Fun Facts About Pianos

Posted by Sarah Czarnecki on

Is trivia night coming up? Need to brush up on your piano trivia? We've found an octave's worth of fun facts for you.


closeup rainbow octave piano keys


If you play the piano, you're a percussionist.

Yep, you read that right! You thought a piano was a string instrument, didn't you? Nope! Because the action hammers actually strike the strings, pianos are considered percussion instruments right up there with drums and xylophones. We happen to think pianos sound nicer than snares, but that's just us.


Pianos have a lot of parts.

Okay maybe that one isn't so surprising, but do you know how many parts there are? Well, each key has about a hundred parts, and there are 88 of those... each key has up to 3 strings each, and each string has its own tuning pin... That's not even the half of it! All told, a piano has 12,000 parts, and 10,000 of them are moving! Give your piano tuner an extra cup of coffee -- they've earned it.


You think YOU'RE stressed, just consider the tension your piano strings are under!

Each grand piano string is under about 160 pounds of tension and there are 230 strings. If our multiplication tables are correct, that's equivalent to about 35,000 pounds! Whoa!


And because of all that tension, pianos can explode.

Okay, so it doesn't happen very often, but it has happened. If the cast iron frame inside the piano is severely cracked and the strings are under maximum tension (an unlikely combination) the tension of the strings can cause the frame to break. Strings everywhere, wood smashing... Can you just imagine how wild that would sound?


The word "piano" is short for something.

When pianos were invented in 1700s Italy, they were called clavicembalo col piano e forte. That mouthful translates into approximately "keyboard instrument that can play loud and soft sounds." Thankfully, it was shortened to pianoforte, but that was still too long. Thanks to centuries of laziness, we've cut the number of syllables from 12 to 2.


Pianos have the widest musical range of any acoustic instrument.

You can tell your guitarist friends that you could play more songs than them.


Middle C isn't actually in the middle.

It's pretty close, but if you get out the tape measure, you'll see that the actual middle is the space between E and F just above "middle" C.


The ivories aren't ivory.

Unless you have a very old piano with original keytops, chances are your piano keys are made of plastic or ivorite. Ivory is made from teeth or tusks from elephants and other animals, and piano manufacturers stopped using it in 1989. It's technically possible to buy old ivory keys, but it's extremely difficult and expensive. Anyway, imitation ivory is cheaper, more durable, more humane, and easier to get. To learn more about why ivory belongs on elephants and not on your keyboard, check out this article.


There you have it, a whole octave of of piano trivia. Now go crush trivia night!

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