Do you need an elephant to tickle the ivories? Nope! But you do need keys…88 keys to be exact. What are we talking about? Playing the piano, of course!

Do you know how to play the piano? The piano is a popular instrument among children and adults. If you’ve never taken piano lessons, chances are you probably have a friend or family member who has taken piano lessons at one time or another.

Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano in the 1690s. It soon surpassed the harpsichord in popularity. Unlike the harpsichord which plucks the strings, the piano allowed a player to play both soft and loud notes by pressing the keys with more or less force.

This distinction from the harpsichord gave the piano its original name: pianoforte. This name came from the Italian words for soft (piano) and loud (forte). Over time, the instrument came to be known simply as the piano.

A piano’s sounds are created by strings vibrating. When you press a key on a piano, the key moves a tiny hammer inside the piano to hit a string. When the string vibrates, it creates sound.

Each of the 88 keys on a piano plays a different note. More than one key can be played at the same time to create chords and harmonies.

Some of the keys are black and others are white. The white keys on a piano are sometimes called the “ivories,” which led to the phrase “tickling the ivories” to be used for playing the piano.

Although there are 88 keys on a piano, there are more than 88 strings inside the piano. Most pianos have over 200 strings! Very low notes usually have only one string. Higher notes can require as many as three strings.

To play the piano, you have to use more than just your hands, though. Did you realize you also have to use your feet? Pianos usually have two or three pedals that can be pressed with your feet. These pedals have different purposes, such as allowing the player to play softer notes or to sustain (lengthen) notes that have been played.

Pianos come in different shapes and sizes. Some pianos are called upright pianos, because they sit upright and take up less space. Grand pianos are much larger and produce a much higher quality sound. Grand pianos are complex instruments that can be made up of over 7,000 different parts!

The piano is sometimes called the “King of the Instruments.” From its lowest note to its highest note, a piano can produce a wide range of tones. In fact, a single piano can cover the entire range of notes that can be played by every instrument in an orchestra!

Wonder What's Next?

Today’s Wonder was about a piano. Tomorrow’s is about an organ!