The Piano and Its Room Enclosure

The piano is an acoustic instrument.  That is, the instrument itself is energizing the room or other space in which it is located instead of being a substitute sound source such as a recording or electronic sound synthesizer.  The amount of sound a piano produces depends on its scale and the condition of its mechanism and  sounding board.  The way its sound fills an enclosure depends on the shape and size of the auditory space.  Also, its placement in that (auditory space) is critical.  Materials such as carpeting, wall coverings, window dressings, and the presence of an audience, also affect the tonal level and effectiveness of a piano’s sound.   

As with all acoustic instruments, the piano is limited in power and volume.  Its power is its strength to penetrate a given space with sound, and its volume is the decibel level of loudness of the sound it produces.  These are two very different properties and each must be carefully considered when placing an instrument.  Also, auditorium size and shape, audience density, sound reverberation and decay, and even the literature to be performed should be carefully considered for the piano’s installation to be successful.

Sound never contracts, it always expands, and it never propagates itself naturally.  It is only reflected around corners, and it moves into smaller spaces in direct relation to its open expansion pattern. Although sensitive to the reverberation qualities of a given space, it decays at a rate consistent with the combined acoustical qualities of its auditory enclosure.

The ideal location for a piano is 1/4 to 1/3 the way up the elevation at the small end of the room speaking down its long side.  The larger room should expand slightly in height and width at a 7 to 12 degree angle from the sound source to enhance the sound’s egress.  The lid or other reflective tone opening of the instrument should face directly into the auditorium allowing the sound to expand freely.  Sound absorbing materials such as, carpeting, wall coverings, and window dressings should be kept to a minimum.

The placement of a piano in a suitable space is critical to the nature of its sound and professional advice is recommended whenever there is a question concerning this venue.  The experienced piano dealer, acoustician or qualified piano technician can answer most questions in this area and make reference to the proper professionals in special situations.