Mix Smart Figure 3.9 – Frequency range of fundamentals (Piano), pp. 65 (click for full sized image)

“Ah, piano. The mother instrument. Its 88 keys span fundamental frequencies from just under 30 Hz to just over 4 kHz (see Figure 3.9). It reaches about as low and as high as any instrument we are likely to encounter (the pipe organ is a rare exception).

As if that vastness weren’t enough, the piano is also a percussion instrument. That is, the strings are excited into action by the pounding of hammers (the frequent use of tuxedos and fancy gowns seems to make it look less crude in concert). So, like a drum, the notes begin with a broadband, pitchless burst of energy that spans the audible range. The notes sustain—well, the notes sustain with that characteristic rise and fall of any and all harmonics in a complex, ever- changing, unique piano way.

So the sound begins with a bang, and sustains with an ever-evolving harmonic recipe. For many of us, we half-panic when we think of applying equalization to a piano track. EQing a piano is like hugging Jell-O. The harmonic content of the sound keeps moving. Just when we think we’ve found a spectral region worthy of highlighting or in need of a bit of attenuation, the piano itself allows that harmonic region to swell or recede or both. Prepare to be challenged by this instrument—hopefully, pleasantly so.”

Alex Case’s many contributions at Recording Magazine include this classic on Piano.

Can Science Build a Better Piano?” the radio show aired on Science Friday (8 Aug 2014)