THE GRAND PIANO, ANCHOR OF THE ORCHESTRAL SHIP
A quintessential tool in music education for its ability to be an experimental ground for any music- the piano is an infant instrument in the long history of music. It was invented in the 1700s in Italy as a better ‘mouse-trap’ for the pianoforte (older version of the instrument). Often it is incorrectly referred to as keyboard, while keyboard only suggests a board of keys nescient of the hammers and strings which actually produce the sound.
Having said that, whether it is a string instrument or percussion instrument is still a subject of debate. However, its working is very distinct. There is the main lever at the end of which is a key, for the musician to press. At the other end it is connected to a damper which holds the string in place, so when the lever is pressed the damper gets released. There is a second lever attached to the main one through a wippen and a jack, it has a hammer at one of its ends. When a musician presses a key, the damper lets go of the string and the hammer hits the string simultaneously to give a sound note particular to that key which is governed by the length and tension on that string.
In the grand piano, this whole mechanism is set horizontally instead of vertically, giving its player better control and bearing better sound. Not to mention the horizontal set up allows the audience to awe at the ‘clockwork’ at its back and the size only adds to its grandeur.
There are three broad types, classified on the basis of its size:
For a first impression, the grand piano makes a regal impact, while the pianist playing it, not that much. Everyone tends to believe the job of a pianist is way easier compared to his co-instrumentalists’, is it so in reality? Not actually, there is more to playing a grand than that which meets the eye, like the three-foot pedals the player employees to sustain the sound notes, modify the timbre or sustain selected notes. Nonetheless, it isn't entirely false to deem playing the piano, much easier than other instruments; primarily because of the arranged keyboard and all the levers doing the hard work.
So what makes this complex machine yet simple instrument, the preferred tool for any and all music composers and probably the only versatile musical instrument that can be part of an orchestra of any genre, be it jazz, classical, folk or even rock? The simple answer to that is- It offers its player maximum range and control, making it quite the whole package musicians look for.
A person's voice is usually 2-3 octaves, most instruments also have only 3 octaves, a guitar has 4 octaves. The grand piano beats them all by double, it has a whopping 8 octaves! The power of 8 octaves in 88 keys all within the hands reach is designed for permanence! The pianist can support the darkest of thrillers as well as the brightest of comedies. This gives rise to the most unique quality is that it can accompany itself. Only a pianist can play both the chords and the melody simultaneously. It is a class act by itself.
As a conclusion to this modest composition, it is evident that the grand is, in fact, the most versatile instrument that provides a platform for musicians to perform if not stealing the show by individual performance. Surprisingly it also acts as the perfect learning pedestal no matter what the proficiency of the musician is. The orchestral ship is only held fast by the heavy caliber of the grand piano.