Word for Wednesday: Piano

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For the month of May, we have chosen musical instruments as the theme for our Word for Wednesday posts. 

The word music entered English in the thirteenth century as ‘musike’ via the Old French ‘musique’ and the Latin ‘musica’ meaning ‘music or poetry’. ‘Musica’ is from the Greek ‘mousikÄ“’ which means ‘art of the muses’. 

The first instrument we’ve chosen to look at is piano.

A piano is the keyboard instrument which is played by depressing keys that cause hammers to strike tuned strings in order to make sounds.  In music, the word also means soft or quiet. 

The word was used in Italian and French before it entered English in 1803. It is an abbreviation of pianoforte – or 'piano e forte' in Italian – which means ‘soft and loud’. 'Piano e forte' itself is a shortened version of ‘gravicembalo con piano e forte’ which means ‘harpsichord with soft and loud’. 

While pianos and harpsichords look similar from the outside, their mechanics work differently and you cannot vary the strength of the sound when playing a harpsichord. Early pianos – known as fortepianos – were revolutionary because they could produce both loud and soft sounds. 

06 May 2020
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