One of the common questions we are asked as your expert Piano tuner Wilmington DE is: How a piano can be both a stringed instrument and a percussion instrument?

The piano is unique in its range and flexibility largely due to the fact that it is both a stringed instrument and a percussion instrument.  When we think of stringed instruments, we typically think of instruments in the violin family, such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, each of which have only four strings.  Less often, we think of the harp, which has numerous strings.  Each of these instruments have strings, but no additional mechanism for producing sound.  The music from each of these instruments is produced by a hand-held bow or by using one’s fingers to directly pluck the strings.  Even the harpsichord, which is the instrument most similar to the piano, has a mechanism that plucks the strings rather than striking the strings as in a piano.

In a piano, there is a mechanism whereby the strings are struck by “hammers” made of felt-covered wood.  This striking mechanism or “piano action” is what qualifies the piano as a percussion instrument, as well as a stringed instrument.  We usually think of a percussion instrument as some type of drum, cymbal, or bell.  But the fact that the strings of a piano are struck qualifies the piano as a percussion instrument, as well.

It may help to understand the design, if the antecedent instrument of the piano, the hammer dulcimer, is explained.  The hammer dulcimer is rarely seen these days, unless you are walking the streets of Rome.  It is a small stringed instrument that is played using a felt or leather-covered wooden hammer on the end of a stick.  The player holds one hammer in each hand and strikes the strings one or two at a time.  It is extremely primitive compared with a piano.  The idea of the piano is to have a mechanism to control the striking of the strings, so that multiple strings can be struck at the same time, resulting in chords.  Additionally, a piano has damping mechanism, so the sound can be stopped whenever the player wishes.  This allows for melodies to be played.  By contrast, the sounds of the dulcimer continue to last, so that after a while there becomes a jumble of sound.

The control of sound that results from the “piano action” allows the piano its great control over sound, allowing the player to play melodies and accompaniments all at the same time.  This contributes to the piano having its great range and flexibility in producing beautiful music.

If you have any questions about your piano or the way a piano works, you can feel free to ask your Kenneth Keith Piano Services, your Delaware Piano Tuner. We also serve the Philadelphia, Eastern Shore MD and Southern New Jersey areas.