The A-Z of the piano

We celebrate the world's most popular instrument with a look at 26 of its greatest features

is for Vamp till ready: the piano as accompaniment

Perhaps the widest use of the piano – and certainly the most significant socially. Whether it be lending support to a singer in a Lieder recital, as the equal partner of an instrumentalist in a sonata, providing a one-man orchestra for ballet and opera rehearsals or simply accompanying a sing-along down the local pub, the piano is the ubiquitous friend that bonds and binds. Before the advent of radio, television and the gramophone, it had, in author Peter Gammond’s words, ‘already stood, ill-used and beer-sodden in British songs-and-supper rooms and music-halls and, in the USA, in the saloons of the West and the dance halls of the cities’.


Many rock-‘n’-roll bands of the 1950s used the piano, and rock bands likewise, though often in a more peripheral role as tastes headed towards the electronic keyboard. Pop music less frequently rings to the sound of the acoustic piano, with the likes of Sir Elton John and The Scissor Sisters notable exceptions.