On Wednesday 25th September 2019 we ran a workshop in our Cape Town showroom and workshop looking at the basic technical make-up of acoustic and digital pianos. The idea was to provide an educational session for children during which they could learn a bit more about how pianos work, and what goes into keeping them working. Apart from a location hiccup which saw some of the attendees head to our old Muizenberg location, the session was a great success.
Ian started the day taking a detailed look at acoustic upright and grand piano mechanisms - specifically what happens when you strike a key and how the mechanics of the two differ. What many of us think of as the standard piano, an upright piano, was in fact developed after the grand piano and the piano action had to be rethought based on its vertical positioning alongside the strings rather than the grand piano horizontal action.
It's fun to watch people's reaction when they see a full grand piano action removed for the first time. The idea that it is a stand alone component, albeit made up of many parts, quite separate from the strings and soundboard is a surprise to many. And the fact that it can be removed, adjusted and slid back into place is novel, even to those who play the piano for hours each day.
From there Ian moved on to discussing the basics of piano tuning. Starting with the fact that many of the notes are sounded by multiple strings being struck simultaneously by a hammer. Each of these strings needs to be independently tuned, first to the other strings making up that note and then in relation to the other notes. There was some discussion of what concert pitch is, and how it has changed over time. Ian asked some brave volunteers among the children to try their hand at tuning some clearly out of tune notes; some with great success, some less successful. We then moved on to watching some of our skilled technicians work on restoring a piano keyboard to its former glory, with all the detailed work that goes into it. After a quick pit-stop we ended the day looking at digital pianos, talking about how they have developed over the past twenty years, what they are good for and how rich an experience they provide especially to more beginner students.
Kids and adults were then let loose on the pianos to display their pianistic skills and attempt to drown each other out. The result was a most rewarding cacophony of sound, the sound of people enjoying making music for themselves and each other. Pianos in particular have a way of bringing people together. We loved inviting kids and parents into the space and look forward to doing it again soon. If you or your kids would like to be involved in another similar session later this year please let us know and we'll contact you closer to the time once we've confirmed the next session.