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The Oldest Grand Piano

Grand Piano
Grand Piano by Cristofori – 1720s

This Grand Piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument created by the first inventor of the piano Bartolomeo Cristofori from Italy. The piano was invented in the early 1700s with the innovation that hammers strike the strings.

The word piano is a shortened form of pianoforte, the Italian term for the early-1700’s versions of the instrument. This piano, as built by Cristofori in the 1720s, has almost all the features of the modern instrument.

It differed in being of very light construction, lacking a metal frame; this meant that it could not produce an especially loud tone.

Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco (1655 – 1731) was an Italian maker of musical instruments famous for inventing the piano. The total number of pianos built by Cristofori is unknown.

Only three survive today, all dating from the 1720s. Later, designers have extensively altered this instrument: the soundboard was replaced in 1938, and the 54-note range was shifted by about half an octave. 

The highly complex action of the modern piano may be traced directly to Cristofori’s original conception.

Piano Types

In grand pianos, the frame and strings are horizontal, with the strings extending away from the keyboard.

The action lies beneath the strings and uses gravity as its means of return to a state of rest. 

Upright pianos are more compact because the frame and strings are vertical. Upright pianos are generally less expensive than grand pianos.

The hammers move horizontally and return to their resting place via springs. 

The first electric pianos in the 1920s used metal strings with a magnetic pickup, an amplifier, and a loudspeaker.

Piano Facts

  • The piano was invented in Italy in 1709 by Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori.
  • The piano originated from a harpsichord and has changed in size and shape several times since then.
  • Today the piano is used for both classical and modern music.
  • Today we have grand pianos, digital pianos, and synthesizers. The upright piano was designed to be more compact. The strings and the frame sit vertically.
  • The piano was initially called the pianoforte because of its ability to play notes both quietly (piano) and loudly (forte). The harpsichords were only able to play softly.
  • The piano has about 10,000 moving parts.
  • There are 230 strings in a piano.
  • The strings are made out of steel and produce their sound when struck by tiny hammers inside the piano.
  • Even though the keys are often called the “ivories,” piano keys have not been made from ivory for over 60 years. Today they are made from plastic.
  • The piano can be considered both a string instrument and a percussion instrument because the hammers are striking the strings inside.
  • The piano is called the King of Musical Instruments because the range of the piano goes from the lowest note you can play to the highest note. The entire orchestral range in one instrument.
  • The Steinway family has been making pianos since 1853.

This is the earliest surviving piano

Grand Piano

  • Title:              Grand Piano
  • Date:             1720
  • Maker:           Bartolomeo Cristofori (Padua 1655–1731 Florence)
  • Culture:         Italian (Florence)
  • Geography:   Florence, Italy
  • Materials:      Cypress, boxwood, paint, leather, fir
  • Dimensions:  H: 34 1/16 (86.5 cm); W: 37 5/8 (95.6 cm); D: 90 in. (228.6 cm)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

World’s Oldest Piano at The Met Museum

The First Piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori

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Piano evolution, history of keyboard instruments


“One of my biggest thrills for me still is sitting down with a guitar or a piano and just out of nowhere trying to make a song happen.”
– Paul McCartney


Photo Credit: 1) Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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