Musical Instrument History

I am the piano. You probably all know what I am. Yes, the black instrument with flat row of black and white keys, commonly used as an accompanying instrument for choirs. Or if you are a jazz or classical music lover, you probably have seen me in orchestras, smaller ensembles, or as a solo instrument. However, I was not always what I am now. There is a very long history in my invention, which began centuries ago.

I was founded on earlier technological innovations. The invention of me began as early as the Middle Ages, where several attempted to create stringed keyboard instruments with struck strings. The seventeenth century, the era of Bach, saw the mechanisms of keyboard instruments becoming well known. The clavichord, or clavier, struck strings with tangents. The harpsichord’s design also influenced the design of myself, as it showed the best ways to construct the case, soundboard, and bridge for the hammered string keyboard instrument.

We can all thank Bartolomeo Cristofori, an Italian harpsichord designer, for creating me, around 1700. I, the piano, am basically a keyboard instrument with the combinations of the good parts of the harpsichord and clavichord. The clavichord, like me, allowed for control of the sound and volume but was too soft for public performances. The harpsichord was the opposite of the clavier. Cristofori’s goal was to create an instrument that would strike string with a hammer, but would immediately bounce off.

For seventy years, from 1790 to 1960, the Mozart-era version of me evolved so much into what I am today. The reason why I was changed and modified so much was due to composers and performers demanding an instrument with a more powerful, sustained sound. In addition, my keys have also gotten heavier, a complaint commonly heard among performers. This has made certain music harder to play than it was in the past. The Industrial Revolution allowed the composer and performers’ requests to be fulfilled, as the supply of high quality piano wire surged during that period. They also modified my tonal range. In Mozart’s day, I could only go five octaves. Today, I go up to 7⅓ octaves. I have been that way since the mid-1800’s.

Over many years of evolving, I have proven to be a timeless instrument. Even though I am extremely expensive and very difficult to move, unlike a violin or clarinet, my versatility has made me one of the world’s most loved and well-known musical instruments. Perhaps this is why so many parents sign their kids up for piano lessons, or why I am the most popular accompanying instrument. In short, the history of myself proves to be one of the longest, and most amazing histories of any music instrument. If you go on Youtube, you can see many videos of great performers like Lang Lang who perform on me almost every day, in solo recital or with orchestra. Maybe your friend has a recital coming up. Or maybe you yourself do. In any case, remember, that I am one of the world’s most timeless and popular instruments.    

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