How many keys are on a standard piano keyboard?

And the answer: 88.    

Photo credit: Arto Alanenpää

Of the 88 keys found on a standard piano, 52 are white and 36 are black. The earliest pianos had fewer keys, but in the 1880s, the piano manufacturer Steinway was the first to popularize the 88-key piano.

The piano has come a long way since its invention in 1709. Originally known as the pianoforte, which means soft (piano) and loud (forte), the first pianos were so expensive that, for nearly a century, only aristocrats and royalty owned pianos. Today, nearly 20% of Americans have a piano on their home.

Pianos are some of the most intricate instruments. A single piano has over 12,000 parts, 10,000 of which are moving. Interestingly, the piano can be considered both a string and percussion instrument, yet most categorize it as a percussion instrument because hammers strike the strings inside to produce sound. Up until the 1950s, piano keys were made from elephant tusks. Today, in order to protect and preserve elephants, most piano keys are made from plastic.

Fun fact!
A piano offers the largest notes range of all instruments. In a typical piano with 88 keys, there are 7 octaves, compared to the four octaves found on a guitar and violin. A piano can play a note lower than the lowest note on a double-bassoon and higher than the top note of a piccolo– an entire orchestral range in one instrument!

Learn more about the history of the piano here.


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