Have you ever ever questioned how the piano got here to have each black and white keys?
And why? Why ought to there be two totally different teams of keys? Why not simply have an endless row of white keys?
The reply lies in each the physics of acoustics and the development of the human hand.
The primary keyboards have been derived from an historic Greek water organ referred to as the Hydraulis. This organ-like instrument had in essence a uniform group of levers (assume “all white”) that you simply pushed to make the sounds on the organ.
Though it was not all the time true, the keys on a Hydraulis have been usually organized in teams of seven keys, akin to the seven white keys of any trendy scale or mode. (A scale or mode is the rationale that governs how a lot larger every key might be in pitch than the earlier key.)
However quickly, composers needed to transcend the limitations of the seven keys, and commenced so as to add one other key, which often was coloured in a different way from the others and set aside barely.
Beginning with one black key, composers ultimately found that there have been 5 (black) keys that could possibly be added to the unique seven (white) keys.
The $64,000 query, although, is how the black keys got here to be grouped in twos and threes.
The reply lies in the development of the human hand, however to know that we should first look at the keyboard itself.
Think about, if you’ll, an imaginary piano keyboard that has alternating white and black keys throughout the whole 5-foot size.
You possibly can visualize this when you take a bit of paper or cardboard and maintain it perpendicular to the keys, masking your view of the black keys. What do you see? A mass of white keys with no means of distinguishing precisely which white secret is which.
Now think about once more the keyboard as described above, an imaginary piano keyboard that has alternating white and black keys throughout the complete 5 foot size.
Even with black keys, one continues to be misplaced, as there isn’t a sample in the white-black association that may can help you persistently select any specific black or white key. All the eye can see is white-black-white-black endlessly, with no means of discovering any sample to the association.
Someday round 1400, some very intelligent individual realized that when you put the black keys into teams of two and three, (2+three=5) a recognizable visible sample emerged that allowed a participant to simply distinguish every key, white or black.
Historical past doesn’t report who this genius was.
Subsequent, after a few years individuals had performed the keyboard lengthy sufficient to develop appreciable talent.
The outcome of this was the elevating of the black keys barely above the degree of the white keys, after which got here the most revolutionary concept of all: make the black keys shorter than the white, solely barely additional away from the participant.
However why? The reply lies in the human hand.
We have now 5 “fingers” however they don’t seem to be equal in functionality at the piano.
The thumb is dominant and but it’s the shortest finger on the hand.
Thus the piano keyboard matches the human hand by making the white keys nearer to accommodate the shorter thumb, and the black keys additional away to accommodate the longer “non-thumb” fingers.
You possibly can see this by merely placing your hand on a keyboard. Your thumb will comfortably attain the white keys and the different fingers are simply inside attain of each the black and white keys.
Identify one other machine from the Renaissance with hundreds of shifting elements that has survived like the distinctive design of the piano keyboard.
No different gadget besides maybe the glove matches the human hand so completely.
By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2000 Walden Pond Press