Piano sound boards are thin boards commonly made of spruce approximately 3/8″ thick glued together and extend from the bottom of the piano on a vertical, and the tail of the piano on a grand, to the pin-block and then across the full width of the piano. The soundboard has a crown which is very important to the tone and resonance of the piano. The back of the soundboard has ribs made of wood that are glued to the soundboard to strengthen and support the crown. Wood for soundboards, usually spruce, needs to be light and elastic. ; The best results are obtained when the grain of the soundboard runs parallel to the bridges. ; The bridges are usually made from maple and their primary function is to transfer the string vibration to the soundboard. Older piano soundboards often form cracks, especially where the thin boards are glued together. ; This is not detrimental or life ending for the piano. ; However, it can cause buzzing from certain frequencies. It can be repaired with re-gluing or even shimming. ; Soundboards that have several cracks, mostly due to age and/or large fluctuations in humidity over the life of the board, can lose crowns which would result in dull lifeless tone quality. ; If the crown is lost, soundboard replacement may be necessary to obtain good power and tone. It is best to have a used piano checked by a qualified piano technician to fully evaluate the piano soundboard and its condition.
The sounds available to you when you play are not limited to what you do with your hands. Piano pedals (the levers at your feet) enrich the sound in various ways, opening out possibilities further than the keyboard, from subtle nuances in dynamic to bold changes in the tone.
Types of pedals on a piano
Sustain pedal (right)
Consider an acoustic piano. When a finger is taken away from a key, a “damper” pad stops the note from ringing out. The sustain pedal removes the dampers from the strings, allowing notes to ring out for longer, even when the keys are not held down anymore. That’s why it is also called the “damper” pedal. It is rare to find any piece of music or song that doesn’t use the sustain pedal. Legendary pianist Artur Rubinstein even called it the “soul of the piano”. So If you are learning on a keyboard that doesn’t have built-in pedals, then this is one that you really need. ;
Soft pedal aka “una corda pedal” (left)
Most strings in an acoustic piano are grouped in threes, with each group tuned to the same note. When played normally, the hammer strikes all three at the same time giving a full, bright sound. On a grand piano, the una corda pedal shifts the entire mechanism to the right, so the hammer only hits two of the three strings.
The resulting note is softer. Also, since the strings are hit by a different part of the hammer, the sound is muted and less bright. On older pianos, the hammer would only hit one of the three strings, hence “Una corda” meaning “one string”. On upright pianos, pushing the pedal moves the hammer mechanism closer to the string, making it softer but without altering the tone.
Sostenuto pedal (middle)
This is similar to a sustain pedal. The key difference is that it only holds notes that are already being played at the moment when the pedal is pressed down. Any notes that begin after the pedal is down are not affected, allowing for selective sustain without blurring the sound.
Since the sostenuto pedal is a relatively recent addition to the piano, it is rarely required for pieces before the late 20th century. Even so, many pianists use it when playing the work of earlier, more progressive composers like Debussy and Ravel.