In the early days of piano history, fierce competition fuelled efforts to develop a strong, reliable piano action along with economic methods of manufacture. The basic design of the piano action today is not significantly different from what it was 100 years ago. It is as if generations of piano makers have, to the present day, been entrusted with a perfect template.
The drawings of some of the early actions by the likes of Schroter (1717), Christofori (1707), and Stein (1780) are only primitive sketches and hints of potential, compared to what the piano action has become. No doubt, these brave pioneers spent many tense hours thinking up new ideas and alternative ways to transfer the simple movement of the piano key through to the hammer and thus, to the string.
By 1850, Sebastian Erard had developed the piano action to the point of being recognised as more or less, the design used today. Further 'variations on the same theme' were tried, some proved useful, but many came to nothing. Herburger, Schwander, Langer, and Renner were among the best of the many action 'houses'. Actions made by these makers are found in many of the better quality pianos around today.
The recent rise of piano-making in China and the far east, has meant that the Piano Trade is now a worldwide enterprise. It is sad where local piano-building traditions have all but died out, that piano production has shifted so entirely from the West to the East. This is the stark reality of our contemporary world. Materials are sourced from anywhere on the globe to make the piano a truly multi-national product. Too much to expect perhaps, that world peace and 'harmony' might turn out to be a happy by-product from the manufacture of pianos!
The Piano World
The Piano World
© Steve Burden