Pianos come in all shapes and sizes. They can range anywhere from an upright to a keyboard to a baby grand. All have different sounds but all can achieve the same purpose. It tends to be easiest to get your hands on an upright piano nowadays so we will focus on those for this lesson.
Knowing the names of the different parts of a piano will make understanding it and talking to others who play much easier. It will also make you look super smart to those who don't know what they are doing.
MUSIC STAND: This is where you place your music so you can read and follow along while you play. Sometimes the stand will double as a cover on the keys when you're not playing. Other times the lid will slide into the piano, rather than lift up. When this is the case, there is usually a ledge built into the face of the piano that can be used as a music stand.
KEYBOARD: These are the keys on the piano. There are 88 altogether and the tone goes from left to right, lowest note to highest note.
SOUNDBOARD: This is where the sound is amplified. Each key of the piano has a corresponding string inside the body. When you press down a key there is a small padded hammer that will tap the string and cause it to vibrate at the proper frequency, sending that frequency through a bridge and to the soundboard. The sound board then catches the frequency from that string and amplifies it so we can hear it loud and clear.
DAMPER/SOSTUNETO/ SUSTAIN PEDALS: These three pedals each have a different function. The diagram above doesn't name them completely accurately, but it was the best one I could find.
The far right pedal will be the one you use the most, the Sustain Pedal. It keeps the little hammer we talked about earlier from coming back down on the strings to mute them after you release the keys. Therefore it sustains the notes longer without having to hold the key down.
The middle pedal, the Sostuneto Pedal, does something similar to the sustain pedal. With the sustain pedal you would hold down the pedal then play the notes and all of them are sustained. The sostuneto pedal is the opposite where you play the notes then, while holding down those notes, press the pedal. This keeps those particular notes sustained while everything else will sound staccato (short and quick) when played.
The far left pedal is simply called the Soft Pedal. It quiets the sound so it doesn't amplify quite as much. It does this by bringing the hammers closer to the string so they don't tap the strings with as much force, thus causing them to vibrate less.
A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab
On an 88 key piano, the very farthest left key is in fact an A. Follow that all the way down the keyboard, using the black keys as the sharps, and following the musical alphabet and you will have all the notes. An easier way to remember them is to find the Middle C. (Diagram 1) Most of the time when you play, you will play around the middle C. Most people consider the C to be the start of the alphabet for the piano also. Diagram 2 shows a section of the keyboard with C as the starting point. Memorizing that will make playing much simpler in the future.
Knowing how to read chords allows you to look up songs and play the chords they provide. You don't have to look for piano chords, necessarily. Most of the time finding chords to songs will lead you to the guitar chords. 99.9999999999999999% of the time, these are the exact same thing. I didn't say 100% because although I have never found an exception, I don't want to assume there isn't one.
Another thing to remember is no food or drink around the piano! Believe me, I learned the hard way. My mom has an electric piano and one day while I was playing I was also eating a bowl of Ramen soup (because I am smart like that). I thought I was being perfectly careful but my hand slipped just enough when I went to grab it and I dumped a soupy mess right on the keys. I immediately panicked and ran to get a towel and mop up as much as I could. I shut the piano off and worked through my scared sobs (my mom wasn't home at the time and I was terrified I destroyed her piano) until I got as much as I could cleaned up. I waited a minute and then turned it back on. I played a chord and a horribly distorted noise came out. That is when I lost it. I full on bawled for who knows how long. My mom finally came home and I explained what happened. She wasn't angry, but had me help her turn the piano upside down on the couch to try to dry it out that way. We left it alone over night and I think the whole next day before trying it again. When we did, much to my relief, it sounded fine. I think one or two keys sound funny when they are played still but other than that it is okay. Learn from my mistake, friends! Food or drink + piano = disaster!
Tuning a piano is something that will have to be done every now and then as well. If you have an electric piano you will not need to worry about it, but for an upright you will need to have it done. I have never learned how to tune a piano (I grew up with electric) but I do know that it is very possibly to do so. Because it is something that takes a good deal of time and patience to do (especially if you don't do it on a regular basis) most people will hire someone to do it for them. For beginners I would recommend having a professional do it to avoid any mistakes. Once you have gotten comfortable with the instrument you can decide if tuning it yourself is something you would be interested in learning. Then there are plenty of tutorials online to teach you!
The last thing to keep in mind for basic maintenance is a simple dusting every now and then. Maybe take a vacuum extension to the keys to try and get out any debris that may have gotten between them over time. If you keep all of these in mind you will have a wonderful instrument that will last a very long time!
With all this new knowledge you are well on your way to learning the basics of piano and growing as a musician! If you haven't already, I encourage you to take a look at my other music tutorials and leave me a comment! Happy playing!