Lindholm organ

The History Of The Piano

The other morning while I was practicing at my piano, I had a thought, “I know my students love the piano, but do they know how the piano came to be???” That inspired me to sit down and write a quick little article about the fascinating history of the piano. Now, not only will you love playing this wonderful instrument, but you’ll also have a much deeper appreciation for it!

A long time ago in a musical galaxy far, far away….(ha!)

For centuries and centuries, people have known that a string, if stretched tightly and then plucked, would make a sound. This led to people stretching string over bows, gourds, boxes, etc. to increase the volume of the string when played.

Around the Middle Ages, someone had the clever idea to combine these stretched strings with keys.  This led to the invention of the dulcimer in the 14th century (you can find a picture of each of these instruments by clicking each word), which evolved into the clavichord, spinet, virginal, clavecion, gravicembalo, and eventually, the harpsichord around the 15th century.  

The problem with the harpsichord, however, is that it only had one volume. Wanting a way to be more expressive, a harpsichord maker by the name of Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori created the earliest version of the piano, which he presented to the public for the first time in Florence in 1709.  

This early version of the piano was first named gravicembalo col piano e forte, which can be roughly translated to “soft and loud keyboard instrument,” as this version finally allowed musicians to create varying degrees of volume.  It turns out, the pianos we play today are still pretty similar in look and design to the one Cristofori invented in 1709!

Pretty fascinating!  Thanks Cristofori for creating such a beautiful and awesome instrument.

Happy playing,


Google Images

  • John Borchers
    Posted at 14:09h, 25 May

    Thanks. Scott. Do you know who developed the system of musical notation used today?

    • Ryan Eldridge
      Posted at 14:28h, 25 May

      Hello! This is what I could find about the creator of musical notation: “Guido D’Arezzo – In 1000 CE Guido D’Arezzo made many improvements in music theory. He first improved and reworked standard notation to be more user-friendly by adding time signatures. Then he invented solfege. This is the vocal note scale: do, re, mi, fa, so, la ,ti, do.”

  • Christine
    Posted at 16:05h, 25 May

    The Clavichord wasn’t a precursor to the Harpsichord. It is more similar to a piano – small metal blades actually strike a double string, similar to a piano, but unlike a piano, the blade doesn’t rebound but stays in contact with the string. They are not very loud, but you can vary the loudness or softness of the volume a bit. I was given access to one in the Smithsonian.

  • Israel Monteagudo
    Posted at 16:31h, 25 May

    Thanks, Scott, very interesting. You Cuban student

  • Bill Olson
    Posted at 17:28h, 25 May

    I’ve been looking for a good coffee table book about the history of the piano and how it came to be.

    Posted at 22:26h, 25 May

    Scott, I have always wanted to play the Piano. I took lessons as a child. I seem to get so far and can’t go any further. I am 77 years old and I still want to learn to play gospel songs for my own enjoyment. My husband tells me that I will never learn to play. Can we prove him wrong or am I a hopeless case? I am determined and I have the willpower! How much does this course cost?

  • Gene
    Posted at 10:09h, 26 May

    Interesting news letters – Thank you for your efforts to bring this information to us on the computer.

  • C. DiMezzes
    Posted at 17:41h, 26 May

    Thank you for the history lesson.
    Love the images of the early instruments.

  • Daryl Kennedy
    Posted at 17:51h, 29 May

    thanks Scott and team for an interesting reflection on how the piano evolved to the instrument we know today. Of course we could extend the development to include some of the latter enhancements such as electric and electronic instruments. The great thing is they each still require the same basic skills and techniques to play. Who knows there may be more to come.

  • George E Wells
    Posted at 18:04h, 30 May

    Scott, I’ve been watching your programs
    for 10 years I started at age 72. I am now
    82 years young and can play almost
    anything I pick up, with a ton of practice.
    Thank you for all the information you furnish.

  • Sue
    Posted at 18:51h, 18 July

    Louise Bryant
    I am pushing 65 years of age. I have never played piano or learned how to read music. In three weeks I could do both !
    I invested in Scott’s Prgramme and it suits my learning style.
    I’ll never be a virtuoso but I will be satisfied if I can play a few tunes for fun and singalong.
    Go for it !

  • Grace
    Posted at 17:05h, 01 September

    Hi, Scott, First, I have to thank you. Without knowing you, I won’t play piano at all and will sale our piano because of no one play at the house. I sent my daughter and son learning play piano since they are 6 years old. Now they have grown up and move to other states. I am 70 years old. I will learn from you until I can play. Thanks again.

  • Henry
    Posted at 22:06h, 02 November

    Thanks for sharing about history of the piano on your blog. I am play piano every day and I like this post. I have also a blog about piano.

  • Cher and Triana Brower
    Posted at 09:41h, 25 September

    Hi Scott

    My daughter and I are fourth gen Piano Rebuilders and service and tune them. We love your method and have recommended it to many of our clients young and old.
    We actually have an 1897 Broadwood in our possession designed by Cristofori and John Broadwood. The lyre is only 2 wooden pedalS and the cast iron struts are the only support for string tension so it can only be tuned to A332
    It’s an 85 note

    The tuning pins were screwed in which was the only feature we revised so that it could be tuned normally.
    It is a beautiful instrument. We are waiting on certification from Broadwood to find out who commissioned it to be built and where and when.
    It was a challenge to work on

  • Carol Vaughan
    Posted at 06:50h, 11 June

    Most informative- thamx

  • Gayatri Gahlaut
    Posted at 23:28h, 20 September

    It was so beautiful to read this article..loved it.The pics added to the pleasure of reading.Thans Scott..your videos are also very helpful.I would hv never learnt the minor chords,had it not been for your video.Thanks