Is the piano a percussion instrument?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

Music Instruments Classification

Musical instruments are usually classified into four groups:

  • chordophones - instruments that make sound by vibrating strings;
  • aerophones - wind instruments whose sound is produced by air moving inside them;
  • idiophones – instruments that produce their own sounds using metal, wood, stones, or other materials;
  • electromechanics – electronic instruments.

This classification was introduced in 1940 by Hornbostel and Sachs. Their classification was based on how the sound is produced, but instruments can also be sorted by their appearance and usage.

Another classification by Victor Mahillon was introduced in the 19th century and it separated the musical instruments into another 4 groups: percussion instruments, string, drums, and winds. His classification was based on whether the instrument is shaken or whether it has a vibrating string.

However, some people say one more group should be included in this classification.


Is the piano a percussion instrument?

Percussion Instruments – played by striking them with a hand or stick.

In music, an instrument is any musical instrument. It may be classified according to the range of pitches it produces, its construction, and the way in which it is played. Most stringed instruments can also be plucked with a plectrum or 'combow' as well as being strummed. This produces a different tone from the string itself. It is used in a wide range of musical genres from classical to rock and metal to blues and jazz.

In the 2010s, some percussionists include electronic instruments such as drum machines, which can be triggered by either a drum with mallets or by an electric bass player.

On the other hand, there are some people who say that all instruments are percussion instruments because you have to hit something - for example your legs - when you play them. They are not right! For example, there are flutes, guitars, and pianos.

Played "normally", with the sustaining pedal held down, the timbre changes depending on how hard or soft the hammers strike the strings. However, there are also light and heavy mallet instruments which have different playing characteristics due to their different weighting.

Is piano a stringed instrument?

Stringed instruments are instruments in which vibration happens in strings. The strings may be struck with the fingers, plucked, or bowed. An example of a stringed instrument is the cello, viola, and violin family. Such instruments have wooden bodies and a flat soundboard to create enough vibrations.

The piano is also a stringed instrument because you have to press down its keys to make it sound.


How does a piano work: where does "string or percussion" confusion come from?

The piano has three parts: the keyboard, frame (also called stand), and strings (also called chord).

Keys on the keyboard control the electric circuits inside the piano. When you press down a key, you complete an electric circuit that sends information about your keypress to the rest of the piano through electric wires. The information tells the speakers which string to pluck, how hard to pluck it, and for how long to keep plucking it so that you hear exactly what you want when you play your song or piece of music on the piano.

Frames hold all of the inside parts inside them so they don't get misplaced. Strings (chords) are what make the piano sound like a piano! They are long, thin pieces of metal that stretch from one end of the piano to the other across the frame. When you press down on a key and complete an electric circuit, it tells a part inside the piano called a jack to reach out and pluck (or hit) that one specific string.

As this happens, another part inside will grab onto that string and keep pulling and pushing…and pulling and pushing to make it vibrate so fast that you hear its sound like beautiful music coming from the speakers!

Is piano a stringed or percussion instrument? 

There are also some people who think the piano is not a percussion instrument.

The piano is a harmonic percussion instrument with strings as physical oscillators and hammers as strikers. A hammer can strike with one of two actions- either with just enough force to allow the string to swing freely, causing it to continue its natural vibration, or hit hard enough that the string buckles against a damper wire and does not continue to vibrate.

In either case, the energy of the blow usually comes from an internal spring with some type of resilient dashpot at the striker end or pin block at the other. The string is set into vibration and will continue to vibrate at its resonant frequency while the key remains depressed, thus acting as a natural sustain pedal.

The piano is definitely a stringed instrument, but it's played with hammers hitting on them with felt-covered fingers called "the tangents" that act as strikers.

Pianos are non-percussion instruments that produce sound through strings being struck by felt-covered hammers or leather-covered mallets, most commonly known as the "tangents". Notes can be sustained by holding down the sustain pedal. String resonance is not possible due to this lack of physical oscillation of strings similar to other common non-percussive instruments such as flutes or guitars. Other methods for damping strings are sometimes employed, including metal objects placed on the strings or mechanical devices to strike the strings.

Thus, a piano should be referred to as a stringed instrument rather than a percussion instrument because it is not played by striking them with a hand or stick.

Final word

In conclusion, the piano is a stringed instrument because strings vibrate to create sound. The piano can be played as a percussion instrument by using your hands or using sticks to hit the strings.

Piano as a stringed instrument is used with keys and pedals. Keys make electric circuits; pedals make resonance of dry and wet elements. Piano as percussions has full resonant properties due to the strong jack that hits on chords. While playing with fists or sticks damping effects should not be expected at all.

After pressing the key-chord should resonate and die out fully without any damping effects. Resonance will continue even if we keep holding onto sustain pedal thus creating different sounds depending upon how hard we hold it down and how fast we release it.