The piano when invented changed the way music was written, and even created new forms of music. Its invention ushered in new eras and gave people a sense of worth. But this change did not take place overnight, it took many years of hard work and labor to achieve what the piano is today.
The History of the Piano
In 1698 a man named Bartolomeo Cristofori began to design an instrument, which would play both loudness and softness and be able to use an excellent range of dynamics unlike the popular instrument of the day the harpsichord. For years he worked on the instrument that would not only take over the harpsichord?s place in music, but also change how music was written and composed. Maybe one of the most influential instruments we will ever know. In 1709 he finally finished this instrument and named it the gravicembalo col piano e forte (harpsichord with loudness or softness), which was later know, as the pianoforte. This was the first instrument in which composers could effectively display their emotions.
Cristofori faced many problems in the creation of he piano. First he developed a system in which the player could to only hit one of the two strings for each note (una corda). He also developed an effective mechanism to use downward pressure (striking the key) and make it project the hammer towards the strings. He also had to time the hammer?s striking the key directly proportionate to when the sound should be heard, with this improvement came another which is vital to the pianos inner workings, the escapement. The escapement is a device that lets the hammer strike the string and leave the string free to vibrate. The hammer is made to fall back and let the string vibrate, when the player let go of the key a damper would then fall on the string stopping the sound. Though Cristofori?s pianos were softer than the harpsichord they still had a much wider dynamic range. Cristofori produced his earliest surviving piano in 1720, and his last in 1726, 5 years later he dies in 1731.
Many others saw Cristofori?s example and followed it, they created very useful mechanics that would make the piano what it is today. Cuisine developed the clavier that used a treadle. Jean Marius who combined Cuisinie?s ideas with Hebestreit?s (a harpsichord maker) ideas to create the clavecin a mallets which used hammers striking the strings in 4 ways; downward, direct, the use of a damper, and one using harpsichord jacks and pianoforte hammers. .
Once news got around that Cristofori has designed the piano many instrument makers began building pianos. The organ builder Gottfried Silbermann (who developed the prellmechanik-rebound rail) built a piano and showed it to Bach who did not like it because the high notes were poor and the keys too heavy. So Slibermann redesigned his piano and got a much more pleasing result from Bach.
The square piano
The square piano, which is not really a square at all but a rectangle, first appeared in the 1740?s in Germany. During this time the seven-year war was taking place in Germany and this forced many great composers to flee to England, there were twelve in particular known as the ?twelve apostles?. Three in particular Americus bakers, Johannes Pohlmann, and Zumpe, these people would later contribute to the square piano. Backers and Zumpe in 1763 started working on the square piano, they based much of their information on Cristofori himself?s works. This helped them to develop a simpler mechanism in which to build a piano with the keys horizontal to the strings. These were an instant success and were out of supply quickly. Yet the main flaw in these pianos was that there was no escapement so you could not play the same note twice. Also there was no hammer check so the hammer could bounce back and hit the sting twice. These pianos were nothing compared to the grand pianos of the day, the toning was bad and they were all prone to twisting because of the tension with the strings. The introduction of the iron frame helped the piano but it was too late The square piano got larger and larger as its quality increased and it became too large for domestic use. And by the 1840?s it was out of use. Yet in America they stayed in production with Steinway and sons for at least 40 more years.
The square piano ushered in the need for a large piano with quality tone and good dynamic response, the developer of this piano was Americus Backers, one of the twelve apostles, and his apprentice Robert Stodart. He designed his first grand piano in 1772. But it was John Broadwood who would pioneer the art of piano building, he built his first grand piano in c1781 and by the end of the 18th century was making 400 pianos a year, but not without advancements. He changed the ?point of attack?1 where the hammer hits the string, this changed the whole tone of the piano and when he divided the bridge into two sections he added a half an octave at the top and bottom creating a 5 and 1/2 octave piano. And as the crisis was cooling in Europe Broadwood was left as one of the main manufacturers in England.
As the seven-year war purged Germany of its musical minds, so the French revolution drove those in France to England, which by now was the piano production capital of the world. One French piano maker, Sebastien Erard contributed enormously to the construction of the piano. The first was his double escapement which allowed a key to be played twice in a row without fully releasing the key. Making the note quick and easy to play(Later improved by Henri Herz). This, when applied to the grand piano, helped his company (the Erard Company) to compete with other companies such as ; Cleminti( collard and collard), Tompkinson and Broadwood.
With the rise of the Romantic Movement in the 19th century the piano endured much wear and tear, composers would go through one piano each performance because the strings would snap and many other problems would arise. So a solution had to be found. It soon came from Broadwood, who developed a way for the tension to be released from the strings by putting iron spacers between the pin block and the belly rail where the high plate is attached. But that did not totally solve the problem. Overstringing, invented by Steinway and sons, also helped. This was done by running bass strings diagonally over treble strings.
The upright piano
The upright piano was first designed in 1800 following experiments with grand pianos. Two people actually living two worlds away designed it, Matthias Muller in Austria, and John Isaac Hawkins in Philadelphia. The concept was a piano with the strings running up and down in relation to the keyboard. Both instruments were surprisingly similar the two having not ever met each other. Yet neither instrument achieved much recognition. As always a person had come up with an idea and in trying to create a small piano with as much force and quality of a grand ended up in failure. But not as bad as one may think for in 1811 Robert Wornum created a meter tall upright piano, he developed what was called the console piano, later designed by Pleyel and Pape who it was unfortunately named after, this mechanism was not as popular with Franz List who said; ?this piano is one of the least successful of the make ? the keyboard was prodigiously uneven and the middle high and low ranges do veiled as to be frightening. To sum up, the effect of the piano was detestable.?2
The upright piano soon became know as more a piece of furniture rather than a piano with great dynamics and tone but rather something that might make your family seem more classy and dignified, in fact many families did not even use their piano, or sometimes they used it more as a table or something else, the truth was that if you wanted to find a quality piano you would not find one in an upright piano. Alfred Dolge said;? The upright will never be the piano for the artist because of its incapacity to give any satisfaction to artistic temperament?3. But this would not be the great boom of piano sales, which was yet to come with the three-year plan.
As the 19th century began America was somewhat behind in the piano industry, though people such as Babcock, Albrecht, and Hawkins were in America, we were not yet as distinguished. Until the war of 1812 against England, when all the European piano craftsmen moved back to England. So during the second half of the 19th century English piano makers who had become American, ted the European market, Steinway and Sons and Chickering soon became prestigious on the world market. They introduced production techniques and new ideas, which inspired more people to own the piano. But not many could afford a quality built piano so they resorted to cheap pianos. That is where the three-year plan was developed. This helped those who could not normally afford a piano, to be able to now buy one.
This was about the time when the piano was at its peak when anything else could only make it less magnificent, all at the work of a mans hands without any electronics that may soon be added this was the grand design that Cristofori would have dreamed of.
How the piano is made
Strings This is the part of the piano in which controls volume and the strength of the piano. The strings are chosen wisely by the maker, either thick for strength or thin for high pitch. The main thing they must always remember is that the strings are withstanding up to 30 tons of pressure. The strings therefore are usually made of carbon steel and are thick or thin according to the level of pitch d.
Soundboard This is the part of the piano in which the sound is amplified so as to make the piano easily heard. It is also known as the voice of the piano
Bridge The Bridge is what conveys the sound of the strings to the soundboard and is another of the many vital parts of the piano. Some pianos have two bridges such as the grand piano for the bass and trebles strings. The total downward pressure of the strings on the bridge can be up to 1000 pounds.
Pin block This is the part of the piano that is exactly like the frame, they go hand in hand and when not aligned can destroy how the strings are supported and thus ruin the piano
Piano Stringing- to provide the piano with a full rich tone there is usually more than one string per note.
Key The key of course is also a great component in the piano, when being made, designers consider the key length, placement, construction, weight, and dip, all these factors help them make the keys of the piano.
Hammers The hammer another vital element for the piano varies in size for the notes in which they are striking, the bass notes have large hammers and the treble have smaller ones, the hammer was allowed to grow greatly with the production of the metal frame.
These are only a few of the things that help create the piano and every one of them is vital to its success and grandeur.
Steinway and sons
This is the world?s best known piano manufacturer, the Steinweg family was from Germany and moved to America in 1848, where the family Americanized their surname to Steinway, eventually they founded their own business and within ten years were the largest known company in America. They are well known for quality pianos including the grand piano.
This company was not actually founded by John Broadwood, but a man named Tschudi. Broadwood started working for his company and became good friends with Tchudi?s daughter and they soon married and the company was soon signed over to him. This English company was well know for the square piano and was carried on by Broadwood?s son James
These are only a few of the many successful piano companies throughout the world. There are many people who have contributed to the industry and helped the piano grow and mature.
A man named Dwight Hamilton Baldwin, who was a piano teacher in Cinncinati, founded this company in 1857. He hired an employee that helped him with the start of his company in 1873. He later took over the company when Baldwin died in 1899. His company produced reed instruments and pianos. One famous invention of this company was the Baldwin electronic organ.
After all the piano has gone through people are still trying to improve it, I personally think that it is at its peak and anything electronic would only take away from the classical skill and craftsmanship which is required to build it. There will always be a demand for the traditional high quality classical style of the piano, but that is only a part of the market as sales of pianos shrink manufacturers are bound to experiment with bolder designs. Many will dismiss these as gimmicks, but if they stimulate interests and sales they are helping to secure the instruments future.4
Crombie David PIANO San Fransisco;
?Musical instruments; the Piano? Compton?s Home Encyclopedia(cd-rom)
Grolier ?The Piano? Encyclopedia of Knowledge
Everything of the Piano ?what is the piano?(all) http://library.thinkquest.org/28619/ie/ie.html
Gaimes R James The Lives of the Piano
Holt Reinhart and Winston co. 1981