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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. This is in contrast to the predecessor of the piano, the harpsichord, which cannot produce different dynamics depending on how hard the key is pressed.

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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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A Blüthner grand piano

Blüthner, formally Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH, is a piano-manufacturing company founded by Julius Blüthner in 1853 in Leipzig, Germany. Today Blüthner pianos come in several sizes of grands from 5 ft to 9 ft in size. Innovations such as aliquot stringing and angle-cut hammers create a unique voice for the Blüthner instrument. The special lightweight piano for use on the Zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg was also a Blüthner.

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Metropolitan Opera House, a concert by pianist Josef Hofmann (1937)
A sold-out 1937 concert by pianist Josef Hofmann at the Metropolitan Opera House

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