Some Remarks on the Acoustics of the Piano

  • Nicholas Giordano


Much has been written about the piano. There are a number of excellent books and research articles that discuss the history, evolution, and acoustics of the instrument (Fletcher and Rossing 1991; Pollens 1995; Suzuki and Nakamura 1990; Conklin 1996a, b, c; Good 2001). However, most of these sources are either at a very qualitative level or aimed at the dedicated acoustician. Our goal in this chapter is to bridge these two extremes and to show how some elementary knowledge of physics and acoustics in general, and of the piano in particular, give interesting insight to the nature and composition of a piano tone. We hope that the next few pages will be of interest to scientists and nonscientists alike.


Fundamental Frequency Standing Wave Harmonic Series Tone Color Short String 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author is deeply grateful to many students who have collaborated in work on the physics of the piano and other musical instruments, including A. Korty, J. Winans, J. Jourdan, S. Dietz, J. Roberts, L. Reuff, J. Millis, M. Jiang, K. Lie, J. Skodrack, and C. McKinney. I also thank A. Askenfelt, A. Chaigne, T. Rossing, A. Tubis, and G. Weinreich for patient and very instructive discussions. This work has been supported by NSF.


  1. Bader R (2005) Computational Mechanics of the Classical Guitar. Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Bensa J, Bilbao S, Kronland-Martinet R, Smith JO, and Voinier T (2005) Computational modeling of stiff piano strings using digital waveguides and finite differences. Acustica/Acta Acustica 91, 289.Google Scholar
  3. Conklin HA, Jr. (1996a) Design and tone in the mechanoacoustic piano. Part I. Piano hammers and tonal effects. J Acoust Soc Am 99, 3286.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Conklin HA, Jr. (1996b) Design and tone in the mechanoacoustic piano. Part II. Piano structure. J Acoust Soc Am 100, 695.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Conklin HA, Jr. (1996c) Design and tone in the mechanoacoustic piano. Part III. Piano and scale design. J Acoust Soc Am 100, 1286.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Deveaux G, Chaigne A, Joly P, and Becache E (2003) Time–domain simulation of a guitar: model and method. J Acoust Soc Am 114, 3368.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fletcher N and Rossing T (1991) Physics of Musical Instruments. Springer-Verlag, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Giordano N (1997) Simple model of a piano soundboard. J Acoust Soc Am 102, 1059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Giordano N (1998) Sound production by a piano soundboard: experiment. J Acoust Soc Am 103, 1648.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Giordano NJ (2010) Physics of the Piano. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  11. Giordano N and Jiang M (2004) Physical modeling of the piano. Eur J Appl Signal Proc 2004–7, 926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giordano N and Nakanishi H (2006) Computational Physics, 2nd ed. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  13. Giordano N and Winans JP, III (2000) J Acoust Soc Am 107, 2248.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Good EM (2001) Giraffes, Black Dragons, and Other Pianos, 2nd ed. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  15. Helmholtz HLF (1954) On the Sensations of Tone. Dover, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Penttinen H, Pakarinen J, Valimaki V, Laurson M, Li H, and Leman M (2006) Model-based sound synthesis of the guqin. J Acoust Soc Am 120, 4052.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Peterson D (2010) The Science of String Instruments. Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Pollens S (1995) The Early Pianoforte. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  19. Ripin EM, Schott H, Barnes J, O’Brien GG, Dowd W, Wraight D, Ferguson H, and Caldwell J, eds (1989) Early Keyboard Instruments. W.W. Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  20. Rossing T (2010) The Science of String Instruments. Springer, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Suzuki H and Nakamura I (1990) Acoustics of pianos. Appl Acoust 30, 147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Weinreich G (1977) Coupled piano strings. J Acoust Soc Am 62, 1474.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations