Difference Between Piano and Harpsichord (With Table)

The piano and harpsichord are two different string instruments. Mainly they are contributed to orchestra and opera. The piano played a vital role in music society, while the harpsichord played an essential role in court life in the past. The musicians consider both the piano and harpsichord have contributed for the music.

Piano vs Harpsichord

The difference between piano and harpsichord is that their keys. When the keys are pressed, the piano activates the little hammer to hit the string. Unlike the piano, the harpsichord will pluck the string when keys are pressed. The piano remits the sound depends on the amount of power we spend to press the keys. Unlike the piano, pressing the keys in the harpsichord won’t make music changes. The piano has pedals in the bottom to give echo sounds that are unavailable in harpsichord.

The word pianoforte is the earliest Italian term for piano. The Bartolomeo Cristofori is the one who invented the first piano. He named the piano ‘clavicembalo col piano e forte’ when he introduced the piano in 1688. Piano proposes to provide both soft and louder music in a single instrument. The oldest piano manufacturer since 1819 is Sauter. The entire piano is producing by combining more than twelve thousand parts. Grand pianos, upright pianos, and digital pianos are the three types of piano.

The harpsichord is a prime instrument that comes under the keyboard instrument family. The music is created by plucking the strings while pressing the keys. From 15 to 18th-century, the harpsichord has a mass market in Europe. The harpsichord has 60 keys in number. The first harpsichord dated 1500 present in Italy. Two types of harpsichord are present in today’s date. The harpsichord has five full octaves, two sets of strings, and some with two keyboards.

Comparison Table Between Piano and Harpsichord

Parameters of comparisonPianoHarpsichord
MechanismThe piano activates a small hammer to produce sound when the keys are pressed.The harpsichord plucks the strings when the keys are pressed.
SoundThe piano produces both soft and loud music.The harpsichord produces a dynamic range of music.
PedalsThe piano has pedals.The harpsichord has no pedals.
Number of keysThe piano has 88 cores.The harpsichord has 60 keys.
StylesThe piano has a straightforward and practical look.The harpsichord has decorative with a chic look.
StringsThe piano has thicker strings.The harpsichord has thinner and weaker strings.

What is Piano?

The piano is the musical instrument that comes under the keyboard family. The earliest piano is lightweight and with thin strings. From 1790 to 1870, fundamental innovations in the evolution of the modern piano happened. The principal change is increasing the weight in enormous amounts. Itlay is the place where the piano originated. In the 18th century, the piano reached its popularity, and it was produced widely.

The piano is a stringed instrument that produces the sound when strings get struck by hammers. The country producing the piano has its unique structural design. The piano made in England had louder volume and heavier devices, while the piano from Austria had softer music and lighter mechanisms. The piano has 88 keys out of that, 52 are white keys, and 36 are black keys. The older version of pianos has only 85 keys.

The piano manufacturer Schoenhut is a specialist in producing toy keys with 49 keys. This tiny piano got popular among young piano artists, and they bought it at an affordable price. These small pianos also attract people who do not have enough space for larger pianos. Emanuel Moor Pianoforte is famous for its double keyboard structure. The upper keyboard has 76 keys, and the lower keyboard has regular 88 keys.

What is Harpsichord?

The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument that produces the sound by plucking the strings when keys are pressed. From the 16th century, the harpsichord comes into usage. The harpsichord is mainly used for solo performance and is widely used for the orchestra. The psaltery is the predecessor of the harpsichord. The harpsichord got its evolution changes in the year 1400.

The first harpsichord appeared in the 4th century. This instrument is 8 feet in length and 4 feet in width. The harpsichord has a guitar-like tone with 59 notes in common. It has a weak plucking action that results in a hard keyboard instead of touch-sensitive. It needs to press at least two to three strings for a single note rather than just one. The strings are heavier and produce guitar timbre. Depend on the region, the harpsichord design and manuals get changed.

The Metropolitan’s Cristofori is the oldest piano in the world, and it is placed in Italy. The bottom of the harpsichord is made of wood. Harpsichordist is the name for people who plays the harpsichord. Johann Sebastian Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, George Frederic Handel, François Couperin are some popular harpsichordist. The player can not control the loudness of the sound in the harpsichord.

Main Differences Between Piano and Harpsichord

  1. The piano activates a small hammer to produce sound when the keys are pressed, and the harpsichord plucks the strings when the keys are pressed.
  2. The piano offers both soft and loud music, and the harpsichord produces a dynamic range of music.
  3. The piano has 88 cores, and the harpsichord has 60 keys.
  4. The piano has pedals, and the harpsichord has no pedals.
  5. The piano has thicker cords, and the harpsichord has thinner and weaker strings.


Millions of musical instruments are using today. The piano and harpsichord have been celebrated since the 18th century. The piano produces delicate sounds, and the harpsichord produces guitar-like tunes. Unlike the piano, the harpsichord does not have pedals to control the volume of the sound. Both are used for solo performance and orchestra. The piano exactly looks like a harpsichord with very few differences. Both come from the keyboard family with strings to generate the sound. The mechanism behind producing the sound is different between the two. They are their unique identities and fans for the music they create.


  1. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/dav/aaua/1976/00000035/00000004/art00004
  2. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/dav/aaua/1976/00000036/00000004/art00003
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