Inside the Grand Piano
The Piano Belly
Piano Scale Design
Piano construction begins with scale design. But what do salespeople and technicians mean by scale in a piano? Reduce to the simplest terms, the scale is the physical layout of the strings and other components which produce or affect the sound and tone quality of the piano. Different scale designs give each piano its own special tonal quality and personality.
The soundboard is one of the most important, and least understood, parts of the piano. As the soul of the piano, its purpose is to convert the vibrations of the strings in to what we know as piano tone. Without it, there would be no amplification. In fact, there would be very little sound of any kind. By the same token, if the soundboard is not made of the proper kind of wood, or if its size, thickness, crown (or curvature), grain direction, texture, and other factors are not in balance, the end result can be unacceptable to the trained ear...
The pin block rests just below the webbing area of the cast iron plate. Its purpose is to firmly hold the tuning pins to which the strings are attached. A quality pin block uses laminations of high quality wood, usually Northern hard maple, which is carefully seasoned and dried. Typically, the grain direction of each layer of plies is set to a specific angle, to assure even gripping of the tuning pins. All plies are bonded together permanently with a high quality glue.
Cast Iron Plate
The piano plate is made of fine gray cast iron, to each individual manufacturer’s unique specifications. The piano plate is anchored to the rim by heavy wood-screws and bolts.
The plate serves as the backbone of the piano. This rigid structure supports hundreds of pounds of tension from the strings.
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Bridges are made of hard maple or boxwood glued to a laminated root. Bridges must be planed to exact thickness from end to end. Their principle responsibility is to provide down bearing of the strings situated on top of the bridges, and produce clear termination of the speaking length of the string. Bridges must be accurately notched to provide the precise “stopping” point of the string, in the same way a violinist “stops” his string by pressing his fingers down on top of the strings.
This is designed to be a simple overview of the essential components of a grand piano. By no means is this an all encompassing examination of the more than 10,000 individual parts that you might find in a piano.