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The word “piano” literally means “soft”. Originally, the instrument was known as a “forte piano”, which literally means “loud soft”. Before the invention of the piano the instrument most popularly used for a similar purpose was the harpsichord. The problem with a harpsichord is that it can only be played at one volume. In other words, no matter how hard or soft you press a key it plays the note with the same amount of volume. Instead of plucking the internal strings like a harpsichord the piano uses hammers that hit the strings with force relative to how hard the key is pressed. So, you can play a piano softly or you can play it loudly.


Since not long after its invention in the late 17th century the piano has been one of the most popular instruments in the world despite its immense size and cost. Typically, as a solo instrument, the piano is used to play harmony and melody together, generally using the left hand for harmony and the right for melody. With an orchestra or a band the piano can be used for accompaniment and/or for melodic leads and soloing. Sheet music for the instrument uses the grand staff and the keyboard is designed to make it relatively simple to visualize and comprehend the language of music.


The piano is a great instrument to start a young musician on for a few reasons. It is fairly simple to play a note and make it sound good, you don’t have to hold it while you play it, and the notes on the keyboard are laid out in a way that makes it easier to understand how key signatures work. While it is fairly simple to play a single note and make it sound good, playing the piano competently on a professional level takes extreme dedication to practice and commitment to proper technique.


There are two basic types of acoustic piano, grand and upright, with a few different variations. While standard pianos all have keyboards with 88 keys that are all relatively the same size there are modern electric varieties, player pianos that play by themselves, pianos with a silent mode for practicing, and transposing pianos that can be adjusted to sound in a different key. Some of the best and most popular acoustic pianos are made by Steinway & Sons, Baldwin, and Bechstein. Roland is the leading maker of digital pianos.


Inspiration for playing the piano can be found in almost any variety of music from classical to jazz to hard rock. There are the piano concertos of Mozart and Tchaikovsky, the poppy jazz-classical of Gershwin, Vince Guaraldi, Thelonious Monk, Jelly Roll Morton, Dr. John, Elton John & Billy Joel, etc. A used upright is typically the most inexpensive way to get started with an acoustic piano, but many different variables apply and buying a piano takes a lot of research.


For those who already play the piano and want to learn new styles there’s: Boogie Woogie, Cocktail, Rock, Ragtime, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, Classical, New Age, Gospel, and many others.

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