The piano is an ancient, stringed, wooden musical instrument invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Italy in 1700, where he struck the strings by manually covered wooden hammers. The first pianos fitted with hammers were constructed out of wood, and they operated by a wooden piston, similar to that used today. It could only be played at slow speeds but was a popular piece of music for beginners. Its popularity increased when ragtime evolved, combining the gentle, familiar sound of the hammock with the mechanical facility of a regular hammock.
The first upright pianos were constructed out of oak or walnut and attached to a framework or wheel on casters. The type of framework and wheels varied considerably over time, with some creating slatted bottoms and some incorporating metal wheels. The keys on these models were usually fitted on the underside of a hanging sheet.
Over the years, the design of an upright piano has largely remained the same, although there have been some important variations. Some of the earliest models played the same way as a grand; the hammers struck the strings directly, and there was no separate string wired above or below the strings. As the popularity of the concert piano grew, however, the strings' height was increased, and strings were fitted with steel posts, bringing the keyboard closer in height to the hammers. This brought about a new grand piano style, also called a concert grand, which was taller and had a deeper cutaway key box.
In recent years several modifications have been made to upright pianos. The most significant change is the addition of a soft pedal, which allows pianists to produce a smoother range of tones from the lower tones to the higher notes without fully pressing down on the hammers. Soft pedals can also be manually adjusted, allowing a pianist to vary the amount of pressure that is exerted on the hammers. As a result, pianists with strong fingers can achieve a very smooth tone with little effort, while those with weaker fingers have greater difficulty.
Piano players will recognize Sostenuto and Chopin as two different styles of Italian music. Sostenuto, which means "soft" in Italian, is considered to be a more relaxing style of playing than the faster-paced Chopin. Both styles are considered to be in the Latin influences of the Viennese music of the late nineteenth century. Both are used together, and with Sostenuto being a much slower piece, many performers use either of the two for practice.
Modern digital pianos often come equipped with models that incorporate both types of sostenuto pedals. This can be done by purchasing a model that already has the soft pedal built-in or by purchasing additional pedals, such as a fifth pedal or a brushless pedal. The advantage of having the soft and the hard pedal units is that a pianist who learns one with the other is immediately familiar with the softer tone produced by these instruments. Digital pianos are also compatible with many popular keyboard and piano simulators, which allow for fine-tuning the instrument's sound through the combination of various sounds, keys, and piano pads.
Chopin was a famous Russian composer whose compositions greatly inspired the development of classical piano music. One of his most famous works, The Return (also known as The Marriage of Figaro), remains a favorite piece for pianists of all ages. A similar piece, The Little Drummer Boy, was written in eighteenth-century Germany by Carl Orff. Chopin's use of a sostenuto pedal, which consisted of two pedals, can be seen throughout both of these pieces. In the early works, the damper pedal is attached directly to the keyboard or the pedal assembly, whereas in later works, the damper is incorporated with the thumb, first finger, and, sometimes, the pinky and the first finger of the left hand.
After playing the piano for a short time, most people find that their familiarity with piano keys, pianos, and music decreases due to the common problems of decreased hearing. This problem can be resolved by playing the piano with at least one other person who has more experience with the piano. Another good way of increasing your familiarity with the piano keys and the piano soundboard is by practicing with a professional tutor. Piano tuition books will help you learn the proper techniques and the theory behind playing the piano. Practicing with a tutor will help you improve your technique and the quality of the sound of the piano.