As your piano tuner Wilmington DE and the surrounding areas, I would like to share some information with you about piano string design. The layout of strings in a piano has changed over time. If you have a grand piano, you will notice that there are two layers of strings in the bass section of the piano. You will see the bass strings fan out about 3/4″ above the plain wire strings of the middle of the piano. Piano strings were not always designed this way.
The piano was invented about 1700 by an Italian harpsichord maker, named Christophori. His invention of the striking mechanism of the piano was incorporated into the cabinet and strings of a harpsichord. The strings on harpsichords and early pianos all ran straight back from the front of the instrument to the back, and were all on the same plane. That is, they were located next to each other, not over top of each other as you see in the modern piano. This layout of strings lasted almost 150 years, until the mid-1800’s. As the piano reached greater popularity and concert halls were built larger, there developed a demand for more volume from concert pianos.
Many parts of a piano contribute to greater volume, but one of the most important is the piano soundboard. If you look under the strings on your grand piano, you will see a large piece of wood the spans the entire instrument. This is a thin piece of spruce that amplifies the sound generated by the strings. Without it, the piano would be about as loud as an electric guitar with the electricity turned off. It is the soundboard that amplifies the sound of the strings so that the sound can fill a concert hall. It is attached to the case of the piano at the sides, so the middle of the soundboard performs most of the movement and amplification of sound. If the strings are placed more over the middle of the soundboard, rather than at the edges, then the sound of those strings will be amplified more.
If you look again at the two layers of strings on your grand piano, you can note that the two layers allow more strings to be located over the center of the soundboard, so they can be amplified more. This is called an “overstrung scale,” as opposed to a “straight strung scale.” This overstrung scale was such a significant advance in piano design that every piano since the mid-nineteenth century has used it.
If you have a vertical, rather than a grand piano, the expert piano technicians at Ken Keith Piano Services can show you the overstrung scale on your piano while I am there for a regular piano tuning and maintenance of your instrument. Besides Delaware, we also serve the Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey and Eastern Shore Maryland areas. When you’re ready to schedule your next piano tuning, please give us a call.