The History of the Piano

From the Romantic Era to Today

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The piano became more popular than ever in the history of the piano during the Romantic Era (approx. late 1700's-mid 1800s). With the social rise of the middle class, the piano became the most favored instrument in the home.

Important Changes in the Musical Scene During the Romantic Era

  • During the 1800s, the orchestra expanded to more than 100 musicians.
  • According to the Romantic ideal significant contrasts of effects were in fashion. Lots of expressions! Louder, softer, and anything in between.
  • Concerts were no more available only to the privileged upper class. But, also, a growing middle class was able to enjoy concerts in concert halls.
  • This meant that the instrument makers had to create sturdier pianos with more prominent sounds for these larger venues.
  • The pianos also had to be able to be used as solo instruments with the increasingly large orchestras.
  • The worship of the musician as an idol or almost mythical semi-god (the piano virtuoso Franz Liszt comes to mind) was another reason the concert venues got larger. As concerts were now available to a more significant part of the population, the admirers- fans- were more than ever!
History of the Piano: An Antique Piano

New Piano Inventions During The 1800's

The Upright Piano

Upright Piano Anno 1851Upright Schiedmeyer 1851

Around 1800, the upright piano was invented.

It had a louder sound than the Square piano, which also had been a popular and practical instrument for the home. It did not take up too much space, so it was a suitable replacement.

The upright was the growing middle class’ number one choice for the home.

For the daughters of a middle-class family, it was socially considered a real bonus to be able to play the piano. (As well as to be able to do some needlework and other suitable skills for a young lady…)

Funky Designs

Harp PianoHarp Piano

The romantic era generally bloomed with new inventions and often bizarre designs. (Think Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and "Dracula";- ). The piano was no exception.

Many crazy remodels of the piano took place. But finally, the "classical" design of the first pianos and the upright piano has proven to survive with its more unadorned beauty until today.

Imagine if Bartolomeo Cristofori, who invented the piano, could have seen this "Harp Piano"!

The Player Piano

Player PianPlayer Piano

The Player Piano was invented by Henri Fourneaux in 1863.
This piano can play by itself from piano rolls, and the intricate machinery is kept in action by pedaling. (Great workout for the legs!)

History Of The Piano: 20th Century And Beyond

Modern Grand PianModern Grand Piano

The history of the piano and its development continued during the 20th century with improvements for an even more perfect and more robust sound. Scientifically and masterly craftsmanship developed it into the fine instrument we have today.

The demand for the perfection of sound nowadays has a lot to do with the development of sound recording.

From the first gramophone discs in the early 20th century to the digital recordings of today- there is an ever-increasing demand for absolute perfection in the quality of sound and tuning of the piano.

Electronic Keyboards

Electronic KeyboarElectronic Keyboard

The development of electronic piano keyboards during the second half of the 20th century and onward is a chapter in itself.

This is a typical instrument of our own times; an “Electro-Phone”!

What's Next?

Pegasus PianoPegasus Piano by Luigi Coliani

It is interesting to think that the music that pianists often play today, by Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart, for example- was written for instruments very different from today's relatively heavy and loud instruments.

Would the earlier composers and pianists have liked the modern pianos of today?

I am not so sure… and no one will ever know. But I do love our contemporary instrument! Don't you? Loud and noisy! It suits our time, I guess.

The history of the piano is a story with roots going back over 2300 years …wow. What a connection to the past!

And this proud heritage is carried on worldwide throughout generations and in multiple styles and genres of music… imagine.

The piano truly is a magnificent instrument! So, do we have Bartolomeo Cristofori, who invented the piano, to thank for this?

Well, even though he played an undeniably large part in the history of the piano and has his name forever connected with the invention of the piano, we also have to thank and think about all the inventors, instrument makers, musicians, and composers throughout history.

They have all contributed, over thousands of years, to develop their efforts and struggles into the fantastic instrument, we are blessed to be able to play today!

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