The Black Keys
A piano usually has a protective wooden case surrounding the soundboard and metal strings, and a row of black and white keys. The strings are sounded when the keys are pressed down, and are silenced when the keys are released. The note can be sustained, even when the keys are released, by the use of pedals at the bottom of the piano.
Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a padded hammer to strike steel strings. The hammers rebound, and the strings continue to vibrate at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a soundboard that more efficiently couples the acoustic energy to the air. The sound would otherwise be no louder than that directly produced by the strings. When the key is released, a damper stops the string's vibration and the sound. See the article on piano key frequencies for a picture of the piano keyboard and the location of middle C. In the Hornbostel-Sachs system of instrument classification, pianos are considered chordophones.
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