Square Piano

Possibly German

Not on view

Practically the smallest, simplest piano imaginable, this instrument was carried wherever its quiet music was wanted. The rectangular case and layout of the keys, strings, and soundboard derive from the clavichord. Unlike a clavichord’s fixed tangents which contact the strings while they sound, the piano's hinged hammers bounce away, letting the strings vibrate freely. The hammer's lever adds velocity to the blow, allowing a louder sound than the clavichord tangent's gentle tap. The specific type of action found in this instrument is a primitive version of the German prellmechanik and each hammer strikes a single string. This tiny piano lacks dampers, so every tone overlaps the next as in a harp or hammer dulcimer. The instrument case is made of cherry wood. The piano has 54 keys (C-f3), with walnut or stained boxwood naturals and lighter wood accidentals.

Square Piano, Cherry wood, various materials, Possibly German

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.