It’s no accident that most people when they approach music, they look for piano lessons. The piano/keyboard is one of the most popular instruments in the world to learn to play. Its students have the advantage of being able to “see” all the notes from above, making it easier to visualize musical intervals and the relationships between them.
The piano is a direct descendant of the harpsichord, and was, in fact, invented in 1709 by harpsichord maker Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori (1655-1731) in Padua, Italy. The harpsichord, which dates back to the 15th century, was relegated to one volume alone, limiting its scope, emotive ability and what pieces could be written for it. The piano offered several improvements over its predecessor, especially the ability to control the volume of the instrument — from soft to loud and everywhere in between — simply through how hard the player struck the keys.
According to the National Piano Foundation, Cristofori’s new instrument was named “gravicembalo col piano e forte” (roughly translated to “soft and loud keyboard instrument”). Eventually, it was shortened to “fortepiano” or “pianoforte,” and finally just “piano.” His earliest surviving instrument dates from 1720 and is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Despite many improvements during the past 300 years, it is truly astonishing to observe how similar Cristofori’s instruments are to the modern piano of today.