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75 Piano parts are labeled on an “exploded” piano.

Here’s the list of parts:

  1. Action, The: The mechanism in an upright piano (such as this one) that transfers the vertical force of the player’s fingers into a horizontal motion whereby the strings are struck. (Or, in layman’s terms, the thing that makes the strings ring.)
  2. Action Rail: The rail, onto which, all the action parts are screwed.
  3. Anchor Pins: Piano strings have two ends. One end is attached to a pin that turns, the other to a pin that does not. The string is therefore “anchored” to this pin.
  4. Back Check Heads: The Back Checks catch the Butts so that the  hammers don’t bobble against the string making a sound like a Zither.
  5. Backing Plate: A maple board that stretches across the top and back of an upright piano.
  6. Balance Rail: The keys are basically like little teeter-totters, and they balance on the Balance Rail.
  7. Balance Rail Bushings: These little cushions hold the key, preventing them from wobbling like Weebles.
  8. Balance Rail Paper Punchings: These are little paper washers that come in different thicknesses and are color coded for easy reference. Technician’s use these to adjust how high a key sits when its’ at rest.
  9. Balance Rail Pins: The pin in the middle of each key.
  10. Balance Rail Punchings: Little felt donuts that sit on top of the paper punchings and directly under the middle of the key. Mmm, Donuts.
  11. Bass Bridge Body: The strings vibrate, the soundboard amplifies this vibration so you can hear it. The bridges connect the string to the soundboard. They not only act as a bridge, they kind of look like one too.
  12. Bass Sustain Pedal: The middle pedal in some uprights, this pedal will sustain only the notes in the bottom half of the keyboard. The other half has to fend for itself.
  13. Bottom Board: The board at the bottom of the piano, hence the name. Its main function is to hold the mechanism for the pedal action.
  14. Bridge Pins: There are almost five hundred of these little steel pins. They guide the strings across the bridge. Even though they are small, they are mighty, AND mightily important. If they weren’t there, the piano would sound like a snare drum.
  15. Bridge Screw Buttons: Also called soundboard buttons, these are large wooden washers that look like, well, buttons.
  16. Butts: More physiological nomenclature. More on this later.
  17. Butt Leather: Don’t get me started.
  18. Castors: The wheels. Not actually designed for wheeling. In most old pianos, they are designed to chew up hardwood floors.
  19. Capstan Heads: More capstans – 88 more in fact. These are the adjustable connections between the keys and the action.
  20. Catches: The catches are the parts that the backchecks catch, when the backchecks have caught butts. (Say that five times fast).
  21. Center Pins: Almost every moving part in the action rotates on these little silver-plated brass pins.
  22. Center Pin Bushings: The sleeves in which the center pins sit and spin.
  23. Cheek Blocks: Sometimes just referred to as cheeks. If you think of the keys as being the “teeth” of the piano, then this is self-explanatory.
  24. Damper Pedal: The right-hand pedal. Pressing this causes the notes to sustain. Also called a (surprise) Sustain Pedal.
  25. Damper Pedal Lever: You press a pedal down, and inside the piano, a lever is levered.
  26. Damper Pedal Spring: Once you stop pressing the pedal, the spring pushes the pedal back up.
  27. Damper Rod: What the other end of the Damper Pedal Lever pushes up. (You’ll find out what the rod pushes later).
  28. Dampers: Dampers stop the strings from ringing. It’s a piano tuner’s joke that they are called this, because when they don’t work right, the piano makes that damn purr.
  29. Damper Bodies: Seriously, don’t get me started.
  30. Damper Spoons: These lift the bottom of the dampers, and are shaped like forks. (Just kidding.)
  31. Front Rail: When your finger pushes down a key, it stops because it hits this rail.
  32. Front Rail Bushings: Like the Balance Rail bushing, except under the front of each key.
  33. Front Rail Paper Punchings: Just like the Balance Rail Paper Punchings, except bigger donuts. Mmm, bigger donuts.
  34. Front Rail Pins: The front edge of the key is guided by this pin as it descends.
  35. Front Rail Punchings: These little felt donuts sit between the key and the rail so that it doesn’t make a horrible clacking sound when you play.
  36. Hammers: The things that hit the strings.
  37. Hammer Rail: The rail that the hammers rest against.
  38. Hammer Shanks: The sticks that the hammers are glued to.
  39. Jacks: Remember the Butts? The hammers are glued to shanks, the shanks are glued to butts, and the jacks kick the butts so that the hammers hit the strings.
  40. Jack Flanges: In a piano, a flange is a part that holds the axis point for every moving part. This makes it different from what the rest of the world thinks of as a flange. Perhaps it should be spelled “Phalange”? No bones about it, spelled that way, flange looks fancy!
  41. Jack Springs: If these little coil springs weaken, or break, the key will not work – period. As Stanislavisky famously said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” These small parts play a big role in upright piano actions.
  42. Key Bodies: Also called key sticks, but that sounds a little annoying.
  43. Key Tops: These tops are made out of plastic, but before the invention of plastic, Elephant Ivory (shudder) was used.
  44. Key Fronts, Celluloid: Even though they spared no expense (and no elephants) to make the ivory tops, they cheapened out a bit by covering the front facing edge of the white “keys with the earliest form of plastic. Useless Trivia: Celluloid was originally called Xylonite, but they changed the name so that Superman wouldn’t be confused and fear wooden glockenspiels. Further Useless Trivia: “Glockenspiel” is German for “Bells-Play”. Oh those Germans! (It’s a good thing the Italians named the Piano, or this glossary would be about Musikrahtspiels.) 
  45. Let-off Buttons: To stop the jacks from kicking the butts all the way into the strings, the let-off buttons stop them part-way.
  46. Let-off Screws: These are actually adjustment screws, not merely inclined planes wrapped helicaly around a vertical axis.
  47. Gable: The side of the case.
  48. Gable Wing: The extension on the middle of the gable that the Keybed is attached to.
  49. Hammer felt: The felt covered bits of the action that do the actual hitting of the strings. The shorter the string it hits, the smaller the hammer felt must be.
  50. Hammer Rail Lift Pedal: Usually the left pedal. Also called, (erroneously), a soft pedal. It moves all the hammers forward, allowing you to use less force to play softly.
  51. Keybed: The case part that supports the keyboard. It’s actually removable by a technician, allowing the piano to turn sharp corners.
  52. Keyslip: The long piece of wood directly in front of the white keys. It’s main purpose (other than esthetics) is to collect pennies which then rub against the keys and make them stick down.
  53. Kick Board: The removable board that your kids kick with their feet because they can’t reach the pedals. It covers the bottom part of the inside of the piano, including the mechanism for the pedals, and is a great place to hide things behind.
  54. Lifting Handles: These handles on the back of the piano are used by PROFESSIONAL PIANO MOVERS to lift the piano onto a dolly. (Note the caps.)
  55. Music Shelf: sometimes attached by little brass hinges, it’s not so much movable as break-off-able.
  56. Music Wire: This is what the strings are made of, so in fact they should be called wires, not strings. But, c’est la vie. If all musical family groups were named after their source materials, string players would be called “Catgutters”, brass players – “Alloyists”, and the woodwinds would be “Bamboozers”.
  57. Nameboard Felt: A strip of felt glued onto the bottom of the Nameboard (Fallboard), because it looks fancy.
  58. Nose Bolts: The nose bolts support the plate in the middle of the soundboard. They stick out through the board, are long, pointy, and have a weird shape near the end. (kind of like Pinocchio’s “after a boxing match.)
  59. Pinblock: The block of wood that holds the tuning pins tight. If this cracks, separates, warps, gets wet, or dries out, it has to be replaced. Luckily, this doesn’t happen often. It’s a big job!
  60. Plate: This is the large cast iron metal thing that’s painted gold. It’s also called a harp. Harpo Marx played one once, got a big laugh, and then a hernia operation – it’s the heaviest part of the piano!
  61. Posts: The large tall wooden beams on the back of the piano.
  62. Regulation Rail: The rail that holds the Let-off Buttons and Screws.
  63. Screws, Loose.
  64. Sharps: The politically correct name for the Black Keys. You could call them “Flats”, but then British people would want to live in them.
  65. Spacers, Lower: The spacers space out the posts. Spacepost? Beam me up Scotty.
  66. Spacers, Upper: The upper spacers also support the backing plate, which supports the pinblock, which supports the… you get the picture.
  67. Strings, Bass: Basically, the lowest strings in the piano. They are usually wound with copper, although other materials have been tried in the past.
  68. Strings, Treble: The upper strings. Plain wire strings, they are jealous of the fancier bass strings which pass over them. They overcompensate by outnumbering the bass strings three to one.
  69. Stringing Braid: A part of the string is made to sing, the other part is mute. The stringing braid goes through this part, it’s red and fancy – a beaut!
  70. Treble Bridge Body: The next listed part sits on top of this part.
  71. Treble Bridge Cap: The previous part sits under this part. Remember the Bridge Pins? This is the piece of wood that holds those pins tight. If it doesn’t, the strings will buzz when excited.
  72. Tuning Pins (244 of them): “Hey!” (I hear you ask) “88 keys, but 244 pins?” Yup. Each treble note uses three strings. The lower bass one per note, the upper bass – two.
  73. Whippen Bodies: The Whippens are the parts of the action that hold the Jacks. Now you know how the action works: The Keys are teeter-totters. You press the front, the back rises, the Capstans lift the Whippens, making the Jacks kick the Butts, which makes the Hammers hit the Strings.
  74. Whippen Heel Cloth: The Heel is the contact point between the Whippen and the Capstan. The aforementioned cloth is actually a thin, but tightly woven piece of felt.
  75. Yeller, Old: Whenever possible, Paul Hahn & Co. endeavours to save every piano it can. However, sometimes, after a lifetime of service, a piano has to be sent to piano heaven. This Willis upright, made in 1972, lived a short, but full musical life. It was, however, cheaply made, and not built to last a lifetime.


(Excerpted and adapted from “EEK! A Piano!” by Jamie Musselwhite. )


You’ve heard of the three “R’s”? Reduce, reuse, recycle? We at Paul Hahn & Co. not only do this, but we add several other “R’s”: Recondition, Rebuild, Restore, and Refinish. Many pianos can be spared this poor pianos’ grievous demise. Come in and talk to us about our small commitment to the environment. New pianos being built in China and other far-flung places are not only built to be disposable like this Willis, but bear a heavy cost to the environment and to the poorly paid workers who have built them.


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