There is no doubt about it – a grand piano has the most powerful sound of any piano style available, and anyone who has ever played or heard a grand piano in a concert hall designed with proper acoustics can attest to this statement. The rich, beautiful tone carries over the audience and captivates each and every listener as though the notes are soaked in some fantastical spell. This sound can instantly instill the feeling of unbridled joy, deep sorrow, excitement, confusion, wistfulness and nearly every emotion in between. Indeed, a well played grand piano can alter a person’s very mood. Any instrument with this type of power should be cherished and, as is the case with most grand pianos, it is.
However, for those who have not yet delved into the science behind how pianos work, you may be wondering – what could possibly cause a grand piano to ignite such a stir? The trick to the power behind a grand piano is actually nothing more than simple physics and a larger sounding board. While this may sound very ho-hum to most, the sounding board of a grand piano is actually very interesting and has a foundation deeply rooted in ancient history.
Before the early 20th century, piano sounding boards were made quite differently. Because the technology of modern times was not yet available, these instruments were constructed in a very complex and intricate manner. Looking at the inside of a piano today, it’s hard to believe there could be anything much more intricate. However, older pianos contained all sorts of specially shaped pieces that worked together to produce the sort of powerful sound that can only come from something designed by expert hands.
A sounding board of a piano is so important that some even refer to it as the “voice” of the instrument – and in a grand piano this voice is quite loud. As you may already know, the sounding board is responsible for translating the forced vibrations of the hammers hitting the strings into an amplified sound. However, the sound created by the sounding board depends on multiple factors and, as piano experts are aware, the more violent the vibrations the stronger the sound. The piano sounding board is constructed of thin slats of wood, and the higher the quality of the wood, and the more pronounced the grain, the better the sound of the piano.
Some people have remarked that they want the sound of a grand piano, but in a smaller vertical piano that they can keep in their living rooms. The reason this is not possible is due to the larger sounding board. If you look down at a grand piano from up above, you will see that the sounding board takes up a great deal of space because it lies horizontally. In upright pianos, the sounding board is vertical. While there are many high quality vertical pianos that make powerful and beautiful sounds, the power of a grand piano is still unmatched.
Do you think modern technology has affected the sound of grand pianos negatively or positively?