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Ashley Gangaram

Piano Forte
When was the piano invented?
The piano was invented in late 17th century. It was created by an Italian
instrument maker named Bartolomeo Cristofori. The original name for the piano
is Pianoforte.

Why was the piano created?
The pianoforte was created to solve 3 major problems with keyboard instruments at the time. So
were too soft, others couldn’t sustain notes for a long period of time and manufactures were
forced to produce harpsichords with two layers of keys (one for soft and one for louder playing).

Instruments that
influenced the creation
of the piano
The piano was invented to solve the problems of using a Harpsichord and Clavichord.
The Clavichord- It co-existed in the 14th century with the harpsichord, but wasn’t really used and
manufactured until the 16th century. Its design is very similar to the modern day piano. Instead of
the strings being plucked like the harpsichord when a key was struck. Rather it had a brass
“tangent” that would strike up toward the strings. Compared to the harpsichord, when the
clavichord was played it had more control on pitch and volume. One downfall with the clavichord
is that it was too soft to be heard by a loud audience during a performance.
The Harpsichord- Was the first “plucked-string” keyboard instrument. The winged shaped
construction is identical to the modern day piano. Its origins are unknown, but it is believed to
have been designed in the 15th century by harp players who experimented with different ways of
plucking the strings. It was mainly manufactured in the 16th century like other string instruments of
that time. Whenever a key was played a small hook would pluck the string creating a vibration,
thus making a sound. The harpsichord had, limited control on the volume and sustain of a note
played.
Evolution of the Piano-
Before, Then &
Now
Dulcimer-It was originated in Iran not long after the
birth of Christ. It uses the basic concept of a piano,
strings tuned over a flat soundboard being struck by
a hammer. Instead of a mechanical hammer, the
dulcimer used two light sticks with broader blades on
the ends.
Clavichord-Built around 1400, but wasn’t popular until 3 centuries later
when used in Bach’s music. When a key is struck, a
vertical brass strip is lifted toward a pair of strings. A
very quiet instrument, but had some control over
sustain and volume.
Virginal-The virginal is a small harpsichord, with keys
on a right angle attached to a set of strings. When a
key is pressed a straight rod holding a leather
plectrum lifts up and plucks the string. Although
louder than the clavichord, it had no control of
dynamic.
Spinet- Originated in Italy, but was later perfected by
the English. Very similar to the Virginal, but because
of the “wing-shaped” design, strings are longer which
create dynamics. It has a range of over 5 octaves.
Harpsichord- Harpsichord form: Keys are in-line with
the strings. Although pictured since the 15th century, it
didn’t reach its peal until the Bach & Handel time
period. Has the shape of the modern grand, which makes strings
longer to create a louder sound than the clavichord.

Pianoforte- Was created by Bartolomeo Cristofori in the
17th century. Had a similar shape to the harpsichord, but
instead of the strings being plucked, they were struck
with a hammer. The Pianoforte created dynamics unlike
the previous plucked instruments.

Piano of Beethoven’s time- During the 18th century
piano builders eventually extended the keyboard. They
also added two new developments. The damper & soft
pedal and the escapement action for faster repetition of
notes.

Upright Piano- The upright design was already in use for
the harpsichord in the 16th century, but in the 18th century
many builders tried to make this design work for the
pianoforte. In 1800, the first decent uprights were
invented.

Square Grand Piano- Originated (around 1742) when
German builders tried to blend the pianoforte with the
shape of the clavichord. This piano was popular until the
1900’s

Piano of the Romantic Era- During the 19th century, the
piano was becoming more powerful and responsive.
Improvements like rapid repetition and the full cast-iron
frame.

Modern Grand Piano- This is the piano of today. It includes
the best features of most previous keyboard instruments
(cross stringing- helps to achieve a richer tone). The
middle pedal (sostenuto) was introduced to create
“musical colouring”.
Octaves
oc·tave ( k t v, -t v )
n.
a. The interval of eight diatonic degrees between two tones of the same name, the higher of
which has twice as many vibrations per second as the lower.
b. A tone that is eight diatonic degrees above or below another given tone.
c. Two tones eight diatonic degrees apart that are sounded together.
d. The consonance that results when two tones eight diatonic degrees apart are sounded.
e. A series of tones included within this interval or the keys of an instrument that produce such a
series.
f. An organ stop that produces tones an octave above those usually produced by the keys played.
g. The interval between any two frequencies having a ratio of 2 to 1.

• A grand piano has 7 octaves
• 7 white keys & 5 black keys to an octave

Fun facts
• There are over 12,000 parts in the piano and 10,000 of those parts
move when a key is hit.
• Each note in a grand piano has approximately 35 points of adjustment
& over 3,080 of adjustments for the entire piano.
• Pianoforte: Piano-soft, Forte-loud.

Construction of
the Piano
Piano Pedals-3 pedals
The damper pedal- the damper pedals lifts the dampers away from
the strings; this allows them to vibrate freely. This creates a connected
smooth sound.
The soft pedal- either moved the hammer slightly to the side to play
less strings on the piano or moves the hammer closer to the strings so
it makes a soft playing sound.
The middle pedal- when pressing down the middle pedal before
playing a note or notes it will hold the note so that you can move your
hands freely while the note first played is still going. It’s almost like
playing with three hands!
Keys of a piano
• 88 keys
• 52 white keys
• 36 black keys

What happens when you hit a key?
When you hit a key on a piano a hammer is dropped down on a string. The vibration from the
string creates the sound. The harder you strike a key the louder the sound will be.

Inside the Piano
Hammer – the hammers in the piano can hit either one bass string or 3 treble strings. The
hammers are made of felt curved around a wood shaft, reason why they can create such a soft
sound.
Strings – Bass strings: single strings made of thickly wound steel.
Treble strings: 3 thin strings per key. When struck creates a higher tone than a bass
string when struck.
Iron Frame- a frame inside the piano that is strong enough o hold the pressure of all the steel
strings inside the piano.

Bibliography
• Piano Tuning-Interesting Facts
http://www.kenfoster.com/PianoTuning/Facts.html
• How the Renaissance Time Period Shaped the History of the Piano
http://www.get-piano-lessons.com/renaissance-time-
period.html
• Piano Keys- http://www.uk-piano.org/piano-key/index.html
• Definition of a musical Octave -http:
//www.thefreedictionary.com/octave
• Pedals & How sound is created-
http://piano.about.com/od/pianoplayingtechniques/qt/Middle_p
edal.html
• Evolution of the Piano-
http://www.concertpitchpiano.com/Evolution.html