Piano has become an integral part of music. Many musical
notes do not seem possible without it. And many notes would
not sound as good as they can do on a piano. Everyone must
have listened with relish to Beethoven’s fifth, Gershwin’s
Rhapsody, rock and roll of little Richard and Jerry Lee
Lewis. The piano can be played solo or with other
instruments. It would hold its own nonetheless.
In fact it is the change in volume that was the last piano
innovation to be perfected, and the hardest for piano
builders. Experts aren’t in complete agreement, but the
first modern-style piano was probably that built by the
Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1709. It was at the time
described as a harpsichord with both soft and loud!
The difference between the harpsichords that came before and
the piano (or pianoforte) was the way the strings were
sounded. Inside each piano the strings are tightened into
tune – a grand piano looks a little like a harp on its side
– and somehow or other these strings need to be plucked to
make music. All that early harpsichords did was to use a
mechanism to pluck the string instead of the players own
fingers. This meant that you touched a keyboard to make the
sounds but that you had no control over the volume – the
string was plucked at the same volume however you hit the keys.
The modern style piano uses a different idea, and instead of
plucking the string with by passing a plectrum by it, modern
pianos use hammers to bang the string. This sounds pretty
unsubtle, but in fact it is what really released the potential
of the instrument by allowing the weight of your touch on
the keyboard to affect the sound of the note.
Gentle stroking of the keys will give you soft music, whereas
hammering away can give you ear-drum shattering noise!
Not everyone was initially convinced by the new instrument,
and even JS Bach, who went on to write the beautifully
nuanced Goldberg Variations for the piano, didn’t like the
instrument at first – however he became conviced and he gave
the instrument his official approval in 1747. But by the
time Mozart was born in 1756 or Beethoven in 1770, the piano
had become an accepted favourite.
It is the piano’s ability to shine as a solo instrument, so
wonderfully exploited by the great classical composers, that
has made it such a popular instrument. It is also what has
ensured that it has found a home in every kind of music
since. Jazz, blues, gospel, swing, rock all feature the
piano in a starring role. In many ways, it’s the perfect
Sica Delenius is the administrator of B Factory Music, your premier source fall of your music needs. Get free piano lessons for beginners
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