Whilst I could just jump in and tell you who invented the piano, I believe it would be more entertaining for the reader to discover the origin and history of the piano, how it has over time evolved to become the most elegant instrument we have in our homes today.
Every instrument falls under three categories based on how they produce their sound, these categories are string instruments, wind instruments and percussion instruments.
The piano ancestry traces back through many different instruments such as harpsichord and the Dulcimer. It is a descendant of the monochord so based on the pianos ancestry, it can be classified as a string instrument.
1st. The Dulcimer
Although the piano is classified as a string instrument due to the sound produced by the vibrations of its strings, it can also be classified as a percussion instrument because the strings are struck by hammers, which are activated through the complex mechanics of the piano, thus generating the musical tones. In this sense, it is very similar to a Dulcimer. The Dulcimer is an instrument that originated within the Middle East and eventually made its way to Europe within the 11th century.
A Dulcimer resembles a box with strings stretched over the top of it where a hammer is used to hit the strings to produce a sound. Hence why the piano is widely considered to be the ancestor of the Dulcimer.
2nd. The Clavichord
Instruments that have keyboards originate back to the organ which sends air through pipes to produce their sound. The Clavichord was heavily inspired by the organ and first appeared in the 14th century and was very popular in the renaissance era.
The way a clavichord works is through pressing a key that sends the tangent to strike the string and cause vibrations that will sound to a range of four to five octaves.
3rd. The Harpsichord
The very first Harpsichord was made in Italy around 1500 and then spread across Europe. They attached the plectrum to a long strip of wood called a jack, and when they plucked a string, it created the music. The whole system of a harpsichord resembles the structure of a piano.
4th. The Piano
Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655 – 1731) who lived in Italy invented the first piano as he felt unsatisfied by the lack of control that musicians had over the harpsichord. Around 1700, he was credited with developing the modern piano by replacing the plucking mechanism with a hammer. The original instrument was named “clavicembalo col piano e forte” by Bartolomeo Cristofori, which means “harpsichord with loud and soft sounds,” and was eventually renamed the piano. Although Bartolomeo invented the piano, I believe that it wouldn’t be fair not to credit the inventors of the Dulcimer, the Clavichord and the Harpsichord as they all played a part to the modern-day piano.
You want to know more about the piano? you might want to see this beautiful article; ‘how does a piano work?’