The History Of The Piano

Have you ever wondered about the construction and history of the piano? Here is a brief intorduction to this instrument.

The piano is one of the most popular instruments ever created. But what is it and where did it come from? This article addresses the history and composition of the piano.

The piano is an extension of the idea of the harp. In fact, a piano is a harp placed sideways in casing. If you look at a piano's shape, you will notice the curves that a harp and other stringed instruments contain. Inside a piano, therefore, are stretched wires which are of differing thickness and lengths. Each lets off a different tone when plucked, according to this length and thickness. When you strike a key on the piano, you are really striking a string inside it. This is how the piano produces so many differing sounds. You can strike a note harder or softer, for variations on this sound.

The piano's history stems most directly from two instruments, the psaltery and the dulcimer. The psaltery is a shallow box with strings stretched across the top to be plucked. The dulcimer is very similar, but its strings are struck. The psaltery is the forerunner of the harpsichord, while the dulcimer is pretty directly related to the later clavichord. In 1157, the forerunner of the clavichord, the monochord, was created. A tangent, or hammer, was fitted to the back of a key, and this key, when raised, would create a note. With the addition of more strings, the clavichord came into existence. By 1400, the clavichord had about ten strings, and was played in a sophisticated style.

The strings in a piano are most often steel, but they were not always this composition. From their origins, harps and piano-like instruments have had strings of brass, gold, silver, copper, horsehair, and even certain roots. The clavichord looks like a small box piano that can be held in the lap. It contains pegs for tightening strings, pieces of felt to mute a note, and a bridge to raise strings for optimum plucking. Since 1450, keyboards have followed this basic pattern of strings, bridge and mute, in varying ways. The next stringed instrument after the piano was the "spinnet," created by the Italian inventor Giovanni Spinette. Instruments called "virginals" followed, which were technically early forms of the harpsichord. When the harpsichord did arrive on the scene, it was an upright instrument that was sat at and played, a far cry from the early clavichord. Finally, an interesting variation on these is the organ, which contains not one, but three keyboards.

It is said that some of the most famous composers obtained their genius from an innate sound of the piano. When listened to from birth, the scales of a piano can become second nature. Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss were all known to have this special gift. In fact, Mozart's mother would wake him by playing seven notes of a major C scale, and leaving out the eighth. The beauty and tonal system of the piano creates a powerful effect when played and listened to.

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