Your piano tuner Wilmington DE of Kenneth Keith Piano Services, often gets asked about the origin of the name “Piano.”  Here is my explanation:

The piano got its name due to the fact that it has a wide dynamic range. In other words, one could play both loud and soft on the instrument. This seems normal to us, since we grew up playing pianos, but it was not possible before the piano was invented.  Before the piano was invented, the most popular keyboard instrument was the harpsichord. The harpsichord strings are plucked by small quills activated by the piano keys. No matter how hard or soft you push the keys on a harpsichord, the volume of the note is the same. As a result, it is impossible to play expressively on a harpsichord, since the keys are not “touch-sensitive.” Harpsichords, then, are not solo instruments. They are used for accompanying other instruments. It is quite tiresome to listen to a harpsichord being played by itself, since there is no expression possible in the playing.

The piano was invented in order to make a keyboard instrument that was loud enough to be heard in a concert hall, but also could be played expressively. At the time of its invention, there was a touch-sensitive instrument called the clavichord, but it was not loud enough to fill a a concert hall with sound. It could be used only in a small room with a few people.

Since the piano was invented by an Italian, Christophori, he gave it an Italian name. Because the goal of the invention was to make an instrument that could be played both softly and loudly, he gave it a name that means “soft loud” in Italian. That name was “pianoforte.” “Piano” means “soft,” and “forte” means “loud.” Names tend to shorten over time with use, so gradually the name was shortened to “piano”.

Interestingly, Christophori made only a few instruments. Fortunately, he published drawings of the piano action that he invented. These drawings were seen by a German instrument maker, Silberman who continued development of the instrument.

If you have any questions about your piano or if you live in or around the Wilmington DE area and need a Wilmington DE piano tuning or any piano repairs, please give Kenneth Keith Piano Services a call. We also provide piano services in the Philadelphia, Eastern Shore MD and Southern New Jersey areas.