The History of the Piano Get out some blank sheets of paper and be prepared to take notes The Piano The piano itself was invented by Bartolommeo Cristofori in Italy in the year 1709.
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This ancestor of the piano originated in Iran. It illustrates the basic principles of the piano, hammers striking multiple strings tuned over a flat soundboard. Instead of mechanical hammers, dulcimer players used two light sticks ending with broader blades.
First built around 1400, the clavichord was most popular three centuries later in the music of Bach. When a key is pressed, a vertical brass strip (tangent) is lifted toward a pair of strings. The clavichord has a quiet tone, but the way it’s built allows for some control of dynamics and even vibrato.
The typical virginal is a small harpsichord with keys at right angles to a single set of strings. When a key is pressed, a vertical rod (jack) holding a leather or quill plectrum rises and plucks the string, producing a louder tone than the clavichord but without its dynamic variety.
Though originating in Italy, the spinet was perfected by English builders in the late seventeen century, about the time of composer Henry Purcell. The jack mechanism plucks the strings just as in the virginal, but the wing shape permits longer strings, increasing the volume and expanding the range to as much as five octaves.
Pictured as early as the fifteenth century, the harpsichord form (where the keys are in line with strings) reached its peak in the period of Bach and Handel. In this shape, the pattern for the modern grand, the strings are longer, and the instrument sounds louder than the clavichord.
About 1709, Bartolommeo Cristofori built several instruments in the harpsichord shape but with hammer mechanisms surprisingly like the modern piano action. Because players could control soft and loud (piano-forte), which was impossible on plucked keyboard instruments, Cristofori named his new instrument pianoforte!
The upright design was already in use for harpsichords in the sixteen century. In the eighteenth century, many builders (especially in Germany) tried to apply this form to the pianoforte. In 1800 the first satisfactory uprights were invented.
The square piano originated when German builders (especially Johannes Socher in 1742) tried to adapt Cristofori’s pianoforte to the traditional rectangular shape of the clavichord. The square piano was popular until about 1900.
During the ninteenth century, the piano continued to become more powerful and responsive. The outstanding improvements were the double-repetition action of Sebastien Erard (Paris, 1821) which allowed very rapid repetition; and the full cast-iron frame of Alphaeus Babcock (Boston 1825), the basis for today’s extended keyboard.
The grand piano of today incorporates the best qualities of early keyboard instruments. Cross stringing – a way to achieve greater richness of tone by passing more strings over the center of the soundboard– was invented by Alphaeus Babcock in 1830, but was not used in the grand piano until the second half of the ninteenth century.
Pretend that you are a reporter from England from one of these time periods where one of these instruments was most popular.
Write a newspaper article describing that instrument and how it will change music as we know it. Include the who, what, where, when , why, and how when writing a news article. It must be at least a page long .