Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Facebook | Twitter | Home RSS

Piano and organ guru moves to Estherville

October 25, 2019
James Grebe - Master Piano Pitch Manipulator , Estherville News

Editor's note: James Grebe has recently moved to Estherville from St. Louis, Missouri. He is scheduled to present a program on pianos and organs at the Estherville Public Library Nov. 16. This is the first of several periodic articles on pianos and organs Mr. Grebe has offered to share with Estherville News readers.

The definition of piano is soft, and the definition of forte is loud. Those two combined bring us the instrument we call the modern piano. Before this, there was very little way to alter the volume of the instrument's volume.

Example, a harpsichord has a plectrum plucking the single string producing the sound. Regardless of how gentle or how bombastically the key is depressed the volume will almost be the same. Another difference is the multiplicity of the number of strings, harpsichords have one string per note where the modern piano has, depending from bass to treble, 1 string in the low bass, 2 in the tenor, and 3 from the low center to the top. The overall volume of the instrument is determined by the length of the strings and the soundboard area of the soundboard, which has to do with the overall length of the piano.

The other main keyboard pipe organ instrument has one pipe per note. The volume can't be altered at all unless some external contrivance is used to close off the egress of sound from the pipes to the listener. The solution of Venetian swells, slats that can open or close in front of the pipes, to choke off the volume or let the sound come roaring out. Regardless of how soft or how hard the organ key is depressed the volume stays the same. By opening or closing of the slats, controlled by a foot- rocking pedal, volume is changed.

We will be speaking about horizontal, grand, pianos as well on Nov. 16. Another difference is there is a sustain apparatus in the piano that a harpsichord or organ does not have. The harpsichord or pipe organ sustains its tone only as long as the key is depressed.

On a piano, the dampers, rectangular pieces of felt laying on top at rest, or raising when the key is depressed, work the same way except they can stay uplifted from the strings for sustain by the use of a sustain pedal and will sustain all the strings until the strings themselves cease to vibrate. The use of the sustain pedal can dramatically increase the volume because the tone can be brought up by setting many more strings to vibrate rather than what just two hands in one position can do. Because the keys can be depressed softly or with great force, altering the momentum of the striking hammer, the volume of the piano can be as soft as barely being heard or like a thundering, bombastic sound. This range of expression is what gives the piano its interesting and changing tone pallet rather than just one volume level.

The felt hammers strike the strings on a piano have a consistency like a tennis ball.

The outside layer is resilient and the underneath layers are much more firm so the hammer rebounds off the strings quickly. Because the hammer is pear shaped it strikes the string on a line across a curved surface. It is important that the hammer strikes the string at the same position on each string. Any change in striking point will cause an out of phase sound and a loss of clarity or distortion happens.

In upcoming columns we will discuss many aspects of piano mechanics, piano tone, piano history and innovations as well as the differences between church pipe organs and theatre pipe organs.

Also, I welcome your questions you have about pianos and pipe organs in general.

I can be reached by text by (314) 608-4137 or by email,



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web