Have you ever wondered what is going on inside a piano when someone is playing it? The mechanism used to convert a strike of the key into an actual note that you can hear is actually quite complex. It was invented in Italy at around 1700 by the Italian musician Bartolomeo Cristofori.
The fore-runner to the piano was the harpsichord – an instrument with strings and a keyboard, just like the piano. On a harpsichord, the strings are plucked by a quill which passes across them when the player presses a key. Every note is the same volume. Cristofori was frustrated by the lack of variation in the volume level so he created a mechanism which would hammer the strings, instead of plucking them. The harder the pianist presses the key, the harder the hammer hits the string and the louder the note.
Critofori named his new instrument the “clavicembalo col piano e forte” (literally, a harpsichord that can play soft and loud noises). These days we shorten that to piano.
This video demonstrates how the internal action of the piano moves when the piano is played – I hope you enjoy it!