The Upright Piano – Isaac Hawkins


An upright piano has its strings running vertically rather than horizontally. Instruments were made from 1735 onwards, but these early upright pianos were really horizontal grands with frame, strings and soundboard assemblies rotated up to the vertical. They were able to employ strings of a similar length and therefore the tone was equal to that of the horizontal grand piano.


There were however several disadvantages to theses early “uprights”. They were large cumbersome pieces of furniture, too large for many homes. When they were used for concerts, the front of the instrument had to face outwards, the player had his back to the audience.


There are different types of upright grand piano. One of the earliest was the “Pyramid” piano, pioneered by Christian Ernst Friederici, building his first in 1745. The “giraffe” piano has its strings perpendicular to the keyboard. Its case slopes down elegantly form a rather tall left side to a shorter treble side.


In the year 1787 Landreth patented an action with escapement and check for an upright piano.  In 1795 William Stodart made his upright grand in the form of a bookcase. In this instrument the strings were struck form the rear and the hitch pins were at the top of the case. The wrest plank was at the bottom of the case.


Another type of upright piano was the “Lyre” piano, this was made almost exclusively by the Berlin piano makers, evolving from the “Pyramid” piano, during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The upright square piano was another type of design, this was developed by the Irish maker William Southwell in 1798.  Southwell used his “sticker” action in these instruments, which he had developed.


Isaac Hawkins, an Englishman living in Philadelphia USA, is generally credited with inventing the upright piano proper in 1800. In this piano the hammers struck form the front and the tail of the piano was near the floor.  Matthias Muller, of Vienna, had also been working on a type of upright piano, and may have designed an instrument independently of Hawkins at a similar date. 





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