Piano: The king of musical instruments

Lovers of music are captivated by the magical sound of the piano. It has a charm that no one can resist

Tasneem HossainTasneem Hossain
Published : 28 March 2024, 00:33 AM
Updated : 28 March 2024, 00:33 AM
Pianists are the magicians who bring melodies to life
Ivan Manko-Vertogradoff

Almost everyone gets captivated by the music of the piano. With every stroke -it's magic.

The piano has been a source of entertainment and has enthralled listeners for centuries. Its delicately beautiful and vibrant sound brings music to life.

I believe the piano is symbolic of aristocracy. Its presence in households conveys great taste. It's an essential accessory in the houses of aristocratic people.

Unfortunately, pianos are quite expensive and few people can afford them.

Roman Polanski's film The Pianist (1946) is a remarkable movie based on the autobiographical book on the life of Wladyslaw Szpilman, an undeniably talented and celebrated Jewish pianist. A holocaust survivor, he hides in flats around Warsaw as the Nazis hunt down and kill the city's surviving Jews. The film is a masterful portrayal of the pure beauty of piano music and its ability to rise above life, bringing out the best in people.

The piano is often called the 'King of Instruments.'

Nils Frahm, a German musician, with a group of like-minded people, felt that the piano deserved to be honoured more widely and launched the World Piano Day In 2015.

He chose the 88th day of the year in celebration of the standard number of 88 keys of the piano. This year, 2024, it falls on 28 March.

World Piano Day unites lovers of this extraordinary musical instrument across the globe and encourages pianists of all ages and skill levels to perform in public areas to provide a platform that will promote this beautiful art form and spread the joy of playing the piano. The day is observed by organising live concerts, workshops, and seminars. The celebrations highlight the importance of the piano as an artistic and cultural medium and its great impact on music worldwide.

An Italian harpsichord builder Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori created this musical instrument 'gravicembalo col piano e forte' (an instrument capable of producing soft and loud sounds) around the year 1700. Between 1790 and 1860, during the Mozart era piano underwent many changes that resulted in its present form. Between 1700 and 1830, pianos were called – Pianoforte. Later it came to be known as piano.

The piano is a keyboard instrument with 230 strings inside an ordinary modern piano that is struck by hardwood hammers covered by a softer substance. There are white and black keys. The setting is five black keys and seven white keys in a certain order. An interval is formed from the beginning of one set of keys and the ending, which is at the beginning of the next set. This is called an 'octave', an interval being the musical distance between two sounds. It's also important to note that the highest keys are on the right and the lowest on the left. The black keys represent the intervals to halves between these musical tones, while the white ones primarily represent the musical tones. The semitones and natural pitches can be distinguished with the help of coloured keys. The last note on the piano keyboard is a C. The first note is A. Middle C is not exactly in the centre; instead, it's in the area above between E and F.

A piano has over 12,000 parts, with 10,000 of them moving. Sounds of pianos are made when between one and three hammers hit a string.

Tuning has to be done four times in the first year of manufacturing a piano. It's needed because wood changes form until it becomes fixed. Old pianos need to be tuned twice every year.

There are two basic types of piano – Grand and Upright. Almost all modern pianos have two or three pedals.

Interestingly, the strings of a grand piano are so strong that they can lift up to 30 tonnes.

Musical instruments are grouped into two families. Normally, it's quite easy to identify which family the instruments belong to. But in the case of the piano, some say it's a percussion instrument (sounded by striking, shaking, or scraping) such as a drum, xylophone, or tambourine. Others say it belongs to the string family (produces sound by the vibration of stretched strings) like cello, guitar, violin etc. Many would say the piano is unique in that it belongs to both families.

Pianos are stringed instruments, but officially they are placed in the percussion section of a symphony orchestra.

You can imagine its demand by the number of productions a year. In the US, 25,000 pianos were made in 1869; 350,000 in 1910 and now it's over 10 million pieces.

Music has its own therapeutic effect on the human mind. Piano music also has some benefits:

• It's fun and entertaining.

• Enhances taste for music

• Improves motor skills and hand-eye coordination

• Boosts cognitive and intellectual capacity

• Improves mental health; lessens depression and anxiety

• Improves a child's language development abilities and overall academic success.

• Promotes cultural mediation actions

Some interesting facts:

• The first electric piano was made in 1947.

• The oldest piano is on display in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

• The Alexander Piano, considered one of the largest pianos in the world, measures 19 feet long.

• Another piano called Challen Concert Grand is 11 feet long and weighs more than a ton.

• One of the most expensive pianos, the Victorian Steinway Grand, was sold at an incredible price of $1.2 million.

• The Galaxy piano, another very expensive piano, with a 24-carat gold body costs $1.36 million.

There are so many famous and talented pianists in classical, jazz, and popular music that it's difficult to discuss them all. Highlighting a few:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) is considered one of Western classical music's most prolific, popular and famous composers of all times. He started his music career at the age of six. He could learn a song on the piano in just 30 minutes. He has composed 600 works for piano, symphonies, concertos, and operas. His music is considered a pinnacle of symphonic and operatic music all over the world today.

Australian composer of the classical period, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732- 1809) was instrumental in the development of chamber music such as the string quartet and piano trio. His contributions to these musical forms have led him to be called 'Father of the Symphony' and 'Father of the String Quartet.'

No list would be complete without Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 –1827), the revered German composer and pianist. 'Für Elise' is one of the most famous and recognizable pieces of piano music in the world. It wasn't published during his lifetime. It was discovered and published 40 years after he died in 1865! His works rank among the most performed of the classical collection of music pieces spanning the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic era. Though his hearing began to deteriorate in his 20s and he spent the last decade of his life completely deaf, he went on composing enchanting music for a long time. Some of his most famous compositions are Moonlight Sonata, The Emperor Piano Concerto, Ode to Joy, Violin Sonata No. 9, The Fifth Symphony, and the Ninth Symphony. He remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.

Russian-born, Sergei Rachmaninoff's (1873) Piano Concerto No. 2 has often been voted the most popular piece of classical music of all time.

Frédéric François Chopin(1810-1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period. Though he wrote for other instruments, he is mostly remembered for solo piano.

Another pianist from the Romantic period was Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886). He was a master showman on stage. Normally, it's common for musicians to perform from sheet music but he used to perform completely from memory. Some still regard him as the greatest pianist who ever lived. You may listen to his famous Paganini Etude "La Campanella". His "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 has been featured in Looney Toons and other cartoons.

Called the "Maharajah of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, Canadian pianist and composer Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) is commonly considered one of the greatest jazz experts in history.

Elton John (b. 1947) the British singer, songwriter and rock pianist is best known for songs like "Rocket Man," "Your Song," and the musicals "The Lion King" and "Aida."

Lovers of music are captivated by the magical sound of the piano. It has a charm that no one can resist.

A huge round of applause for the piano and the pianists worldwide.

Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist, op-ed and fiction writer, translator, educator and training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Centre, Bangladesh.


1. Days of the Year, World Piano Day

2. The Economic Times, World Piano Day 2023: Who invented the piano and what is the significance of the day? Mar 29, 2023