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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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1360, Chekker

The chekker appears, an unidentified English stringed keyboard instrument, debatably a clavichord or upright harpsichord, regarded in some circles as myth.

1361, Large Organ

The large organ in Halberstadt, Germany, was the first instrument to implement a 'chromatic key layout across its three manuals and pedalboard.'

C.1397, Harpsichord

Photograph of a church harpsichord.
Church Harpsichord. 1

A stringed keyboard of the box zither family, the harpsichord was first attributed to Hermann Poll, c.1397, and called the clavicymbalum. Unlike the clavichord, its strings are plucked with quills instead of struck with tangents made of small metal blades. It is from this point on in the development of the modern grand piano, the wing-like shape takes center stage, on account of the string length progression from treble to bass.

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A Brief History of the Harpsichord. 2
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Comparone Plays Scarlatti on Harpsichord. 3

Page Sources

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[1]
Tomwsulcer.  "Harpsichord."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 19 Nov. 2012.  Web.  21 Aug. 2015.  CC0 1.0.
[2]
AnnaKaye689.  "A Brief History of the Harpsichord."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 21 Oct. 2010.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[3]
Comparone, Elaine.  "Harpsichord Performance: Comparone Plays Scarlatti."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 17 Aug. 2007.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
Additional References:
  • Wikipedia.  "History of the Harpsichord."  Wikipedia.  Wikipedia, 5 April 2015.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.
  • Sankey, John.  "A Brief History of the Harpsichord."  JohnSankey.CA.  John Sankey, n.d.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.

C.1400, Open Closed Notes

In England, a system of notation developed, much like it is today, with open and closed notes on the staff; and the first inclusion of ‘colouration,’ by composers.

1404, Clavichord Name

First record of the 'clavichord' name, from Eberhard Cersne's Der Minne Regel.

1425, Harpsichord Minden

Earliest representation of a harpsichord from 1425, on the altarpiece of the Cathedral in Minden, Germany.
Representation of an Harpsichord, 1425. 1

The first known representation of the harpsichord (figured left) is on an altarpiece in the cathedral of Minden, Germany, 1425.

Page Sources

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[1]
Opus33.  "The Earliest Representation of a Harpsichord, 1425."  Photograph.  Original Photograph by Arnold den Teuling.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 7 Sept. 2009.  Web.  21 Aug. 2015.  CC BY-SA 3.0.

C.1450s, Hammered Dulcimer

At first believed to be of Persian origin but likely derived from Byzantium, the hammered dulcimer arrived in western Europe during the 15th century (Mid-1400s). A trapeziform box zither closely related to the psaltery, its strings were struck with light beaters, or hammers, instead of plucking or fingering. Two partitioning bridges on the soundboard divided courses of unfretted strings, providing extra chromatic notes. As the instrument evolved, the arrangement strings and additional bridges added to its complexity and versatility, and was likely a great inspiration in pushing the piano to become more expressive.

In many parts of the world, the dulcimer is known by different names, with corresponding attributes.

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Demonstration of a Hammer Dulcimer With Russell Cook of Master Works. 1
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Hammer Dulcimer Solo, 'Carol of the Bells.' 2

Page Sources

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[1]
MasterWorksDulcimers.  "'Oh What A difference a Hammer Makes!’ with Russell Cook of Master Works."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 2 June 2011.  Web.  6 Nov. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[2]
Brock, William.  "'Carol of the Bells' Hammer Dulcimer Solo."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 28 Nov. 2009.  Web. 14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

C.1480, Clavicytherium

Thought to be the earliest surviving stringed keyboard instrument, perhaps originating from Ulm, an upright harpsichord of the clavicytherium variety with elaborate decorations and carvings.

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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.

Early1500s, Spinet

Spinet instrument built by Benjamin Slade, in the Musik-Och Teatermuseet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Spinet Built by Benjamin Slade, photographed by Olav Nyhus. 1

Almost identical in construction to the oblong virginal and the harpsichord, the spinet, or bentside spinet, was thought to have gained popularity in the early 16th century and lasted for roughly a hundred years before being supplanted for the most part by the piano-forte.

A triangular shaped, jack-action keyboard instrument, wherein strings run transversely, at a 30 degree angle to the keyboard, moving toward the right and crossing a bent bridge to alter their resonance.

Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) would later create a larger version, called the spinettone, expanding the range of sound with multiple choirs of paired strings.

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The Keene and Brackley Spinet. 2

Page Sources

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[1]
Mnnnnalin.  "Spinett, Photographed by Olav Nyhus"   Photograph.  Original in the Musik-Och Teatermuseet, Stockholm.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 27 Feb. 2013.  Web.  21 Aug. 2015.  CC BY-SA 3.0.
[2]
Mole, Peter.  "The Keene and Brackley Spinet."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 4 July 2008.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

Early1500s, Virginal

Virginal instrument, c.1580, made by Joannes Grauwels, in the Musical Instrument Museum, Brussels.
Virginal Built by Joannes Grauwels, c. 1580. 1

So-called because the instrument was played predominately by ‘maids and young ladies,’ and was the fitting expression for accompanying “sweet voices singing hymns,” the virginal became an improvement on the clavicytherium, replacing its strings with steel and iron instead of catgut. It did not displace the clavichord, though its improvements were evident. Queen Elizabeth possessed several Venetian specimens.

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William Byrd's 'Rowland,' performed on a virginal. 2
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Virginal y Clavicordio. 3

Page Sources

SOURCES
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[1]
Daderot.  "Virginal Instrument, c. 1580 Made by Joannes Grauwels Located in the Musical Instrument Museum, Brussels."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 17 Nov. 2010.  Web.  6 Nov. 2015.  Public Domain.
[2]
Stolz, Ernst.  "'Rowland' by William Byrd on Virginal."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 29 Feb. 2012.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[3]
Fundacion Juan March.  "Rarezas Instrumentales, Virginal y Clavicordio."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 17 Feb. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
Additional References:
  • Victoria and Albert Museum.  "'Queen Elizabeth’s Virginal,' Giovanni Baffo, 1594."  Victoria and Albert Museum.  Victoria and Albert Museum, 2015.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.
  • Rimbault, Edward Francis.  The Pianoforte, Its Origin, Process, and Construction:  With Some Account of the Same Class which Preceded It; Viz. the Clavichord, the Virginal, the Spinet, the Harpsichord, etc.; to which is Added a Selection of Interesting Specimens of Music Composed for Keyed-Stringed Instruments.  London: R. Crocks and Company, 1860.  Google Books.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.
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