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The Piano is a Percussion Instrument
By Richard Prokop, Greenacres Press, Inc.
(more articles from this author)
2000-03-11
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One evening while watching a Jazz Special on TV, I was astonished by what I saw. The pianist Dave Brubeck was playing in an all-star group that included Lionel Hampton on vibes. During an up-tempo tune, Lionel Hampton made his way over to the right hand side of Brubeck and improvised a technically flawless solo in the treble region of the piano while Brubeck continued to play a chordal background to his improvisation. However, Lionel Hampton wasn’t merely playing the piano, he was playing it—while standing—with his two index fingers as if it were a vibraphone or marimba! I closed my eyes and could not tell the difference. It was as if an incredibly developed five-finger hand were playing!

For the first time in my life, I truly understood why the piano is categorized as a percussion instrument—other than the fact that hammers strike the strings to produce a sound. Instead of using mallets, the pianist uses his/her fingers—conveniently attached to a moving platform called the palm of the hand—to strike the keys. The piano, then, is more a striking or hitting instrument than one would otherwise suppose.


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