The piano was one of the earliest creations by Bartolomeo Cristofori, the inventor of the piano. The very first piano made by Cristofori in 1700 is no longer in existence, but the title given to it, gravicembalo col piano e forte, reminds us of the essential characteristic of early pianos.

1720 fortepiano by Italian maker Bartolomeo Cristofori, the world’s oldest surviving piano, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City / Image source

Prior to the piano, keyboard instruments such as the harpsichord or clavichord could not make significant changes in dynamics. Cristofori’s pianos changed that. The new mechanism that created the sound, the striking of the string with a hammer rather than plucking the strings with a quill as happens in a harpsichord, allowed control over dynamics.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Image source

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