The Modern Piano Emerges

The Overstrung Scale

By the end of the first quarter of the 19th century, the piano had emerged, but was still on the edge of change. The harpsichord had become itself again, but an althogether different instrument than the newly emerging modern piano. In fact, the innovations made in Europe and the U.S. during the end of the 18th, beginning of the 19th centuries more or less solidified the harpsichord's technology. From then on out, the majority of the craftsworkers focused their attention on the piano.

There was excitement. The emerging pianos were themselves still changing rapidly. Copyrights, patents and trademarks were becoming ever more important. The piano market was at a pitch. The introduction of the full one-piece, cast-iron plate created sudden, unmistakable change. Customers and artists were just getting used to the square grand design when pianos were introduced that no longer even resembled square grands. Technology had found a way to solve the problem of volume and control, and this solution dictated newer, styalized shapes.

It was the heavy metal backbone. That single invention would eventually relegate the square grand to little more than collectible memories. That coupled with an innovative change in the way a single framed piano's strings can be placed across the soundboard -- Steinway's own Overstrung Scale -- would bring the modern grand piano, especially the concert grand piano, into its own.

View a 34 page Steinway & Sons promotional catalog from 1881.

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

Next >> Next: 19th Century Progress: Steinway's Contribution to an Exciting Time