The Cristofori Piano

What is Cristofori Piano?

The piano first known as the pianoforte evolved from the harpsichord around 1700 to 1720, by Italian inventor Bartolomeo Cristofori. He gave the musical world a keyboard instrument with a hammer action that varied the volume of sound. The weight of the player’s fingers on the piano keys sent the hammer flying free to strike the string with corresponding speed. The free flight and gravity made the hammer bounce away from the string after striking it, so as to allow the string to keep vibrating.

With relatively little weight on the key, the hammer flew relatively slowly and the resulting sound was soft (piano); with a harder push, the hammer flew faster and the sound was loud (forte). With practice and sensitivity, a performer could make subtle gradations in volume.

Cristofori’s used thick strings for the piano to withstand the greater tension brought about by the increased energy applied to the strings by the free-flying hammer. To reduce stress on the instrument’s framing and bracing brought about by the higher tension, Cristofori strengthened the case by adding a heavy inner lining and by attaching a rail that held the outer ends of the strings firmly to the strengthened case. The assistance of a stout block in front that held the tuning pins enabled the case to further resist the string tension.

To make the instrument audible, the strings’ vibrations were transmitted through a hardwood bridge glued to the soundboard, which spread the vibrations across its expanse and reproduced them. The vibrating surface disturbed the air enough to produced sounds that could be heard even at a distance. To enable the soundboard to do this and to take up the string tension at the same time, Cristofori mounted the soundboard on an inner wall, separated from the case wall by a spacer.

The una corda stop had been introduced by Cristofori. His pianos had a knob on the cheek of the keyboard by which the entire keyboard could be move sideways so the hammers would strike only one of the two strings for each note. This action produces a difference in timbre rather in volume.

The determination of Harpsichord manufacturers  to produce an instrument with a better dynamic response than the harpsichord was first solved by Bartolomeo Cristofari, the keeper of instruments in the court of Prince Ferdinand de Medici of Florence.

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