The History Of The Piano

The other morning while I was practicing at my piano, I had a thought, “I know my students love the piano, but do they know how the piano came to be???” That inspired me to sit down and write a quick little article about the fascinating history of the piano. Now, not only will you love playing this wonderful instrument, but you’ll also have a much deeper appreciation for it!

A long time ago in a musical galaxy far, far away….(ha!)

For centuries and centuries, people have known that a string, if stretched tightly and then plucked, would make a sound. This led to people stretching string over bows, gourds, boxes, etc. to increase the volume of the string when played.

Around the Middle Ages, someone had the clever idea to combine these stretched strings with keys. This led to the invention of the dulcimer in the 14th century (you can find a picture of each of these instruments by clicking each word), which evolved into the clavichord, spinet, virginal, clavecion, gravicembalo, and eventually, the harpsichord around the 15th century.

The problem with the harpsichord, however, is that it only had one volume. Wanting a way to be more expressive, a harpsichord maker by the name of Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori created the earliest version of the piano, which he presented to the public for the first time in Florence in 1709.

This early version of the piano was first named gravicembalo col piano e forte, which can be roughly translated to “soft and loud keyboard instrument,” as this version finally allowed musicians to create varying degrees of volume. It turns out, the pianos we play today are still pretty similar in look and design to the one Cristofori invented in 1709!

Pretty fascinating! Thanks Cristofori for creating such a beautiful and awesome instrument.

Happy playing,


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