The keyboard of a Concert Grand Model D
The keyboard of a Concert Grand Model D piano is pictured in the final inspection room at the Steinway & Sons factory. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

How do pianos work?

Behind every piano’s polished exterior are thousands of parts. From keys to strings, they work together to produce a sound. In this episode, we take a field trip to a piano shop, peek behind the walls at a world-famous piano factory and have an EPIC FIGHTING BATTLE to discover how sound travels.

Steinway & Sons Piano Factory
Hammers and keys on display as a piano is assembled at the Steinway & Sons piano factory in New York. Christopher Payne
A piano may seem simple — 88 black and white keys that you just press with your fingers. But what you might not know is that each time you press a key you’re engaging a complicated machine. There are thousands of parts inside every piano.

When you press a key, a felt-covered hammer inside the piano strikes metal strings. It is the vibration of these metal strings that make that familiar piano sound. But the most complicated part is the action, a Rube Goldberg-looking series of parts and levers that work together to make the hammer strike the strings.

This episode was originally published on April 11, 2017. You can listen to that version here:

How do pianos pianos work?
by MPR