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!

41 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (9 votes, avg. 4.56 out of 5)
  1. No! :( I was wrong. Today’s wonder of the day is not about tickling. However, I loved today’s wonder! :D You already told me what tomorrow’s wonder is. It is about Organ. ;)


    • You have been WONDERing like a true Wonder Friend, TJ! You have a GREAT imagination! Keep up the great work… and check out this past Wonder about another ticklish subject: the Funny Bone!

      Wonder #493– Does Everyone Have a Funny Bone? :)

    • We are THRILLED you liked the video, Julie! Hope you have a GREAT day with a Wonder in your head and a song in your heart :)

  2. I play the piano! I learned a lot about it. Now wait til I get to piano lessons so I could tell my piano teacher! :)


    • You must be great at the piano with all that practice, Emily! We are THRILLED you enjoyed the video about playing the piano! We hope your piano teacher enjoys your recent Wonders, too! :)

  3. Wow amazing youtube video! :) It was very interesting and fun! I play the piano and it’s very challenging but fun! Thanks for this wonder and enjoy the rest of this summer! :)

    • Learning to play the piano is a great accomplishment, Madison! We LOVE that you enjoy the challenge and think it’s WONDERful that you have fun while playing! We hope you have a STELLAR summer and keep up the GREAT work! Have FUN tinkling the ivories. :)

  4. I can play Hot Cross Buns on the piano. I hope I learn tons of songs on the piano. I am wondering if you know how to play the piano.

    • Congrats on learning to play a song, Helena! We think it’s WONDERful to practice playing an instrument you love. We LOVE your curiosity about our piano skills, too. We LOVE to listen to all types of music, including piano music, and would LOVE to learn to play! :)

    • We LOVE your enthusiasm, Wonder Friend! Thanks for joining us as we use our imagination to dream up new and exciting ideas! :)

  5. I taught myself to play the piano this year. I play violin and am in gr 5 almost 6 in violin so it was easier. Wonderopolis and horses forever!!!

    • It’s great that you can enjoy your family’s musical talents, Azza! Even if you don’t play, we hope you continue to Wonder about COOL instruments and beautiful music! :)

  6. I once played 2 different kinds of pianos. One my mom got for Christmas is an electric piano and it taught me how to play a song. The other one is a touch mat that plays all sorts of songs. :-)

    • WOW, Carlos, that sounds like an AWESOME experience! We Wonder if one of the pianos was more challenging to play than the other? We LOVE learning to play new instruments, especially when we can share our talents with others! Thanks for sharing such a WONDERful story! :)

  7. Hi Wonderopolis,
    I thought today’s wonder was great and I play piano, drums and saxophone and a bit of recorder here and there.

    • You are quite a talented musician, Wonder Friend! How INCREDIBLE that you have learned to play four different instruments– we WONDER if you have a favorite! We hope your day is pitch perfect and WONDERful, just like you! :)

    • We love WONDERing about musical instruments with you, Dan! Thanks for your comment and have a STELLAR day filled with music! :)

  8. I absolutely love the piano I can play many songs on it but I never knew this stuff about it. But it is very cool!!!!!

  9. Piano is my Weakest point and great Slow musical instrument and this article make me happy to read around the world Piano lover are still alive and thank you for the great site…Thanks

  10. I played piano for a year and a half, but when I practiced I never played on a piano with strings! I actually practiced on a keyboard… could you do a wonder on how keyboards work? That has been a big wonder of mine for a while now. Thanks!

    • Hi, Amiya Morton! Pianos are WONDERful instruments. We WONDER if you play the piano? Thanks for visiting WONDERopolis! :)

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  • How do you play the piano?
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