History Of The Piano Essay

2712 words - 11 pages

The piano is an instrument that can be traced back through the centuries; there are no debates about that statement. Nevertheless, there are several different views on what begins the history of the piano. In his book, Pianos and their Makers, Alfred Dolge begins with the Monochord in 582 B. C., which was used by Pythagoras. However, Ernest Closson begins his History of the Piano with the clavichord and gives only five paragraphs to the influences from before. Everyone has their own interpretation of what the history of the piano is; however an instrument is just a piece of mechanical parts without the music that was played on it.
The modern piano is an odd mix of instrument types; it’s both a percussive and a string instrument. When a key is pressed, a hammer strikes a string, which produces the note. We know that percussion instruments such as drums were made as far back as we have discovered written documents and probably long before. However, it is more difficult to determine exactly what the string instruments were like. We have some documentation found in the Bible that speak of harps and lyres, but there is no concrete knowledge of tuning or the style of music played; we can only guess at it using what few written sources that survive. However, we have drawings of the lyres and harps that were used. The harps used by the Assyrians for example, were held or hung against the player’s chest while he played which also enabled him to dance or walk easily during ceremonies. Conversely, the Egyptian harps were made in a variety of sizes and were either set on the floor or a stand. The player stood or crouched to play it during more intimate settings. (Blom 8) The Greek lyre however was plucked compared to the harp’s strumming using a plectrum, which is much like a pick used by modern guitarists. (“Definition of Plectrum”)
The next stringed instrument is the monochord, which is said to have invented by Pythagoras around the sixth century B.C. He used to for acoustical measurements using the movable bridge to alter the pitch. As time moved on, more strings were added to the solitary one of Pythagoras’s making and become more like a psaltery. The psaltery had multiple strings stretched over a soundboard in a triangular or rectangular frame. It was also plucked with a plectrum, although fingers or both were sometimes used. The psaltery was often played on a table and the player sat at the instrument, but it was sometimes strapped around the neck and so it could be played while standing. (Gordon 1)
The dulcimer soon became the more popular instrument around the fifteenth century. Interestingly, it was made similar to the psaltery but the strings were placed so that it could be played with hammers. Since it was played with hammers, it had a wider dynamic range, the weight used to play it just had to be changed. However, there wasn’t any dampening so the strings vibrated with every strike of the hammer and thus had a very...

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