Last Reviewed and Updated on June 8, 2022
Have you ever been to a concert and seen a piano on stage? Maybe you’ve even tried playing one yourself. But have you ever stopped to wonder what the origins of pianos are, or why they’re so important to music? It is one of the most popular musical instruments in the world and there are quite a few intriguing facts about the piano you should know.
1. Piano was invented around the year 1700
Kicking off the list of facts about the piano we have this interesting fact. The invention of the piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori of Padula in Italy. The exact date of when the first piano was built isn’t known, but it is suggested that it was around the year 1700. There are three Christofori pianos still preserved dating back to 1720s.
2. It is classified as a string and percussion instrument
When you think about string instruments, guitars, violins, and such come to mind. And when you think about percussion you think about drums, tambourines, and such, A piano is a little bit of both – it has strings that are hit with small hammers, which classifies it both as a string and percussion instrument.
3. Pianos used to have keys made of ivory
Before the use of ivory was banned in the 20th century, the keys of pianos were made of ivory. Ivory was typically obtained from elephants or rhinos at the cost of the life of the animal. Since the ban, the ivory keys are replaced with plastic ones and in most places, it is illegal to sell an old piano with ivory keys (there is nothing illegal about owning them).
4. Pianos can have over 12,000 parts
Talk about complex! In fact, pianos are one of the most complex instruments.
Just looking at the average piano, there are 88 keys, around 230 strings, 88 hammers, and hundreds and hundreds of parts supporting them.
5. Self-playing pianos were invented in 1896
You have probably seen a scene in a western movie or two, usually when a fight breaks out in a saloon when the pianist takes cover and the piano keeps on playing on its own.
These pianos were called a player pianos and they contain either a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano. Music was recorded on perforated paper or on metallic roles from which the music was read by the piano.
6. Piano wires are under very high tension and should only be handled by professionals
They pack a punch. Each string is tightened to a tension of up to about 90kg – 200 pounds. There are many things that can go wrong when it comes to replacing the strings, from injury to yourself to damaging the piano if not done properly.
Luckily, you will most likely never have to have strings replaced as they are very durable.
7. There is only one death recorded from the piano falling on a person when hoisted up
This is one of the more weird facts about the piano. What might be a popular depiction in comics, cartoons and even movies isn’t something that happens often. In fact, there has been only one (still one too many), death attributed to a piano being hoisted up and falling on a person. In 1931 a piano was hoisted up to a second-story building, a cornice broke off the building and the piano fell and killed a mover below.
There have been a few more deaths associated with pianos, but none of those with the piano being hoisted up and killing a person below (oddly enough it did a person above).
8. It is one of the most popular instruments to play
While it’s hard to say exactly which instrument is the most played in the world as there isn’t a way to precisely determine the number of players of a certain instrument it is still a fact pianos rank highly. They may even be the most popular instrument, with the guitar being the only other contender for this spot.
Whatever the case may be the piano is loved and learned by many musicians across the globe.
9. Modern pianos have two basic configurations
Setting aside electronic pianos and synthesizer-like pianos, there are two basic configurations of pianos; the grand piano and the upright piano.
The more well-known grand piano has a horizontal frame, strings are also laid horizontally.
Upright pianos take up less room as they have a vertical frame and the strings are also laid vertically.