The History of the Piano

Posted by Darrell's Music Hall on August 28, 2018

piano in BostonWhen you think of classical music, the first instrument that comes to your mind is the piano. Part of the reason for this is the beautiful melodies it produces are easily identifiable. Another reason for this is the history behind the piano. It has remained a popular instrument of choice for centuries. Before masters like Beethoven and Mozart took their turn on the instrument, the piano evolved from an instrument called the Ke of ancient days. Here are a few highlights of the history of the piano.



To start the history of the piano, 2,650 years before the modern era, there was an instrument called the Ke. The Chinese invented the Ke. The Ke consisted of strings pulled across a movable bridge and wooden box so you could pluck them to make music. Another early instrument that led to the piano’s invention was the monochord. The mathematician Pythagoras used his expertise in math to create the monochord in 582 BC.

0-1400s A.D.

By 100 AD musicians added a movable bridge to the monochord to allow more intonation. Of course, these were just early allusions to the piano. Around the year 1000 AD, keys called claivs were added to the monochord to ensure a specific tone. This addition led to the clavicytherium in the 1400s. From there, the piano as we know it wasn’t too far away.


The 1500s-1700s was when the piano really started to take shape. The clavichord evolved from the clavicytherium. More strings were added, and pins were attached to the keys so the strings would vibrate from the pressure. Giovanni Spinnetti in 1503 invented the spinet. This instrument had longer strings plucked by a quill. The harpsichord’s invention in 1521 is what really paved the way for the modern day piano. By the 1710’s, hammer actions were applied to the harpsichord, resulting in the pianoforte. Historians credit Christofori as the inventor of the piano. The rest of the 1700s saw a variety of different shaped and sized pianos come to life.


The 1800s saw a rise in popularity of the upright piano. Many manufacturers across Europe started producing this type of piano. By 1838, grand pianos began going into production thanks to the contributions of Sebastian Erard. The piano as it sounds today would not exist without Steinway & Sons applying a new scale to the square piano design. Every piano from that point on followed the Steinway & Sons model.

The modern day piano went through a lot to get where it is. Starting over 4000 years ago in China, the instrument known as the Ke turned in to the monochord and so on and so forth. Contemporary musicians like Ray Charles, Billy Joel, and Elton John were successful pianists and songwriters. To follow in their footsteps and the grand history of the piano, contact Darrell’s Music Hall in Nashua today or visit them online.