In case you haven’t noticed, I’m completely in love with the new piano at the studio. With the past two episodes being focused on the piano, I thought I would do a quick post about the amazing instrument and it’s origins.
Everyone knows it. The iconic piano brings to mind images of black and white keys, phantom echoes of Fur Elise, and possibly even flashbacks of a stern teacher correcting your posture as you fumble through a round of phalangeal acrobatics, but what is the piano really and how did it come to be one of the most widely known instruments in the music world? Let’s discuss.
The birth of the piano is attributed to Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristifori in 1709, although it’s ancestors are believed to stretch as far back as prehistoric times. Because creates sound through the vibration of strings when struck by hammers triggered by the pressing of keys, the piano is categorized as a string instrument, thus claims kinship to it’s string ancestors.
Viewing the piano in the same family as primitive strings stretched over bows can be farfetched, it’s earliest ancestor can be traced back to the 14th century with the invention of a dulcimer. Following the invention of the dulcimer came the clavichord, and then finally the harpsichord. Yet despite the harpsichord’s popularity, the instrument failed to provide the large sound that musicians wanted.
Enter Cristifori. He first exhibited his new invention in Florence, then named the gravicembalo col piano e forte, meaning “soft and loud keyboard instrument” which was later renamed pianoforte, then shortened to piano. The earliest surviving piano is dated from 1720 and can be seen at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Despite the passing of hundreds of years, not much has changed from Cristifori’s pianoforte. Today pianos fall within three categories, grand, upright, and digital. Grand pianos are highly sought after by professional pianists who seek the best sound for performances. Upright pianos are perfect for home musicians. With the onset of digital pianos, musicians are offered new opportunities to learn, perform and compose thanks to new technologies and software.
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