New Video Series — The Evolution of the Piano

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Canada’s National Music Centre (NMC) has launched a new series of short videos as part of the NMC Learning at Home program. So far 16 episodes have been released, four of which are dedicated to the evolution of the piano.

Each episode is hosted by Evan the Educator (Evan Rothery). Evan brings a somewhat jokey style to each video and this gives the series an element of fun, which helps keep things “light”.

The episodes last between 8 and 10 minutes, and all are available on YouTube (click the images below).

Episode Summaries…

Part 1 looks at the hammered dulcimer. This instrument generally considered to be the first major step in the evolution of the piano.

screenshot from Part 1 of The Evolution of the Piano video featuring Evan the Educator holding a hammered dulcimer
Part 1 : The Evolution of the Piano — the Hammered Dulcimer

Part 2 introduces the clavichord—in essence, a dulcimer with a keyboard. The episode also looks at the modern electric incarnation of the clavichord—the clavinet.

A screenshot from Part 2 of The Evolution of the Piano video. This shows Evan the Educator playing a clavichord.
Part 2: The Evolution of the Piano — the Clavichord

Part 3 moves on to the harpsichord, the direct predecessor of the piano. Evan describes the harpsichord, with its lack of expressive capabilities, as a kind of “musical typewriter”.

A screenshot from Part 3 of The Evolution of the Piano video.  This shows Evan the Educator gesticulating towards a harpsichord
Part 3: The Evolution of the Piano — the Harpsichord

Part 4 deals with the actual birth of the piano. Evan uses a modern-day replica of Bartolomeo Cristofori’s 1726 instrument to show how the piano has evolved from the harpsichord. The episode concludes with a look at a more modern Broadwood grand.

A screenshot from Part 4 of The Evolution of the Piano video. Evan plays the replica 1726 Cristofori piano
Part 4: The Evolution of the Piano — Cristofori’s Piano

The four episodes highlight the relevance of the earlier instruments in the development of the piano. The lively presentation may not appeal to some. But most piano enthusiasts will find the videos enjoyable, and should discover something new and of interest here.

The NMC Collection

The National Music Centre is a registered charity. It describes itself as “a catalyst for discovery, innovation and renewal through music, preserving and celebrating Canada’s music story”. It is located within the Studio Bell building in Calgary’s East Village. NMC incorporates a superb music museum, and its programming includes on-site and outreach education programs, performances, artist mentoring and exhibitions.

The NMC Learning at Home series mirrors the organization’s on-site education programs. The Covid-19 virus forced the temporary closure of Studio Bell in March. However, this accelerated the release of the videos.

The font elevation of the Studio Bell building.
Studio Bell building, Calgary, Canada. Photo: Jeremy Bittermann

Studio Bell houses the NMC Collection, a vast selection of important musical instruments. It includes over 2000 objects which span 450 years. The core exhibits originally come from the Cantos Music Foundation.

There are a large number of interesting keyboard instruments in the collection. These include numerous pianos, many can be viewed online. Some are also on display at the Studio Bell facility.

The National Music Centre relies on donations to continue its programming. So if you feel like supporting them please visit the Donate to NMC page of their website.


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