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Mother of all instruments? Really?

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

The piano is an acoustic, keyboard and stringed musical instrument in which the strings are struck by wooden hammers that are coated with a softer material such as dense wool or leather. The standard modern piano contains 88 keys and encompasses seven full octaves plus a few keys. It was invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700.

The word "piano" is a shortened form of pianoforte, the Italian term for the early 1700s versions of the instrument, which in turn derives from clavicembalo col piano e forte (The Harpsichord with soft and loud). The Italian musical terms piano and forte indicate "soft" and "loud" respectively.

Pianos can have over 12,000 individual parts which support six functional features: keyboard, hammers, dampers, bridge, soundboard, and strings. Many parts of a piano are made of materials selected for strength and longevity. the outer rim is most commonly made of hardwood, typically hard maple or beech.

The piano was founded on earlier technological innovations in keyboard instruments. Pipe organs have been used since antiquity, and as such, the development of pipe organs enabled instrument builders to learn about creating keyboard mechanisms for sounding pitches. Other notable keyboard instruments before the piano include the Clavichord and Harpsichord.

Modern pianos have two basic configurations, the grand piano and the upright piano, with various styles of each. There are also specialized and novelty pianos, electric pianos based on electromechanical designs, electronic pianos that synthesize piano-like tones using oscillators, and digital pianos using digital samples of acoustic piano sounds.

Over time, the piano has evolved a lot to become the modern piano we know today. Many classical music composers, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, composed for the fortepiano, a rather different instrument than the modern piano. Even composers of the Romantic movement, wrote for pianos substantially different from 21st century modern pianos.

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