The acoustic piano has been described as ‘the king of instruments’. On what does it base its claim to this auspicious title? Let’s consider a few of the characteristics of acoustic pianos which make them so outstanding as a vehicle for artistic expression.
In all of western music, the piano is unsurpassed by any other acoustic instrument (see below for a discussion of how we define ‘acoustic’) in terms of both range and polyphony. ‘Range’ is the term used to describe the difference between an instrument’s highest and lowest notes, and the range of grand acoustic pianos is 88 chromatic notes, or over seven octaves. ‘Polyphony’ means the number of notes which an instrument can produce simultaneously using normal playing technique. Since all the strings of a piano are independent of each other, all the notes can theoretically be played at once, the only limitation being the number of fingers you have!
The piano is also outstanding in terms of musical dynamics. Pianoforte (the full name for the instrument) means ‘soft and loud’, in contrast to all previous keyboard instruments which played at a set volume which could not be changed. The acoustic piano thus ushered in an era of greater expression in music. With all this flexibility, even the most basic upright acoustic pianos are like mini-orchestras in terms of possibilities!
A skilled pianist can play several musical parts simultaneously, transpose a piece into any desired key, and play at a volume to suit the occasion. For this reason, we believe the piano deserves the title ‘the king of instruments’, and would love every home to have one! If you are searching for an acoustic piano for sale, please take a moment to browse the Richard Lawson Pianos website, or contact us directly with your requirements. After over forty years as dealers in Kawai, Petrof and Yamaha acoustic pianos, we can help you to find the perfect instrument to fulfil your musical ambitions. From splendid grands to the latest Kawai K Series and Yamaha acoustic upright pianos, your new instrument is waiting for you at Richard Lawson Pianos.
Notes about the descriptions in this article:
I have chosen to discuss only acoustic instruments, as many electronic devices such as synthesizers and music generating software can easily be set up to exceed the constraints of traditional instruments. Whether or not you would describe the operation of such tools as ‘playing’ music is a matter of perspective. It is worth noting that many modern hybrid acoustic pianos offer a combination of modern electronic features with the absolute authenticity of a traditional acoustic instrument.
Some types of pipe organ offer comparable flexibility (though less dynamic control) to an acoustic piano. However, these were usually driven by an auxiliary power source (such as a steam engine), or by additional people pumping hand bellows! They therefore hardly qualify as an ‘acoustic instrument’ as we use the term here. Likewise, while certain techniques (such as playing harmonics on a guitar) can be used to challenge the limitations of certain instruments, we have considered their characteristics as they were designed, as with the piano.