Alex Fender © Fender Piano Services 2013 - 2019
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Some interesting things about pianos!
Most modern pianos have 88 notes from ‘A’ right up to ‘C’. In the past pianos generally had 85 notes, finishing at top ‘A’
The Bösendorfer Imperial grand from Austria has 97 notes! This 9’6” monster of a piano has a full 8 octaves going down to the ‘C’ below the bottom ‘A’ of a normal piano.
In general, pianos have roughly 250 strings. The very bottom notes have one string per note, then two per note in the upper bass and tenor regions. Three strings per note for the treble. Most pianos employ the return loop system of stringing in the treble. This is where the steel string loops round a hitchpin in the frame and returns to the tuning pins. This means that there is one length of music wire (string) for two of the three strings. In top quality pianos they have individual strings throughout. There is much debate as to which is better, personally, I believe that individuals are are far superior. They give greater tuning stability and it’s often quicker to tune too. The downside is that eyes have to be formed for every one in the event of breakage.
Some older Blüthner grands had an extra string in the treble, this was set higher than the others so the hammer didn’t hit them. The idea was that this ‘Aliquot’ system would create an extra resonance as these strings would vibrate in sympathy. They were tuned 1 octave + 3 beats higher (in theory!) than the note (the same pitch + 3 beats in the very top section). They took a long time to tune correctly and whether they made a big difference is open to discussion!
There are well over 3000 moving parts in most pianos! For every note roughly 35 parts - multiply by 88 gives you 3080 - add in the pedal mechanism, case parts, even castors and you can see the necessity for keeping it serviced!
Pulling power! Anything under tension creates a pulling force. If we add up the pulling force of every string in the piano it will work out to around 20 - 22 tons of pulling power on the frame. This is one reason why the piano is so heavy, you need a strong iron frame to resist that tension.
People often say that they dream of having a concert grand….let’s think about that for a minute!
Yes, they are nice to look at but their sheer size makes a large room full. Concert grands were built to be loud enough to fill a concert hall, can you imagine how loud that will sound in your house?! Yes, we can reduce the volume by altering the hammers but it’ll still be very loud and if it’s too loud no one will enjoy playing it let alone listening to it.
Another consideration is the tuning. Concert pianos are tuned for every concert which could be every day and even more than once during the day. They tend to be quite unstable in tuning simply because they are so big, there is a lot of expansion and contraction going on. The slightest change in atmosphere that won’t bother a smaller piano will have an enormous effect on a concert grand.
All in all, as the name suggests, they are best left to the concert hall.