What piano did Beethoven use?

What piano did Beethoven play on

The piano that Beethoven used was called a fortepiano. It was made of wood and had no legs. It rested on a frame, so you could move it around and not get much sound out of it. A fortepiano, also known as a pianoforte, is a mid-18th to early 19th-century instrument on which classical era composers like Beethoven wrote their piano music.

Beethoven’s time marked a new era in piano history, and the fortepiano has leather-covered hammers. It features harpsichord-like strings and a lighter case construction than the modern piano. It does not have a metal frame or bracing. The hammers give a lighter touch since they are also light. His last piano compositions are for an instrument of six and a half octaves.

He came from a musically-inclined family, as he started playing piano at 5, using the piano as his instrument for composing and performing events. His first piano teacher was his father, Johann. He was a professional musician. He learned the hard way from a harsh teacher, who punished Beethoven after every missed key. In a way, Johann forced Ludwig to love and play piano. Beethoven had his musical talent already.

portrait painting of Beethoven
By Joseph Willibrord Mähler – Unknown source, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1040058

Even if he became eight percent deaf, he still composed and conducted an orchestra. During his time, he used many different pianos, including Broadwood, Stein, Walter, Erard, Fritz, Streicher, and Graf. His favorite piano was the Broadwood, which had six octaves, two pedals, and sturdy construction. The fortepiano marked the beginning of his career. 

These pianos are of different materials, and they also sound different. Keys were lighter to operate, key beds were shallow, and the sound dynamics were softer. Due to these differences, you might have to listen to piano compositions made in this period on contemporary instruments. That is how you get to acknowledge the sound of composers like Beethoven.

How many keys did Beethoven’s piano have

The piano has 88 keys (Classicfm.com). There were no foot pedals, but he could use knee-actuated levers as an alternative. That gave me a different experience when playing the instrument. By the time Beethoven wrote his later works, the number of keys on the piano had expanded to an octave. He added twelve notes to the upper keys.

. Since the instrument’s four-octave range was limited, piano manufacturers like Beethoven designed new pianos with more keys so that they could write more challenging material for a fuller keyboard. Unfortunately, to some players, the keys are thinner and closer together. That made it more challenging to play.d.

Beethoven erard piano

In 1803, a new piano came into Beethoven’s life. That is the Erard Frères piano. It was a harpsichord-shaped piano. The sound of the French piano was great, but its touch was heavier than any of the pianos Beethoven used. 

That pushed him to invest in a local piano technician, who made several technical adjustments. Along the way, the properties of the instrument were compromised, and after six years of ownership, Beethoven declared his French piano useless.

The keyboard spanned five-and-a-half octaves. It comprised three-way stringing, a split bridge for the bass, and four pedals. It produced a richer sound than the Viennese instruments.

Where is Beethoven’s piano

This fortepiano was purchased. It went for the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies from Pamela Emerson of Woburn, Massachusetts, a select group of donors to the American Beethoven Society. The instrument was sold first on January 9, 1824, and later sold by Zug in Switzerland and Sotheby’s, London, in June 1978. Ms. Emerson later acquired the instrument in 1997 from Edwin Beunk.

What did Beethoven use to feel the vibrations of the piano?

He would also use a wooden stick between his teeth to feel the vibrations from the piano. Beethoven’s personal life was a struggle against deafness, and most of his works were composed during the last ten years of his life when he was unable to hear. Due to perseverance,  he had to overcome the difficulties brought to him by deafness and continued with music creation. That did not stop or discourage him, but it empowered the pianist. 

His ears could not hear, so he took advantage of the wooden stick to help him feel the music. The process is called bone conduction. Bone conduction is a sound conducted as vibration along the bones to the inner ear, housing the organs of hearing and balance. The sound vibration activates both the sense of hearing and the balance organ, carried through the entire skeletal structure (Intergratedlistening.com).

Beethoven had to attach a rod to his piano and clench it in his teeth. Beethoven received the sound when vibrations transferred from the piano to his jaw. That became another invention besides his music. He could see an audience standing up, hands clapping and some waving their hats to him. At some point, the applause that sounded like thunder from the audience could not be heard by the player.

That pushed him to work on his wireless headphones that utilize bone conduction. The headphones transmit sound by sending vibrations along his cheekbone to the cochlea, which is processed by the auditory nerve. Sound waves could bypass the eardrum. That way, he could still listen to the music, allowing one to hear ambient sounds around, with no loss of sound quality and no blocking of your ear canals.

When using the bone conduction method, you can hear the same way you can listen to your voice when you plug your ears. With bone-conduction headphones, you can remain in touch with your environment and hear your colleagues, even while listening to your tunes. 

It keeps you connected to your external surroundings while experiencing your private sound. The open-ear design of bone conduction headphones means you can hear everything the next person has to say, listening to your tune.

Not only was Beethoven affected by deafness, but he had stomach ailments. Another challenge he faced was that the pianos available were inadequate to capture his skill and passion. 

Rob is a musician and audiophile at heart. He plays 5 instruments. Besides music, Rob enjoys a good whiskey and the outdoors.
Robert S. Thompson
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