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Who invented the piano?

Jan 17, 2018 | 1 comment

If you’re interested in piano lessons, Austin music school Lone Star School of Music can offer you the best. Whether you’re an adult or a parent looking for music lessons for your child, Lone Star School of Music has a place for you. With over 15 instruments to choose from, tons of classes, group or private lessons, and a bunch of great instructors, Lone Star School of Music is the perfect place for you to find your inner rockstar (or inner Beethoven, whatever the case may be).

One of the most popular instruments in the US is the piano. A long-time favorite of people all over the world, the piano’s elegance and versatility have lent to its longevity. Below, we delve into the history of the beloved instrument, where it began, and who invented it.

Fun Fact: An estimated 20 million Americans play the piano.

The landscape most recently has seen an increase in adult students and very small children (ages 4-5) rather than 9- to 10-year-old beginners. It’s never too late to start playing piano, so even if you think you’re “too old for this,” it’s simply not true! Find an instructor you like and register for piano lessons in Austin today!

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lyre, piano lessons AustinThe Evolution of String Instruments Led to the Piano

Music has evolved a great deal over time. Stringed instruments were used in Ancient Mesopotamia as early as 2500-3000 BC, specifically lyres.

Over time, string instruments advanced. Whether plucked, bowed, or struck, string instruments became all the rage as music progressed.

The first stringed instrument to include a keyboard was a dulcimer, a 14th century European creation. The hammered dulcimer was “a closed, shallow box over which stretched wires were struck with two wooden hammers.”

The dulcimer ushered in the creation of the clavichord soon after, with a ton of instruments following suit:

  • spinet
  • virginal
  • clavecin
  • gravicembalo

All of these inventions spurred on the creation of what would finally lead to the piano in the 1700s: the harpsichord, invented in the 15th century.

Unlike the modern piano, the harpsichord was unable to produce dynamic sounds. In other words, the harpsichord could only produce sound at one volume; it did not have the ability to create different “forte” or “piano” (loud or soft) tones. This lack of musical expression frustrated many musicians at the time; thus, leading to the piano in the 1700s.

The First Piano Was Created in Italy

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Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori (1655-1731)

Expert musical instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the first piano in Padua, Italy in 1709. Cristofori’s expert knowledge on harpsichord’s led him to be appointed to the Florentine court of Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici in 1688. There, Cristofori was tasked with taking care of Medici’s harpsichords and other instruments.

Cristofori’s intimate knowledge of harpsichords helped him invent the first piano in 1700, which was first referred to as “arpicimbalo,” meaning “an instrument resembling a harpsichord.”

This new invention had hammers, dampers, two keyboards, and a four-octave range (C-c).

The una corda, or “soft pedal,” was also invented by Cristofori. It was the first-ever mechanism invented to modify a piano’s sound, thus solving the earlier issue of not being able to change sound dynamics.

The instrument was first displayed to the public in Florence in 1709. Journalist Scipione Maffei called the instrument a “gravicembalo col piano, e forte” (harpsichord with soft and loud) in 1711. Over time, the name was shortened to pianoforte, and then finally “piano.”

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Cristofori’s Expert Craftsmanship

Cristofori was more than a maker of instruments; he was truly an artist. He took his projects very seriously, endeavoring to create highly sophisticated pieces. He solved a myriad of technical problems that continued to confused other piano designers for years to come. However, his action was extremely complex and expensive. This led to many 18th-century creators dropping these features, which were later reinvented and reincorporated.

Cristofori’s ingenious innovations included an “escapement” mechanism that enabled the hammer to fall away from the string instantly after striking it, so as not to dampen the string, and allowing the string to be struck harder than on a clavichord; a “check” that kept the fast-moving hammer from bouncing back to re-hit the string; a dampening mechanism on a jack to silence the string when not in use; isolating the soundboard from the tension-bearing parts of the case, so that it could vibrate more freely; and employing thicker strings at higher tensions than on a harpsichord.

Three of his original pianos are still around and can be viewed at:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY (1720 – oldest one)
  • Museo Strumenti Musicali in Rome (1722)
  • The Musikinstrumenten-Museum of Leipzig University (1726)

Listen to the Oldest Piano in Existence

Experience the Joy of Playing Piano With Lone Star School of Music Piano Lessons – Austin

It’s easy and fun to learn how to play the piano at Lone Star School of Music. We have private and group lessons, for kids and adults, meant for a variety of skill levels. No matter what your experience level or age, there’s a place for you at Lone Star School of Music. We have 4 convenient locations across the Austin area: Lakeway, and Southwest Austin. Get started today and experience the joy of music with us!

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Who invented the piano? | Piano Lessons Austin | Lone Star School of Music – Austin, TX