Historical Perspective

A historical perspective is one approach for learning to play the piano.

Musical exposure to a timeline of composers shows their place in history and the music styles that were prevalent during these times.


Imagine getting to know these composers through their music and to appreciate music through these composers' efforts.

By studying the piano with me you will be able

to experience this awesome trip back in time.

Learning music from a historical perspective gives a background in learning to play music on the piano representing different eras.


 "...music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy."
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Composer, (quoted by Bettina von Arnin, letter to Goethe, 1810)


There are many ways to learn to play piano music. The ways in which we learn may differ according to our age and hearing different kinds of music in various segments of our lives. Different approaches include:

  • a theoretical approach where you can learn to play the piano by way of knowing the theory behind the pieces you are playing
  • pattern recognition in the music notation that is transferred to the patterns on the keyboard
  • our personal experiences in playing music from different periods of history from a historical perspective

Combining many approaches is best to get an overall

learning experience.


Click on each of the following perspectives in music history. Notice how the musical styles change as you go from one period of time to the next. See what it was like to learn a keyboard instrument during each of the following eras.

Baroque Era

Classic Era

Romantic Era

Impressionism

20th Century

THE INVENTION OF THE PIANO

Our timeline begins with the invention of the piano in Padua, Italy by Bartolomeo Christofori in the beginning of the 18th century.

Pretend you were there during the early 1700’s. Your parents gave you lessons to play the harpsichord and other keyboard instruments such as the clavichord which was very quiet sounding but that gave you more control over holding notes than the harpsichord. You could play louder on the harpsichord, but you had no control over expression by holding some notes longer than others. You pressed the harpsichord keys which were attached to bird quills. These quills p-l-u-c-k-e-d the strings to make a sound. Early piano music was patterned after harpsichord music. Fingers struck the keys quickly so the quills could pluck. A very rounded hand position was necessary in order to play a series of notes in rapid succession. Each note you pressed plucked the key the same way.

Mr. Christofori was a master of all keyboard instruments when he decided to build the fortepiano. Here was an instrument that could play forte, loud, and piano, soft. Along came other cabinetmakers who decided to copy Mr. Christofori’s ideas to build their own fortepianos.

Mr. Gottfried Silbermann, a Viennese instrument maker, added a foot pedal that could allow one or several notes to vibrate at the same time by using dampers - the parts inside of the piano that could control how long the strings vibrated after being struck by hammers. When the the notes were played and the pedal was depressed the dampers lifted.

Today that pedal is the one on the right that you use to extend the sounds of the notes you are playing. The damper pedal is thought of as the soul of the piano. The vibrating overtones from each note overlap to extend the sound and help us play more legato (connected).

On the clavichord, a small keyboard that sat on your table, you could cause an effect called bebung. This vibrato effect allowed for a repeated motion of the finger on a key that caused the tangent (brass wedges connected to the key fastened to the rear levers that struck the string to make the sounds) to momentarily increase tension of the string giving it a variation in pitch.

On modern day synthesizer keyboards there is a pitch wheel. By turning this wheel you can produce a similar type of pitch variation called pitch bend. Jazz bands of today use this technique.

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