The Piano

We have all played it, some of us better than others, but everyone has probably played a piano in their lives whether they possess musical talent or not.  The piano has been a cornerstone of music and it can be heard in a variety of music genres.

Hey look, it's a piano!

Hey look, it’s a piano!

Breaking the cliche, pianos do not come in all shapes and sizes.  All pianos come equipped with 88 keys; a bunch of white ones and less than a bunch of black ones.  When the key is pressed, the string inside the piano is struck, causing it to vibrate and make the audible noise that is called a note.  The length of the string determines the frequency, or pitch of the sound.  The shorter the string, the higher the frequency.  Pressing down hard on a key will cause the string to be struck quickly and with more intensity.  This produces a louder sound.  The opposite applies as well; striking the key softly will create a softer sound.  Music contains much more science than you think.  In fact, I learned how about how sounds are made in physics class, not art class.

Now, this may look like a piano, but it really is not an authentic piano.

Hey look- wait, that isn't a piano?

Hey look- wait, that isn’t a piano?

This is what is called a keyboard.  This particular keyboard comes with only 55 keys, unlike the piano’s full 88.  When the keys are struck they do not cause a string to vibrate, instead they cause data to be played.  When the C note is struck on the keyboard, the data is sent from the key to the keyboard’s data center where the sound is played through the speakers.  This sending of data is called MIDI.  Don’t ask me what that stands for because I don’t know, for all intensive purposes it isn’t even an acronym, but it relates to the sending of data.  The keyboard in the picture can be used to play digital instruments using music software.  The same transfer of data is used.  Let’s say I’m using music software such as Ableton Live.  Inside the music program, I have chosen to play an electric guitar instrument.  Well, I don’t have an electric guitar, but because the music software knows exactly how an electric guitar sounds, when I have my keyboard connected to my computer, I can play the electric guitar with my keyboard.  It’s quite fascinating actually.  When you’re listening to a song with synth keys in it, the synths were most likely played with a keyboard.

Well, I hope you’ve learned a little bit about how piano sounds are made and what the difference is between a piano and a keyboard.  Thanks for reading!



Dear BDE,

Yes, you “Best Day Ever!”  You have become not only my favorite Mac Miller song, but my favorite song overall.   You start off slowly with a soft synthetic sound that loops and becomes increasingly louder.  Soon, a keyboard/mute guitar loop assumes command and a few chords are gently strung on an acoustic guitar.  At this moment in the song, I feel like I’m gradually awaking from a deep sleep and with each second I gain more conscious.  The slow crescendo of peaceful music apexes the moment the drums kick in.  Now I’m bopping my head uncontrollably to the rhythm.  I take a deep breathe and I’m saturated with peaceful energy.  Before I know it, I’m rapping along with your lyrics and making hand and arm gestures that are an embarrassing attempt at dancing.  I might get a few confused and condescending glances, but I really don’t mind I’m just, what I call, “vibing” to the music.  While Mac Miller’s lyrics typically aren’t universally accepted or appropriate, a little vulgarity here and there doesn’t bother me.  BDE, however, you are not filled with arrogant boasting or random curse words that are all too often the subject matter of rap songs in modern times, and I greatly appreciate that.  These verses were formulated and have what rappers call “flow.”


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