The piano has been part and parcel of classical music for more than three centuries and has contributed greatly to modern music. First created in the early 1700’s the instrument originated from the harpsichord and has undergone various transformations over the years.
Various forms of the piano include the grand piano, upright piano, digital piano and the most recent forms – keyboards and synthesizers. In addition to being one of the most popular musical instruments in existence, it also makes for a great piece of furniture.
But there’s a lot more to pianos than meets the eye. Here are 10 interesting facts about pianos – maybe you’ll find a few you didn’t know:
- The first piano was invented in 1709
Harpsichord maker Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori invented the very first piano in Italy in 1709.
His first creation was called gravicèmbalo col piano e forte which, in Italian, means harpsichord with loud and soft. This name was later shortened to ‘fortepiano’ to then just ‘piano’. As you may already know, the harpsichord is only capable of producing sound in certain volume and expression, so having an instrument that is sensitive to touch was a game changer. The first piano invented was so expensive that even average rich families could not afford it. You could predominantly find the instrument in the homes of aristocrats and royalty for nearly a century before it became more accessible to the rest of the public. Via Normans
- There are only three Cristofori pianos left
Today, there are only three original Cristofori pianos in the world. One is located at the National Museum of Musical Instruments in Rome, the second is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the third is in the Museum of Musical Instruments, Leipzig University in Germany.
- There’s massive tension in there
A typical piano has about 220-230 steel strings. These produce the instrument’s sound when struck by the hammers, so they must be strung extremely tight to produce this sound.
Each string usually holds around 168 pounds of tension, making the total tension of most standard pianos around 18-20 tons. However, some of the largest grand pianos hold up to whopping 30 tons of tension! This is truly incredible and exactly what makes piano tuning such a specialist, intricate job that can only be done by a professional. Via Normans
- It’s not a string instrument
Despite having more than 200 strings, the piano is not a string instrument. It is actually a percussion instrument since its sound is produced as a result of the hammers that hit on the strings.
- The Upright piano is slower than the grand
It may be unnoticeable to some pianists; however, the action on a grand piano is faster than the one on an upright, allowing you to play much faster. This is because a grand piano has a repetition lever, allowing the musician to repeat the notes when the key is only half way up. On an upright, vertical action requires the key to go all the way up to reset it. Via Normans
- Digital pianos only came to be in 1980
Although an acoustic piano has been around since 1700s, a digital piano was not brought to the market until 1980! The quest for an electronic instrument, however, had begun in the 1920s and, around 30 years later, the electric piano was born. It was an acoustic instrument with a pick up that would let you amplify it and quickly gained huge popularity – the electric piano was used by famous musicians such as Ray Charles and Duke Ellington. Then, in 1960s synthesizer appeared, which then influenced many genres of music thereafter. Finally, in the 1980s, the modern digital piano was introduced as we know it today! This opened a whole world of possibilities and also solved a lot of disadvantages of acoustic pianos, allowing musicians to practice silently, amplify the instrument, save space and tuning costs. Via Normans
- The world’s largest piano was constructed by a 25-year old
Actually, Adrian Mann was only about 21 years old when he started constructing the grandiose instrument, which weighs 1.4 tonnes and measures 5.7 metres in length. Adrian is a piano tuner from New Zealand and he must love pianos to have dedicated 4 years of his early 20s to his masterpiece.
- The most expensive piano costs $3.22 million
Designed by Canadian manufacturer Heintzman Pianos, the Crystal Piano is as beautiful as it is expensive. It features a gorgeous transparent design and was played for the first time at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games by Chinese pianist Lang Lang.
It was later sold at an auction for $3.22 million, making it the most expensive piano in the world. Via Normans
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A new ‘human’ piano is unveiled in Budapest
Promotional websites are brilliant, aren’t they? With promises of a “revolutionary piano” and its strapline “Sound Beyond Time” (I have literally no idea what that means) comes the Bogányi piano, named after its creator, the Hungarian pianist Gergely Bogányi. Those incomprehensible claims might bring to mind some wild new mechanism for the production of sound through the digital activation of a piano key: so what is it, a keyboard that lets you produce light as well as sound (like Scriabin wanted) or maybe a set of ivories that turns the piano into a Marty-McFly-style musical DeLorean? Alas, it’s none of the above, in fact: in the flesh – or rather in photographs, since the piano was only unveiled today in Budapest – it looks like a swooshy reinterpretation of the piano form, a bit like a Steinway reimagined by Umberto Boccioni. Via The Guardian
20+ Beautiful Outdoor Pianos You Can Play All Around The World
When British artist Luke Jarram realized just how many people spend time around other strangers without ever speaking to them, he decided to mix things up by placing brightly painted pianos in public places that he hoped would encourage spontaneous communication. The artist’s “Play me, I‘m yours” project began in Birmingham, UK, in 2008 with 15 pianos brought to various public places throughout the city for three weeks. The project was a huge success, and it was estimated that over 140 000 people played these pianos or listened to others play. Since then, more than 1000 pianos with a simple instruction – “Play Me, I’m Yours” – have already been installed in 37 cities across the globe, reaching about six million people worldwide. Via BoredPanda
New ‘Illuminating Piano’ works with iPad or Windows to light the way for aspiring pianists
Wait, which piano key is that note again? That’s the eternal question for people learning to play piano, and a Seattle tech startup is unveiling a novel solution today. McCarthy Music’s “Illuminating Piano” lights up the keys with embedded RGB LEDs to help aspiring pianists as they learn to play. The keyboard connects to an iPad or Windows PC via Bluetooth, USB or MIDI interface. It comes with a dedicated app that displays interactive digital music sheets, and a music store with more than 1,000 pieces of popular music, based on a partnership between McCarthy and sheet music giant Hal Leonard. Via GeekWire