There are beautiful and stately things in this world, both natural and man-made. In nature, it might be a thoroughbred horse or an ancient oak. Some find man-made structures such as a skyscraper or suspension bridge inspiring.

For those of a more musical ilk, there’s nothing like the beauty, elegance and ingenuity of the grand piano.

A baby grand piano is a beautiful and complex instrument that produces an incredibly rich and full sound. It is constructed of many interworking parts, each of which contributes to the unique sound and feel of the piano. Let’s take a look at the major parts that make up a baby grand piano.

The soundboard: One of the most important parts of a baby grand is the soundboard. It is a large, thin piece of wood (normally spruce) that spans the entirety of the piano bed, lying directly under the strings. When the strings are hit by the hammers, the soundboard amplifies the vibrations of the strings. 

The strings: The strings of a piano are responsible for producing the tones that we hear. Most pianos have approximately 230 strings, a surprising number when compared to the number of notes on a piano, which is 88. The strings are made of steel and copper, and are stretched incredibly tight over the pin block, holding up to 160 pounds of tension. The strings of a piano have a shorter lifespan than the piano, around 25-30 years. 

The hammers: Situated between the strings and the keys are the hammers. When a key is pressed by the pianist, the hammer strikes the string, causing it to vibrate and produce the sound. The hammers are traditionally made of wood, but higher-caliber instruments are now made with carbon-fiber hammers, with greater durability with lighter weight.

The keys: The keys of a piano are the command center of the instrument. Keys are pressed to produce different notes, or pitches. A standard keyboard includes 88 keys, made of wood, and in modern times covered in composite plastic – gone are the days of ivory keys. There are 52 white keys that play the seven natural notes of the musical scale (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), and 36 black keys that create sharp or flat notes. 

The pedals: A baby grand typically has three pedals. The sustain pedal is on the right; when depressed, it sustains (holds) the notes being played on the keyboard. The middle pedal is the “sostenuto” pedal, which can sustain some notes while allowing others to play freely.  The left pedal is the “una corda” pedal, or soft pedal. It mechanically shifts the keyboard, requiring the hammers to hit only one chord of the many extra strings mentioned above, thus softening the volume.

The cabinet: The cabinet is the visible character of the piano, and is its external case, housing all of its internal components. The variety of cabinets is diverse, although modern tastes usually prefer the high-gloss ebony polish. 

Each part of a baby grand plays its unique role in contributing to the astounding instrument that is the piano. Whether for performance or for decorative beauty, it is a work of genius and art.   

Jennifer Herrin is the co-owner of Kawai Piano Gallery by Herrin in Bluffton. or