The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700 (the exact year is uncertain), in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys (small levers) that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings. Unlike the pipe organ and harpsichord, two major keyboard instruments widely used before the piano, the piano allows gradations of volume and tone according to how forcefully a performer presses or strikes the keys.
Notes can be sustained, even when the keys are released by the fingers and thumbs, by the use of pedals at the base of the instrument. The sustain pedal enables pianists to play musical passages that would otherwise be impossible, such as sounding a 10-note chord in the lower register and then, while this chord is being continued with the sustain pedal, shifting both hands to the treble range to play a melody and arpeggios over the top of this sustained chord. Although an acoustic piano has strings, it is usually classified as a percussion instrument rather than as a stringed instrument, because the strings are struck rather than plucked (as with a harpsichord or spinet).
There are two main types of piano: the grand piano and the upright piano. The grand piano is used for Classical solos, chamber music and art song and it is often used in jazz and pop concerts. The upright piano, which is more compact, is the most popular type, as they are a better size for use in private homes for domestic music-making and practice.
Although the piano is very heavy and thus not portable and is expensive (in comparison with other widely used accompaniment instruments, such as the acoustic guitar), its musical versatility, the large number of musicians and amateurs trained in playing it, and its wide availability in performance venues, schools and rehearsal spaces have made it one of the Western world’s most familiar musical instruments. With technological advances, amplified electric pianos (1929), electronic pianos (1970s), and digital pianos (1980s) have also been developed.
Having been obliged to take up the violin, Kate began playing piano of her own accord by age 12, ostensibly to accompany her brother Paddy during his violin practice. She began to write songs on an old honky-tonk piano bought for £200. When Wuthering Heights went to Number 1 on the British singles chart Kate celebrated by purchasing a Steinway piano for £7,000.
Kate has used the piano on many of her songs, including Feel It, Moving, Strange Phenomena, Wuthering Heights, In The Warm Room, Coffee Homeground, Hammer Horror, Kashka From Baghdad, Oh England My Lionheart, Them Heavy People, Wow, Warm And Soothing, Get Out Of My House, Houdini, Leave It Open, Pull Out The Pin, Suspended In Gaffa, Un Baiser d’Enfant, Love And Anger, Reaching Out, Constellation Of The Heart, Moments Of Pleasure, Top Of The City, Mrs. Bartolozzi, Among Angels, Lake Tahoe, Snowed In At Wheeler Street and Snowflake.