Piano music is among the most popular music in the world. This is partly because of the instruments versatility. It can be used in many different genres, such as classical or jazz. Piano music is also commonly used as an accompaniment to other performances such as singing, or tap dancing or the like. Pianos are additionally used commonly for composing as well as rehearsing for shows.
All of this versatility and development in piano music didn’t happen overnight. It started with word ‘pianoforte.’ These two words are Italian, and they mean quiet and loud respectively. This is because of the nature of piano music, which can get louder or quieter based entirely on how hard you push the keys.
Middle Ages Background of Piano Music
During the middle ages there were instruments called “hammered dulcimers” that were some of the earliest predecessors to the piano. These smaller hammers were used to strike strings in order to make music. There were several different proto pianos such as the clavichord, which were all methods of plucking strings mechanically. Often these instruments used a keyboard, but this didn’t always happen. The later instrument, the harpsichord, actually used strings that were plucked by quills.
Bartolommeo Cristofori is credited with the invention of what we call the piano today, in the 17th century. He actual had the official title “Keeper of Instruments” in Tuscany. Cristofori was an expert at using and creating harpsichord instruments. Earlier versions of the piano, like the clavichord, had a problem with being loud enough for playing to a great many people.
This is particularly a problem when large performances to large crowds are one of the principle things that someone doing music has to do. This is because many musicians from the Renaissance and earlier frequently worked for nobility, and increasing their patron’s prestige by playing for crowds was one of the main things that they did with their profession.
The clavichord allowed for a lot of minute changes in pitch, and it allowed for stamina in playing, but its soft sound was a problem in concerts. In contrast, the harpsichord could make strong noises at high volume, but it didn’t have much control over the sound produced.
The Piano, literally the “quiet loud” is an instrument produced out of its two predecessors. This is what allows piano music to range from very quiet sounds, to booming loud ones. At the same time, piano music is also known for being able to have fast detailed changes much more so than other instruments. Cristofori was able to fix difficulties that other instruments of the hammer hitting string variety had often been plagued with. This was the problem of the hammer hitting the string and maintaining contact with it for too long, which made getting fine control quite difficult. It also made for having problems controlling overall sound. This is something modern piano design solved in spades through its design of allowing users to press the keys exactly as hard as they want, which then controls the level of strength and speed the internal hammers have. This in turn produces piano music at the level desired. And this is exactly what gives piano music its unique versatility.