What Is a Piano Made Of?

By Peter Macinta ; Updated September 15, 2017
What Is a Piano Made Of?

While beautiful music is often heard from pianos, much care and hard work goes into making pianos the enjoyable instruments they are. Here are some of the main parts that comprise pianos in general.

Keys

The wooden keys are usually overlaid with plastic (ivory is no longer acceptable) and they rest on rockers, which act as levers.

Transferring Motion

Once a key is depressed, it sends that motion to what is called the action via a wooden sticker (uprights), capstan (a short brass screw--consoles and grands), or wooden lifter (spinets). The motion is transferred to the wooden whippen, which can be considered as the "foundation" for a key's action.

The Action

Attached to the whippen are twenty or more parts that comprise the action, but the main components are the jack that pushes against the butt of the hammer, the felt covered hammer with its shank, and the damper with its lever, all of which are wooden. Additional parts, among other things, insure quick and smooth action.

Strings

Some parts shown here are the tuning pins and block, strings, bars, and plate. Image by author.

The strings are usually steel wire, and in the bass section they are thick, single and often coiled. The strings are secured below usually by small metal pins on the plate and at the top (or near the keys on grands) by metal tuning pins. They rest on wooden bridges that limit unwanted vibrations and transmit the desired ones to the soundboard.

Sound and Support

An iron plate is used to support the immense pressure of the strings. Behind the plate is the soundboard (usually made of spruce) which enables the strings' vibrations to be heard from a distance. The frame of the piano (often a hardwood like beech or maple) houses these components.

Pedals

The pedals act as levers that move boards and rods to either lift all dampers at one time (right pedal--sustain), or move the hammers in a way to lessen the volume (left pedal). If there is a middle pedal, it is either a "dummy," a practice pedal that muffles the tones with felt, or for bass sustain.

Small but Important

Felt, glue, pins, rails, bars, and, in some cases, weights in keys are just some of the small but important things that aid in the production of the natural music that a piano can provide.

About the Author

Pete Macinta earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Bible from Northeast Bible College, Green Lane, Pa., in 1976 and has been a minister of the Gospel for almost 40 years. He began writing professionally in 2003 as a reporter for the Daily Banner (Cambridge, Md.), and currently does freelance writing and editing.