History of the Piano
The modern day piano has come a long way. The
instrument we now know as piano is an invention modeled
after the clavichord and the harpsichord. The clavichord
produced sound when small metal blades known as tangents struck the string while
the harpsichord produced sound when wedge-shaped pieces of quill pluck the
Cristofori of Padua is accredited as the inventor of the
piano. Due to his appointed position in 1700 as
caretaker of the Grand Prince Ferdinando de Medici's
entire collection of musical instruments, Cristofori was
able to experiment and invent an instrument similar to a
harpsichord but with hammers and dampers. He named his
new creation the "gravicembalo col piano, e forte"
translated to "harpsichord with soft and loud." Later,
this name was shortened to "pianoforte" and eventually
"piano," the name we call it today.
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."
These developments were quite expensive,
however, and slowed the spread of the new instruments.
Cristofori started the ball rolling toward the modern day piano.
Gottifried Silberman invented the modern sustain pedal, the
Industrial Revolution allowed high quality piano wire for
strings and precision casting for the production of iron frames,
and so on and so forth.
Due to all the wonderful modifications to Cristofori's original
invention, we are able to enjoy the music produced from the
instrument the piano.
(Picture to the right shows (from right to left) a harpsichord,
an early piano, a clavicord (the box on top of the modern
piano), and a grand piano.)