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How Did the Piano Get Its Name?

Though the piano is one of the most popular instruments ever invented, few people actually know the name of the man who invented it. Everybody knows the name Henry Ford and even school kids know what Thomas Edison invented, but it’s puzzling why so few have ever heard of the man whose invention inspired such iconic composers as Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt (to name a few).  The man whose invention would change the world forever was an Italian harpsichord maker named Bartolomeo Cristofori.

early piano

The first pianos looked very different from modern pianos. They had no pedals, no cast iron plate and their keyboards were much shorter. These early pianos produced a narrow dynamic range and a much subdued “harpsichord-like” tone.

Bartolomeo was born in Padua, Italy in 1655. There is little record of him until, in 1688, when he began working for Prince Ferdinando de Medici, one of the most important and influential families in Tuscany. By then, Cristofori was already an experienced musical instrument maker and technician.  By the late 1680s, Cristofori’s job was to care for Ferdinando’s large (and ever-growing) collection of musical instruments.  Some historians point out that Ferdinando passed over a variety of other (very skilled) instrument makers and offered Cristofori a higher than usual salary because he wanted Cristofori to develop something special for his instrument collection. This may indicate that Cristofori was already an experienced inventor by the time the two men met.

History’s first reference of a piano is listed in the inventory of Ferdinando’s instruments collection from the year 1700. In Italian the entry reads as follows:

Un Arpicembalo di Bartolomeo Cristofori di nuova inventione, che fa’ il piano, e il forte, a due registri principali unisoni, con fondo di cipresso senza rosa…

Translated into English: An “Arpicembalo” by Bartolomeo Cristofori, of new invention that produces soft and loud, with two sets of strings at unison pitch, with soundboard of cypress without rose…”

Interestingly enough, the term “Arpicembalo” is an unusual term for the era that strictly translates to “harp-harpsichord” and may have indicated Cristofori’s chosen name for his invention.  …but, as with many things, the name changed over time due to subtle (and often lazy) changes in usage.  Initially, the phrase “che fa’ il piano, e il forte” (“produces soft and loud”) became the popular name for Cristofori’s instrument mostly likely due to the instrument’s unique ability to play both “piano” (soft) and “forte” (loud) – a feature that differentiated it from its harpsichord cousins.  For awhile, the instrument was called a “pianoforte” or “fortepiano” (terms that are still in use today to reference early ancestors of the modern piano) until, eventually, the word “forte” fell out of use and the instrument became widely known simply as “the piano.”

Thus, after over 300 years of development, the world’s most beloved instrument is called “the soft.”

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Your Child a Portable Keyboard

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Your Child a Portable Keyboard

I’ve seen it time and time again: cautious – yet well-meaning – parents purchasing portable keyboards as “starter” practice instruments for students whose musical interest may or may not be long-term. Meant to be temporary until they determine whether or not their student is going to “stick with” piano lessons, these portable keyboards prevent any real development and – inevitably – cause a majority of students to lose interest in playing altogether. …and I can understand why. Most kids aren’t aware enough to point out the practice instrument as the source of their troubles. …but they see that the songs they can play perfectly well at home fall apart completely on their teacher’s piano. They simply attribute their failure to a lack of aptitude on their part (a notion that, sadly, many of their parents will readily accept) and leave traditional piano lessons behind in favor of “YouTube shortcuts” or other “easy play” technology.

The worst part is all of this could have been avoided. Most parents are willing to support their child’s musical hobby as long as they have some indication that said hobby is more than a mere passing fancy. …and, since pianos (especially good ones) are expensive, most parents look for another solution.

That is where most parents go wrong.

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New App Makes Roland Pianos Even Better!

Piano Every Day app for Roland pianos

Are you an adult who plays piano a little bit and wants to get better, but doesn’t have time for formal lessons? Perhaps you have a child who plays but is getting bored with turning pages in a lesson book. Or maybe you both just want to learn to play your favorite songs as easily as possible. Well, Roland has come up with the solution…

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Why Do Pianos Have 88 Keys?

Bosendorfer Imperial Grand Piano

Some Bosendorfer pianos have 97 note keyboards.

One of the most common questions we get from our clients is how many keys a piano has.  …and, though most of today’s pianos have 88 keys (52 white keys and 36 black keys), it wasn’t always this way.  The first pianos had 49 keys or 4 “octaves” (An “octave” is a group of 8 notes between and including two notes of the same name such as “Middle C” and “The C above Middle C”, etc.). As the instrument’s popularity grew, however, composers quickly found themselves limited by the 49 key keyboard.  So, to increase the piano’s appeal for composers like Hayden and Mozart (who were writing primarily for the 60 note harpsichord), piano builders developed new 61 note or 5 “octave” pianos.  By the mid 1800s, composers like Chopin and Liszt were writing for pianos with 85 notes or 7 “octaves.”  Finally, in the late 1880s, Steinway & Sons created an 88 note or 7 1/3 octave piano and – due to Steinway’s popularity at the time – other manufacturers quickly followed suit.  Today, the 88 note piano is still considered standard, but not all piano builders follow this standard.  Bosendorfer, for example, offers two models with more than 88 keys.  The Model 225 Bosendorfer piano has 92 keys and the Model 290 “Imperial” grand piano has a full 8 octaves or 97 keys.  This choice was made to better support piano transcriptions of J.S. Bach’s famous organ works.  Other compositions by Busoni, Bartók, and Ravel, can only be performed on these larger instruments.

…but why did the piano industry decide on 88 notes as the standard?

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Let Your Talent Bloom!

Spring is here and cacti aren’t the only things blooming in the Valley of the Sun!  Students all over Phoenix are discovering the magic of making music with Yamaha pianos.  Why not join them?

THE most recognized piano brand in the World, Yamaha pianos are built with unparalleled craftsmanship and precision.  With models to suit every price range (from Clavinova up to the famous S-Series), Yamaha has the perfect instrument for your budget.  …and now – with Yamaha’s Spring Bloom Event – you can purchase a new, in-stock Yamaha piano and take advantage of INCREDIBLE financing offers like 0% APR for 18 months or 7.99% APR for 60 months with your approved credit!

There will never be a better time to select your new Yamaha piano.  Stop by your nearest Riverton Piano Company for details on this rare offer.

We look forward to helping you grow your love of music this Spring!

 

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. On purchases of new and in-stock qualifying Yamaha pianos from May 1, 2019, to May 31, 2019. Subject to credit approval. Minimum monthly payments required. 0% Annual Percentage Rate if paid in full within 12- or 18-month period. Interest accrues throughout the life of the loan at 12.99% APR.

Riverton Launches NEW Program for Piano Teachers

Research shows us time and again that piano lessons make kids healthier, happier and smarter. Yet, schools all across the United States continue to cut funding for vital music programs. It has never been more critical for local music stores and piano teachers to work together. …and that is why we are proud to announce our all-new “Piano Education Partnership” program (or “PEP”).

The Piano Education Partnership (“PEP”) is a true, three-way collaboration between piano teachers, their students and Riverton Piano Company – created to enhance the piano lessons experience, provide students with meaningful music memories, and to give families the information they need to make better piano investment decisions.

There is no cost to join and the benefits include:

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Rare Designer Piano Playing Experience – FREE!


When was the last time you were invited to drive a $200,000 luxury car? How long has it been since you last wore a $300,000 timepiece? Can you remember the last time you spent $500,000 traveling Europe? Let’s face it. Very few of us have the opportunity to experience luxury like that in our everyday lives. …but when we do, it’s an experience we carry with us forever. Now – for a few short weeks in March – we are inviting you to experience a collection of pianos worth over one million dollars as they pass through the Phoenix area. Included in this exclusive group of designer instruments are six very unique, Bosendorfer artisan grand pianos. These one-of-a-kind instruments are lovingly handcrafted by master Viennese craftsmen – a process that takes six years per piano. Each one is special. Now – for a very limited time – you’re invited to step behind the velvet rope to view and play one of these iconic masterpieces yourself… and better yet?  It won’t cost you a dime.

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Yamaha Lunar New Year Promotion

February 5 marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year (also known as “Chinese New Year”) and Yamaha is celebrating with a month-long rebate that will save you up to $1000 OFF your new Yamaha piano, Hybrid, Clavinova or Disklavier!  Just come in to your closest Riverton Piano Company store, select your first piano OR your dream piano and you’ll receive a rebate for up to $1000 from Yamaha!

 

 

Contact us for details on this exciting promotion.  …but don’t wait.  These Yamaha factory rebates end February 28.  Come in today and get this rare rebate ON TOP of the Riverton Piano Company guaranteed low price.  There will never be a better time to buy your new Yamaha piano, Hybrid, Clavinova or Disklavier!

Pianos vs. Digital Pianos – A False Choice

More than 80% of all pianos sold today plug in. Does that surprise you? It’s true, but it may not mean what you think. Most people think of pianos as either “traditional acoustic” instruments (which generate sound mechanically with hammers striking strings, etc.) or “digital” instruments (which generate sound electronically), but what most folks don’t know is that there are entire categories of pianos in-between. These somewhat mysterious and poorly-defined instruments are called “Hybrid Pianos” and – they might be exactly what you are looking for.

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Digital Piano Basics – What to Know BEFORE You Buy

Digital Piano Comparison

Digital pianos are outselling acoustic pianos by a staggering ratio of 6 to 1 today.  …and – on one hand – that’s not terribly surprising giving the lower costs and extra learning tools associated with digital instruments.  Unfortunately, a closer look at these numbers reveals that an overwhelming majority of digital pianos sold are woefully inadequate instruments.  In fact, they are playing a big role in student attrition all over America and could be responsible – if not put in check – for the loss of an entire generation of potential music makers.  I don’t say this lightly – neither do I post it here to scare you into purchasing an acoustic piano (Full disclosure – I own a digital piano myself.).  No.  I say this because I am passionate about making sure piano students have the best shot at success and because I want you to understand the critical differences between “good” digital pianos (expressive musical instruments that can motivate student success or inspire experienced players) and “bad” digital pianos (cheaply-made instruments that look like pianos, but do not provide the feedback and/or control necessary to delight players).  As a pianist of over 35 years, a music education columnist and nationally-known piano expert, it is my hope that this guide will help you avoid a mistake that could cost you – or your loved ones – the opportunity to turn their musical dreams into reality.

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