Difference Between Harpsichord and Piano

Harpsichord and Piano are musical instruments that come under the category of keyboard instruments. With the emergence of Piano, Harpsichord’s usage got declined gradually.


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Each country has its own name for Harpsichord played in their respective origins. There are almost the same but differ in their inner mechanisms and sounds.

Key Takeaways

  1. Harpsichords produce sound by plucking strings with a quill, whereas pianos use hammers to strike strings.
  2. Pianos allow dynamic control with touch-sensitive keys, while harpsichords lack this feature and produce a consistent volume.
  3. Harpsichords were popular in the Baroque era, while pianos emerged during the Classical period and remain widely used today.

Harpsichord vs Piano

The difference between Harpsichord and Piano is that they differ significantly in their sounds, mechanisms in which they work, their origin, size and volume, and the number of octaves used. The way both instruments produce sounds also differs in various aspects.

Harpsichord vs Piano

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Harpsichord is a musical instrument that operates by plucking the strings against the keys that we press. Harpsichord dates back to the 14th and 15th-century instrument, which was called in different names across the globe.

It was used and originated in Europe. Harpsichord has more than two sets of strings, which amplifies the sounds produced.

The piano is an acoustic instrument that dates back to the 16th century. The ancestral origin of piano states that it has come from the family of Monochord instruments.

A piano is a string instrument. The piano is also regarded as a percussion instrument due to its striking mechanism against the strings in the horizontal plane.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonHarpsichordPiano
DefinitionIt is a keyboard instrument that plucks the string against the keys that we press. It is an instrument that comes under the family of percussion instruments and a keyboard that strikes the strings against the keys that we press.
Origin periodIt has its origin around the 14th -15th century. It is a European instrument created in Italy. It has its origin period around the 16th century. It is an Italian instrument.
MechanismHarpsichord’s mechanism is plucking the strings behind the horizontal board to produce sounds.The piano mechanism lies in striking the strings behind the board to produce sounds.
FamilyHarpsichord comes from the family named Psalterium. Piano comes from the family Clavichord.
Type Harpsichord is a string instrument.A piano is a percussion instrument.

What is Harpsichord?

Harpsichord works by the operation of plucking mechanism. It has two slots which are in the shape of a wing that helps in plucking the strings against the keys.

This mechanism that helps in the plucking process is named jack. By adjusting the firmness of the keys the sounds can be amplified according to the Harpsichordist.

It becomes quite tricky when we are provided with two rows of jacks, in such a case we would be in need of two keyboards to amplify sounds.

Harpsichords differentiate the colors in the tones of music produced by it in various aspects. The kinds of songs and sounds produced depend on the distance between the strings and plucking mechanisms.

Special effects and sounds can also be produced by the harpsichord instrument, which makes it unique and featured from other instruments. There are various types of unisons and registers employed in the process of mechanisms in Harpsichord.

Harpsichord was invented to observe the harmonic cosmic variations in the body by medical astrologers. It was introduced as a general-purpose instrument that turned into a musical instrument in the due course of time. Harpsichord and piano have very similar kinds of origins.

harpsichord 1

What is Piano?

Piano comes from the Monochord family of instruments. It is a fortepiano which is in a horizontal structure. It is similar to Harpsichord but with few variations.

Dulcimer is regarded to be the same as a piano, in its mechanisms, as its sounds are produced by the vibration of its strings.

The piano is employed with a hammer to strike against the strings. Bartolomeo Cristofori created Piano in the 16th century. The piano produces both soft and loud songs that are found to be very soothing. It is a different kind of instrument that appears to be comfortable while playing it.

The piano has 88 keys and 7 full octaves which makes it distinguished from Harpsichord. Vibrations of the strings are transferred to the soundboard which is located horizontally to the keys present.

There are many other instruments but piano that has their own grace and is regarded to be the king of instruments. The piano is many other features has makes it unique and forms other kinds of variants.

The piano is available in various forms even in virtual forms but it lasts to be a soothing and calming instrument.


Main Differences Between Harpsichord and Piano

  • Harpsichord is a string keyboard instrument, whereas the Piano is a percussion keyboard instrument.
  • Harpsichord plucks the strings while the keys are pressed. Whereas, the Piano hammers or strikes the strings while the keys are pressed.
  • Harpsichord is found in the 14th – 15th century, where Piano dates back to the 16th century, which marks the decline in the usage of Harpsichord.
  • Harpsichord has less than five octaves and Piano has more than seven octaves and registers.
  • Harpsichord has a thinner or slimmer keyboard when compared to a Piano.
  • Sounds produced on a Piano can last for a longer time when compared to a Harpsichord.
  • There are no volume variations while playing the Harpsichord but you can amplify the sounds too soft or louder while playing the Piano.
Difference Between Harpsichord and Piano
  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0305735610376467
  2. https://search.proquest.com/openview/3bf2f6a3dbd0f1fdd41f9d4ddf97627a/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

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