Art
Fact-checked

At MusicalExpert, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What are Piano Hammers?

Piano hammers are the heart of a piano's voice, striking strings to create the instrument's rich, resonant tones. Crafted from dense felt, they're shaped to transfer energy with precision, allowing for a dynamic range of expression. Curious about how these small but mighty components shape your favorite melodies? Discover the intricate dance of hammers and strings within the piano's melody-making machine.
Josie Myers
Josie Myers

Piano hammers are small felt tipped hammers located inside a piano. A piano is a percussion instrument, which means that sound is produced by vibrations made when two things strike one another. Inside a piano are many strings resembling a harp. When a piano key is played, it forces a small hammer into the strings to make a noise.

A piano works through a series of mechanical actions. First, a player strikes a key. This causes a hammer to fly upward and strike a string or set of strings. The hammer then falls back away from the string, leaving the string vibrating. This is called escapement.The hammer needs to fall away in order for the strings to produce the resonating musical sound that is associated with a piano. If it did not fall away, there would be a dead sort of "bonk" noise produced instead.

The strings of a piano are struck by hammers to make sound.
The strings of a piano are struck by hammers to make sound.

The part of the piano referred to as the "hammer" is only the felt tipped head that hits the strings. There are other parts connected to the hammer that are essential for it to function. Piano hammers are connected to a shank, or the area that would be the handle on a standard household hammer. This shank is connected to a flange, or the device that throws the hammer forward. If a shank breaks, it is possible to repair it with a specially made brass cover. If the hammer breaks, the best option is usually a full replacement.

The piano is considered a percussion instrument because sound is produced by the vibration of two things striking each other.
The piano is considered a percussion instrument because sound is produced by the vibration of two things striking each other.

Each instrument has a particular tone, or distinct quality of musical sound. When a piano is played very frequently, the felt on the piano hammers gets squeezed down and the tone of the piano can change. Professional piano tuners can loosen these felts with needles to keep the sound sweet.

There are other ways in which piano hammers can influence the tone of a piano. The type and tightness of felt or other material used to cover the hammer is the most obvious influence. The hardness of wood beneath the felt covering, the size and weight of the hammer, and the placement of the strike zone on the string can also change the tone.

Replacing piano hammers is a complex job. If all of the felts and hammers need to be replaced, it is recommended to replace the shanks and flanges during the process. If hammers are worn enough to warrant replacement, chances are the other parts of the device won't be far behind. Addressing all of these parts at once will save money in the long term and can improve the tone. Experts say that new hammers can create a darker sweeter tone even on the oldest of pianos.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are piano hammers made of?

Piano hammers are typically made from high-quality felt, which is compressed and wrapped around a wooden core, usually crafted from hornbeam or maple. The felt is often made from wool, and its density can vary to produce different tones. The manufacturing process is precise, as the quality of the felt and the way it is applied to the hammer core significantly affect the instrument's sound.

How do piano hammers create sound?

When a piano key is pressed, it triggers a mechanism that causes the corresponding hammer to strike the strings inside the piano. The hammer's felt head hits the strings, transferring kinetic energy and causing them to vibrate. These vibrations travel through the bridge to the soundboard, which amplifies them, creating the piano's rich and resonant tones. The speed and force of the hammer's strike influence the volume and timbre of the sound produced.

How often do piano hammers need to be replaced or maintained?

The maintenance and replacement of piano hammers depend on the frequency and intensity of use. For pianos in domestic settings, hammers may need reconditioning every 5 to 10 years, while concert pianos might require attention more frequently. Over time, the felt of the hammers can become compacted or worn, leading to a brighter, harsher sound. Technicians can reshape or replace the felt to restore the piano's original tone quality.

Can the condition of piano hammers affect the instrument's overall sound?

Absolutely. The condition of piano hammers is crucial to the instrument's sound. Worn or compacted hammers can produce a tinny or overly bright sound, while well-maintained hammers contribute to a full, warm tone. Regular maintenance, including voicing (adjusting the hardness of the hammer felt), can ensure the hammers produce the desired sound quality and dynamic range.

Are there different types of piano hammers for different kinds of pianos?

Yes, there are different types of piano hammers tailored to the specific type of piano and the desired sound characteristics. For instance, grand pianos typically have larger and heavier hammers than upright pianos, contributing to their richer and more powerful sound. Manufacturers may also vary the hammer felt's density and tension to produce a range of tonal qualities suitable for different musical genres and playing styles.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • The strings of a piano are struck by hammers to make sound.
      By: surpasspro
      The strings of a piano are struck by hammers to make sound.
    • The piano is considered a percussion instrument because sound is produced by the vibration of two things striking each other.
      By: BlueSkyImages
      The piano is considered a percussion instrument because sound is produced by the vibration of two things striking each other.