88 Key Weighted Piano keyboard Story

The beginning of 88 Key Weighted keyboard

It was at the end of the 17th century when, at the court of the Medici in Florence, a certain Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the ancestors of what today are known as the grand pianos. He took into account the desire to make the dynamics (loud and quiet sound) audible by the strength of the keystroke. However what sounds so simple, was a small technical revolution, in contrast to the harpsichord. Where the strings are plucked for sound production. In such an instrument a dynamic soft/loud sound could not be achieved.

New Instrument needed a new Name

The new instrument required a complicated mechanism in which the strings were struck with small leathered hammers. This revolutionary instrument was first known as gravicembalo col piano e forte (Heavy Harpsichord with Soft and Loud). At a later date it was shortened to the Piano Forte (Soft, Loud). And finally it has become more commonly known as a Piano.

88 Key Weighted keyboardpiano strings and hammers, inside an 88 key keyboardThe picture to the left shows a beautiful example of a modern 88 key keyboard Grand Piano This grand piano with it’s full 88 keys give the piano it’s full range of octaves to play.

In the next one hundred and fifty years, after its invention, the mechanics and design of the piano  were refined up until in the second half of the 19th century. This marked a watershed of piano refinement and pianos have been built to this format ever since.

All modern pianos still use the basic design of piano as established over 150 years ago the mechanics and materials used are still very much the same. Small developments have been made over the years. Those that truly break new ground are retained and those that don’t are discarded.




The most important stages were:

    • 1820 – With the development of the first pianino (cottage piano) – ie an upright instrument. Robert Wornum gradually replaced the design of the board piano.
    • 1821 – Sebastien Erard develops the wing repetition mechanism that allows a much faster and more controlled keyboard.
    • 1826 – Henri Pape uses felt instead of leather as material for the hammer heads, the tone generated in the instrument was better.
    • 1826 – Robert Wornum improves the mechanics of his pianino and creates the basis of the keyboard instrument. The most upright piano ever built to this day.
    • 1840 – or there about, Henri Herz once again improves the wing mechanics of Erard (double repetition mechanics).
    • 1855 – Steinway in New York builds the first wing with a cross-string covering. The strings no longer ran parallel but intersected, in combination with a cast-iron frame.
    • 1866 – Carl Rönisch invents the full armour plate. A cast plate covers the post and thus provides greater stability and rigidity.

The Wonderful Modern Piano

All of these developments were a response to the the pianists and musicians. Who at the time demanded an instruments with a wider range and stronger tones.

Since that time, there have been many minor and some major innovations in the piano or grand piano design. But in essence, the instruments built today were invented and establish during the mid 19th century.

Electronic versions of the 88 key weighted keyboard can be found on our home page.