The Story of the Piano's Invention
Although the piano can be classified as a string instrument due to the fact that the sounds come from the vibration of strings, it can also be classified as a percussion instrument because a hammer strikes those strings. In this way it is similar to a dulcimer.
The dulcimer is an instrument that originated in the Middle East and spread to Europe in the 11th century. It features a simple resonating box with strings stretched on top of it. Much like a piano, a small hammer is used to hit the strings, which is why the dulcimer is considered to be a direct ancestor of the piano.
The piano is also considered to be a part of the keyboard family. The history of instruments with keyboards dates far back and originates from the organ, which sends bursts of air through pipes to make sound. Craftsmen improved upon the organ to develop an instrument that was a step closer to the piano, the clavichord.
The clavichord first appeared in the 14th century and became popular during the Renaissance Era. Pressing a key would send a brass rod, called a tangent, to strike the string and cause vibrations that emit sound over a range of four to five octaves.
Created in Italy in around 1500, the harpsichord later spread to France, Germany, Flanders, and Great Britain. When a key is pressed, a plectrum attached to a long strip of wood called a jack plucks the string to make music.
This system of strings and soundboard, and the overall structure of the instrument resemble those that can be found in a piano.