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A 19th-century grand piano

The piano is a musical instrument played using a keyboard. It is widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment and for composing and rehearsal. Although the piano is not portable and often expensive, its versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the world's most familiar musical instruments.

Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a padded (often with felt) hammer to strike steel strings. The hammers rebound, and the strings continue to vibrate at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a sounding board that more efficiently couples the acoustic energy to the air. The sound would otherwise be no louder than that directly produced by the strings. When the key is released, a damper stops the string's vibration and the sound. In the Hornbostel-Sachs system of instrument classification, pianos are considered chordophones.

The word piano is a shortened form of pianoforte (PF), the Italian word for the instrument (which in turn derives from the previous terms gravicembalo col piano e forte and fortepiano). The Italian musical terms piano and forte indicate "soft" and "strong" respectively, in this context referring to the variations in sound volume the instrument produces in response to a pianist's touch on the keys: the greater the velocity of a key press, the greater the force of the hammer hitting the strings, and the louder the sound of the note produced.

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Martha Argerich in 1962

Martha Argerich (born June 5, 1941) is an Argentine concert pianist. Her aversion to the press and publicity has resulted in her remaining out of the limelight for most of her career. Nevertheless she is widely recognized as one of the greatest modern-day pianists. Argerich rose to international prominence when she won the seventh International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1965, at age 24. One of her performances in that winning campaign was a defiantly confident reading of Chopin's Etude in C major (Op. 10, No. 1).

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German advertisement poster, around 1920

Bechstein is a German manufacturer of pianos, established in 1853 by Carl Bechstein who set out to manufacture a piano able to withstand the great demands imposed on the instrument by the virtuosi of the time such as Franz Liszt. In 1857, Hans von Bülow (Liszt's son-in-law) gave the first public performance on a Bechstein grand piano. Today, Bechstein is in competition with Steinway & Sons, although the Bechstein sound is very different from Steinway's.

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Bach-Siloti portraits.jpg
by Bach as arranged by Alexander Siloti. Courtesy of Musopen

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Interior of a grand piano.
Credit: Opus33
Interior of a grand piano demonstrating the concept of duplex scaling, where the portion of the string past the pin blocks vibrates in harmony with the main string.

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I think one of the best things you can do, no matter what you play, is to take up piano. Music is based on chord changes and harmonies, and you can get 'em more out of an instrument like piano, where you can hear all the notes at once.
—John Haley Sims


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