Piano ABCs

piano-buying-guide

Piano ABCs

Learning your “piano ABCs” isn’t difficult. We’re here to help make sure you know enough to make an informed decision when you buy a piano. With so many years in business, we have come up with a piano buying guide that includes all the basic information necessary before buying a piano but we feel some terms used casually in the industry can be confusing. We’ll define them here.

A –
Agrafe – limits vibrations between the tuning pin and bridge. Made of brass and can be found near the tuning pins.
Aliquot – a brass or metal fitting that creates a duplex scale with an additional harmonic overtone usually in the treble section of the piano.
Action – the mechanical interface between the player and the string/percussion instrument known as a piano.

B –
Back Check – the back check is a small leather-covered wooden block which catches the tail of the hammer as it rebounds from the string.
Balance Rail – is the point that the key pivots, there is a pin for it to rest upon
Bridge – the connector interface wood for the strings to the soundboard for the purpose of transmitting vibrations to be amplified into sound energy by the soundboard

C –
Case – refers to the cabinet of a vertical or grand piano and can sometimes be used to describe parts in a piano.
Castor Cups – The floor protection cups piano wheels go into.

D –
Damper – a felt piece used to mute a string and dampen sustain
DampChaser – a device that provide moisture to your piano in dry climates to prevent cracks in the soundboard and internal drying. It can also remove moisture from pianos in damp climates.

E –
Escapement – is the mechanism in a grand piano that allows the hammer of a key to fall away from the string after it’s struck, making it easier to play soft notes repeatedly. When you softly press a key on an acoustic grand piano, you’ll notice a certain click or soft “catch” toward the end of the range of motion. Only grand pianos not verticals have escapement although today some digital pianos like Roland have it too.

F –
Felt – this is the material used for making piano hammers and for dampers usually made from wool.
FallBoard – This is the term for the key cover. Usually it means a cover that comes down in one piece or two pieces in a Boston style fallboard. ( Nothing to do with the Boston piano)
Flat – Refers to a black key.

G –
Grand – a piano that sits on three to four legs and is open at the top and the bottom. It can range in size from under five feet to over ten feet for a Fazioli piano.

H –
Hammer – this is the compressed felt that strikes the string in a piano to produce the tone
Harp – the cast iron plate which supports the tension of the strings

I –
Inner Rim – on a grand piano the frame is called a rim and the part closest to the inside of the piano is called the inner rim.

J –
Jack – pushes the hammer up toward the string on a grand and forward to the string on an upright.

K –
Keyboard – the entire 88 notes of black and white keys.
Knuckle – a leather covered part with a felt core that helps in the repetition process of the action.

L –
Let Off – is how close the hammer gets to the string before it is released from the jack you may here a tuner refer to adjusting the Let Off.
Lid Prop – The stick that props up the lid of a grand or upright piano often with multiple lengths.

M –
Mute Rail – is a piece of felt lowered between the hammers and the strings common on an upright pianos which reduces the volume of the piano.

N –
Natural – a white note which is neither sharp nor flat

O –
Overstrung – this refers to the modern way of building a piano where the treble midrange strings crisscross the bass strings. Older piano designs have strings running straight up and down.

P –
Piano – the word itself means soft in Italian. The Original name of this instrument is Piano Forte literally translated into Soft Loud.
Player – refers to a piano that plays itself either using old fashioned rolls or modern tablet based technology.
Pneumatic Lid – a grand piano lid assisted with pneumatic control for easy of opening and closing. This is available on some Baldwin models.
Plate – the cast iron structure that support the tension of the strings.

Q –
QuietTime Magic Star – an aftermarket system than can turn any piano into a silent piano which can be played silently with headphones. (Check out how to make any piano silent here.)

R –
Regulation – the process of adjusting the feel of the action and aligning it.

S –
Sharp – another word used to describe the black keys of a piano
Soundboard – the thin wood membrane that amplifies the vibration of the string energy from the bridge creating piano tone.
Strings – the metal wires that vibrate when struck. These are made from steel and bass strings are steel wrapped in copper

T –
Tune – is the process of bringing the piano to the proper pitch by adjusting the tuning pins.

U –
Upright piano – is any piano that sits flat against a wall no matter what the height is although it is usually used for pianos that are taller.

V –
Vertical piano – another term used to describe an upright piano.
Voicing – the process of adjusting a piano hammer to make the tone softer or louder and or make the tone sharper or more mellow.

W –
Wippen – is part of the action. It comes into direct contact with the key. It is responsible for transmitting the motion of the key to the hammer.

X –
X frame – refers to a style of building the back frame of an upright piano that resembles an X.

Y –
Yamaha – a brand of pianos made in Japan, Indonesia and China

Z –
ZWheeeeee – we can’t come up with anything meaningful for this letter. LOL Happy Piano Shopping!

Piano Information

The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to decide the type of piano you should buy. Below, we have outlined some of the basics you should know about before you make your purchase. Price is likely going to be a consideration for most people, but you shouldn’t base your decision on the cost of the piano.

Types of Upright Pianos

An upright piano is one that can sit next to a wall. In general, there are four basic types of upright pianos.

  • Spinets – This type of upright piano will range anywhere from 36–39″ in height.
  • Consoles – These pianos also stand upright and range from 40–44″ in height
  • Studios – These can range from 44–46.5″ in height
  • Professional Upright – These range from 47 – 53″ in height

While consoles are a good choice for the home, a studio is great for home or school and an upright is going to have a biggest sound because the strings can be longer with the extra height and additional sound board area.

Grand Pianos

While you might think a “grand piano” just means it’s big, this isn’t actually the case. The term refers to the shape of the instrument. When it comes to terms like Petite Grand, Baby Grand, Parlor Grand, Music Room Grand, Music Hall Grand, Semi–Concert Grand and Concert Grand, it’s important to realize that the names may have different meanings for different people. This is why it’s best to go by the actual size of the piano, which is really easy to measure but in general…

Any piano under 4’11” is referred to as a petite or mini grand.

A piano from around 5′ till 5’5″ is referred to as a baby grand.

A piano from 5’6″ to 6′ is referred to as a parlor grand

A piano from 6′ to 7′ is referred to as a grand

A piano above 7′ till 8′ or so is referred to as a semi-concert grand

A piano of 8′ plus and usually 9′ is a referred to as a concert grand

Quality Used Pianos

Finding a quality used piano is not difficult. We have a wide selection of gently used and well maintained used pianos for sale with almost all of them sold with a transferable parts & Labor warranty.A used piano can save you quite a bit of money. At Hollywood Piano, we make sure that every piano we have for sale on the showroom floor has been serviced so that it’s in good shape. Contact us today to learn more about what we currently have in stock.

Coming soon is our used piano shopping guide.