Since the dawn of man music has been played, enjoyed and practiced, and through its practice the instruments used have changed greatly. Throughout the years the piano has changed greatly and as a result many different types have been created, with the creation of new pianos famous artists have chosen to use them for their styles of music, pianos have been used in many genres of music as a result of their various types and the sound produced.
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The first instrument that relates to the piano is called the Dulcimer, it is considered to be the ancestor to early versions of the piano due to its similar qualities. The dulcimer is played by striking hammers on a series of strings tuned over a flat soundboard. The first actual piano was called the clavichord the first models were build around 1400 but wasn’t made popular until three centuries later in the music of Bach when a key is pressed, a vertical brass strip is lifted toward a pair of strings. The virginal which is a small Harpsichord (or instrument whose strings are plucked) was the next advent in the piano; it was louder than the clavichord but lacked u buts dynamic variety.
Although originally created in Italy the Spinet was perfected in Britain around the late seventeenth century, the jack mechanism plucks the strings just as the virginal, but the wind shape permits longer strings, increasing the size and expanding the range to as much as five octaves. First created in the fifteenth century, the Harpsichord reached its peak in the period of Bach and Handel. The Harpsichord has longer strings and sounds louder than the clavichord although it has the shape of the modern grand piano.
Around 1709, Bartolommeo Cristofori built several instruments in the harpsichord shape but with hammer mechanisms surprisingly like the modern piano action. Because players could control soft and loud which was impossible on plucked keyboard instruments, Cristofori named this instrument the Pianoforte. During the time of Beethoven around the eighteenth century piano builders began to extend the keyboard. Two other important developments were the escapement action for faster repetition of notes and the damper and soft pedals. Pedals were often added to produce exotic effects. During the eighteenth century, many builders tried to apply the upright from to the pianoforte. In 1800 the first satisfactory uprights were invented. The square grand piano was originally designed by German builders around the seventeenth century, they tried to apply the cristofori’s pianoforte to the traditional rectangular shape of the clavichord. The Square piano was popular until the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds. During the nineteenth century the piano continued to become more powerful and responsive.
Some of the greater improvements were the double-repetition action of the Sebastien Erard which allows very rapid repetition; and the full cast-iron frame developed by Alphaeus Babcock. These developments are the basis for today’s modern pianos. The pianos of today incorporate the best qualities of early instruments. Cross stringing which is a way to achieve greater richness of tone by passing more strings over the center of the soundboard. The sostentenuto or middle pedal was introduced in the late nineteenth century, permitting greater musical coloring.
The Baroque period, or the time between 1600 and 1700 where new styles if art and architecture flourished in Europe, there where several great musical artists who became known as famous composers. Several of the composers where George Fredric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach. George Fredric Handel was born the son of a barber; Handel ditched a career in law to pursue his love for music. Skilled at the organ, he wrote several church pieces before he acquired a job from prince Ernst of Hanover as a court musician. Not much is known Antonio Vivaldi. But it is know that he wrote many pieces for the church, about 640 all together. He also taught music at several schools. But near the end of his life he lost support and contacts and died an poor man. Johann Sebastian Bach came from a long line of musicians but was the first to become famous outside of his home town. Bach was extremely particular about his music. Often times he would destroy his compositions that he didn’t find worthy, because of this many of his pieces been lost. His work was very unique, and his use of intertwining melodies and the fugue are trademarks of his genius.
During the classical age many advancements where made in the art of music and as these advancements where made new great composers rose to take advantage of them. Joseph Haydn began his career in music at a very young age he had a wonderful singing voice. Eventually his voice broke and his singing career ended, afterwards he switched his focus into composing music. In 1790 he moved to Vienna which he made into the nexus of classical music and taught young composers such as Mozart and Beethoven.
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is considered to be the prince of classical music. Has countless pieces of literature, movies, musicals and plays dedicated to him. He wrote his first symphony at the age of 5 he toured Europe with his father and sister as a novelty act but eventually he grew up and the novelty was gone. From there forward his natural skill at music carried him and as a student of Haydn and Mozart he blossomed into a top notch opera writer, which was his only source of income for many years. His later teaching career was not enough to support him and he died a poor man. Ludwig von Beethoven was not near as talented as Mozart but became known as another child prodigy. At the age of 14 he was given the role of assistant teacher and organist. He received tutoring from both Haydn and Mozart. Although he had a good childhood at the age of 19 his life quickly took a turn for the worse with the death of his mother, he was then left with the role of supporting his entire family. As a result of his troubled youth he became a very disturbed and angry person, this was portrayed in his music which was fiery and emotional. Felix Mendelssohn was born into a rich and musically talented family and as a result was introduced into music at a young age. He was very talented and his music was very popular at there time of writing. His piano concerto in G minor “And My Heart will go on” is considered to be the most played concerto of all time. His music for the play “A Midsummer night’s Dream” in addition to its popularity during its time is still played at modern weddings. Mendelssohn often played pieces by Bach and is credited with bringing back popularity to his music. Johannes Brahms lived during the romantic age but wrote classical music. At the beginning of his carreer he played mostly in bars and as a result he gained the knowledge of many dance tunes. Once Mendelssohn graduated from playing in bars and brothels he started serious composing he was considered a genius for his music.
During the romantic era many changes where made to the way the piano was used. Frederic Chopin was one of those artists, his pieces for the piano the piano where groundbreaking and pushed the limits of what the piano was thought to be capable of. Is innovations completely changed how the piano was treated in music. Franz Lizt was another is considered to be one of the most talented pianists the world has ever seen. His concerts where often completely sold out. Because of the way he played he often has a second piano prepared incase he broke the first one.
The piano in its various forms have been used throughout time as entertainment for many cultures. As a result of its popularity and interest from innovative artists it has changed greatly, and more modern variations are used in many genres of music.
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