Key (instrument)
A key is a specific part of a musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

. The purpose and function of the part in question depends on the instrument.

On instruments equipped with tuning machines, violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

s and guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

s, for example, a key is part of a tuning machine. It is a worm gear with a key shaped end used to turn a cog, which, in turn, is attached to a post which winds the string. The key is used to make pitch adjustments to a string.

With other instruments, zither
The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary citera, northwestern Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China...

s and drum
The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments, which is technically classified as the membranophones. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a...

s, for example, a key is essentially a small wrench used to turn a tuning machine or lug.

On woodwind instruments such as a flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

 or saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

, keys are finger operated levers used to open or close tone holes
Tone holes
Saxophone tone holes are tone holes that exist in the body and bell of a saxophone. They are strategically placed in order to achieve a variety of notes while holding the best possible intonation.-Varieties:...

, thereby shortening or lengthening the resonating tube of the instrument. The keys on the keyboard of a pipe organ
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

 also open and close various valves, but the air flow is driven mechanically rather than lung powered, and the flow of air is directed through different pipes tuned for each note. The keys of an accordion
The accordion is a box-shaped musical instrument of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone family, sometimes referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist....

 direct the air flow from a manually operated bellows
A bellows is a device for delivering pressurized air in a controlled quantity to a controlled location.Basically, a bellows is a deformable container which has an outlet nozzle. When the volume of the bellows is decreased, the air escapes through the outlet...

 across various tuned vibrating reeds.

On other keyboard instrument
Keyboard instrument
A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument which is played using a musical keyboard. The most common of these is the piano. Other widely used keyboard instruments include organs of various types as well as other mechanical, electromechanical and electronic instruments...

s, a key may be a lever which mechanically triggers a hammer to strike a group of strings, as on a piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

, or an electric switch which energizes an audio oscillator as on an electronic organ
Electronic organ
An electronic organ is an electronic keyboard instrument which was derived from the harmonium, pipe organ and theatre organ. Originally, it was designed to imitate the sound of pipe organs, theatre organs, band sounds, or orchestral sounds....

 or a synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...


See also

  • musical keyboard
    Musical keyboard
    A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument, particularly the piano. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the...

  • Piano key frequencies
    Piano key frequencies
    This is a virtual keyboard showing the absolute frequencies in hertz of the notes on a modern piano in twelve-tone equal temperament, with the 49th key, the fifth A , tuned to 440 Hz...

  • tone holes
    Tone holes
    Saxophone tone holes are tone holes that exist in the body and bell of a saxophone. They are strategically placed in order to achieve a variety of notes while holding the best possible intonation.-Varieties:...

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