orig. Italy The invention of an early-18th-century Medici instrument caretaker, the piano, or pianoforte, is a hammered string instrument with roots in such earlier keyboard instruments as the clavichord and the harpsichord.
The piano's popularity quickly spread throughout Europe and the instrument became a linchpin of 18th-century Western composition, supplying the backbone to concertos and sonatas by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Today the piano is still used primarily in Western composition, as well as being a critical component of jazz music and other performance traditions.
Modern pianos come in two basic configurations, grand or upright, the former of which is more resonant and appropriate for orchestral music and concert settings. The meticulously crafted instrument is historically made of a wooden case, iron frame, steel strings, and ebony and ivory-covered wooden keys, though different and synthetic materials are now frequently used.