Where does the word “piano” come from and What does pianoforte mean in Italian?

Unknown to each other, several men were working simultaneously upon the same problem in the early years of the eighteenth century.

The harpsichord had been developed two centuries earlier from the older clavichord, a distinct improvement; but the instrument, with its tones produced by the action of quills plucking the strings, was still too soft for concert work; it could be heard only in a small room, and composers were demanding a greater volume of sound.

The first to reach the goal was Bartolomeo Christoforo, a maker of harpsichords in Florence, Italy.

In 1709 he produced the instrument that he called piano e forte; that is, in Italian, “soft and loud,” because the instrument, with hammers striking its strings, could be played with great volume or, by damping the strings, with the softest of tones.

The name was promptly contracted to pianoforte, and this is still the correct name technically, though it is commonly further abridged to piano. England had its claimant for the invention in the person of Father Wood, who made a similar pianoforte in 1711.

A German claimant, Christoph Gottlieb Schroter, delivered a differing device to the Elector of Saxony in 1717.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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