Is Piano a String Instrument or Percussion Instrument?

is piano a string instrument

According to Wassily Kandinsky, the piano strings are the soul of the piano, and the artists help to vibrate the soul. That said, have you ever wondered, “Is piano a string instrument or a percussion instrument?”

This question always bothered me when I started playing. Therefore, I did some digging. And, now I know what type of instrument piano is.

I will share that with you in a moment. Before that, let’s learn a little about string and percussion instruments.

String Instrument vs Percussion Instrument


String Instrument Percussive Instrument
Played with a bow, pick, and hammer: like one plays a chordophone, harpsichord, or piano Played with sticks and hands: like one plays a marimba or maracas
You can play them continuously You cannot play them continuously
The tone range varies as the scales go up or down There is no tone range in a percussion instrument

What is a String-based Instrument?

A string musical instrument has strings tightly attached to a fretboard and a soundboard.

The purpose of a string instrument is to bring tune, rhythm chords, and bass to the composition. An ideal example is a violin, where you need to vibrate the strings with a bow.

When one pulls or bows the strings, they vibrate and give a unique sound. Moreover, to tune a musical instrument that has strings, one needs to adjust the string.

Some well-known string-based instruments include:

  • Chordophone
  • Cello
  • Lute
  • Harpsichord

What is a Percussion Instrument?

A percussion instrument brings tempo and rhythm to the composition. If you look at a percussion instrument, you will see that it has a solid base.

You need to hit the base with your hands or a stick to emit sound. A percussionist can play various percussive instruments if they have basic knowledge about tempo and rhythm.

Generally, a percussion instrument cannot play tunes. However, there are exceptions. For example, instruments like the xylophone and timpani are percussion instruments that bring a tune to the composition.

Some renowned percussion instruments Include:

  • Drums and cymbal
  • Claves
  • Tambourine
  • Cellos

Now you know the basic difference between the two, let’s move ahead and see which category piano fits in.

Is Piano a String Instrument or Percussion Instrument?

This question has bothered a lot many people. Let’s settle it for once and for all.

Why is the Piano Labelled as a String Instrument?

Which image first comes to mind when you think of a string instrument? Well, for me, it’s a guitar. And it can be either a harp or a violin for you.

But, if you ask a musician about this, they will tell you that piano is a string instrument.

Why do experts think piano is a string instrument?

  1. The beautiful sound that composers bring out of a piano comes from pulling the strings
  2. You can play the piano continuously without stopping
  3. The tone range goes up and comes down like any string-based instrument
  4. Moreover, piano’s ancestor, the dulcimer, is a string instrument

Without the strings, the piano cannot amaze us with its music. Hence, musicians claim the piano to be a string-based instrument.

Why is the Piano Labelled as a Percussion Instrument?

Why do experts think piano is a percussion instrument?

  1. A piano keyboard has 88 keys and you can play every key with your hands
  2. The piano has hammers that are similar to drum hammers
  3. Piano strings cannot be plucked directly, unlike string instruments

Without a hammer and a soundboard, you cannot produce sound on a piano. Hence, it is also called a percussion instrument.

Final Verdict: Side-by-Side Comparision

Let’s conclude it. Look at the table below, and you will see piano has characteristics of both string and percussion instruments. That just makes the piano even more beautiful and magical.

Type Characteristics Does piano have it?
String instrument Physical Strings YES
String instrument Needs Tuning YES
String instrument You can play continuously YES
Percussion instrument Adaptable to other musical instruments YES
Percussion instrument Made out of wood and metal YES
Percussion instrument Produces sound by hitting with hands or sticks YES

Piano is commonly referred to as a “hybrid instrument”. However, I would like to argue otherwise.

Piano is a string instrument because:

  •  Piano’s base is string base and therefore, one needs to pull the piano strings with hammers to produce sound.
  • String instruments, including the piano, have notes, scales, and octaves, which are commonly unavailable in other instrument family.

The above points prove that the music that comes out of piano is generated from the strings. Moreover, the just like other string instruments, piano has the capacity to produce limitless music.

Hence, it’s settled that piano is a string instrument and not otherwise.

Learn the basics of piano to understand why piano is a string-based instrument.


Is piano a string instrument?

The piano’s base is made of strings that are struck with hammers to produce music. And although the piano has a soundboard, it’s not the instrument’s base.

Moreover, like other string instruments, the piano has notes, octaves, and scales. In addition, unless the strings aren’t vibrating correctly, you cannot produce music.

So, yes, the piano is a stringed instrument and falls in the string family.

Where are the strings located in a piano?

The strings of a piano are located behind the keyboard. If it’s a grand piano, the makers arrange the strings horizontally. And in the case of an upright piano, the makers place the strings vertically.

However, the strings of the piano are covered by a box. Therefore, to view the strings, you have to open the box.

Is a piano a percussion instrument?

No, a piano is not a percussion instrument. Yes, just like a drum or timpani, a piano, too, has hammers. Moreover, just like the xylophone, a percussion instrument, the piano also has high and low tunes.

However, you have to hammer the strings to produce music rather than on a solid base like a timpani. Hence, technically, a piano is not a percussive instrument.

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Let’s keep all these arguments aside and forget the kind of instrument a piano is.

Would that change the fact that piano is a musical marvel?  NO! A Beethoven piece, any day, can bring more joy to my heart than any other genre or classification of music. And during sleepless nights, I listen to Mozart to feel safe.

So, it doesn’t matter which family the piano falls in to, let’s enjoy it’s presence.

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