Early man discovered at some point that stretching a string between two points produced a sound, and that by shortening the length or thickness of the string changed its pitch. Later, adding parallel strings together created a rudimentary harp.
The harp appeared throughout the Middle East and Egypt, and moved widely across the world, in both vertical and horizontal modes. Considered to be the first stringed instrument, the speaking length of its various strings created a harmonic curve that would dictate the shape of the piano’s frame.
Pergien. "The God Ra-Horakhty." Painting. Original in the Louvre, Paris. Commons Wikimedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 6 April 2007. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. Public Domain.
Lawergren, Bo. "Ancient Harps." Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
Guqin Lingfeng Shenyun. [ 1 ]
The ‘qin,’ and “se,” were stringed instruments created by Fu Xi, known in Chinese mythology as the first of the ancient sages. Modern instruments have seven strings and a range of four octaves. Literature concerning the lore, its theory, and general literature dates back nearly 3,000 years.
Lament of Departure On Guqin Performed by Yuan Jung-Ping. [ 2 ]
Flowing Waters Performed by Guqin Master Pui-Yuen Lui. [ 3 ]
henryshoots. "Guqin 古琴 Yuan Jung-Ping Lament of Departure on Guqin, 長亭怨慢 袁中平演奏." Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 19 Feb. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. Standard YouTube License.
luna788. "'古琴演奏家呂培原"流水' Guqin Master Pui-Yuen Lui ‘Flowing Waters." Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 7 May 2009. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. Standard YouTube License.
Lewis, Mark Edwards. Writing and Authority in Early China. New York: SUNY Press, 1999. Google Books. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
“Guqin.” New World Encyclopedia. New World Encyclopedia, 30 Jan 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
“SE.” Cultural China. Shanghai News, Press Bureau and Shanghai Xinhong Cultural Development Co., Ltd., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
The Queen's Lyre (left) and The Silver Lyre (right), Royal Cemetery at Ur, British Museum. [ 1 ]
The lyre, a yoked instrument with strings running from a single point at the base of a resonating body to a crossbar, plucked by fingers or plectrum. Formally associated with the Greeks and the myth of Hermes (who was said to have fashioned it from a tortoise shell) but having antecedents in Egypt (with its origin attributed to Thoth), as well as variants from the East and across the globe.
The lyres of Ur, excavated from an old grave in the city of Ur, 1929, are three of the oldest examples of the instrument.
Corwen Broch Playing His Reconstruction of a Trossingen Lyre
(6th Century Germanic Lyre). [ 2 ]
KateCorwen. "Trossingen Lyre (6th Century Germanic Lyre)." Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Oct. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. Standard YouTube License.
Pringle, Peter. "The Sumerian Silver Lyre." Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 6 June 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. Standard YouTube License.
The monochord, a primitive, single-stringed scientific instrument, attributed to Pythagoras, used as a way of teaching harmonics, measuring musical intervals, tuning scales and encouraging experimentation. It is thought that Pythagoras used the monochord to delineate the three Western Scales (diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic), illustrating how numerical ratios could be visualized with sound. The single string was typically plucked, though later developments would offer other variations, including the use of a bow. The introduction of a sound box to enhance the lower-frequency response of the single string led to the invention of the soundboard.
Dan Bao Monochord Improvisation, Three Rivers One Source,
Performed by Phong Nguyen. [ 2 ]
Sonification of World Order with a Monochord by Robert Fludd, 1624. [ 1 ]
Rötel, Kaspar (Drucker). Divine Monochord. 1617 – 1621. Fludd, Robert. Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica, Physica atque Technica Historia Oppeinheim: Theodore de Bry. (Collection Centre Candien d’Architecture, Montreal) Gutenberg-E.Org. Web. 13 Oct. 2015. Public Domain.
Brink, Wayne. “Dan Bao Improvisation, Three Rivers One Source.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 29 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2015. Standard YouTube License.
Working Reproduction of the Hydraulus. [ 1 ]
The concept of a keyboard most likely originated in the 3rd century B.C.E. with the earliest incarnation of the organ, the hydraulus. To manipulate the sound, players manipulated hinged or pivoted levers, pressing downward to open up the passage of air to various pipes.
By the Middle Ages, the mechanical action was typically reversed, in the form of a slider or turn-key pulled outward to sound notes. Not until the portable organ, and then the organistrum, would the concept evolve into a formal keyboard.
Alexander Henshaw Plays the Reproduction Roman Hydraulis,
Assisted by Designer Richard Ellam. [ 2 ]
Unknown Artist. Working Reproduction of the Hydraulus. 1911. Smith, Hermann. The Making of Sound in the Organ and in the Orchestra: An Analysis of the Work of the Air in the Speaking Organ Pipe of the Various Constant Types, and an Exposition of the Theory of the Air-Stream-Reed, Based Upon the Discovery of the Tone of the Air, by Means of Displacement Rods. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1911: pg. 337, Fig. 26. Google Books. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. Public Domain.
Freia Turland Photography. "Roman Replica Hydraulus at the Roman Baths." Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 5 Aug. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2015. Standard YouTube License.
Psaltery, or psalterium, a box zither constructed of a flat resonating box with open strings spanning its surface (secured with pegs at each end). To generate sound, the player plucked the strings with fingers, or by using a plectrum (often a feather quill). Used widely in Europe until the beginning of the 16th century, its origin is rather difficult to unearth as its Greek and Latin etymology predates actual representations of any instruments.
Psaltery Improvisation by Tessey Ueno. [ 2 ]
Psaltery, Salvador Bofill, Barcelona, 1762, – Museu de la Música de Barcelona. [ 1 ]
AndreasPraefcke. "Paul Hoffhaimer. Famous Imperial Organist and Composer, Born 1449, ed. By G. Grefe, Print by Friedrich Kaiser." Illustration. Original in the Austrian National Library, Picture Archive, Vienna. Commons Wikimedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 20 Jan. 2011. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. Public Domain.
Towards the end of the 11th century, the clavier, or key-board, would formally express itself in organs of all types.
Elders Playing an Organistrum, Santiago de Compostela, Spain. [ 1 ]
The organistrum, an early, larger form of the hurdy-gurdy (possibly inspired by the fiddle), shaped like a guitar but with a long, wide neck for keys, requiring two players (one pulled keys in an upward motion to change the pitch of the melody string while the other cranked a small wheel to produce a continuous sound on two drone strings). Thought to be the first use of the principle of a keyboard. A 13th century treatise on the construction of an organistrum, describes an instrument having eight tangents set at intervals based on Pythagorean principles.
Organistrum Played by the People at Lisberg. [ 2 ]
Organistrum Concert in the Church of Santa Maria, Albarracín, Teruel, Spain. [ 3 ]
"List of Romantic-Era Composers." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Duchen, Jessica. "Top 20: The World’s Greatest Pianists." Sinfini Music. Sinfini Music, 23 April 2014. Web. 18 June 2015.
Solomon, Jon. "The Ten Best Jazz Pianists of All Time." Westword. Denver Westword, LLC., 27 Aug. 2013. 18 June 2015.
Sturm, Connie Arrau, Debra Brubaker Burs, and Anita Jackson, eds. "Annotated Bibliography of Sources on the History of Piano Technique and Piano Pedagogy." Piano Technique. Piano Technique.Net, n.d. Web. 18 June 2015.
Groves Music Online for Music Research. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015. Web. June – December 2015.