The piano is a musical instrument where musicians color their creation and fabrication.
It’s a demon that shouts when you touch its teeth where teeth express the keys of a piano.
According to this fact, everyone asks a popular question, how many keys are there on a piano? Generally, it has 88 keys with 7 octaves.
However, the case is not always the same. There can be more varieties.
You can find pianos with 76 keys, 61 keys, 54 keys, or 49 keys.
The piano is a huge keyboard-based totally musical instrument. It consists of a wooden case housing surrounding the soundboard.
There are a host of strings under huge tension on a metal frame.
The strings are always struck by padded. It is played using a keyboard that includes a row of keys.
When the musician presses down the keys, it activates the hammers to strike the strings simultaneously.
Then, the strings continue to vibrate, and this vibration transmits by a bridge to the soundboard and generates a sound. The sound stops when the musician releases the key.
Musicians consider the piano as a percussion instrument because of its striking action.
The keyboard plays an outstanding role in a piano. So, it is important to realize how many keys are there on a piano? We have to go to history to get the answer to this important fact.
History of piano keys.
If we go back to the 17th century, the era of Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach, the modern pianos did not exist.
Instead, the keyboard could be considered to be the harpsichord.
These instruments were different from the ones we play today in their structure and robustness and had a limited range of 60 keys.
The musicians were limited to a short range of five octaves only.
The beginnings of the modern pianos are credited to a man called Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) who was born in Padua in Italy.
He made an attempt at building a piano was towards the end of the 17th century.
But, the newly created piano by using Bartolomeo had the handiest forty-nine keys or a selection of four octaves.
By the time of Mozart, the beleaguered harpsichord was replaced by the piano.
Manufacturers like Stein and Broadwood started the revolution of piano designing instruments of consistent quality that met the increasing requirements of the music composers of the time.
As we move closer to the Beethovian period, these instruments developed from 60 to 72; closer to six octaves.
Though the piano was limited in sound quality, it could create both soft and loud sounds.
Later after, the instrument producers like Broadwood and Stein were determined to meet the demand of musicians of that time.
After some days later, pianos used to have 72 keys with close to six octaves. That length was considered in records as the Beethovian length.
After a variety of research of these pianos, we would admit as identical in appearance to the ones we play on today.
The music composers now can fully express themselves with 88 keys. Innovation and replacement, the piano reached its full-size.
It was Chopin and Liszt, who first designed the 88 keys pianos with seven and a quarter octaves. By 1880, Steinway had produced the 88 keys.
It is said that the final standardization of the piano and its keyboard happened successfully in the 20th century. Finally, the 88 keys, 7 octaves came to exist.
88 keys piano keyboard.
This piano has 88 keys and is known as a professional piano. No piano has greater than 88 keys. Beginners generally don’t want to buy this form of the piano keyboard.
It is very sophisticated and not easy to play. It also requires huge maintenance. This size is suitable for experts who know how to play the piano well.
You can create many tunes and diverse combinations because of various types of sound keys on it.
It is so much durable and can create sound with greater vibrations. Nowadays, 88 keys piano is manufactured by the biggest instrument industries all over the world.
You can cover all types of modern tunes and songs by this keyboard.
We can play classical music, jazz, rock, folk music, blues, and many other western musical genres by this piano.
76 keys keyboard:
It has a lesser variety of tunes as compared to 88 keys piano. They don’t cost as much as a full-size piano, but beginners still might not be able to sustain this one too.
But many successful music composers like the 76 keys keyboard. Natural tunes can be covered very beautifully and perfectly by this keyboard.
This keyboard is also very much perfect for stage performance. It is also preferred for its aesthetic outlook and durable body structure.
61 keys keyboard:
This keyboard is suitable for beginners, and it is compact. It is also transportable and easy to carry. You can also attach extra accessories with it.
This keyboard is the number one choice for non-professional composers. It is easy to learn the composition of tunes by this piano keyboard. It is also used in many music schools to teach piano to the little children.
You cannot be able to create all the tunes by this instrument. But you will be able to get the easy way to learn the piano successfully.
54 keys keyboard:
It is one of the most popular modern pianos of modern edge. It is also considered as the best beginner keyboard because it gives a good feel of a full-sized piano.
It consists of 22 black keys and 32 white keys. It conforms to the typical keyboard layout of starting and ending with C-major.
49 keys keyboard:
It is only suitable for high professionals. It generally starts and ends with the C-major key. It is not recommended for newbies because it has only four octaves, and hence, it is difficult to play.
You can also get pianos with a lesser number of keys than 61. They are between the range of 49 to 24 keys. These keyboards are not for professional uses.
If there is any intention in your mind to become a professional music composer, then you have to be experienced in 88 keys piano keyboard.
How many keys are there on a piano?
The most important feature of a piano is its keyboard. A keyboard is a row of white keys with black keys in some locations.
A modern full-sized piano generally contains 88 keys which constitute seven octaves and a minor third spanning from A0 to Cs.
Definitely those musical notes incorporate DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-SI or C-D-E-F-G-A-B (English).
There is a distance of one octave from DO on the left to the DO on the right. All these notes are towards the bass, and each of these notes is associated with a definite hertz.
The first severe DO has some hertz, and a more acute will have some hertz. They both are labeled as DO, but every time they sound different. There is a distance of one octave between each note.
Each octave generally has seven white keys which are tuned to C, D, E, F, G, A, and B notes of the C-major. A professional piano has 52 white keys and 36 black keys. Each octave includes five black keys for the accidental notes C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab, and A#/Bb.
There is a series of black keys that express the number of octave sequences and the key sharps and flats easily within the octave.
The number of black keys per octave maintains a pattern like (2-3-2). The black key earlier than a white key is a sharp key.
Again, a black key after it is a flat key. Generally, pianos start with C or F and so label accordingly.
Pianos with some extra keys:
We have discussed that a professional modern piano has 88 keys. But some piano assemblers produce pianos with a larger number of keys.
Imperial Bosendorfer, a piano manufacturer, establishes a piano with nine extra bass keys as a total of 97 keys.
It was covered by almost eight octaves and all of the extra nine bass keys are colored black.
We have also found a recent piano from Stuart and Sons which has 108 keys with a series of nine octaves.
Extra keys are provided with reverse color. Generally, the extra white keys are colored black.
Pianists who are beginners are unaccustomed to extra keys. This feature prevents the disorientation of pianists.
There is a specially designed Emanuel Moor Pianoforte which has two rows of keys and a total number of 164 keys.
The upper manual consists of 76 keys, while the lower manual has 88 keys. But, here both manuals strike like a single set of strings. The upper manual keys produce a tune that is an octave higher than that of the corresponding key on the lower manual.
So, it will be easy to play two octaves with one hand. But pianoforte is an exceptional type of piano, and about 60 examples were manufactured.
Some of the manufacturers are designing larger pianos nowadays. Stuarts and Sons gave thinking of a 102 key grand piano. Recently in 2018, some manufacturers have introduced a 9 octave, 108 key grand pianos.
So the beginner and the intermediate players should distinguish them from the standard one. These pianos with extra keys are generally designed for professionals.
They are more durable and larger than the regular ones. They are also substantial and massive on a structure. Professionals can play it more comfortably and make their desired tune perfectly.
Pianos with shorter keyboards:
Many pianos have less than 88 keys. We have discussed that early pianos have 85 keys. They were manufactured with 50 white keys and 35 black keys. It had seven octaves from A0 to A7.
There are also some pianos for beginners like Mini piano. Mini piano has 73 keys with six octaves from F1 to F7. These pianos are more comfortable to use and almost easy to create tune as compare to the professional one.
The Maximum piano has 73 keys, which are generally played in the stage. These types of pianos are enough to make a lot of music. There are also some entry-level pianos with just 41 keys, and they are easy to carry and move from one place to another.
Synthesizer is one type of piano which is known as an electrical musical instrument. It has just 25 keys and designed for lead playing or bass playing for the music composers.
Difference between black and white keys:
The main seven natural notes DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-SI are the white keys of a standard piano. In between the white keys, there remain black keys. All keys haven’t the same distance between them.
We can measure the space between any two keys in whole tones and semitones. The gap of any white key to its nearer black key is always one semitone.
You will find that the black key between FA and SOL is called F sharp (F#) and the distance between FA and F# is a semitone.
It will remain the same for the distance between F# and SOL. We see that it too is a semitone. It is because there is no key in between F# and SOL.
Again, the distance between two white keys, if there is a black key in the middle, is a whole tone or we can say it two semitones.
Generally, DO and RE can form a whole tone. Similarly, FA and SOL form a whole tone or two semitones. It is true because of having the F# in the middle.
Sometimes, a case will be appeared like two white keys with no intermediate black key, like FA and MI or DO and SI. As these keys are directly next to each other, the distance between them can be called as one semitone.
We should know about semitones and whole tones because it helps to definite the names of black keys.
When FA has moved one semitone up, then it is called F# (F sharp). When SOL moves a semitone down, then it is called Gb. Remain in mind that F sharp and G flat are the same black key.
The white keys are composed of natural and creative notes. It is comparatively easy for beginners to play. On the contrary, the black keys are all in half-step intervals. These black keys are well-called flats and sharps.
Beginner pianists generally begin by learning to play in the key of C. It includes the notes such as C, D, E, F, G, A and B. The C major scale is made up entirely of all the natural notes, and that’s part makes it easy to play smoothly especially for a beginner.
Outside of the key C, every other key signature is at least one sharp or flat. The key of G includes F#. So, the scale looks like: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, and for the key F the scale looks like F, G, A, Bb, C, D, and E.
White keys of a piano:
A full-sized modern piano has certainly 52 white keys. In every octave, there will be seven white keys.
So, all the musical notes like DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-SI are the white keys as mentioned above. The keyboard has white keys in a row that are tuned to major notes and very much effective for playing various tunes.
Black keys of a piano:
A modern full-sized piano has 36 black keys among the total 88 keys. There is one black key in between every two white keys. So every octave has around five black keys. Black keys are so much important to play music very gorgeously.
You can imagine some scales use black keys exclusively. Generally, the black keys are arranged in half-step intervals. These are referred to as sharps and flats, and sometimes they are expressed as unintentional notes.
Some technical standards to a piano key:
Though the basic standard for a piano is 88 keys, there are some different dimensions in piano making. The average span is set to 165 of 166mm.
It sets the average key width of a white key to 24 (on the base), and the black one at 13.7mm. Some smaller dimensions also exist like the one developed in the 1970s by Christopher Donison.
Properties and variations of keys in a piano:
There are different categories of keyboards available in the market. They have different features and characteristics. A music composer needs to understand the facts and variations of keyboards. Some features have described below:
- A number of keys: As we have discussed above, how many keys are there on a piano, the number of keys varies from 25 to 88. Depending on your experience, skill, a taste of music, and the requirement of tune, you can consider the number of keys.
- Key action: It is related to the mechanism which generates sound. There are various kinds of key actions. Each expresses a different feel and enthusiasm than others.
- Weighted action is forced into the keys and responds like a real piano. It makes the vibration of the strings simultaneously.
- Hammer’s action has a huge and long term effect as well. Each key moves a mechanical hammer simultaneously. So each time it creates a quick response similar to an electrical or acoustic piano.
- Semi-weighted action makes the weights perfectly attached to the keys with spring-loaded action very smoothly.
- Synth-action is one of the cheapest options related to the keys of the piano. It is like an organ. You can play the keys more quickly and swiftly as there is no resistance. It will be the best option for you if you want to play fast lead passes by creating rhythmic tunes.
If you turn your eyes to the history, there were 60 keys and 72 keys in the pianos. But, why we are considering 88 keys as a standard?
Many composers think that 88 keys are perfect for creating all types of tunes. They feel very much comfortable with 88 keys. The configuration of 88 keys is so much stable and durable. Also, it offers the best quality of sound.
Here, every distinct group of 12 notes is an octave all its own. If you move higher on the piano, the octaves will get higher and higher. So, you will be able to play higher-pitched notes as you will be moved up the piano.
Again, if you move lower on the piano, the octaves will get lower, which will give you the capability of playing lower-pitched notes as you will be moved down the piano.
The notes behind those 88 keys are either recognized to be too high or too low for the human ear and health. Nowadays, almost all piano music is composed within those limits, and so, there is no need for more keys.
A seven octave piano is technically the one featuring 84 notes, but it is an experimental value. So, to get accuracy and certainty, a few extra keys were added and found to be practical as well.
With 88 keys and seven octaves, the music composers had at their disposal a splendid instrument capable of a huge quality of expression and dynamic as well as electrical contrast.
Many musicians mentioned that enlarging the range further would not only make the piano awkward to play but place some pitches outside the comfortable range of human hearing and human health.
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Now it is clear to you, how many keys are there on a piano? The musicians make different types of tunes with 88 keys, and we enjoy the beauty of sound.
We can hear the sound they create, but it becomes difficult to detect individual notes in that range.
The higher and lower notes are also very impractical and unnecessary for most songs. If you want to be able to play every scale in every key, you need to be able to play scales with black keys in addition to white keys.
A famous expert piano has 88 keys. If a modern piano has less than 88 keys, then it will be more portable. But you should choose a piano according to your skill and taste of music.