn sung in the Temple of Reason”) for choir with piano accompaniment. (1793 or 1794; dates disputed)
  3. Hymne à l’Être Suprême (“Hymn to the Supreme Being”) two part cantata (performed 8 June 1794)
  4. La Révolution du 10 août (“The Revolution of August 10“) for soloists, choir, and orchestra (10 August 1794)[8]

Most of these compositions debuted at the Strasbourg Cathedral. However, during the Terror, churches were outlawed and the Strasbourg Cathedral was known as the Temple de l’Être Suprême (Temple of the Supreme Being). He became a naturalized French citizen and thus came to be known as Citoyen (citizen) Pleyel.[9] With his involvement in artistic propaganda and loyalism to the new regime, Pleyel can be seen as the ultimate musical champion of Strasbourg republicanism.[10]

In addition to composing the above works for the Strasbourg public, Pleyel also contributed to the Parisian music scene during the Revolution. One example is Le Jugement de Pâris , a pantomime-ballet by Citoyen (Citizen) Gardel and performed with Pleyel’s music (along with that of Haydn, and Étienne Méhul) on 5 March 1793.[11]

Pleyel as businessman

Pleyel moved to Paris in 1795. In 1797 he set up a business as a music publisher (“Maison Pleyel”), which among other works produced a complete edition of Haydn’s string quartets (1801), as well as the first miniature scores for study (the Bibliothèque Musicale, “musical library”). The publishing business lasted for 39 years and published about 4000 works during this time, including compositions by Adolphe Adam, Luigi Boccherini, Ludwig van Beethoven, Muzio Clementi, Johann Baptist Cramer, Johann Ladislaus Dussek, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Georges Onslow.

Pleyel visited Vienna on business in 1805, meeting his now elderly mentor Haydn for a final time and hearing Beethoven play.

In 1807, Pleyel became a manufacturer of pianos; for more on the Pleyel piano firm, see below.

The French piano firm Pleyel et Cie (“Pleyel and Company”) was founded by the composer Ignace Pleyel (1757-1831) and continued by his son Camille (1788-1855), a piano virtuoso who became his father’s business partner as of 1815. The firm provided pianos used by Frédéric Chopin, and also ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, in which Chopin performed his first — and last — Paris concerts. Pleyel’s major contribution to the development piano was the first use of a metal frame in a piano.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the Pleyel firm produced the first chromatic harp. In the early 20th century, at the behest of Wanda Landowska, it helped to revive the harpsichord. Pleyel pianos were the choice of composers such as Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Ravel, de Falla and Stravinsky and of the pianist and teacher Alfred Cortot.[1]

[edit] History

Pleyel pioneered the player piano with the Pleyela line of pianos. These were often very small pianos of a very unusual design.

Pleyel was the first to introduce the upright piano to France[citation needed], adapting the best features of pianos built in Britain. They introduced these pianos by 1815. Their pianos were such a success that in 1834 the company boasted 250 employees and an annual production of 1000 pianos.


Chopin preferred to play only on a ‘silvery thin-toned’ French Pleyel.

Piano Glossary terms from Steinway.com


Accelerated Action – A technical feature in Steinway grand pianos, in which the key balances on a rounded surface, rather than a flat surface.

Action – The internal mechanism of a piano, consisting of several thousand moving parts made of a wide variety of materials. action consisting of a system of levers that move a felt hammer to strike the strings when a key is depressed.

Action Regulation – The adjustment of action parts to their proper specifications.

Agraffe – Small brass fittings, with holes through which the strings pass, screwed into the plate of some pianos to keep the strings perfectly spaced.

Art-case piano – The term for a one-of a-kind, specially decorated or embellished piano; often made by a noted designer or artist.


Bass Sustain Pedal – The middle pedal that sustains the bass notes only.

Belly Department – The part of the piano factory where the soundboard and iron frame are installed into the wooden rim of a grand piano.

Book Match – A decorative technique where two pieces of veneer with the same grain formation are placed side by side to obtain a figured pattern.

Bridge – A wooden structure (between the strings and the soundboard) that transmits string vibrations to the soundboard.

Bridge Pin – A small metal pin embedded in the top of the bridge against which the string presses; there are two for every string in a piano.

Bushing – A peice of cloth that acts as a buffering between metal hardware and surrounding metal or wood.


Capo d’astro – A metal bar attached to the underside of the iron frame of the piano, used in place of an agraffe in the treble notes to hold the strings in place evenly.

Case – The externa cabinet parts of a piano.

Center Pins – Small pins that form the precision pivot points of moving action parts.  There are over 600 center pins in a piano action.

Clavichord – An intmate and quiet-sounding stringed keyboard instrument in use from approximately 1500 until the early 1800’s and again in recent years.

Closed-grained – The term for lumber with tiny, or non existent, pores. Can be finished without the use of pore fillers.

Color Matching – The process of staining by which the shade of the wood of the various parts of a natural-finish piano are made to match.

Crown – A slight dome given to the soundboard in order to withstand the down-bearing pressure of the strings and maintain its proper shape.


Damper – A felt cushion attached to a lever assembly that stops the vibration of the strings.

Diaphragmatic (soundboard) – A thinning of the edges of the soundboard so as to increase the potential for vibration where it attaches to the case.

Digital Keyboard Pianos – Electronic musical instuments that electronically reproduce authentic piano sounds.

Duplex Scale – A scale design in which the ends of the strings (usally muted with cloth) are allowed to vibrate, adding tonal color.



Flitch – A complete section of tree trunk that has been sawed into thin pieces of veneer and is shipped as one unit.


Gray Iron – The mixture of iron ore and composite materials that is melted together and poured into a mold to create a piano’s metal fram; also known as cast iron.

Grey Market Pianos – Pianos originally made for and the sold in Japan, then later sold as used pianos in America.


Hammer – The mallet that strikes the piano strings, made of very dense felt wrapped around a wooden core.

Hammershanks – The thin wooden levers on which the hammers are mounted.

Hammer Filing – The process of reshaping the hammers and removing worn layers of felt.

Harp – An alternate name for the iron frame fastened to the piano’s inner rim to which the strings are attached; it enables the strings to be held under tremendous tension.

Harpsicord – A stringed keyboard instrument, forerunner of the piano, first described and still in use.

High Gloss Finish – A mirror like finish. (Also referred to as “Polished”)

Hitch Pin – The metal pin at the terminal end of the piano string that holds the strings in place.


Inner Rim – The wooden structural part of a grand piano rim to which the soundboard and iron frame are attached.



Keybed –  A wooden panel to which the keyboard and action are attached; it slides in and out of the piano for easy access.

Keylid – The curved, hinged wooden cover that pivots down to protect the keyboard when a piano is not in use. Also known as the Fallboard.

Key Bushings – Felt or leather bushings glued into mortises in the keys that enable them to move quietly.

Key Covering – The visable surface of the key usually made of ivory, ebony, or plastic.


Lacquer – A varnish used to coat a wooden surgace for an especially hard, glossy, durable finish.

Lamination –  The process of bonding multiple layers of thin strips of wood (laminates) into one integral piece. Also, applicable to the use of veneer.

Lyre – The grand piano part that decends from the case of the piano and hold the pedals.


Music Desk – The horizontal cabinet part that holds the prited music upright for pianist.


Node – The exact point between vibrations of partial segments of a string, ocurring at measurable intervals along a string’s length.


Outer Rim – The external portion of a grand piano’s wooden rim.

Overstrung Scale – A design scheme where the bass and treble strings cross over each other, adding length and creating a larger sound.

Overtone – A higher tone faintly heard above the fundamental pitch of a note, resulting from the vibration of a partial segment of the string.


Pianoforte – The orginal name for an early version of the piano, in use from approximately 1700 to 1850.

Piano Rebuilding – The process of replacing major parts of the piano or sets of parts. This may also include case refinishing.

Piano Reconditioning – Restoring the condition of exciting piano parts and their functions.

Piano Strings – The steel and copper wires that produce the musical tone in a piano. There are three strings per note throughout most of the piano range.

Piano Tuning – is the act of making minute adjustments to the tensions of the strings of a piano to properly align the intervals between their tones so that the instrument is in tune.

Pinblock – The wooden structure that holds the tuning pins in place. Also known as a wrestplank.

Pitch – The highness or lowness of a sound, corresponding to the frequency of vibrations.


Quartersawn – Refers to lumber milled axially against the grain; produces the most durable, strongest boards.


Regulation – Process of making adjustments to the action to compensate for chandges due to wear and enviromental changes.

Repitition – A small assembly of wooden levers, springs, felt, buckskin cusions that is part of the grand piano action. There are 88 repetitions in an action.

Ribs – Wooden bracing glued to the soundboard to strengthen it and support the transmission of sound across the grain.

Rim – The curved, laminated wooden structural framework that supports the soundboard, iron frame, and keybed, etc., in a grand piano.


Satin Lustre – The name for the least reflective buff finish available. This finish is found most commonly on the Steinway Crown Jewel pianos.

Scale – In apiano, the basic layout of the strings, bridge, and hammers relative to one another and to the overall size of the instrument.

Soustenuto pedal – The middle pedal that sustains only those notes beign played at the moment the pedal is pressed.

Soundboard – A large, thin, wooden diaphragm that amplifies the vibrations of piano strings.

Speaking Length – The principal segment of a piano’s string, whose vibration gives the instrument the greater part of its sound.

Stencil Piano – Piano bears the decal different from the company that actually manufactured the piano.

Sympathetic Vibration – A natural phenomenon where a string will vibrate when a nearby sting is excited, even though it has not been struck itself.


Technician – A person who tunes and repairs pianos.

Tubular Metallic Action Frame – A metal armatue to which the individual action mechanisms that transmit the pressure on the keys to the strings are fastened.

Tuning Pin – The treaded steel shaft that keeps the strings at the proper tension. There are nearly 250 tuning pins in a piano depending on the piano.



Varnish – A broad term for a number of different kinds of smooth coatings applied to a wooden surface, which can be built up into an attractive, durable, protective film.

Veneer – Thin wood sheet cut from the circumference of a log.

Voicing – Adjusting the shape, density, resilience of the individual hammers for desired tonal quality and uniformity.


Whippen – The cintral action part that allows the hammer to fall from the strings after striking them.

Wrestplank – The laminated wooden plank that sits at the keyboard end of the piano in which the tuning pegs are embedded; also know as the pinblock.