Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Pianoforte

The piano has probably risen to the title of 'most popular instrument of our day'. Millions of children all around the world learn the piano, some for leisure, others to pursue a career. Whatever their motivation to learn, the piano is a versatile instrument, suiting the needs of one and all.

The pianoforte is named for its ability to produce a varying range of tones, from soft (piano) to loud (forte). First built in the 1709 by Cristofori, the early wooden pianoforte contained little over 5 octaves, with strings stretched over a board. This basic model continued to be under construction until the 1750s. Quite a long period of inactivity followed this, and it was only 63 years later that people exerted some of their creative juices to perfect the piano.

The first grand piano came out in 1772. It was created by a John Broadwood. Here's a picture of one of Broadwood's pianos, taken from this site.

Then, a year after the grand piano came out, the sustaining pedal was introduced. This allowed the performer to sustain notes without having to hold the notes down. Each key is attached to a hammer, which hit the particular string which was played. Each string has a damper, which rests on the string when the key is not played. This prevents the string from vibrating when other keys are being played. However, when the sustaining pedal is pressed, the damper lifts off from all the strings, allowing them to vibrate and resound until either the vibration of the strings slows and comes to a halt, or until the performer releases the pedal. This invention brought about a new period. Composers and performers played around with the pedal, using it to mix and enhance the sounds of the piano. Musical works took a new turn with the rise of the sustaining pedal.

In 1829, the pianoforte, heretofore made of wood, changed for the better into its first iron frame. However, it would only be in 1870 that the pianoforte would be fitted with its first full cast iron frame.

By the 1860s, the pianos were much like the ones we have today, with felt covering the hammers, the hitting action of the hammer to the strings, and of course, the sustaining pedal. However the instrument did not have the full range of tones that we have today. In fact, the pianoforte was so soft, that the orchestra had to have more than one pianist (and piano) in order for it to be heard! Liszt supposedly needed 5 pianos!

Would you believe it? Up till now, the only pianos available were grand pianos. So if you lived in those days, you could be playing a grand piano in your own home, instead of the small upright you have now! What a special priviledge those people had! However, Von Hubbard did not think so. He felt that the grand piano was too big to fit in people's living rooms, so guess what- in 1870, out came the early version of the upright piano that we have today! Grrr.... blame it all on Von Hubbard!

The modern piano includes 88 keys, the lowest note being an A three notes and three octaves down from middle C; the highest note is a C, four octaves above middle C. It comes complete with 3 pedals: an una corda on the left, a damper (which is a piece of felt cloth inserted between the hammer and strings to mute the sound) in the middle, and the sustaining pedal on the right. The pianoforte even comes with different colours! I have a beautiful one and a half year old Upright Kawai K60 (yes- blame it on Von Hubbard!) It is ebony in colour, and is 132cm long. As well as being the tallest upright pianoforte model currently, it also produces the most beautiful richly mellow tone in the world. I love my piano!

Here's a picture of its keyboard. Maybe in the near future, I will upload some of the functions of the piano, (like the damper and the sustaining pedal), as well as a whole picture of my pianoforte. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Questions, thoughts, feelings, memories, experiences, receipes? Please share!