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Origins of an Instrument - Piano: Part 2

Origins of an Instrument - Piano: Part 2

In the previous article, we looked at what is one of the most popular instruments of all time – the piano. This has been used to write countless songs and is the most adaptable instrument there is. In this article we’re going to look further into how this instrument works, how it’s used by musicians, and how it’s earned its place as one of the greatest instruments around.


The piano can be used by pianists in various ways and each individual player will have their preferred way of approaching the instrument. Some pianists are very good at reading from sheet music, and this is the most classical way to approach the piano. Being able to follow sheet music as written is a difficult skill, and one which takes years of practice to master. When playing many styles of music, this is the way a professional would learn the piece, because it produces the closest version of the song to how it was written by the original composer. On the other hand, some pianists much prefer to improvise with their music. This can be done with the chord progressions used throughout a song, but it is perhaps an even harder skill to master. Improvising requires an expert knowledge of scales and chord formations to the point that they can easily be summoned when playing a song. It also requires a good knowledge of how to create a certain rhythm using the keys, and this can only be learnt through listening to music very closely and thinking about how to put those rhythms into practice. This use of chords and improvisation is generally employed in Jazz and Gospel music, as it can make the live music more unique and personal.


One of the reasons that the piano is so popular and adaptable is that it has the biggest range of any instrument, and one that encompasses the musical range of all other instruments. Its lowest note is the lowest note of a double bassoon, and its highest is the highest note on a piccolo. That means that musical parts for any instrument can be written and played on the piano, leading it to be known as the “King of the Instruments”. This also means that when it comes to playing already written music, the piano is the best at imitating a whole orchestra, as it can play the whole orchestral range. This means that if you can only afford to have one instrumentalist in a song, the piano is the best choice.


However, one of the big problems that pianos face today is that acoustic pianos continually need to be tuned, just as a guitar would, by tightening the strings to make them sound the right notes. While this is needed less often than it would be for a guitar (roughly once a year), it is a lot harder to do oneself, and usually a piano tuner would be brought in to retune it for you. Unfortunately, the number of piano tuners across the world is gradually reducing, since it’s quite a highly skilled job, and not the most attractive one. Because of this, more and more people are turning to the less traditional non-acoustic pianos, of which there are various types, and these will be the main subject of my next article. 


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