The History of the Piano

Pianoforte. The Piano was invented about 1710 by Bartolommeo Cristofori (1651-1731), a harpsichord maker in Florence. The piano differs form its predecessors, the harpsichord and the clavichord, in the fact that it uses a hammer to set the strings in vibration. For many years after its invention the piano was only made in the large horizontal wing or tail form, which was mainly a harpsichord design. With modifications to suit various requirements, this is still the most important form of the instrument, and bears the name of 'Grand'. Upright pianos are thought to have been first made by C.E. Friederici of Gera in Germany. Hawkins was the first to adopt overspun strings for the bass, and to construct a complete iron frame.

Thomas Loud (1802) introduced diagonal stringing in upright pianos. By varying the proportions and adjustment of parts, piano makers have been able to produce differences in tone, power and touch. Certain essential parts are common to all pianos. Besides the case there is the 'frame,' which sustains the tension of the strings; the 'sounding-board,'; which is the voice of the instrument; and the 'action,' which is the mechanism that sets the strings in vibration.

Music for the piano is written on the bass and treble staves, and like the organ, the piano is tuned to the system of equally tempered intervals. Equal Temperament is the mode of tuning now applied to all fixed-tone instruments. In it, the octave is divided into twelve steps, each note being the same ratio to the one immediately above and below it. In 1936, a piano keyboard with a 17 note octave was introduced by A.C. Ogolenet, a Moscow musician. His inspiration came from the fact that the present keyboard did not differentiate between sharps and flats. The first method of playing an ordinary piano by mechanical means seems to have been invented by Debain of Paris about 1848.