Keyboard instruments are an important tool in music education, giving students a hands-on, visual means of learning music theory while offering a wide range of unique sounds.
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What is a Keyboard Instrument?
Any instrument played using a keyboard, which can comprise a series of
- Parallel levers
The keys are set in a chromatic scale with bass notes on the left and treble notes on the right.
A keyboard gives a musician the ability to play several notes at once and in succession, allowing you to play any work in Western canon.
Fun Historical Facts
- The first keyboard appeared on the hydraulis, a pipe organ powered by water, which was invented by Ctesibius of Alexandria in the late 3rd century B.C.
- Organs in the Middle Ages had sliders that were pulled to sound different notes. Some had keys that turned like a key for a lock.
- The dulcimer was the first of the keyboard instruments to appear in Europe in the 14th century.
- The 15th century saw the development of the spinet, virginal, clavecin, and harpsichord.
- The harpsichord was the most popular of these early iterations, but it could only be played at one volume.
- The piano was invented in 1709 by Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori, an Italian harpsichord maker.
- In 1863, Henri Fourneaux invented the player piano, which he called the pianista.
The Key Family
Common keyboard instruments:
- Hurdy gurdy
Breaking Down the Piano
The piano is considered the king of instruments, and not just for its size. The piano:
- Offers an amazing range that goes higher than the highest note of a piccolo and lower than the lowest note of a double bass
- Can play both melody and accompaniment at the same time
- Is one of the go-to instruments for composers and musicians of all genres and disciplines
- Tuning pins
- Action frame
- Bass strings
- Treble strings
- Cast iron plate
How Keyboard Instruments Make Sound
Keyboard instruments actually mix elements from strings, percussion, and woodwinds.
- Striking: When you hit a key on a piano, a hammer strikes a series of strings, causing them to vibrate. The vibrating strings are amplified through the soundboard.
- Plucking: When you hit a key on a harpsichord, a jack moves up and plucks the strings, much like a guitar.
- Air: Organs and accordions produce sound using air, controlled by bellows or a windchest. The air passes through certain pipes or over specific reeds depending on the keys that are depressed.
- Una corda pedal (left pedal)
- Produces a softer sound
- Una corda means “one string.” Treble keys are normally attached to two or three strings. The una corda pedal shifts the strings so that the hammer only hits one string.
- Sostenuta (middle pedal)
- Causes certain notes to be sustained
- Only found on American grand pianos
- Sustain pedal (right pedal)
- Causes all of the notes to resonate after the keys have lifted
- Creates legato effect, allowing notes to overlap and echo
- Learn music theory. The piano is the best tool for learning music theory and fundamentals, which carries over to all musical instruments and disciplines. This includes:
- Key signatures
- Chord progressions
- Play classical music, which can help you build your basic technique.
- Play with good posture to prevent fatigue and aches and ensure the most efficient method of play.
- Keep your hands relaxed, fingers curved.
- Instead of relying on just your finger strength, use the whole weight of your arm.
- Do not slouch. Keep your back straight, aligning your head, shoulders, and hips.
- Elbows should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Feet should be touching the floor completely. Use a footstool if necessary.
- Sit only on the front half of the bench.
- Your knees should be just below the keyboard.
- Remember to relax. Tensing up will prevent efficient play.
- Learning to play with both hands is challenging for many beginners.
- When starting a new piece, play with just the right hand alone a few times. Then play with the left hand alone. Once you’re comfortable, play with both hands.
- Play slowly, gradually increasing the tempo as you gain confidence.
- Read notes vertically before moving horizontally.
- Play in front of your friends and family to build confidence and share your progress.
- Have fun!
Some pianos also feature pedals:
Keys to Success
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