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How does the Piano work ?

Updated on July 1, 2011

Hammers & Strings

The piano produces sound by vibrating strings.

Pressing a key of the piano, causes a hammer to go forward and strike one, two or three strings (depending on whether it is a treble, middle or bass note).
When the strings vibrate, they make a musical sound which then amplified by a large soundboard connected to the strings.

Another mechanical part is the damper (a wooden block with a felt pad). Its purpose is to stop the string’s vibration when the sound has continued long enough. Each key on the piano has its own damper, except for the highest few keys who do not need dampers, because their corresponding strings are short and therefore do not generate as much sound as the longer strings.

When at rest, the damper head rests directly on the string, effectively muting any string vibrations. When the key is depressed, the damper is raised from the string, allowing the string to vibrate.

The Pedals

While the keys of a piano control the musical notes, the pedals control the loudness of the sound and its length.

In some pianos there are two pedal (right & left) while in others, there are three pedals:

The right pedal (the sustain pedal) lifts all dampers away from the strings so that all the strings are free at the same time. This produces a richer sound.

The middle pedal (the “practice” pedal) drops a piece of felt between the hammers and strings, greatly muting the sounds so that you can practice late without disturbing the neighbors . Often this pedal can be shifted while depressed, into a “locking” position.

The left pedal (the soft pedal) pushes all the hammers closer to the strings, so that the hammers strike with less momentum. The result is as softer sound.


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