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Piano keys colour change

GUEST,Herman 26 Aug 12 - 01:57 AM
GUEST,FloraG 26 Aug 12 - 04:06 AM
DMcG 26 Aug 12 - 04:13 AM
JohnInKansas 26 Aug 12 - 07:23 AM
GUEST,wyrdolafr 26 Aug 12 - 08:04 AM
JohnInKansas 26 Aug 12 - 06:29 PM
GUEST,DrWord 26 Aug 12 - 09:00 PM
Bill D 26 Aug 12 - 10:21 PM
JohnInKansas 27 Aug 12 - 02:17 AM
G-Force 27 Aug 12 - 05:10 AM
JohnInKansas 27 Aug 12 - 05:27 AM
treewind 27 Aug 12 - 05:36 AM
JohnInKansas 27 Aug 12 - 06:03 AM
G-Force 27 Aug 12 - 08:44 AM
GUEST,Herman 28 Aug 12 - 01:17 AM
GUEST,Ed 28 Aug 12 - 03:09 AM
Peter the Squeezer 28 Aug 12 - 10:46 AM
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Subject:
From: GUEST,Herman
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 01:57 AM

When did the piano keyboard switch the black notes to white and why?
Also, is it true that the instrument had to be enlarged to 88 notes so as Chopin could be played on it?


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 04:06 AM

Now that we no longer use ivory - why don't the piano makers colour the keys anyway to help with note recognition?
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: DMcG
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 04:13 AM

Now that we no longer use ivory - why don't the piano makers colour the keys anyway to help with note recognition?

As they do on keyboards for toys - which is probably the exact association that 'serious' makers of instruments want to avoid. It may not be rational, but much of life isn't!


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 07:23 AM

It has been proposed that there are 88 keys on a piano because it takes that many to play through a complete "Circle of Fifths" in "perfect tune."

If you start with a C chord (not shaprs of flats) at the left end, the Fifth of C, at a frequency 3/2 of the frequency of C, is at G. The G chord has 1 sharp. The fifth of G is at d, with a frequency 3/2 that of G, and so fourth until you've played "all of the different keys" and come back to d# which is enharmonic with the starting C so you've completed the "circle." Unfortunately the d# that you reach at the far right of the keyboard ISN'T exactly at 2n times the frequency of the original C.

If an instrument is tuned strictly in "harmonic tuning" it is impossible to play strictly "in tune" in all keys in a single octave, so according to this theory, pianos were built with 88 keys so that you could have "about an octave" that would be in tune in any key.

Nobody has tuned a piano in that way for about a hundred years, but the "theory of what constitutes perfect tuning" was a big thing in music theory at about the same time that pianos (and similar instruments) began being reasonably common.

Most people say this theory is "total Bullshit" but it's about as good as any that hav been in circulation, and "about 88 keys" is what it would take to do it, with an "essentially complete octave" at each end.

John


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: GUEST,wyrdolafr
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 08:04 AM

GUEST,Herman, I don't think it was large step change, perhaps more to do with less 'standardisation' of instruments. Different instruments would have had keys made from a whole variety of woods for aesthetic purposes.

I remember being taught that black 'naturals' (what is now the white keys) were often dark in colour to 'show-off' the contrasting paleness hands of the hands of the person playing, presumably a courtesan or member of the aristocracy. I don't know whether that's a kind of 'fakelore', I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour changeIn my comment on why 8
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 06:29 PM

In my comment on why 88 keys, of course the last "d#" in the second paragraph was a typo error, and should have been "b#." (And of course if I hadn't been lazy all the "#" (number/pound signs) should have been proper "♯" (sharps).

The earliest pianofortes and pianos were made with wooden keys, and a variety of woods and finishes allowed dark "naturals" and any contrasting color for "sharps/flats," both through the selection of the wood used and with applied finishes. The harder woods tend to be dark and would have been preferred for the keys that got the most use.

Even the hardest woods tend to "cup" when a flat surface is "stroked" repeatedly, so the keys forming the flatter surface were soon covered with ivory laminated (glued) onto the wood to provide a harder surface, also gving the advantage that the ivory was less prone to absorbing "finger oils and grease from the fish'n chips" and was easier to keep looking and feeling clean. There is also some difficulty due to the "less stable dimensions" with many of the harder woods, so where the keys have to have a very narrow gap from the adjacent ones the hardest woods (for wear) conflicted with the most stable woods (to prevent sticking keys). Laminating a hard surface onto a stable wood solved both problems.

The "edgewise" projecting sharp/flat keys were generally ebony which, in good quality is sufficiently hard, and is naturally dark enough for color contrast and can easily be stained to uniform black. Ebony is also a fairly "greasy" wood that is less prone to absorb foreign "oils" than most other truly hard woods, so it didn't need a glued-on hard surface.

Since all the ivory and ebony now available has been used up, it's all plastic now; but the colors that became common through selection of natural mateirals best suited for the construction methods previously used continue to be simulated in the new synthetic materials.

As the boys in the shop say "if it ain't broke I haven't worked on it yet" - and what works tends to persist, even if in appearance only.

John


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: GUEST,DrWord
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 09:00 PM

I [heart] Mudcat!
THANX, all, for the contributions and queries!

keep on pickin'
Dennis


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: Bill D
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 10:21 PM

It's not often I find anything I can correct or add to in one of John in Kansas posts.... but I must clarify that Ebony (the very black kind, Diaspyros crassiflora is not truly 'greasy'. When it is highly polished, it might give that impression, but being so dense one of its virtues is that it does not easily absorb oils from fingers, and what little it does only adds to its smoothness and luster.

"Since all the ivory and ebony now available has been used up...." Well, not exactly. There is, of course, almost NO legal ivory available, but Ebony can be had... at higher prices than most piano maker would care to pay. The plastics are much cheaper, more stable, and easier to work and safer, as Ebony when sanded produces a very fine dust that is very tedious and requires face masks and vacuums to protect the worker.

(I use Ebony...in small pieces... regularly. I have also turned (legal) fossil Mammoth ivory in small pieces. I made the lid for this silver pitcher)



side note....Ebony (the very black kind, Diospyros crassiflora is traded as Gabon Ebony, after a country where it is most prevalent.
It is NOT "Gaboon" Ebony, a common mistake. Gaboon is the name of a very dangerous African snake, the Gaboon viper.


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 02:17 AM

"Greasy" perhaps isn't the best term for describing the general properties of ebony, but it seemed more appropriate than "resinous" or other terms for which I'd have felt the need to explain that it's more difficult to glue, partly due to resin content and also due to the tight grain in a good piece, where the only point needed was that it doesn't permit penetration of of external contaminants - or of the glue.

(The old "chicken blood" that held early airplanes together probably still works about as well as more "modern adhesives" for strong ebony joints, but it does smell pretty bad 'till it cures.)

The additonal comment is appreciated in any case.

John


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: G-Force
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 05:10 AM

JohnInKansas: how did you get your sharp symbol? Is there a keystroke combination (Alt+ whatever) for a sharp or a flat? I've been looking for ages but never found one.


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 05:27 AM

♯ should print ♯ in html.

The hex number 266F and Alt-X with the cursor next to the F, in Word will toggle it to the sharp symbol, for use in your word processor. I don't know what other wp programs have a way of typing the hex char number and flopping it to the character.

A recent post in another thread gives the "official" Unicode character numbers for the very few music symbols defined in the Unicode standard.

Tech: Typing foreign stuff & symbols on a PC

There really aren't very many, and they're not really in a form that's of a lot of use.

John


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: treewind
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 05:36 AM

Here's the full Unicode blurb for the sharp sign.

========================
U+266F MUSIC SHARP SIGN

General Character Properties

In Unicode since: 1.1
Unicode category: Symbol, Math

Various Useful Representations

UTF-8: 0xE2 0x99 0xAF
UTF-16: 0x266F

C octal escaped UTF-8: \342\231\257
XML decimal entity: ♯
=======================
Let's try the "XML decimal entity": ♯ - yes it works!

Other stuff (Alt-key combinations etc.) depends etirely on your computer and OS.


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 06:03 AM

It should be noted that "it works" for posting in html here, but it may NOT WORK for someone reading what you post if they don't have a font installed on their own machine that includes the character.

This shouldn't be a problem for Windows users with WinXP and later, since the default fonts installed generally will have "commonly used characters" but some more "exotic" characters do cause problems for readers, even if they "post good" for the one who keys them in.

HTML is capable of reading either decimal or hexadecimal numbers.

The initial "&" says "what follows is a code"

The "#" that comes next says "the code is a number"

You can add the "x" to say "the number is a hexadecimal number," or if the "x" is omitted the the interpreter reads the number as a decimal.

The final ";" says "the code has ended.

"&#(decimal number);" gives the same result as "&#x(hex number);" in all cases - in html.

John


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: G-Force
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 08:44 AM

Thanks, fellas.


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: GUEST,Herman
Date: 28 Aug 12 - 01:17 AM

Thank you gentlemen, for your input. Most interesting.
If the 88 note piano evolved there must have been a piano with 75 - 80 notes somewhere along the way, and imagine what music Bach could've written if he had an 88 to play on.
Another thought, now that the very top and bottom notes aren't used much, if at all, in modern music, why don't the manufacturers, especially the digital makers, make a shortened instrument?
G1 to C7 would suit me - and it would be less weight to carry around.


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 28 Aug 12 - 03:09 AM

why don't the manufacturers, especially the digital makers, make a shortened instrument?

They do. 61 Key Keboards are very common, as are much shorter ones to be used as MIDI controllers.

Regarding changing the natural keys to white, I did read that, because the gaps between the keys is 'black' it makes them easier to tell apart. It sound plausible, but I've no idea if there is any truth to it.


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Subject: RE: Piano keys colour change
From: Peter the Squeezer
Date: 28 Aug 12 - 10:46 AM

Standard compass of an organ manual is 5 octaves, or 61 keys, from C to C. This comes from the normal range of the human voice, from bottom of bass range to top of soprano, extended to the next C in each direction.


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