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Fortepiano

This is the instrument that bridged the gap between the harpsichord and the modern piano. It is generally accepted that Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the fortepiano at the beginning of the 18th century. The instrument used leather-covered hammers and had thin harpsichord-like strings, along with a much lighter cabinet than any modern piano. At the time of its invention, the fortepiano had only a 4-octave keyboard, but over time, it increased to five and six octaves (a modern piano has a range of 7-1/2 octaves). Unlike its predecessor, the harpsichord, which had a consistent volume no matter how hard the keys were struck, the fortepiano responded to the player’s touch. So, when a key was played lightly, the note produced was low in volume. A key struck harder would produce a louder note. This expressiveness was a prime factor in the development of the fortepiano, and by the start of the 19th century, it had evolved into the instrument we recognize today as the grand piano.

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