The piano is a large musical instrument that comprises a strong wooden case housing and a metal frame. This composition of the piano holds a bunch of metal strings and each of these strings comes with an associated padded hammer. These hammers in turn feature a corresponding key or lever. A gentle push on the piano keys or the lever will activate the hammer which in turn strikes the string, to produce the sound. It is because of this striking action, the piano is considered to be a grand percussion instrument. In this article, we’ll see about the number of keys on full sized piano.
Though this instrument has strings and the vibration of its strings creates the sound, the keyboard is the most important and prominent feature of the keyboard. The keyboard of this piano comprises a row of white and black keys. A full-sized modern acoustic piano or digital piano comprises 88 specific keys, that comprise seven octaves and minors ranging from Ao to Cs. There are a total of 52 white keys on the piano. Each octave has seven white keys that are tuned as C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. There are also 36 black keys on the piano and each octave has five black keys.
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The first piano with 88 keys
Before the piano was invented, composers wrote music for the harpsichord which had only 60 keys. And the music was limited to the five-octave range of the harpsichord. The first-ever piano was originally developed by Bartolomeo Cristofori in the year the 1720s. These earliest pianos have only 49 keys and they also have a very different sound. These pianos sound more like a harpsichord. Over time the number of keys increased and composers demanded more from their instruments.
Steinway was the first-ever piano manufacturer who came up with the idea of 88 piano keys in the year 1880. The 88-key pianos have 7 octaves and three lower notes. Several other manufacturers follow this suit. Though the grand acoustic pianos were first manufactured soon many versions were created. This includes the upright piano, some hybrid versions, and even the electronic versions of the pianos that were developed over the years.
Most of the piano manufacturers stopped making pianos with only 88 keys. The music composers of modern times also write music that fits in the range of the 88-key model. Most piano makers also accept this limit, as anything beyond or within this limit is considered too low or high for the human ear.
Pianos with extra keys and a longer key bed
The standard number of keys on the piano key bed is 88 keys. Some piano manufacturers produce a piano with a greater number of keys. The greatest manufacturer of pianos, Imperial Bosendorfer manufactures pianos with nine additional bass keys and now the total number of keys in the piano is 97 keys, which includes eight additional octaves.
A more recent piano model has been manufactured by Stuart and Sons and this piano has 108 keys which comprise of full nine octaves starting from Co to Bs. To differentiate these additional keys, most of the manufacturers will offer them a reverse color or a hinged covering. The additional white keys on these pianos are generally colored black. Such a new feature prevents disorientation in the new pianists, who are not used to pianos with these additional keys.
Yet another version of this piano is from Emanuel Moor Pianoforte which comprises two rows of keys that totals about 164 keys. The lower keys in this manual comprise about 88 keys and the upper row manual of the piano’s key bed comprises 76 keys. Though these pianos have a large number of additional keys to this type of piano, both these key rows strike merely as a single set of strings.
But the keys on the upper manual produced tines that are generally an octave higher than their corresponding key at the lower manual. Thus the pianist playing in these keyboards allows the pianist to play two octaves in a single hand. Not many pianists are comfortable with this piano and thus it is a rare type of piano. There are only 60 examples of these pianos manufactured so far.
Pianos with shorter keyboards and lesser keys
Several pianos have less than 88-keys on their manual. It is a fact that earlier versions of the piano had only 85 keys in total. These pianos had only fifty white keys and thirty-five black keys. The manuals of this keyboard have seven octaves that range from A0 to A7.
The pianos that are different from the upright and the grand acoustic pianos have fewer keys. For instance, the manual of the mini piano comprises 73 keys. This piano has about six octaves that range from F1 to F7.
Electric pianos with 88 or lower keybed
The electric piano has been commercially introduced in the year 1939, and they use the same mechanism that is found in the grand acoustic pianos. There are many types of electric pianos that are manufactured by legendary brands such as Kawai, Yamaha, Casio, etc. Apart from the 88- key bed, Yamaha also manufacturers 73-keys and 76-keys models. Kawai also manufactures electric pianos with 75-keys or 76- keys piano models, along with the standard 88-keys electric pianos. Casio manufacturers 64-key piano models along with 88-key upright piano models.
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Pianos that have a lower key bed such as 61 keys with five octaves or 76 keys, should be great for beginners. It helps them to get their notes right and it also helps them to master their piano technique. They are also affordable and budget-friendly. But as you progress in your skill level, you will surely require pianos with the standard 88-keys bed.
Pianos with greater than 100 keys are for professional musicians who wish to create diverse variations in their music compositions. Nevertheless, there are pianos for everyone, and every music journey and choosing the best fit piano is always a personal choice.