The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys (small levers) that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings. Most modern pianos have a row of 88 black and white keys, 52 white keys for the notes of the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A and B) and 36 shorter black keys, which are raised above the white keys, and set further back on the keyboard. This means that the piano can play 88 different pitches (or “notes”), going from the deepest bass range to the highest treble. The black keys are for the “accidentals” (F♯/G♭, G♯/A♭, A♯/B♭, C♯/D♭, and D♯/E♭), which are needed to play in all twelve keys. There are two main types of piano: the grand piano and the upright piano. The grand piano is used for Classical solos, chamber music, and art song, and it is often used in jazz and pop concerts. The upright piano, which is more compact, is the most popular type, as it is a better size for use in private homes for domestic music-making and practice. The piano is widely employed in classical, jazz, traditional and popular music for solo and ensemble performances, accompaniment, and for composing, songwriting and rehearsals.
FAMOUS PIANO PLAYERS
Many classical music composers, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, composed for the fortepiano, a rather different instrument than the modern piano. The fortepiano was a quieter instrument with a narrower dynamic range and a smaller span of octaves. Even composers of the Romantic movement, like Liszt, Chopin, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, and Johannes Brahms, wrote for pianos substantially different from 2010-era modern pianos. Ragtime music, popularized by composers such as Scott Joplin, reached a broader audience by 1900. The popularity of ragtime music was quickly succeeded by Jazz piano. New techniques and rhythms were invented for the piano, including ostinato for boogie-woogie, and Shearing voicing. George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue broke new musical ground by combining American jazz piano with symphonic sounds. Pianos have also been used prominently in rock and roll and rock music by entertainers such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Elton John, Ben Folds, Billy Joel, Nicky Hopkins, and Tori Amos, to name a few. Modernist styles of music have also appealed to composers writing for the modern grand piano, including John Cage and Philip Glass.