The History of the Piano

Pianoforte Cristofori

 

Do you know when was the piano invented and who invented it? How was the evolution of the instrument in terms of working mechanism and sound? Let’s read on for an overview of the history of the piano!

 

The Early ‘Piano’


 

Dulcimer
Dulcimer

 

The piano was first invented as a string instrument called hammered dulcimer or dulcimer. During the 17th century, it evolved into several stringed keyboard instruments with struck strings such as clavichord and harpsichord.

 

Clavichord
Clavichord

 

Dulcimer produces sounds when the strings are beaten by small hammers. For clavichord, sounds are produced when the strings are struck by tangents, while for harpsichord, the strings are plucked by quills. All of these instruments are not capable for good dynamic control.

 

Harpsichord
Harpsichord

 

The Invention of Pianoforte by Bartolomeo Cristofori


 

The first real piano (formerly known as pianoforte) was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) in Padua, Italy around 1700. Cristofori was the Keeper of the Instruments in the court of Prince Ferdinand de Medici of Florence. He was a harpsichord maker who was well equipped with the skill and knowledge of making stringed keyboard instruments.

 

When the first pianoforte was invented, Cristofori named it un cimbalo di cipresso di piano e forte (“a keyboard of cypress with soft and loud”). This instrument uses hammers to strike the string, allowing the production of loud sounds and dynamic control. The mechanical problems of piano design were solved by combining the good features of both clavichord and harpsichord.

 

Pianoforte
Pianoforte

 

The Sustain Pedal


 

How to Use Piano Pedals
Sustain Pedals

Pianoforte was unknown until an Italian journalist, Scipione Maffei wrote an article about it in 1711. After that, many piano builders have tried to build their piano based on Cristofori’s mechanism. Gottfried Silbermann, an organ builder has invented the sustain pedal which is able to lift all the dampers from the strings simultaneously.

 

The Modern Piano


 

Over time, the pianoforte has changed tremendously with the preference of pianists and the industrial revolution. Around 1780, upright piano was built by Johann Schmidt of Salzburg, Austria. In 1802, it was improved by Thomas Loud of London.

 

Upright Piano
Upright Piano

 

Nowadays, only three pianos by Cristofori survive. They are placed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (1720), the Museo Strumenti Musicali in Rome (1722), and the Musikinstrumenten-Museum of Leipzig University (1726).

 

Watch The Evolution of Piano From Dulcimer to Modern Piano:

 

Are you amazed by the process of evolution after reading the history of the piano? Share this article with your friends if you love piano! Remember to leave your comments and thoughts below too!

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4 Comments:

  1. Wow, it must be my lucky day! Some of my favorite subjects to learn about are music history and music in different cultures and earlier I had the opportunity to read and comment on a very nice post about spanish styles of guitar playing!

    I was not aware that the piano was initially created as a string instrument. Oddly enough, although the piano is quite possibly my favorite instruments to hear incorporated into the music of today, it is also the instrument that I know the least about. I have no idea why I have never looked into this but stumbling on this blog post has made my morning!

    I am taking away from this post, some very rich information that is of very high interest to me! Johann Schmidt was a brilliant man and I am sure there are several pianists out there that are completely unaware that they should be thanking him for making their musical passion possible for them due to the saved space of his design!

    I know a lot of instruments that have gone through some pretty drastic changes in design since the time of their creation but I can not think of a single one that has had a transformational process that the piano has. Very fun information, I am so glad I came across your link this morning. Thank you for this post!

    -Zach

    1. Hi Zach, you’re welcome. I’m so glad that this post has entertained you with the interesting information about the piano instrument. I can feel your great passion and interest in music. Are you a piano player? If yes, I’m sure that you will like my other posts too. Happy reading!

      Saber

  2. This is just what the doctor ordered. I really enjoyed the evolution of the piano video you have above. I think what I need to do now is get myself your copy of “Fundamentals of Piano Practice” eBook. If I may ask…what can I expect in the eBook. I know it’s free but I just want to get myself prepared. 🙂

    Thanks for this marvelous post.

    1. Hi Peter, thanks for visiting and glad that you enjoyed watching the video. “Fundamentals of Piano Practice” is an ebook written by Mr. C.C. Chang which covers some efficient methods for piano practice. It is a good read for piano students or piano players especially those who wish to improve their skills and practice more effectively. Do subscribe and download it if you think the ebook will be helpful for you!

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