Saturday, August 20, 2011

History of Keyboards

As early as the 8th century, musical instruments have had keys, though the keyed instrument Emperor Constantine sent to King Pepin of France was probably nothing like the keyboard instruments of today.

In the early part of the 11th century, Guido of Arezzo, a Benedictine monk who is regarded to be the inventor of modern musical notation (the staff) and the ut-re-mi (do, re, mi name for tones) devised a way to attach a keyboard to a stringed instrument.

One of the earlier keyboard instruments was the clavichord, which at first had only twenty keys.

After the 15th century almost all the key-stringed instruments used the chromatic scale, as we find it in modern pianos. Keyboard size varied from instrument to instrument.

In the 18th century, a piano maker in Vienna built a concave-formed keyboard, convinced it would better serve the tendency of the human arm to move in a semicircle.

A piano maker in the 19th century designed a keyboard on which the semitones (our black keys) were the same color as the full tones, and were not raised. Thus, the keyboard we know today is the result of experimentation through the ages. As a pianist, I am grateful to have raised black keys and the full 88-key keyboard of today.
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Ann Lethbridge said...

Joyce, how cool, and thank you for the link. In my second published novel "No Regrets" my hero would have loved to have become a concert pianist, but alas earls didn't do that sort of thing. He did, however, help young street musicians to follow their dreams. The piano he bought for their school was one of the early Broadwood grand pianos. They were an innovation in the early 1800's. Broadwood made one for Beethoven and had it delivered across the continent in 1818, and his son presented one to George IV at Brighton in 1821.
Musical instruments were an important part of life in the regency period, a major form of entertainment, so your blog was of great interest to me.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Of great interest to me. I took piano lessons as a child and then again as an adult. Love music and how it all came to be. Thanks for sharing the information.

Ilona Fridl said...

Fascinating blog! I believe church pipe organs are older, but I'm not sure. I know they had worked on harps for a long time to find an easier way to play them.

Vivian Davis said...

It's true Beethoven had a Broadwood, but he preferred his Streicher. :) The keyboards are interesting, but the ways the strings were plucked/struck and the resulting sounds are also have a fascinating history. Kudos to you for raising a topic too rarely addressed! :)

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Ann: I did read about Beethoven's Broadwood in my research. Your book about the earl who wanted to be a virtuoso sounds like a great read. Thanks for stopping by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Paisley: Love your name, BTW. I took lessons too, actually for years, so I can't imagine playing on a different keyboard. I have tried playing on a shortened keyboard, but it was frustrating. All in what you study, I guess.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Ilona: Thanks for dropping by, and for your comment. Yes, all the keyboards and stringed instruments have morphed through the ages. I always wanted a harpsichord, because I love their tinkly sound, but I never got one. Saw some awesome ones in a German museum though.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Vivian: I see you like Bach. I fell in love with his music when learning his Two-Part Inventions. He was a master, and I always thought he must have been a mathematical genius. Thanks for stopping by my blog.