The A-Z of the piano

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

F is for Frames, Fallboards and other Fundamentals

A grand piano is made up of about 12,000 separate parts. Among the most important is the Frame, the part of the piano that bears the tension of the strings (on a grand, there are some 200 strings with a total pull of about 30,000lbs). Until the late 1820s, all pianos had wooden frames, though iron bracing was introduced in c1820. The American Alpheus Babcock patented the single cast metal frame in 1825. This design, modified by Steinway & Sons in 1853, became the basis for today’s instruments.


The Soundboard is the piano’s speaker system and determines how an instrument sounds by the way in which it translates the vibrations of the strings into particles of sound. The Bridge (a grand has two – one for the bass strings, another for the treble) conducts the energy of the vibrating strings to the soundboard. The Hammers strike the strings of an individual note. Before 1830 they were covered with leather; nowadays it’s densely packed felt. The Damper is also made of felt and is the part of the mechanism of each key that stops the string vibration. If you don’t want others playing your piano, you close The Fallboard or Nameboard (the lid that covers the keys) and lock it!