Why Was The First-Ever Piano Easier To Move?

Why Was The First-Ever Piano Easier To Move?

With most technological inventions, the general process of evolution is that they become lighter and easier to transport, but with pianos, the opposite was the case to the point that piano movers became a necessity for any musician who wanted to own one.

By design, pianos and similar large keyboard instruments are huge, heavy and exceptionally delicate. They require a significant degree of lifting force but also a gentle enough touch to not damage the hundreds of tiny, complex components within them, as well as climate-controlled trucks to maintain the rare woods used to make them.

Outside of rare exceptions such as the late Keith Emerson famously stabbing his Hammond Organ to hold down chords, pianos are delicately cared for by owners, with an expectation of the same by anyone who handles them.

However, whilst pianos have always needed caring for, the first-ever pianos to be invented and made were actually significantly easier to move than later models, and there was an awkward point where pianos were not only heavy, but the capacity to move them safely was far harder to find.

The Keys Of Mozart

The word “piano” is a truncation of the pianoforte, the very first modern keyboard instrument (although pipe organs existed for millennia before this) invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori

The name itself was short for “gravicembalo col piano e forte”, which was Italian for a harpsichord that could play both soft and loud tones depending on how hard the keys were hit, which shortened to “soft-loud” and later just “soft”.

The only instrument that came close, the clavichord, was much quieter even at its loudest and would ultimately be forgotten until the rise of concert amplification in the 20th century.

The pianoforte resembled the shape of a grand piano but was much smaller and much lighter. It did not have any bracing or metal framing, as well as lighter hammers and action.

This made the pianoforte highly prized for its expressive tone, something still desired by classical musicians interested in era-appropriate instrumentation, but it came at the cost of being very expensive and very fragile.

Whilst Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart famously composed his sonatas and concertos on a pianoforte, pianists who wanted to perform them in concert and composers for orchestras wanted a louder, more powerful sound that would carry throughout a hall, as well as an instrument that matched their musical ambitions.

The earliest pianofortes had a range of four octaves, roughly half of a modern grand piano. Mr Mozart would primarily write for a five-octave piano whilst by the end of Ludwig van Beethoven’s life, over six octaves was the norm.

The Industrial Revolution allowed for larger pianos to be made, with the production of piano wire and hulking frames for grand pianos that would allow for increased string tension without completely destroying the instrument.

The problem with the use of the iron “plate” from the 1820s onwards was that it vastly increased the weight of the instrument, meaning that a piano mover needed considerable help to lift and manoeuvre a piano from one location to another, typically through the use of horse-drawn carriages.

This only started to change in the 20th century with the rise of larger trucks, as well as the invention and growing popularity of the upright piano.