What Is The History Of The Piano (2023)?

Understanding the history of the piano helps in having a deep connection with the instrument and helps us to play better and with tremendous interest. The instruments are of three different types, namely the wind instruments, the percussion instruments, and the string instruments. The pianos belong to the string range of instruments and clenching too deep into its history reveals to us that the pianos are the descendants of the monochords. Since the piano sounds come from the vibration of its strings, it can also be classified as a percussion instrument as the hammer strings. 

The earliest of the pianos were originally crafted in Italy, around 1500, and looked more like a harpsichord. This was later spread to Great Britain, Germany, France, and other countries and in the harpsichord class of instruments, when a key gets pressed a plectrum or the jack that is attached to the wood strip plucks the strings and renders the music.

History & Invention

As a result, the quiet nature of the piano’s birth around 1700 comes as somewhat of a surprise. The first true piano was almost entirely invented by one man—Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) of Padua, who was appointed in 1688 to Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici’s Florentine court to care for its harpsichords and, eventually, its entire collection of instruments. 

An “Arcimboldo,” a harpsichord-like instrument “newly invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori” with hammers as well as dampers, two keyboards, and scope of four octaves, C-c”‘, is mentioned in a 1700 inventory of Medici instruments. In his enthusiastic 1711 description, poet and journalist Scipione Maffei called Cristofori’s instrument a “gravicembalo col piano, e forte” (harpsichord with soft and loud notes), the very first time it was termed by its eventual name, pianoforte. 

An early modern epitaph by a Florentine court musician, Federigo Meccoli, notes that Cristofori created the “arpi cimbalo del piano e’ forte” in 1700, giving us a precise birthdate for the piano. Cristofori was an artistic inventor, designing such a sophisticated action for his musical instruments that he solved many of the technical issues that puzzled other piano creatives for the following seventy-five years of its advancement. 

Piano History

Because his intervention was extremely complicated and thus costly, many of its features were dropped by subsequent 18th makers, only to be gradually reinvented and successfully incorporated in subsequent decades. Cristofori’s ingenious innovations included an “escapement” mechanism that allowed the hammer to drop away from the string instantly after striking it, preventing dampening and allowing the string to be struck harder than on a clavichord; a “check” that prevented the fast-moving hammer from snapping back to re-hit the string; a softening mechanism on a jack to silence the string when not in use. 

The soundboard was isolated from the tension-bearing parts of the particular instance, allowing it to vibrate more freely; and thicker strings at higher frictions than on a harpsichord. 

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Inventor and his Invention

The first-ever piano was invented in the year 100 by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Italy. What he discovered was the improvisation of the harpsichord, as he was not satisfied with the fact that the musicians have little control over the volume of the music played in the harpsichord. 

It was Cristofori who invented the plucking mechanism of the hammer that we found in modern pianos. Before naming the instrument a piano, it was regarded as an instrument that is great for playing both loud and soft noises. When he invented the piano, he also invented the pedal that became the standard sustain pedal on every piano. The modern-day pianos are the improvisation of his invention and this precision instrument has not changed much in its mechanism since then. 

Variations in Pianos Across History

The popularity of this instrument which was once named pianoforte and shortened as piano began to spread throughout Europe in the 18th century. Soon the pianos were being made in different countries in their characteristic design. For example, the pianos that were made in England have a louder volume and featured a heavier mechanism and the pianos in Austria featured a softer sound and a lighter mechanism. 

And the pianos that were made in Viennese were very famous as they featured a wooden frame and they encompass two strings in a note. Their hammers were covered with leather. When the pianos were first being manufactured, they didn’t have the same number of keys on their board.

Though most of them had 88 keys commonly (52 white keys and 36 black keys), the majority of the pianos were smaller and featured just 85 keys. Some manufacturers such as the Imperial Bosendorfer had additional keys on their instruments (nine keys to cover the 8 octaves). These pianos also had a lid that covered the keys when they were not in use. Major changes in the design and the functionality of the piano happened over the years and can be briefly summarized as follows:

  • 1844: Major design changes in the physical appearance of the piano, including the incorporation of the sostenuto pedal
  • 1859: Cross stringing was first patented this year
  • 1872: Invention of the duplex scaling feature
  • 1880- 90s: Standardization of the 88-key format in the piano
  • 1900: Technological advancements in the piano.

Unique Pianos with Different Key Sets

A famous piano manufacturer Schoenhut also specialized in manufacturing pianos that have just 44 or 49 keys and they appealed to those who wished to have a piano but couldn’t dedicate huge space for a large acoustic piano. Yet another interesting invention is the Pianoforte from Emanuel Moor who is a Hungarian pianist and composer.

The main highlight of this classic piano version is that it has two keyboards in the same set. The key ranges were set one over the other. The upper portion of the keyboard was slightly shorter and had 76 keys and the lower row possessed complete 88 keys and was slightly longer. Playing this piano was unusual as well but offered the advantage for the pianist to reach two octaves in one hand, which is generally not possible with the regular piano. 

Improvisations in the Piano Playing Technique Across Ages

Ever since the invention of the piano technique from the harpsichord to the fortepiano playing, the piano playing technique has been improvising. The changes can be correlated with the preference of the audience for the changes in the music styles during the classical and romantic musical periods.

With the emergence of the Virtuoso pianists, different schools of piano playing came into existence and started the evolution of diverse piano playing techniques. One important innovation that resonates with the powerful sound of modern-day pianos is the use of the large cast-iron frame that stood on top of the soundboard. This cast iron frame helped the user of thicker and more tense strings and it was also patented in the year 1825. It encompassed the use of three strings for the middle treble registers and it also enhanced the richness of the sound. 

The copper winding that is present around the steel strings in the bass registers helped to enhance the mass of the string, enhancing its tone and depth, without noticeably altering the stiffness of the string. 

Slowly the process of manufacturing the keyboard was streamlined so that the piano could get faster and more responsive. Changes were made in the exteriors of the piano as well and the manufacturers of piano started experimenting with different manufacturing materials and processes, incorporating technological innovations from time to time. 

Types Of Pianos

It has progressed from vertical to horizontal to digital ever since the discovery of the piano in the 18th century. Often these companies now manufacture three types of pianos: grand pianos, upright pianos, and digital pianos. 

Grand pianos are also known as horizontal pianos since of their horizontal soundboards, which allow for longer strings and are positioned laterally across the area of the soundboard. It is the best, largest, and most exorbitant type of piano available. A grand piano’s string placement and mechanism generate a sound with a fuller as well as finer tonal quality. Because the piano is parallel to the ground to the ground, the hammers that hit the strings can return to their original position and reset faster, allowing the very same note to be played quicker compared to other pianos. 

history of the piano

From the small to the largest, grand pianos are classified into six types: petite grand, baby grand, medium grand, parlour grand, ballroom grand, and concert grand. Their heights range from four and a half to nine feet. Often these grand pianos have 88 keys and three piano pedals if made in the United States, and two if made in Europe.  

The upright or vertical piano takes its name from the upright position of its chords and soundboard. In comparison to a grand piano, the chords are shorter, and the soundboard area is smaller. When pressing a key on an upright piano, the hammers strike the strings parallel to the ground because of the arrangement of the strings and the soundboard, which keeps changing the mechanism of the keys. When tried to compare to a grand piano, it provides a significantly different playing experience. 

Digital musical instruments are the least expensive of the three options. Although experts do not consider these instruments to possess the best tonal qualities, 3 digital pianos majority of manufacturers have a similar sound as grand as well as upright pianos. Whenever a button is pressed on a digital piano, sensors activate, producing sound. An audio of a note from such an acoustic piano is then played back through speakers attached to the piano’s structure. 

On digital pianos, there really are numerous samples of each note that come from various types of pianos as well as other instruments that can be adapted to different pitches. Other features of these pianos include recording and tunes to accompany the piano music. 

Learn About The Types Of Pianos: Click Here

Modern Piano & Variations In Shape And Size. 

  • Spinet Piano: Vertical pianos that are 36″ to 39″ tall are the smallest. A rod mechanism connects the compressed piano actions to the keys. These pianos are more difficult to service and regulate, and they are no longer manufactured.  
  • Console piano: Consoles are typically 40″ to 44″ tall. They typically have a high home furnishings value and are appropriate for home use. Most have full-size actions, but some manufacturers condense the actions to save money. 
  • Studio piano: They range in height from 45″ to 47″ for a studio piano. These are popular in schools and churches. Some cabinet models have increased their utility for household use as well. 
  • Upright Piano: Upright pianos are typically 48″ or larger. These pianos are popular among players who want the sound of a grand piano without occupying as much room.
  • Digital Piano: There are many different types of digital pianos. There is a digital piano for almost every price point and feature requirement, ranging from slender upright models to a variety of grand piano sizes. High-quality digital pianos offer excellent value, with progressive percussion actions that do not require regulating and concert grand-quality sound that does not require tuning. Other educational features include a wide range of voices, configurable piano sounds, and also the option to adjust the volume and even wear headphones.  

What Are Piano Pedals

When you play, the sounds you can make are not restricted to what you’re doing with your hands. Piano pedals (the levers at your feet) enhance the sound in a variety of ways, expanding the range of possibilities beyond the keyboard, from intricacies in dynamics to striking changes in tone. Most modern sound or digital pianos have three pedals. 

There are two older acoustic pianos.  The feet ought to be flat on the ground when seated correctly. Arrange them so that the big toes of both feet are parallel to the left and right pedals. Raise the front of the foot as well as move it forward to use a pedal. Place the foot’s ball on the closed end of the pedal, in line with the big toe. 

Pivot down smoothly, keeping the heel on the floor. Avoid making unnecessary noise by hitting the bottom endpoint too quickly or releasing the pedal uncontrollably. 

Just make sure not to misuse the pedals and that it fits the music. A high-speed song can be ruined by overusing the sustain pedal, whereas a slow song can benefit greatly by employing the same technique. 

Click To Find Out More About The Uses Of Piano Pedals

How Is The Piano Maintained? 

The piano is unique among musical instruments because it also serves as a piece of furniture again for the room in which it is placed. It’s more than just a beautiful piece of music. Because the piano is such a significant aspect of Western culture, the term “piano finish” has indeed been universally used to refer to the superior level of wood finishes. 

Paying attention to the finish of the piano not only helps to maintain the instrument’s value if you decide to dispose of it, but it also enhances the overall decoration of the house. Polyester has been the most used material on pianos. It is a modern chemical technology product that provides the highest level of elegance and protection available. Polyester is a highly stable material, and changes in temperature have had no impact on its size. 

As a result, applying a sustainable finish to a changing surface encourages trouble. When the wood varies due to moisture, the polyester can break or lose adhesion to it. Silicone will be assimilated by the finish and therefore can cause the timber to become saturated, making future repairs and refinishing difficult. Second, it is acceptable to clean modern high polish and high gloss piano end with a damp cloth accompanied by a dry cloth. Most piano professionals and piano stores sell polishes designed specifically for these polyester finishes. 

Piano strings are hung under enormous tension, weighing an average of 90 kilograms each. As a result, even when the piano also isn’t played, the strings will progressively stretch with time, causing the piano to go out of tune.

Pianos require constant tuning at least every year in order to stay in tune and play the correct notes. Piano strings stretch significantly during the first year after purchase, and the piano should be tuned two times during this time. Furthermore, tuning is an important method for determining the condition of the piano.  

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The piano reigns supreme in the globe of musical instruments. With the possible possibility of the human voice, no instrument has had a greater influence on American music than the premium piano. The piano, invented by Bartolomeo Christofori in the early 18th century, eventually made its way into nearly every family by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Prior to the invention of the radio, the melody was the centerpiece of nearly every home in industrialized nations. The same reasons that people love pianos presently are the same reasons why individuals loved pianos 100 years ago. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What Is So Special About The Looks Of A Piano?

Pianos are elegant and instantly elevate the status of any room in which they are placed. A concert grand piano’s gleaming, the black silhouette is about as iconic as it gets. A few of the cases are extremely ornate, but nearly all of the piano produced is designed to be visually appealing. 

2. What Are The Three Types Of Pianos? 

The upright, grand, electric, electronic, or digital. Spinet, console, upright, baby grand, petite grand, grand and synths, keyboards, silent pianos, electric, electronic, and digital pianos are all the other sub-kinds. 

3. What Are Small Pianos Called? 

A spinet piano is the smaller, less expensive version of a grand or upright piano. It is known as “the bane of piano technicians” in some circles because they are challenging to service due to the ordeal of removing the action. 

4. What Are The Most Common Big Pianos Known As?

Big pianos are called grand pianos, the direct descendant of the harpsichord, having a horizontal body, strings that extend away from the keyboard, and use gravity as the means to return to a resting/normal state.

5. What Is The Rule Of Thumb While Using Pedals?

A good general rule is to use the sustain pedal with extreme caution if the melody is composed of neighboring notes or when chords change. Always listen with your ears and compare the playing to a professional pianist’s recording.

Being in love with music, Larry started this website to help piano lovers get the most detailed and accurate information with his 5 Years of experience of working in a music store.

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