The piano, back then
In 1700, Bartolomeo Christfori invented the first piano. There was great excitement at its launch because people were now seeing a ‘no hold’, ‘no blow’ instrument like the flute or horn. It had a great sound, and could be used with ten fingers playing separately or in chords.
The design and operation were upgrades from the harpsichord and clavichord which were similar in operation, but because of some technical improvements, a pianist could be more expressive in their delivery on this touch sensitive instrument.
Pianos came in all shapes and forms and older photos will show upright, square, and later, grand pianos. The furniture that housed the parts in perfect order, was made of durable wood and many designers used different shades and stains to make their brand attractive.
How long did it last?
It is interesting to note that the same piano with hammers on the inside, ivory notes, 88 keys has remained the same for over 300 years. Fingering and practice methods have also remained unchanged and children, and adults alike, have studied piano, mostly with a coach one-on-one. Then, as now, the instrument was maintained by regular tuning or , if it became really old, some carpentry by a well- trained piano tuner.
Then came the electric piano !!
In about 1920, the world came to know the electric piano. There were metallic parts producing signals which were amplified to provide sound at different volume levels, but these parts had to have some careful mechanical moving around in sync, to give new sounds that became popular around that time.
About 50 years later, the electronic piano became popular. It resembled the regular piano and came with a variety of features, it had built-in tuning, and the lack of the mechanical operations made it lighter and easier to transport from place to place . Even more convenient, keyboards could be designed with less octaves.
The excitement of these instruments was mostly in their ability to mimic the sound of almost all other instruments, and to provide one-touch percussion or instrumental accompaniment. All these features tend to enhance the piano learningexperience even on toy pianos. The modern piano student can use video lessons and drum tracks to make tutorials more interesting.
There are so many brands available now for purchase. Some of the popular ones are: Yamaha, Alesis, Korg, Casio, Kawaii. Every now and then a new model is introduced to the piano-loving public, and some people who cannot play, buy them and have them standing in a corner in the house, to be admired only.
Is your piano a computer ?
Good question. The answer is “Yes “. The developments in technolgy have been used by designers of piano keyboards. There is software that facilitates the work of composers and provides a huge variety of options for the stage performer. “Cut”, “Paste”, “Splice”, “Loop” are terms used in operating these modern day dream gadgets. We are now in a world where studio work can be right in your own house.
My greatest thrill was my first recording of a song written by someone in France, with drum tracks added by someone in the US, and my piano playing and adding of strings and flute from Jamaica. It was mixed and mastered in Germany and released, without any physical meeting of the musicians on the song.
So, what is next ?
The form and operation of the piano stayed the same for so long but has changed so much about music in the last 50 years. I cannot even imagine what a piano will be like 50 years from now. Can you ?
Let have your thoughts on this, in the comments section.
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