The History of the Piano

By: Daelyn Wilson 

 

close up of a musical instrument
Photo by Mateusz Dach on Pexels.com

The piano is one of the hardest instruments to master. Between playing in two clefs, using the pedals (occasionally), and reading two staffs of music at once, it can be quite a juggling act. But it also is one of the most dynamic instruments. The pianist controls just how loud, soft, fast, slow, smooth, or choppy to play. But how does a piano work and where did it come from?  

Of course, by the early 1700s, people had figured out that tight strings pulled across something hollow or just pulled tight, made different noise is plucked or had something pulled across it. The first form of the piano was known as a harpsichord was created by Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori. The harpsichord was only one of many stringed instruments to proceed the piano. What made them different? The harpsichord had the same setup, but there was no way to make it play louder or softer; it had one volume.  

Mankind, those who played, wanted more artistic freedom while playing, and this was a driving force in creating the piano. In 1709, Cristofori exhibited an exciting and new instrument, the “gravicembalo col piano e forte”, or loosely, “soft and loud keyboard instrument.” Later the title was shortened to the pianoforte, and then finally to “piano.”  

How does the piano work? Well, inside the piano are a series of strings, varying sizes and thicknesses pulled taut and tight. When you press a key, a hammer swings up and strikes the wire, causing a noise. Each wire produces a different sound, and the harder or softer you press the key will depend on how loud of noise is produced.  

Several centuries later, the piano is still a common instrument. In fact, it is not only a traditional instrument but had digital forms that more represent and sound like a real piano. They all play the same, though they are referred to as “reproducing pianos”, as opposed to the traditional “acoustic”.  

Pianos are still a large part of the musical industry. Characterized by their unique and traditional sound, there are many still in use. Though the oldest piano keeps its residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It is one of Cristofori’s pianos, crafted in about 1720. That makes it almost 300 years old!!  

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