Prior to the invention of the piano, one of the first keyboard instruments was the clavichord. It became popular during the Renaissance period. Pressing a key would send a brass rod, called a tangent, to strike the string and cause vibrations that emit sound over a range of four to five octaves.
The harpsichord was created in Italy in around 1500. When a key is pressed, a plectrum attached to a long strip of wood called a jack plucks the string to make music.
This system of strings and soundboard, and the overall structure of the instrument resemble those that can be found in a piano.
The piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) of Italy.
Cristofori was unsatisfied by the lack of control that musicians had over the volume level of the harpsichord. He is credited for switching out the plucking mechanism with a hammer to create the modern piano in around the year 1700.
The instrument was first named “clavicembalo col piano e forte” (literally, a harpsichord that can play soft and loud noises). This was shortened to the now common name, “piano.”
The mechanism invented by Cristofori
This mechanism (above) was the beginning of the modern-day mechanism for the piano.
The Cristofori fortepiano