Portal:Piano

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A 19th-century grand piano

The piano is a musical instrument played using a keyboard. It is widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment and for composing and rehearsal. Although the piano is not portable and often expensive, its versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the world's most familiar musical instruments.

Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a padded (often with felt) hammer to strike steel strings. The hammers rebound, and the strings continue to vibrate at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a sounding board that more efficiently couples the acoustic energy to the air. The sound would otherwise be no louder than that directly produced by the strings. When the key is released, a damper stops the string's vibration and the sound. In the Hornbostel-Sachs system of instrument classification, pianos are considered chordophones.

The word piano is a shortened form of pianoforte (PF), the Italian word for the instrument (which in turn derives from the previous terms gravicembalo col piano e forte and fortepiano). The Italian musical terms piano and forte indicate "soft" and "strong" respectively, in this context referring to the variations in sound volume the instrument produces in response to a pianist's touch on the keys: the greater the velocity of a key press, the greater the force of the hammer hitting the strings, and the louder the sound of the note produced. This is in contrast to the predecessor of the piano, the harpsichord, which cannot produce different dynamics depending on how hard the key is pressed.


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Martha Argerich in 1962

Martha Argerich (born June 5, 1941) is an Argentine concert pianist. Her aversion to the press and publicity has resulted in her remaining out of the limelight for most of her career. Nevertheless she is widely recognized as one of the greatest modern-day pianists. Argerich rose to international prominence when she won the seventh International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1965, at age 24. One of her performances in that winning campaign was a defiantly confident reading of Chopin's Etude in C major (Op. 10, No. 1).

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Chopin's Pleyel piano on Majorca

Pleyel et Cie ("Pleyel and Company") is a French piano manufacturing firm founded by the composer Ignace Pleyel in 1807. In 1815, he was joined by his son, Camille, as a business partner. The firm provided pianos to Frédéric Chopin, and also ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, where Chopin performed his first — and last — Paris concerts. Pleyel's major contribution to piano development was the first use of a metal frame in a piano. Pleyel pianos were the choice of composers such as Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Ravel, de Falla, and Stravinsky.

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Upright piano with Jankó keyboard at the MIM, Berlin.
Upright piano with Jankó keyboard


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Did you know…

… that during the past 100 years, there have been about 5,000 different piano brands?

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