What Materials Are Pianos Made Of? (All Piano Parts Listed)

A lot of expertise goes into making a piano, and the quality and selection of the materials play an important part in the instrument's overall sound. Anyone who has heard the beautiful sound of a Steinway, for instance, can attest to the craftsmanship involved in creating the distinctive sound.

What materials are pianos made of? The outer casing of a piano is made out of wood, such as maple. High carbon steel or copper is used for the strings. The soundboard, the piano's soul, is made of specially crafted spruce wood. The keys were made from ivory and ebony in the past, but modern piano keys are wood and plastic.

There is a lot more to understanding what goes into producing the beautiful sound of the modern traditional piano. Let’s look at how pianos are constructed, the different materials involved, and how this affects the overall sound. We'll also consider digital and electric pianos for good measure.

Related My New Microphone articles:
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Top 11 Best Acoustic Piano Brands In The World
Top 9 Best Digital Piano Brands In The World

How Are Pianos Made?

Today the modern piano is made mostly on an assembly line, but brands like Steinway and Sons still craft pianos by hand. A Steinway grand piano takes between nine to eleven months to build. It takes a team of specialized craftspeople to prepare and assemble around 12,000 different parts to make the finished product.

Steinway & Sons is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Acoustic Piano Brands In The World.

The price of a piano is linked to the quality of the materials used to make it and the level of craftsmanship employed to put it together. The lifespan of a piano could last anywhere from twenty years to generations depending on the level of care and upkeep it receives.

Materials Used To Make The Outer Casing And Lid Of A Piano

Various woods are used to make the outer casing and lid. These range from more expensive woods such as maple, mahogany, rosewoods, Brazil woods, or ebony woods.

You can expect less expensive pianos' outer casing or cabinet to be crafted out of the woods, such as birch, fir, oak, or mahogany.

Materials Used To Make The Keyboard Of A Piano

Pianos have fifty-two white keys and thirty-six black keys on a piano, arranged in seven octaves. Traditionally the white keys were made of ivory, and the black keys were made of ebony, a type of hardwood.

The illegal ivory trade put an end to the production of ivory keys. All contemporary pianos have wooden keys covered in hard acrylic, known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS.

There are interesting differences ebony and ivory keys make in performance compared to the more modern plastic keys. Performers suggest that ivory keys absorb sweat, allowing better movement of the fingers over the keyboard.

Ivory is much more porous than plastic. Over time, ivory keys tend to turn yellow, and they may be a challenge to clean. Plastic keys have proven easier to clean and fairly simple to repair.

Ebony, on the other hand, is a dense, dark hardwood. It is stained black, but wear and tear can cause it to fade and chip over time.

It is illegal to sell a piano with ivory keys, so the chances are that unless your piano has been handed down through generations, your current piano probably has plastic-coated keys.

For more My New Microphone articles on piano keys, check out the following:
How Many Keys Do Pianos Have? Acoustic, Electric, Digital
Why Do Pianos Have 88 Keys? (And Why Some Don’t)

Materials Used To Make The Hammers

The piano hammers are responsible for striking the strings when the keys are depressed. The cores of these hammers are crafted from wood and then covered in felt.

To learn more about piano hammers, check out my article How Often Should Piano Hammers Be Replaced?

Materials Used To Make Piano Strings

Piano strings are made out of high carbon steel and copper. Piano strings must keep their tension and not stretch, snap, corrode or wear out over time.

In fact, in most cases, pianos that go out of tune are due to tuning pins wearing out or wear and tear on the pin block rather than damage to the strings themselves.

For more information on piano strings, check out my article How Often Should Piano Strings Be Replaced?

Materials Used To Make The Soundboard Of A Piano

At the heart of every piano is the soundboard. This is what amplifies and accentuates the sound of the strings. The soundboard is what gives each piano its unique sound.

The soundboard of an upright piano is positioned vertically, and for grand pianos, it lies flat.

For more info on upright and grand pianos, check out my article What Are The Differences Between An Upright And A Grand Piano?

Soundboards are generally made out of spruce wood such as Sitka, Yezo, European, Adirondack, or Canadian spruce. The process used to prepare these woods are of utmost importance as it ensures the quality of sound of the piano is maintained over the years.

The spruce is left to air dry and then undergoes an additional drying process using a kiln. The spruce is cut into boards and glued together, supported by wooden ribs.

Related articles: Guitar Tonewoods

Materials Used For The Bridge

The bridge of the piano is mounted on the soundboard. The strip of wood that runs at a 90-degree angle to the strings is called the bridge. There are two bridges: a short one for the bass notes and a longer bridge for the treble notes.

Maple wood is generally used for the bridges of a piano and is glued to the soundboard in cheaper pianos. In higher-quality pianos, a dowel joint is used to attach the bridge to the rib and soundboard, which aids in distributing sound more efficiently.

Materials Used To Make The Pin Block Of A Piano

The pin block of a piano is mounted on the soundboard and is responsible for holding the tuning pins in place, which keeps the strings at just the right tension to stay in tune.

The pin block is constructed with layers of maple wood bonded together.

The tuning pins that fit securely into the pin block are made of steel and are generally about 2.5 inches long. 

Materials Used To Make The Pedals Of A Piano

Pianos come with the option of two or three pedals. The una corda is the pedal found on the far left, the middle pedal is known as the sostenuto pedal, and the pedal on the far right is the sustaining pedal. 

The pedals of a piano are usually made of brass and other metal alloys.

More content on piano pedals can be read in my article Why Do Pianos Have Pedals & How Do The Pedals Work?

Additional Components Of A Piano

Besides the main components of a piano responsible for the overall sound quality, additional features finish off the overall look, feel, and function.

These include the key block, which is simply two blocks of wood on either side of the keyboard that helps keep it in position, and the keyboard cover, which protects the keyboard from dust.

Most pianos are usually crafted with legs and possibly a set of wheels to move the heavy instrument from one place to the other.

Felt is used for the muffler and on the tips of the hammers.

What About Digital Pianos?

Digital pianos are often made mostly of plastic.

Many digital piano bodies, cabinets and case are made of plastic, though some higher ticket models utilize wood for a more natural aesthetic. Plastic is cheaper to use and since the digital piano does not rely on resonance to emit its sound, the body of the instrument is effectively only necessary for structure.

Some digital pianos utilize wooded keyboards with acrylic coating, like acoustic pianos. However, the bulk of digital piano keyboards are built with plastic.

Electronics-wise, digital pianos obviously require digital chips, which are made of transistors (silicon is a typical main ingredient) and other metals and plastics. Any analog audio signals are generally carried via copper wire, which is standard for wired audio transmission. The individual elements of each electrical component are beyond the scope of this article.

Many digital pianos have built-in speakers, which are nearly always of the dynamic (moving-coil) variety. These speakers rely on magnets, iron cores and copper voice coils to move in reaction to the audio signals. The diaphragm is made of plastic, paper, aluminum, fibre, or rubber and the suspension is often rubber.

Related article: Are Acoustic Or Digital Pianos Better? Pros And Cons Of Each

To learn more about speakers, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
How Do Speakers Produce Sound? (A Helpful Beginner’s Guide)
Why And How Do Speakers Use Magnets & Electromagnetism?

What About Electric Pianos?

Electric pianos, like the famed Wurlitzer 200A or Fender Rhodes, aren't overly popular nowadays (digital pianos and organs have largely taken their place) but are still worth mentioning.

Electric pianos are built largely in the same way as acoustic pianos, albeit often smaller. Their keys stike hammers, which in turn strike a vibrating mass. This vibrating mass is a string (or multiple strings) with a typical acoustic piano.

However, depending on the model of electric piano, the hammers may strike metal strings, metal reeds or wire tines. The material used is generally steel (an alloy based mostly of iron with a small percentage of copper, and the addition of other elements, depending on the type of steel).

These strings, reeds or tines vibrate in proximity to magnetic pickups, which transduce the vibrational energy into electrical energy (audio signals) for amplification and reproduction via an amplifier and loudspeaker, respectively.

The magnetic pickups, complete with housing, bobbins and coils, are made of magnets, copper coil, and typically plastic housing.

The magnets discussed in the digital and electric piano sections are made of ferromagnetic metals, including iron as a primary element, along with nickel, cobalt and some rare earth elements (particularly neodymium).


Each specially crafted part of a piano makes a big difference to the price, timbre, and overall aesthetic of a piano. Take the time to understand what materials were used to construct a piano you consider purchasing. A wise choice will ensure that your piano lasts you a lifetime and will be around for generations to come. 

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and the author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or producing music. For more info, please check out his YouTube channel and his music.

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