The piano is a very popular musical instrument and one of the most played instruments throughout the world. The term piano is actually a shortened form of the Italian name for the instrument, pianoforte. In Italian, piano means “soft” while forte means “loud”, a reference to the ability of a pianist to play control the loudness of the instrument by the hardness with which they hit the keys. So let’s find out more about the history of the piano and discover who invented the piano.
Who invented the piano?
There were many attempts through the Middle Ages to create a keyboard instrument by using struck strings. Instruments such as the clavichord and harpsichord were certainly invented by the 17th century.
Bartolomeo Cristofori, who lived in Padua, Italy, was an expert in making harpsichords. He is credited with designing and building the first piano. It is unknown when he first built a piano. Some documents that have been recovered indicate that a piano was first built in either 1698 or 1700. It seems the invention went unnoticed for about 10 years before an article was written about the instrument in 1711 by Scipione Maffei. Today, there are still three Cristofori pianos in existence which were built sometime during the 1720s.
The design was improved on over the years. Sometime during the late 1720’s, Gottfried Silbermann added what would become the modern ‘damper pedal’ (also called a sustain pedal), allowing for a more sustained and full sound. This pedal was controlled by the hands unlike modern pianos where the pedals are controlled by the feet. Johann Sebastian Bach, a very famous composer of music, initially disliked Silbermann’s pianos as he thought the higher notes were too soft. However, by 1747, he became a salesperson for Silbermann’s pianos.