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What’s Inside a Piano?

You know the sound a piano makes. You love the way it makes you feel when you hear a pianist really play the right notes with that special touch. You can easily tell the difference between a ‘real piano’ and a cheap keyboard. But do you know how a piano works? Have you ever looked inside and examined the hammers, backstop, tuning pins and seen the action move? Here’s a chance for you to discover what’s inside a piano.>

My Early Piano Introduction

My Granddad was an amazing pianist, composer, musician and piano technician. My first memories of a piano are of the two of us sitting at the keyboard with him teaching me something new. I would hear my Grandmother from the kitchen telling him “Roger, don’t make Sharon stay at the piano any longer; She’s probably ready to play with the kids!”. But, I was always ready to learn something new. And Granddaddy could always find something to teach me.

Me and my Granddaddy
Me and my Granddad

Even after he had suffered multiple strokes and could no longer move his hands on the keyboard, he was still a brilliant musician. I can remember him telling me I was playing “The Flower Song” in the wrong key while he sat there in the nursing home unable to play even a note. Guess what? He was right!

When the pianos in his home, church or environment would be out of tune or need repair, I was often right beside him – watching him take it apart and asking questions. He was my first teacher telling me how the action works and showing me how to find what makes a key stick.

Discovering inside a piano

This last week I took the cover off our piano so my kids could discover the insides themselves. I have shown hundreds of my piano students the action and now it’s time for my kids to see.

We just opened up the top so the kids could see the hammers work. It’s always amazing for kids to realize that when you push the key, it causes a hammer to strike the string. The vibrations of the strings cause the sound we love.

inside a piano
Looking at the hammers inside a piano.

 

I sometimes allow the kids to carefully pluck the strings so they can see how the thickness of the strings changes the pitch – the sound is deeper as the strings get thicker and longer.

inside a piano
What happens when we pluck the strings?

I love it when the kids make the connection of how the pedals work. Each of the pedals is connected to a vertical bar under the piano that moves the action to change the sound.

Discovering the pedals
Discovering the pedals

 

Seeing and discovering how things work is an important part of life. Have you ever seen the insides of a piano? What do you think is the most fascinating thing about this favorite instrument? I’d love to hear!

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3 Comments

  1. Sharon, this is a great post – rich and full and abounding with memories from all the family. It’s one of those neat things right out of the words of a song, “…and the gift goes on…” Thanks so much for seeing the opportunity to teach your children about the workings of the piano…and about the heritage they share with our Dad, the musician.

  2. Sharon, thanks for sharing such rich memories of my dad. He was a wealth of information on such a wide variety of subjects because of his thirst to to know what made things work. I remember how fearless he was to take anything apart including pianos, to repair, to replace or just to study- and he was always able to get them reassembled and working like new.
    I am glad that you have those memories and for your sharing them with us.
    When we lived in Miami, Florida, I have such great memories of making great concerts on our grand piano without ever playing the keys. I would get into my own little creative world as I plucked, strummed, lightly hammered and rubbed to make the most creative musical renditions. They were delightful to my ears and dad would get a tickle out of my efforts and would then want me to sit down so that he could show me something more musical on the keyboard.
    It was not until I was an adult and married with my own home that I began to realize that most people did not grow up with the piano as the foremost instrument- with music being created nightly even as we slept. The morning light would have dad excitedly calling us all to the living room to witness the birth of his newest melody and God inspired lyrics. Yes- great memories. Thanks for the reminder- and I sure enjoyed the photos of your children inventing their own creative renditions on your piano.

  3. Sharon, your memories of my dad showing you how a piano works brought back tons of emotions and thoughts. I always do a unit on the piano in my children’s choir at church, and their fascination is priceless! When your Grandpa was a “piano tuner” (amongst his many part-time jobs when we were children), he got paid $10. for his expertise. I remember many a time when he would put an entire piano action into the back seat of the car and bring it home to his “workshop” (the garage) and rebuild it. What a heritage, and I’m so thankful he passed that love of the keyboard on to you. Thanks for the article. I’m singing “Memories, light the corners of my mind…..” -Aunt Karen

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