The term “technology” probably brings to mind for most of us the idea of more modern engineering, inventions or materials but technology in one form or another has really been part of man’s pursuit since the dawn of history. Although the term itself has only more recently become significant, we have always been designing and building and perfecting the things we build and the tools we use to build them.
This is no less true than in the world of musical instruments including the piano. There was a time of course when there were no pianos. Earlier instruments such as the clavichord and harpsichord were the mainstays of their day but innovative builders continued to seek better ways of designing and constructing instruments. The piano eventually emerged from these efforts.
On the surface the basic design of the piano, even including the materials used, has seemingly changed little in over a century. But that is not to say developments have not continued. In fact they have and while they may not be obvious to the casual observer, new contributions to the instrument and to the industry are significant.
Much improvement has been made in what we may call behind the scenes areas. Design work can now be done on computers. Innovations in modern manufacturing processes have been integrated into the piano business just as in other industries. Even materials such as better finishes, glues and action components contribute to a higher quality instrument.
In fact the skill set used in the field of piano service is known as piano technology. There are quite a few schools of piano technology as well as other study courses available on the subject. Most people think of a piano tuner as someone who sits at the instrument for an hour or two banging the keys and turning a wrench. But that skill (a critical one to be sure) is but a small glimpse of the world of technical needs and challenges piano technicians face every day.