The piano was invented in 1709 (probably slightly before) by Bartolomeo Cristofori, an Italian harpsichord maker. Many before had tried unsuccessfully to invent a "keyed dulicmer". The stir created by Pantaleon Hebenstreit and his large two-sided dulcimer caused instrument builders to try to adapt the harpsichord model to the task. But it was not until Cristofori invented the escapement (which allows the hammer to fall back slightly from the string after striking) that the "keyed dulcimer"became practical. Essentially he removed the "jack row" from a harpsichord, replacing it with felt dampers, then provided "little hammers" (martellati) covered with leather for the striking mechanisms.

Germany's Andreas Stein and Johann Silberman made further improvements, including larger frames,and more refined actions. Then in England the Broadwood Company introduced the foot pedal (the pedal was previously controlled by the knee), and partial metal frame (1821). Alpheas Babcock in Boston, USA invented the first cast iron frame in 1825, and the currently used method of "cross-stringing". These improvements along with a few other minor inventions were put into the Steinway of the 1850's. From that time no major changes were made until the 1980's when the MIDI and sound module additions attempted to combine the instrument with the electronic keyboard.