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PIANO TIMELINE

History Of The Piano

Tracing the roots of the piano to the very beginning of consciousness, when man first became aware of sound.

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Page 2 of 29 pages

Early1100s, Dulcimer

Carved image of dulcimer for Queen Melisende, c.1139.
Detail of The Queen Melisende Psalter, c.1139. 1

As with many early representations of instruments, the dulcimer may be first seen in The Queen Melisende Psalter, c.1139, a “12th century carved ivory book-cover made in Byzantium for Melisende, the wife of Fulk V of Anjou, King of Jerusalem.” [ 2 ] There is some doubt regarding the claim, as no mention of the instrument is recorded for another 300 years.

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Dulcimers in the Heartland. 3
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Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' performed on a Dulcimer. 4

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[1]
Medieval Manuscripts.  "Psalter (The ‘Melisende Psalter’)."  Scan/Photograph from Egerton MS 1139The British Library Board.  The British Library Board, 12 Aug 2013.  Web.  21 Aug 2015.  No Known Copyright Issues.
[2]
Blanton, Nicholas.  "The Origin of the Hammered Dulcimer Finally Not Explained."  Dulcimer Players News.  Vol. 27 No. 2.  Spring 2001.  issuu.  Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
[3]
Siquomb1.  "Joni Mitchell & Dulcimer Detail – California."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 12 June 2010.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[4]
ContemporaryDulcimer.  "Led Zeppelin – 'Whole Lotta Love' – on Dulcimer."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 10 May 2014.  Web. 14 Oct. 2015. Standard YouTube License.

Early1100s, Hurdy-Gurdy

Hurdy Gurdy instrument from 1700, in the Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg.
Hurdy Gurdy, Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg, 1700. 1

Hurdy-gurdy, (organistrum), a medieval stringed instrument comprised of melody and drone strings, a keyboard (made of tangents), and a resin-coated wheel (performing much like a bow), refined with many variants throughout Europe to be performed by a single player, producing a constant drone and capable of sounding two or more simultaneous notes.

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Guilhem Desq Performs 'Omen' on an Hurdy Gurdy. 2
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Matthias Loibner Plays the Hurdy Gurdy. 3
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Guilhem Desq Performs 'Break Your Crank' on an Electric Hurdy Gurdy. 4

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[1]
Anagoria.  "Hurdy Gurdy, 1700."  Photograph.  Original in the Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 1 May 2013.  Web.  18 June 2015. GFDL, and CC BY 3.0.
[2]
HudryGuigui.  "'Omen' – Guilhem Desq (Hurdy Gurdy)."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 23 June 2013.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[3]
rayjayvids.  "HURDY GURDY Demonstrated & Played by Matthias Loibner."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 8 July 2011.  Standard YouTube License.
[4]
HurdyGuigi.  "'Break Your Crank' – Guilhem Desq (Electric Hurdy Gurdy)."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 19 June 2015.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

Early1100s, Organistrum

Sculpture of an organistrum in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
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.

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The Community of Lisberg Play an Organistrum. 2
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Organistrum Concert in the Church of Santa Maria de Albarracín. 3

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[1]
JoJan.  "Organistrumsantiago."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 14 April 2006.  Web. 14 Sept. 2015.  GFDL, and CC BY-SA 3.0.
[2]
Haynes, Richard.  "Organistrum Clip."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 7 April 2012.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[3]
rotamundi1953.  "Organistrum."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 5 March 2009.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

1157, Keyed Monochord

Keyed monochord instrument from 1883, at the Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.
Keyed Monochord, 1883, in the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix. 1

The keyed monochord, an evolution of the ancient teaching instrument, requiring the performer to either touch, pluck, hammer or bow on a single string while manipulating keys.

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Playing a Keyed Monochord. 2

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[1]
Meyers, Tashaila Nichole and Argon233.  "Monochord de Poussot, Located at Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 April 2011.  Web. 14 Sept. 2015.  CC BY-SA 3.0.
[2]
ShapeChangingInstruments.  "Playing a Keyed Monochord."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 12 April 2015.  Web. 14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

C.1160, Staff Appeared

Depiction of a musical staff with treble clef and 4/4 time signature.
Musical Staff. 1

A staff appeared with the traditional five lines.

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[1]
Cralize.  "Staff."  Digital Art.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 25 Sept. 2005.  Web.  9 Oct. 2015.  GFDL, and CC BY-SA 3.0.

1200, Chifonie

Illustration of a symphonia instrument depicted in Codex de El Escorial, 1221-1284.
Symphonia Cantiga 160 – Cantigas de Sta. Maria
of Alfonso X the Wise,
Codex de El Escorial, 1221-1284
. 1

The chifonie (or symphonia), a modified hurdy-gurdy (and variant of the solo organistrum), refined into a portable, single player instrument, and predominantly used for secular music.

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Chifonie Médiévale. 2

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[1]
Grosasm.  "Symphonia de Cantiga 160, Cantigas de Sta. María de Alfonso X El Sabio, Códice de El Escorial (1221-1284), photographed by G. Rosa."  Photograph.  Commons Wikiemdia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 17 Oct. 2006.  Web.  9 Oct. 2015.  GFDL, and CC BY-SA 3.0.
[2]
Michautable.  "Chifonie Médiévale."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 17 March 2014.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.   Standard YouTube License.

C.1280, Citole

English citole c.1300, rebuilt into a violin c.16th century, at the British Museum, London.
English Citole, c. 1300, remodeled as a violin in the 16th Century. 1

Unlike the psaltery and dulcimer, the citole was played with fingers instead of a plectrum. Carved from a single piece of wood and shaped like a ‘holly-leaf,’ the British Museum houses the only surviving instrument.

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[1]
Romainbehar.  "English Citole, c. 1300, Remodeled as a violin in the 16th C."  Photograph.  Original in the British Museum, London.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 19 May 2008.  Web.  5 Oct. 2015.  Public Domain.

Early1300s, Clavichord

Clavichord instrument in the Musée de la Musique, Paris, France.
The 'Lépante' Clavichord, Musée de la Musique, Paris. 1

From the monochord comes the small, delicate-sounding keyboard called the clavichord, or clavicordium, at first comprised of no more than 10 fretted strings serving multiple keys (with non-fretted models arriving later). Highly portable but unable to project sound effectively, it was used as an intimate private or practice instrument.

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From the Clavichord to the Modern Piano. 2

To produce a tone, each key, when depressed, caused a tangent to strike a pair of strings, which determined the pitch based on their distance from the bridge. Since more than one tangent might utilize a pair of strings, only one note could be played at a time. Known for its soft tone, the instrument’s dynamic range offered the performer exquisite control and expressiveness of sound.

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[1]
Janot, Gérard.  "The ‘Lépante’ Clavichord, Musée de la Musique – Paris."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 25 Feb. 2005.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.  CC BY-SA 3.0
[2]
BaroqueBand.  "From the Clavichord to the Modern Piano – Part 1 of 2."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 8 March 2010.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

Early1300s, Clavicytherium

Clavicytherium instrument built by Albert Delin in 1751, in the Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels, Belgium.
Clavicytherium by Albert Delin, 1775, in the Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels. 1

Before the emergence of the clavichord, a small oblong box called a clavicytherium appeared (the earliest surviving example of this stringed keyboard instrument arguably originated from Ulm and was adorned with elaborate decorations and carvings, c1480). Comprised of catgut strings configured in the shape of a half-triangle, it produced sounds by the use of quill-plectra crudely attached to the keys.

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Scarlatti's, 'Sonata in G, K. 260,' performed by Ryan Layne Whitney on a Sørli clavicytherium. 2

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[1]
chibicode.  “Clavicytherium by Albert Delin, Located in the Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels, 1751.”  Photograph.  Flickr.  Flickr, a Yahoo Company 30 May 2015.  Web.  9 Oct. 2015.  CC BY-SA 2.0.
[2]
teafruitbat.  “Ryan Layne Whitney: Sacrlatti, Sonata in G, K. 260, on Sørli Clavicytherium.”  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 13 Oct. 2010.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
Additional References:
  • Wells, Elizabeth.  "Museum of Instruments: Catalogue, Part II Keyboard Instruments."  Center for Performance History.  Royal College of Music, 2005 – 2007.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.

1323, Clavicymbalum

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Clavicymbalum a Martelli. 1

Another of the earliest ancestors of the harpsichord, the clavicymbalum had attached keys but no dampers. It was referred to as a monochordium by Johanness de Muris in a latin treatise, Musica Speculativa, as having the familiar triangular form with one curved side.

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[1]
Bartoccini, Marius.  "‪Arnault de Zwolle: Clavicymbalum a Martelli."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 20 June 2015.  Web.  13 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
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