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Jul 14

Music Notes: September is Piano Month

Posted on July 14, 2017 at 11:25 AM by Elizabeth Land

Notes from the Music Staff logoStaff Note: Notes from the Music Staff is a series of posts discussing what the library offers music fans. From our widely varied collection of music CDs to our nonfiction and fiction books covering all aspects of music, we've got something for everyone and we want to share our love of music with you!

Yes, Linus, September is “National Piano Month”! To celebrate, here are some interesting facts about this beloved musical instrument.

The first piano, below left, was created by Bartolomeo Cristofori, below right, in about 1700. Cristofori was a harpsichord maker in Florence, Italy. He called his invention the ‘piano e forte’, meaning ‘soft and loud’ in Italian, because musicians could vary volume for the first time.

Bartolomeo Cristofori, right, and the Cristofori Piano

Pianos today still use Cristofori’s basic mechanism, but different materials for the case, soundboard, and keys.

There are 3 original Cristofori pianos, one of which is pictured above, still around today. The oldest is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Google honored Cristofori last year with a Google Doodle featuring him playing a piano, which you can watch on YouTube today.

Before the piano was invented, people played harpsichords. Both have a harp inside a case and keys are pressed to play music. What can you do with a piano that you can't do with a harpsichord? Play louder and softer notes.

Keys are pressed on both harpsichords and pianos to make music. What is the difference in how the music is produced inside the case? The piano has small soft hammers which hit the strings. The harpsichord has quills which pluck the strings (real feather quills were used in the beginning). The quills were called ‘plectra’ — today we call them ‘picks’ as for strumming a guitar.

To learn more about the history of the piano, check out these library resources: