The knowledge that gave birth to the piano was that a taut vibrating string produces a sound that we find appealing. This knowledge can be found all the way back in prehistoric times. In the world proceeding the piano we had a vast variety of tools and instruments which produced music. Most of these were created from strings which were stretched over bows, boxes or gourds to amplify the sound. These simple devices were fastened by ties, pegs and all manner of little gadgets. When they were plucked the created a set sound.
As time went on a family of stringed instruments with a keyboard evolved in Europe around the time of the 14th century. The earliest and most striking of these early tools was a dulcimer. It was a closed shallow box with a series of wires stretched over. To play it you would strike it with two different wooden hammers. The dulcimer naturally progressed into the development of the clavichord which appeared around the time of the 14th century. These were followed by he spinet, virginal, clavecin, gravicembalo, and finally, the harpsichord in the 15th century.
The harpsichord was limited to one unvarying volume and although it did gain some popularity it had clear limitations and was nothing compared to the digital pianos we have today. The softness and volume of the device could not be varied while playing and so musicians were not able to play music to such a level of intricacy and nuance as they are today. The desire to have more control over the sound and strength of the music created is what really lead to the invention of the piano.
The harpsichord was a particularly significant progression in the invention of the piano because it had the capacity to project sound more loudly than the devices which came before it. As it gained popularity more and more musicians adopted it and so the amount of music that was being created for keyboards grew. This lead to a speeding up of the evolution of it to the modern piano.
The real progression came in the past 300 years. Although it has been a drastic change and evolution it is still amazing to see how similar Cristofori’s instruments were to todays pianos.
New Developments in Pianos
At the time I write this article about pianos we are living in perhaps one of the most exciting times for music and pianos. You can purchase a huge variety of devices from software which replicates pianos and other instruments to digital pianos which can replicate other instruments. This is truly amazing times and there has never been more musicians out there today.