As a music teacher, people always send me little videos of anything related to music.
Still, one of the videos that caught my attention the most was a piano floating down a river!
It seemed crazy to me! These are heavy instruments, and while they’re mostly made of wood, the interior is largely made of metal struts to support the tension of the strings.
I decided to research this question: Do pianos float?
If a piano is submerged in water, it will float briefly. The combination of wood and air trapped inside the body of the piano will keep it up for a while, but it’ll eventually flip onto its top and take on water. At this point, it’ll sink like a rock.
Let’s look at this question a little more, talk about what the piano is usually made of, and show some videos of pianos in water.
Note: Please don’t do this to your piano (ha!). If you’re frustrated about your progress in learning, check out some helpful online learning software like Flowkey.
It has 100s of lessons and 1000s of songs for pianists at any level.
What Are Pianos Made Of?
Pianos are traditionally built with wooden frames and soundboards.
The frame holds everything together and provides strength and stability.
The soundboard is where all the magic happens. It acts as an amplifier for the vibrations coming from the strings.
This is why the quality of the piano you play depends so much on the quality of the soundboard.
A good soundboard can make a mediocre instrument into a great one.
A bad soundboard can ruin a beautiful instrument.
The keys are made out of ivory or an ivory-like material.
But the metal frames and struts inside are what really add weight to the piano.
To give you an idea of how much it weighs, here’s a quick table of the average weight by size:
|Type Of Piano||Weight in Pounds||Weight in Kilograms|
|Upright piano||300-800 lbs||136-363 kg|
|Grand piano||1,400 lbs||635 kg|
|Baby Grand Piano||500-1,000 lbs||227-454 kg|
Pianos Floating In Water
The piano is mostly made of wood, which is a buoyant material. The air inside the piano body also adds to the floating nature of the instrument.
But the metal is dense and will sink quickly. So how does this shake out?
As we described above, the air and the wood together overpower the sinking of the metal and keep the piano afloat.
It’ll stay afloat as long as the air remains in the body.
However, pianos aren’t balanced. They’ll tip to one side or the other in time.
Water will also seep up through the bottom of the piano gradually (or quickly, depending on the design of the piano.
As the piano tips and takes on more water, the air isn’t there to help it float.
Once the piano flips over onto its top, it starts taking on water quickly and submerges.
At this point, the weight of the metal pulls it down quickly.
Sometimes, you’ll see some staged videos of pianos floating forever or see this in cartoons or in movies.
This isn’t true. In most cases, they’ve removed the strings and metal supports to allow the wood to help it float.
Comparatively, upright pianos are much more likely to stay afloat than a grand or baby grand.
Their design keeps them better balanced from tipping over, and if the lid stays shut on top, air doesn’t escape as fast.
Piano Floating Videos
Still, it’s kind of a fun thing to watch as a piano floats in water.
I’d be heartbroken to see one of mine or a friend’s pianos floating, but it’s one of those things where you can’t seem to look away.
Check out a few videos of pianos floating to see what I mean.
In this case, they have it on a floating frame.
Here’s one sitting underwater (note: it’s not actually playing; it’s more like an art project).
How Does Water Affect The Piano?
Water and moisture are the enemies of most instruments, especially those made of wood.
Wood absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and then expands when it gets wet. This water damage causes cracks and splits that eventually lead to failure.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with dry weather year-round, your wood might last for decades without any problems.
But even if you do live in a place with humid weather, you still need to take care of your instrument.
You should store your piano in a room with good ventilation. You don’t want to trap moisture inside the piano.
And you should protect it from direct sunlight.
Sunlight can cause damage to the finish of the piano. It can also cause the wood to expand and contract too rapidly.
And it can make the piano susceptible to mold growth.
If you notice any signs of mold, get rid of it immediately. Mold can ruin an instrument.
Outside of just keeping all liquids away from your piano, another good thing to invest in is a device to regulate the humidity in a room.
Any dehumidifier will work well, but it’s best if it’s quiet for the piano’s sake when you practice.
Or just shut it off when you play.
A dehumidifier with a hose hookup is much more convenient as you won’t have to empty it out manually all the time.
I use this Madetech one in my classroom with success.
Commonly Asked Questions
Can Water Ruin A Piano?
Yes, water and humidity can be very damaging to a piano.
It can crack the wood, warp the soundboard, rot the keybed, and rust the metal parts.
The worst part about this is that it’s usually irreversible once it starts happening.
The only way to fix these issues is to replace the entire instrument.
Sometimes, even a piano technician won’t be able to save it.
Does a piano need a dehumidifier?
Yes, a dehumidifier is essential for anyone who plays their piano regularly.
Even if you don’t play often, you’ll still benefit from having a dehumidifier.
Humidity fluctuations can build up quickly in a closed space like a home. And it can wreak havoc on wood like that of a piano.
Why is there a plug on my piano?
Nicer pianos have a dehumidifier built into the body of the piano.
This will help regulate the moisture inside the piano and prevent damage from water seeping into the wood.