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Great Piano Performances

The Incomparable Oscar Peterson

Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations

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Miracle In a Box

The Piano – The Early Years

Egyptian Harps

The earliest stringed instruments were plucked. The first of this type was the harp.  The varied lengths of strings form a curve which dictates the shape of the harp’s frame.  The modern piano broadly follows the shape of a harp.

The monochord is simply a sound box with a single string stretched over a movable bridge, which is shifted to each marking to produce a different note. It also was a plucked instrument.

The hammer dulcimer is an ancient instrument dating to the time of Christ.  It appears to have originated in Persia.  The word dulcimer derives from the Latin dulcis (sweet) and the Greek melos (song).

Hammer Dulcimer

The psaltery was common in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is a shallow closed box where strings are stretched and sounded by plucking with the fingers or plectra.

The dulcimer and the psaltery may look alike, but they are played differently. Small wooden hammers are used on the strings of the dulcimer to set the strings vibrating, much as the hammers do on the piano’s strings.  The strings of the psaltery are plucked with the fingers or with a feather quill, as are the strings on the harpsichord. The psaltery can be considered a forerunner of the harpsichord, since the strings are plucked, just as the dulcimer can be considered a forerunner of the piano, since its strings are struck.

The Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition

The Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition will take place in May.  Click here for more information.

Inside Your Piano

Here’s what’s going on under the hood:

Broadwood Action c. 1777

Erard Action c. 1821

The Modern Piano

Famous Piano Brands


When people think of pianos, they think of Steinway and Sons. Since the 1850s, Steinway has been making a piano that has been considered by many to be the gold standard in musical instruments.  Names that grace the Steinway collection are Boston and Essex.


The Baldwin name is the most well-known as unsurpassed as one of the tried and true piano brands of all time. Named after Dwight Hamilton Baldwin, a famed music teacher, it stands for solid construction and dependable tone.  Other brands to bear the Baldwin pedigree are Cable, Chickering, Ellington, Hamilton, Haines Brothers, Estey, Knauss, Kranick & Bach, August Forster and Wurlitzer.


Kawai is known for great value.  Quality is often associated with expense. This does not always hold true. For over 60 years Kawai has been balancing quality with affordability, offering pianos to fit every budget and suit every taste.


Yamaha pianos rise above the rest for the most enjoyable playing experience for the money. Boasting over 100 years of innovation and tradition, this Japanese company has created some of the finest acoustical and digital instruments the world over.  Keeping in pace with technology, Yamaha offers many of their pianos with MIDI-capability making composing and learning the piano a truly interactive experience.


For over a century, Bosendorfer pianos has been considered one of the superlative piano luxuries in the world. Proudly crafted in Vienna since 1828, Bosendorfer is known for manufacturing the finest in grand pianos.  This is the piano kings and emperors desired.  Franz Liszt and Johann Strauss are on the list of admirers.


Since 1885, Schimmel pianos have been lovingly crafted in Germany. Known the world over for winning countless awards the proud tradition set forth by founder Wilhelm Schimmel lives on.  The family tradition of quality grands and uprights has been passed on through the generations, making Schimmel pianos one of the few family-owned and operated piano companies in the world.

International Piano Competition

The Van Cliburn Foundation will host its International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs™ coming soon in Fort Worth, TX.  Click here for more info.

History of the Piano

Since about 1450, keyboards have virtually remained the same. The organ was the first keyboard instrument and the weight of the keys has varied greatly since the earliest examples, whose keys were so heavy that the players were called “Organ Beaters.”



Today’s arrangement was found as long ago as 1361, as demonstrated by paintings of the time. The first member of the harpsichord family was the virginal. The strings on this instrument are plucked by plectra and the shape is similar to that of the clavichord. The spinet followed the clavichord and then came the more elaborate harpsichord.

Tuning often followed the meantone system where major thirds were tuned precisely and other intervals tempered. This created some very wild intervals and the howling sound resulted in them being called “wolves” or the “wolf interval.” If a series of fifths is tuned from the bottom A upwards, when the top A is reached it will be a quarter of a semitone sharp if all are tuned in pure intervals, and this is called the Pythagorean comma.

The spinet could have received its name from a possible Italian inventor, Giovanni Spinette, or from the connection with spine thorns, which were used for plucking the strings.

Piano Types

Pianos come in many styles.  We are familiar with the Grand piano from the movies and TV, but most American homes own an upright.

The Baby Grand is a variation on the Grand.  The Upright comes in styles such as Console, Studio, or Spinet.  Note that the standard upright piano’s front legs connect to a block that ties into the body of the piano. A Spinet, on the other hand, has legs that resemble a table. They go to the floor and generally have wheels on the ends.

Other types of pianos include the Player Piano, the Toy Piano, and the electric pianos, synthesizers and digital keyboards of today.

Concert Grand 7'6"-9'0"+ length

Baby Grand 5'0"-5'6" length

Upright Piano 48-60" high

Console 40-43" high

Spinet 35-37" high

Electric Piano

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