agraffe, originally a small brass staple with a concave top. One agraffe for each string was attached to the front edge of the wrest plank. The string was then passed underneath it to define one end of that string’s speaking length and keep it from being displaced by an up-striking hammer. Thus, a series of agraffes served the same purpose as the earlier nut.
The agraffe was invented and patented by Sébastien Érard as part of his first repetition action of 1808. Later revisions of the design included substitution of a small brass stud with one, two, or three holes for threading each unison string. Pierre Érard’s patented improvement of 1848 was the barre harmonique, which still provides the model for agraffes on the modern grand piano. (figs. 4 and 7)
Anglo-German action, term introduced by Harding/PIANO for an action which (1) in its primitive form combines the jack and hammer-rail of the Stoßmechanik with hammer heads facing the keyboard as in the Prellmechanik, or (2) in its developed form combines an escapement attached directly to the key with the hammer-head orientation of the Prellmechanik. Modern investigations have superseded Harding’s hypothesis, and the term is now considered obsolete.
back check, see check.
banding, strips of veneer outlining the outer edges of the case; grain laid lengthwise to the banding. See also crossbanding.
bassoon stop (Ger. Fagott; Fr. basson), a batten covered on its underside with a half-cylinder of silk-covered paper or parchment. When pressed against the strings, the mechanism causes them to buzz when the hammers strike. (fig. 1)
belly rail, heavy wooden frame member to which the soundboard is attached. It is placed between cheek and spine in grands or at the left side of the soundboard in squares. (fig. 1)
bentside (Ger. Gebogenewand), the concave side of a grand piano.
bichord, double-strung, two strings per note.
bridge (Ger. Steg; Fr. chevalet), long, curved, and narrow strip of hardwood glued to the soundboard. The strings pass over the upper surface of the bridge, where they are held in place by the bridge pins. The purpose of the bridge is to transmit the strings' vibrations to the soundboard. Together with the nut, the bridge delimits the speaking length of the string. See also nut.
bridge pin, small metal pin driven part way into the bridge. The bridge pin acts as a guide for each string which passes over the bridge and serves to delimit one end of that string's speaking length. See also nut pin.
buff stop (from Fr. peau de bœuf, peau de buffle, jeu de bœuf, jeu de buffle), see sordin.
cabinet piano (also called on occasion cabinet upright piano and cabinet grand piano; Ger. Schrankflügel), a grand piano in a vertical case; the wrest-pin block is at the top and the tail rests on the base, which sits directly on the floor. The strings are hidden by fabric or wooden panels, while two legs serve to support the keyboard and offer stabilization to the instrument itself. The cabinet piano was invented in 1807 by William Southwell.
capo tasto, metal pressure bar positioned above the strings; invented by Antoine Bord in 1843 as a replacement for the wrest-plank bridge. The capo tasto is occasionally found as an anachronistic addition to early 19th-century pianos. Later versions of the device came to be called a capo d'astro by some late 19th-century makers, including C. F. Theodore Steinway, who obtained a patent for the Steinway & Sons’ capo d’astro bar in 1875 (US, no. 170646).
céleste stop, see moderator stop.
check (also called back check; Ger. Fänger; Fr. attrape), in grand and mid-19th-century square pianos with a single action (Stoßmechanik): a small bit of leather attached to a short wire, its purpose being to catch the hammer and prevent its rebounding against the string. (figs. 1, 4, and 5)
check rail, or escapement rail, see Prelleiste.
cheek, also cheek piece, the short side nearest the top key of a grand piano.
clavecin royal (originally claveçin royale), a square piano with uncovered wooden hammers and several stops, including the lute, forte, piano, pantalon, and swell. The instrument was invented about the year 1774 by Johann Gottlob Wagner, with his brother Christian Salomon.
close-covered, or close-wound, string, see overspun string.
compensation frame, an inner frame consisting of a series of parallel brass and iron (steel) tubes, which are passed through wooden braces attached to the case sides of a grand piano. Thom and Allen, who patented this invention in 1820, showed thirteen tubes in their original design, although in later adaptations of the invention five, six, nine, or ten tubes can be found (English, no. 4431). These tubes were meant to be ‘equally affected’ by temperature changes as the piano’s strings of the same metal, and thus they would counter-balance, or compensate, for changes in the tuning due to temperature and humidity. In 1822 Pierre Érard applied for a French patent (no. 2170) for the same invention; the design appears in his drawing to be almost identical to Thom and Allen’s. William Stodart, who bought the patent rights from Thom and Allen, utilized compensation frames in many of his grand pianos.
composite frame, a term which refers to the use of iron as a bracing material within the wooden framework of the instrument. Iron bars and metal hitch-pin plates were commonly used for this purpose before the full cast-iron frame reached widespread use, especially during the second quarter of the 19th century.
cottage grand piano, small grand piano model brought out by Broadwood, and also by Collard & Collard, in the 1830s and later.
cottage piano, small upright piano with vertical strings extended to the floor; invented by Robert Wornum in 1813. The cottage piano should not be confused with the cottage grand piano, a model not introduced until the 1830s.
covered string, see overspun string.
crank dampers, dolly dampers supported by wires and attached to a hinged base called a crank, the free end of which is raised by depressing the key. This damper mechanism was utilized by Longman & Broderip as early as 1780 on single-action squares. (figs. 2 and 4)
Cristofori action, the earliest form of the Stoßmechanik. Cristofori’s three extant pianos have a pivoted-jack escapement, an intermediate lever, and a check; the hammer heads face away from the keyboard. See Stoßmechanik.
crossbanding, strips of veneer outlining the outer edges of a case; grain laid crosswise to the length of the banding. See also banding.
damper pedal (also called sustaining pedal; Ger. Fortepedal, Fr. pédale droite), pedal controlling the damper mechanism. As the pedal is depressed, the dampers are moved away from the strings, allowing them to vibrate freely. The term sustaining pedal, widely used in Britain and the US, can be somewhat misleading and should not be confused with the modern sostenuto pedal. Likewise, the German term Fortepedal does not translate literally into English. The intention of releasing the dampers is to blend certain notes together by allowing them to sustain, not to increase, the dynamic level of sound.
damper rack (Ger. Kastendämpfung), narrow case or box in which overdampers are held over the strings; typical of the classic Viennese grand. (fig. 1)
dampers (Ger. Dämpfer; Fr. étouffoirs), felt, cloth, or leather mechanism designed to rest on the strings to stop their vibration after the key is no longer depressed; in earlier pianos, controlled by hand stops or knee levers, in later instruments by rods attached to the knee levers or pedals. (figs. 1–7)
Deutsche Mechanik, see Prellmechanik.
Dietz's claviharpe, upright instrument with its strings and their harp-shaped frame completely visible above the keyboard. The strings are plucked by leather-covered hooks activated by depressing the keys. The claviharpe was invented by Johann Christian Dietz the Elder, and built by him and his son in Paris and Brussels in the early 19th century.
dog kennel piano, a small vertical piano with an arched opening at the bottom centre of the lower case; one pedal is placed at each side of this arch.
dolly dampers, individual dampers consisting of small cloth-covered wooden blocks, which resemble dolls and are lifted at the ends of the keys by wire stems; used in early German and English square pianos. See also crank dampers and Irish dampers. (fig. 2)
double action, see English double action and Stoßmechanik..
double escapement action, repetition action, a grand piano action designed to allow the key to be repeatedly and rapidly sounded even before it has returned to its point of rest. Besides an escapement jack, this action contains a repetition lever and an intermediate lever, both of which control the movement of the hammer. (fig. 7). The double escapement action was designed and patented by Sébastien Érard in 1821–22. See escapement.
double-strung, two strings per note, bichord.
downstriking action, mechanism in which the hammers strike the strings from above. Both J. B. Streicher in Vienna and Robert Wornum in London invented and used versions of the downstriking action.
due corde pedal, see keyboard shift.
duoclave, piano with two keyboards, or manuals, placed opposite each other.
dust cover, or dustboard, thin wooden board covering the strings; often found in early square pianos and also on grands.
English action, two types of action, one for the square and the other for the grand piano; developed in England as refinements of the Stoßmechanik. See English double action and English grand action.
English double action, or double action (Ger. Stoßzungenmechanik, or Stoßmechanik mit Treiber), a square piano action in which an adjustable hopper (jack)) is hinged to the key lever and raises an intermediate hammer, hinged to a fixed rail. The intermediate hammer thrusts the hammer, which is hinged to another fixed rail. The design improves on the English single action by providing an adjustable setoff. Often called a hopper, or grasshopper, action, it was invented by John Geib and patented by him in 1786. (fig. 2) See also setoff.
English grand action (Ger. englische Mechanik), a single action in which the key carries a hinged escapement (hopper, or jack) that thrusts the hammer. When the hammer rebounds from the string, it is caught by the check. Hammers face away from the player and are pivoted on a fixed rail; the setoff is adjustable. Invented by Americus Backers in the early 1770s, it was improved and patented by Robert Stodart in 1777. The English grand action was used for more than a century by John Broadwood & Sons. (fig. 4) See also check and setoff.
English single action, or Zumpe's action, the first common square piano action used in England; invented and popularized by Johannes Zumpe. Very simple and without escapement, this action consists of a rigid wire jack topped with wood and leather and fixed to the key lever. The jack impels the hammer, which is hinged by vellum to a fixed rail.
English square action, see English double action.
English sticker action, see sticker action.
English upright action, see sticker action.
English upright grand action, designed for the upright grand piano and utilizing hammers which strike the strings from the rear; invented by William Stodart in 1795.
Érard double escapement action, see double escapement action.
escapement (Ger. Auslöser; Fr. échappement), any mechanism that engages the hammer in its forward thrust, allowing it to fall away from the strings. Even Cristofori's pianoforte contained a form of escapement, and many variants in escapement devices were invented and patented after the late 18th century.
escapement rail, also called check rail; see Prelleiste.
euphonicon, an upright harp-piano, whose strings are struck instead of plucked. Positioned above and behind the keys, the strings are exposed, like those of Dietz’s claviharpe.
fallboard, cover that folds over the keyboard, its inner surface functioning as a nameboard. (fig. 7)
Flügel (Ger.), see grand piano.
fortepiano (Ger. Fortepiano, Hammerklavier, or Hammerflügel; Fr. pianoforte), loud-soft; widely used term for any piano built in the 18th or early 19th centuries. The piano makers themselves were far from consistent in their own choice of terminology. Johann Andreas Stein always described himself as a faiseur de clavecins, (harpsichord maker) whether he placed his signature label on a harpsichord or piano. There were no clearly defined nationalistic preferences, although a Viennese maker tended to advertise his instrument as a Fortepiano. Like many other major Viennese builders, Conrad Graf in c.1820 referred to himself as a maker of the Fortepiano. See also pianoforte.
forte stop (Ger. Fortezug), device which raises the dampers from the strings, allowing more resonance. The rail holding the dampers is frequently divided between treble and bass strings. In the earliest pianos this stop is controlled by hand or knee levers, while in later pianos it is activated by the damper, or sustaining, pedal. See also damper pedal.
French square action, also called rocker action or square grand action, an action characterized by its jack, which is attached to a flange (or ‘rocker’) that moves within a notch in the hammer butt. In later versions the jack also has a screw for adjusting the escapement. The French square action was invented by Guillaume Petzold in 1810 (French patent, no. 1090) and continued by other French builders, including Érard in the late 1820s. The Nunns brothers patented a rocker action in 1831. Other American builders from the early 1830s began to use this type of action in their squares in preference to the double action. (fig. 5)
gap spacer, straight or arched iron brace placed over the gap between the wrest plank and the belly rail.
German action, see Prellmechanik.
giraffe piano, upright, or vertical, grand piano with strings extending to the floor and flourished with a scroll to decorate the very top of the instrument. It utilizes a hanging Viennese action. Invented c.1800 by an unknown German or Viennese maker, the giraffe's most noted builders were André Stein and Joseph Wachtl in Vienna.
grand piano (Ger. Flügel, Hammerflügel; Fr. piano à queue, clavecin à maillots), a horizontal piano with a wing (Flügel) shape, like its antecedent the harpsichord.
grasshopper action, see English double action.
grasshopper-sticker action, see sticker action.
Hammerklavier (Ger.), German term for the early piano, a keyboard instrument with hammer action instead of the plucked quill action of the harpsichord.
hand stop (Ger. Handzug, Fr. manette), a knob or lever placed to the left of the keyboard in squares or to the left or at the centre of the nameboard in grands; attached to different types of devices which change the sound colour.
hanging German action, or hanging Viennese action (Ger. hängende Wienermechanik or hängende Deutschemechanik), adaptation of the Prellzungenmechanik (Viennese action) for the upright giraffe piano. The hammers are mounted—or hung—below the level of the keys.
harp-piano, see Dietz's claviharpe.
harpsichord, or cembalo, stop (Ger. Zackezug), the positioning near the strings of leather or cloth bands to which hard substances, such as bone or ivory, have been attached. When the hammer strikes, it throws the bone or ivory against the string.
harp stop (Ger. Harfenzug), cloth-fringed rail lowered onto strings to soften tone. See also sordin.
head, see naturals.
Hebeldämpfung (Ger.), lever damping (lever dampers, overdampers).
hitch pin, also hitchpin, small metal pin opposite the wrest pin and around which one end of the string is looped; see also wrest pin.
hitch-pin plate, also hitchpin plate, wooden or metal plate that holds the hitch pins.
hopper action, or grasshopper action; see English double action.
intermediate lever (Ger. Treiber), intermediate hammer, or underhammer, of the Cristofori and the English double actions. (figs. 2, 6, and 7)
Irish damper, a dolly damper with its wire stem attached directly to the key lever. On a piano equipped with Irish dampers, pressing the damper, or sustaining, pedal also lowers the fronts of all the keys. The Irish damper was patented by William Southwell in 1794. See dolly dampers.
jack (Ger. Stoß; Fr. pilote), pilot; vertical, or diagonal, piece usually of wood and hinged or attached to the key lever. It transfers the motion from the key to the hammer, either directly or through an underhammer. (figs. 2–7) See also Stoßmechanik.
jack (pilot) action, see Stoßmechanik.
janissary stop, Turkish music, drum, cymbal, and bell devices controlled by knee levers or pedals; activated to create the percussion effects of Turkish music.
kapsel(s) (Ger. Kapsel, Kapseln), fork-shaped device of wood or brass; found in Prell actions. The kapsel supports the hammer by means of a tiny wooden or metal axle. This axle, inserted through the end of the hammer shank and fitted to both sides of the kapsel, allows the hammer to pivot as it moves. (fig. 1)
Kastendämpfung (Ger.), see damper rack.
keyboard shift (Ger. Verschiebung), a hand stop in earlier pianos, a pedal in later instruments, attached to a device that moves the action sideways with the result that the hammers strike only one string (una corda), or two strings (due corde).
keywell, nameboard and inner cheek area; also called keyboard surround.
knee lever (Ger. Kniehebel; Fr. genouillère), knee-activated system for changing stops, usually the dampers, moderator, or bassoon. The lever, which is positioned just below the keyboard, is often split, so that either bass or treble strings are affected by its use.
lid swell, see swell.
liegende Harfe, see recumbent harp.
lute stop (Ger. Lautenzug), see sordin.
Lyraflügel (lyre piano), upright pyramid, its upper case constructed to resemble a lyre, complete with rods in imitation of the lyre strings; most notably exploited by J. C. Schleip in Berlin.
lyre piano, see Lyraflügel.
melodicon, trade name for an upright piano. In 1847 the New York makers Nunns & Clark took out a patent (French, no. 3577) for a melodicon with drums.
microchordon, trade name for an upright piano. At the Great Exhibition of 1851 Collard & Collard showed two microchordons, which were described as semi-cottage pianos.
moderator (Ger. Pianozug; Fr. céleste), a batten or rail with attached strips of leather or wool cloth tongues; operated by a hand stop, knee lever, or pedal. When the rail is moved, the moderator tongues intervene between hammer and string, thus creating a soft effect. The tongues were often of graduated thickness, enabling the player to create an even more muted effect by pressing harder against the knee levers. The device is also called piano stop. See also pianissimo stop. (figs. 1 and 5)
mopstick, a type of overdamper. One end of the horizontal ‘mopstick’ holds the wool damper cloth, and the other end is hinged to the spine as in the single action, or to a fixed rail as in the French square action. A vertical sticker transfers motion from the key lever to the mopstick damper.
mute stop, see sordin stop.
nameboard, thin, rectangular piece of wood fitted just behind the keyboard; displays the maker's name written directly on it, or on a name plaque or nameplate attached to it. (figs. 2, 5, and 7)
name plaque, small wooden or enameled plate on which the name of the maker is written or stamped; usually placed on the nameboard.
nameplate, a small metal plate on which the maker's name is etched, stamped, or engraved.
naturals (Ger. Untertasten; Fr. touches), longer keys of any keyboard instrument. Naturals are frequently of black-stained wood or ebony on early German keyboards, or covered with bone or ivory slips on 19th-century Viennese pianos, and with ivory on virtually all English pianos. The wider front part of the key is called the head; the rear part is called the tail.
nut, long, narrow, and sometimes curved piece of hardwood attached to the wrest plank or, as is the case with early English squares, of one piece with the hitch-pin rail. Often called a wrest-plank bridge, its purpose is to define one end of the speaking length of the string. (figs. 1 and 2) See also bridge.
nut pin, small metal pin driven part way into the nut. The nut pin acts as a guide for each string which passes over the nut and serves to delimit one end of that string's speaking length. See also bridge pin.
octave span, the width of an octave, or the distance from the left side of one note to the left side of the note one octave above it. A three-octave span is known by the German term Stichmaß.
old man's head, wood or leather block at the top of the rigid metal jack of the English single action..
organ-piano, organized piano, a piano, usually a square, to which an organ mechanism and pipes have been added.
overspun string (wrapped string, covered string; US wound string), generally a bass string, with a thin wire wrapped, or wound, around it to add mass without adding stiffness.
peacock dampers, gracefully curved brass underdampers; part of the single action patented by John Broadwood in 1783.
peau de bœuf, peau de buffle, thick leather tanned from Eurasian buffalo hides; traditionally used for the sordin, or buff, on early pianos.
pedal, foot-operated lever attached to various devices that, when activated, changes the colour or volume of sound.
pedal-board, a foot-activated keyboard, its compass either extending or doubling the bass of the notes of the keyboard manual. The notes of the pedal-board have their own set of strings and independent action mechanism.
pedal-grand, a grand piano with an attached pedal-board.
pianino, see upright piano.
pianissimo stop (Fr. céleste), a strip of leather or cloth tongues, similar to but thicker than those used for the moderator, or piano stop; movable between hammers and strings to produce a softer sound. See also moderator.
piano droit (Fr.), an upright, or vertical, piano with diagonally placed strings.
pianoforte (also piano e forte, piano-forte), soft-loud; general universal term for the piano; used since the early years of the 18th century, especially by Italian, French, and English writers who were contemporaries of the instrument's inventors and first builders.
The first makers were inconsistent in the specific designation of their instrument. Most continued to advertise themselves as organ builders or instrument makers, and not as specialists in the craft of piano-building. However, many English and American makers by c.1800 had shifted toward the term pianoforte. Among them were Jones, Round & Co., Joseph Kirkman, James Stewart, Thomas Tomkison, and Robert Wornum, in London; and Thomas Western in New York. It is interesting to note that much earlier, c.1780, Ignace-Joseph Senft called himself a maker of piano-forte grands et piano-forte vis-à-vis in Augsburg. In the 1790s the Munich builder Louis Dulcken described his instruments as fortepianos, but by 1808 had changed his labels to read piano, and c.1815 had replaced both terms with Piano Forte. The Spanish maker Francisco Flórez was another of the earliest makers to use the term piano. See also fortepiano.
piano pedal, una corda pedal, which controls the keyboard shift (Ger. Verschiebung; Fr. pédale gauche).
piano stop, moderator; see moderator.
pin block, see wrest plank.
pizzicato stop, see sordin.
Prelleiste, a wooden rail that is part of the early Prellmechanik or an individual tongue at the rear of each key in Johann Andreas Stein’s later revision of it. Positioned at the front of the case, the Prelleiste is the obstacle against which the hammer shank engages the hammer beak, causing the hammer to swing up and strike the string.
Prellmechanik, German term for an action in which the hammer shanks are hinged to kapsels which are attached to the key lever; the hammer heads usually, but not always, face the keyboard. The term Prellzungenmechanik designates a later development of the Prellmechanik, with escapement, individual levers, and, after c.1800 in Vienna, also with check. The Prellzungenmechanik with check is commonly known as the Wienermechanik (Viennese action). Deutsche Mechanik (German action) also means Prellmechanik. The addition of an escapement is attributed to Johann Andreas Stein in the 1780s. (fig. 1)
pyramid piano, upright piano, its symmetrical upper case shaped like a pyramid. Most notable of the earliest builders of pyramid pianos were Domenico Del Mela of Florence and Christian Ernst Friederici of Gera; later builders included Joseph Wachtl of Vienna.
quadruple-strung, four strings per note, quadrichord.
Querflügel, see transverse grand.
recumbent harp (Ger. liegende Harfe), a small piano shaped like a harp resting on its side; classified as a square, which it closely resembles. Its most notable builder was Johann Matthäus Schmahl.
repetition action, see double escapement action.
rocker action, see French square action.
rose, or soundboard rose, usually a circular definition often found in harpsichords and clavichords, and occasionally in early pianos..
scale, or scaling, design of the stringing system, including string lengths, gauges, and pitches. As an aid in understanding the general plan utilized by a maker, a sampling of the speaking length of one string, usually the c2 string, is frequently given to indicate the scale.
setoff, the point in the motion of a piano hammer when the impelling force is withdrawn. After setoff the hammer continues to strike the string by its own momentum. Most actions provide for a setoff adjustment, which controls how close to the string the hammer comes before the escapement of the jack or hopper occurs.
sharps (Ger. Obertasten; Fr. dièzes), accidentals. Sharps are usually made of ebony or other dark-stained hardwood. On early German pianos the tops were covered with white bone slips.
signature, an inscription in the maker's own hand. It can often be found on the back of the nameboard, the wrest plank, the soundboard, or even hidden on the interior of the case. Many shop workmen inked or stamped their names or initials on piano keys and elsewhere on an instrument.
single action, see English single action.
single damping, mistranslation of the German term Einzeldämpfung, which refers to individual dampers, i.e. a separate damper for each note rather than a damper rail which, when lifted, releases the damping for all strings at once.
single-strung, one string to a note, unichord.
sordin, sourdine, buff, harp, lute, or mute stop (Ger. Lautenzug; Fr. sourdine; It. sordin), a stop consisting of a wooden rail covered with leather, soft hairy brushes, or cloth. The rail is pressed up against the strings by the action of a pedal or knee lever, resulting in a softened, muted effect. Occasionally called a pizzicato stop, it only ‘resembles’ the Harfenzug, according to Harding.
Sordina is an Italian word meaning both mute and damper, and its use by Beethoven has caused a great deal of confusion among pianists. The direction ‘senza sordini’ in the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata in c# minor, op. 27, no. 2 (Moonlight), refers not to the sordin stop, but to the dampers. Beethoven here instructs the performer to play without dampers, i.e. without dampening the strings, thus allowing them to vibrate continuously.
sostenuto pedal, a modern grand piano pedal, which allows a bass note to be sustained if is struck and held just before the sostenuto pedal is depressed. Single treble notes or chords and the damper pedal may then be changed, but the bass note will continue to resonate.
Two mid-century French makers invented pedal devices that could be considered forerunners to the sostenuto. In 1844 Boisselot patented a sustaining pedal device, and Montal also experimented with his pédale prolongement. It was Albert Steinway who registered four patents for the sostenuto pedal in 1874 and 1875.
soundboard (Ger. Resonanzboden; Fr. table d'harmonie), thin wooden board to which the bridge is attached. The vibration of the string is transferred through the bridge to the soundboard. With its larger surface area, the soundboard can set the air in motion with sound vibrations, thus causing the strings to vibrate more effectively. (figs. 1, 4, and 5)
spine, the long straight side of a grand piano, or the back of a square.
square grand, a large and heavy square piano from the second half of the 19th century; especially a model with an 88-key compass and a trichord treble, manufactured from the late 1850s by Steinway & Sons.
square piano (Ger. Tafelklavier; Fr. piano carré), rectangular horizontal piano, the earliest examples resembling their parent keyboard instrument, the clavichord.
standing double action (Ger. stehende Prellmechanik), a double action revised for the upright, or vertical, piano.
standing single action (Ger. stehende Stoßmechanik), a single action with check, and hammers above the level of the keys; developed for the vertical piano from the English grand action; called stehende englische by Harding; see PIANO2, 235, fig. 10.
tichmaß, see octave span.
sticker action, upright action in which the key and jack (hopper) reach the hammer by means of a long, slender sticker (wooden rod). (fig. 3)
Stiefeldämpfung, flat overdamping (flat overdampers).
Stodart upright action, see English upright grand action.
Stoßmechanik, German term for an action, in which the hammers are hinged to a fixed rail, not to the key lever, and are activated by jacks, or pilots (Ger. Stoß; Fr. pilote), attached to the key. The hammer heads usually, but not always, face away from the keyboard. The Stoßmechanik with an escapement is termed the Stoßzungenmechanik. The latter term is also used for a double action with the same hammer orientation and simple key-mounted jack but also with an intermediate hammer or lever and check. Hammer heads face away from the keyboard in Cristofori’s extant instruments, and his actions have an intermediate lever. The English grand action, also a Stoßmechanik, eliminates the intermediate hammer. The English single action is a Stoßmechanik, but the English double action has escapement, intermediate hammer, and check and is classified as a Stoßzungenmechanik.
Stoßzunge (Ger.), adjustable hinged jack.
stringing, (1) long narrow strip of decorative inlay (Fr. filet) on cases; usually wooden, but also in later pianos of metal; (2) system of a piano's strings, including their number, measurements, and wire type.
string plate, frame, or metal plate, to which the hitch pins are attached. See hitch-pin plate.
sustaining pedal, see damper pedal.
swell, lid swell, a pedal device that raises either the short lid on the right front side of a square, or the dust cover, to achieve a crescendo.
tail, the end of the grand piano farthest from the keyboard; can be straight, angled, or curved.
tangent action, mechanism in which small strips of wood strike the strings from below; used especially by the firm of Späth und Schmahl.
tapecheck action, an upright piano action illustrated in fig. 6. The tapecheck action was invented and patented by Hermann Lichtenthal in 1832. Robert Wornum developed a tapecheck action in 1837; his version used cloth tape while Lichtenthal’s action is characterized by a leather thong. Wornum brought out improvements to his tapecheck action in the 1840s and used variations of it in his imperial grands and Albion squares. (see Harding/PIANO2, figs. 15, 16, and 26) A prototype of this action was used in a Wilkinson & Wornum cottage upright that is dated 1812, and another early version can be found in the Müller Ditanaklasis. Later makers used the tapecheck action; these include the firm of Érard, who contributed their own refinements. The tapecheck action is commonly found in modern upright pianos.
transverse grand (Ger. Querflügel), small, late 18th-century piano shaped like a spinet. John Crang Hancock invented a version that he call a ‘portable grand pianoforte’.
trichord, triple-strung, three strings per note.
triple-strung, three strings per note, trichord.
tuning pin, see wrest pin.
Turkish music, see janissary stop.
una corda pedal, see keyboard shift.
underdampers, dampers positioned under the strings. (fig. 7)
underhammer (Ger. Treiber; Fr. faux marteau), intermediate lever, or hammer, of the double action. (figs. 2 and 3)
unichord, one string per note, single-strung.
upright grand piano, a grand piano built in a case and turned vertically so that it rests on its keyboard end atop a stand; patented by Robert Stodart in 1795. The upright grand is often fitted with shelves next to the strings, and both strings and shelves of the upper case are hidden by panels, doors, or fabric.
upright grasshopper-sticker action, see sticker action.
upright piano, vertical piano (Ger. pianino, Fr. piano verticale), any of several types of piano designed for a rectangular case in an upright position. One can differentiate two main styles: (1) the earliest form, which was raised on a matching stand, and (2) the later upright with strings extending all the way to the floor and its keyboard supported by two front legs.
The earliest examples of the first type were the small pyramids of the mid-18th-century makers Friederici and Del Mela. The upright grand and upright square were built during the later 18th century, while Schleip’s Lyraflügel enjoyed success from c.1825 to the late 1840s. Of the second type of vertical piano, the cottage pianos of Wilkinson & Wornum and John Broadwood & Sons became fashionable in England early in the 19th century. On the Continent notable variants included Jean-Henri Pape’s low console and the dog kennel pianos of several makers, principally Hermann Lichtenthal of Brussels. Vertical pianos were often built with spectacular, even ostentatious, casework. Among the many successful makers of verticals toward the middle of the 19th century were: Collard & Collard and Robert Wornum in London; the Érard, Pape, Pleyel, and Soufleto firms in Paris; Pehr Rösenwall in Stockholm; and Seuffert & Seidler in Vienna. See also cabinet piano, cottage piano, giraffe, Lyraflügel, pyramid piano.
upright square, piano similar to a square turned on its front side and placed on a stand; invented by William Southwell in 1798.
upstriking action, term used to describe the typical grand action, in which the hammers move upwards to strike the strings. (figs. 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7)
Venetian swell, a frame with movable louvres that may be opened and
closed as a control for dynamics. It is rarely
found on early pianos, although it appears as a device on late
vertical piano, see upright piano.
Viennese action, see Prellmechanik.
vis-à-vis, two pianos, two harpsichords, or a piano and a harpsichord built, bentside to bentside, within one horizontal case.
Wornum's cottage piano action, upright action adapted from the English double action; invented by Robert Wornum in 1811. (Harding/PIANO2, 230, fig. 5)
wrapped string, see overspun string.
wrest pin, also wrestpin (US tuning pin), small iron or steel pin driven into the wrest plank, its purpose being to hold the string, which is wound tightly around it. The tuning key (US tuning hammer) is placed over the top of the wrest pin and turned to adjust string tension and pitch of the note. (figs. 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7)
wrest plank, also wrestplank (US pin block; Ger. Stimmstock, Fr. sommier), heavy wooden block into which the wrest pins are driven. (figs. 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7)
yoke, stiffening bar glued to the top front of the wrest plank of English and later German pianos.