Late 18th and 19th Century Progress

Innovations in the Evolution of the Modern Grand Piano

In the late 18th century and into the early 19th century, as designers and craftspeople worked to develop a more powerful and controllable alternative to the harpsichord, several important events took place that would further the development and design of the modern grand piano. One thread of thought and experimentation had to do with possibilities relating to the production of rich tones with powerful volume and control of that volume. With the ever increasing complexity to contemporary composition, the harpsichord was no longer powerful enough to sustain its position. Composers and a growing crowd of listeners wanted more sound.

To pursue the possibility of a more robust sound, technicians innovated by adding weight to the strings, thickness to the soundboard and pinblock, extending the range with more strings and a bigger keyboard. Advances were made. String tension could be increased due to the added strength from improved components, thus, the pitch was raised. But, all this exhuberance proved too much tax and tension for frames currently being crafted for the harpsichord industry; something stronger would need to be made.

Soon, not only were cabinet makers using stronger, heavier, thicker wood, they were also laminating layers of choice wood for cabinets especially designed with the new musical/technical task in mind. A demand grew for cabinets able to handle thousands of pounds of pressure.

Resources: Sachs, Curt. The History of Musical Instruments. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1940.

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