One of the most frequent questions I receive as your piano tuning Wilmington DE technician, is “Why are there no dampers on the very highest strings on a piano?”

For background, the dampers are the parts of a piano that stop the strings from vibrating.  If you have a grand piano, you can see them resting on the strings behind the music desk.  If you have a vertical piano, I will try my best to describe them, and I will be happy to show them to you at your next tuning.

There is a separate damper for each of the notes in the bottom 3/4 of the piano.  The damper head is made of wood and has soft damper felt glued to it.  The felt is what stops the string from vibrating.  When a note is played, a mechanism attached to the key raises only that one damper, so the note can be heard.  When the key is released, the damper is returned to the string to stop it from vibrating so that the next note can be heard clearly.  If there were no dampers, strings would ring up to ten seconds each, resulting in a muddy sound that would not allow for a clear melody to be heard.

There are situations where the pianist would like the strings to continue to ring even after the key is released.  The sustain pedal, on the right, is the more frequently-used pedal to accomplish this.  Pushing on the sustain pedal raises all dampers until such time as the piano pedal is released.  Proper use of this pedal will allow the pianist to play a more fluid line of music, where each note sounds until the next is played.  This prevents the relatively choppy sound that would occur if each note stopped sounding before the next were played.

Now to answer the original question: “Why are there no dampers on the very highest piano strings?”  There are two reasons.  If you were to play one of those highest notes, so will see that they ring only a couple seconds, instead of the ten seconds that lower strings ring.   As a result, dampers are not needed to stop those strings from ringing.  Additionally, if you look at those strings, they are only a couple inches long.  There is no room for dampers to fit on them.  So the whole thing works out quite well.

If you would like me to explain all this at my next visit, please let me know.  As your Delaware piano tuner, I am happy to explain how your piano works.  We also provide piano services in the areas of Philadelphia, Eastern Shore MD and Southern NJ.