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Piano vs. Harpsichord: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 27, 2023
The piano, capable of varying dynamics, produces sound by hammers hitting strings, while the harpsichord, with constant volume, plucks strings.

Key Differences

The piano strikes strings with hammers, allowing dynamic control, whereas the harpsichord plucks strings with a plectrum, creating a consistent volume.
Pianos can play soft (piano) and loud (forte) notes, giving them dynamic range; harpsichords lack this ability, having a uniform sound level.
The piano, evolving from the harpsichord, gained popularity in the 18th century, while the harpsichord was prominent in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Pianos are central to classical and modern music, adaptable across genres; harpsichords are synonymous with Baroque music, offering a distinct timbre.
Pianos are larger, with a more complex action mechanism for dynamic expression; harpsichords are more streamlined, with a simpler mechanism for string plucking.

Comparison Chart

Sound Production

Hammers strike strings
Plectrums pluck strings

Volume Control

Capable of soft and loud dynamics
Consistent volume, no dynamics

Historical Peak

18th century onwards
16th and 17th centuries

Musical Flexibility

Versatile across genres
Primarily used in Baroque music

Mechanism Complexity

Complex with dampers and pedals
Simpler mechanism, no dampers or pedals

Piano and Harpsichord Definitions


An instrument capable of a wide range of dynamics and expressions.
His emotional performance on the piano left the audience in awe.


Often used in Baroque and Renaissance music.
He specialized in harpsichord compositions from the Renaissance era.


A central instrument in Western classical music.
The piano solo highlighted the orchestra's performance.


A keyboard instrument where strings are plucked.
The harpsichord's distinctive sound enlivened the Baroque piece.


A large musical instrument with a row of black and white keys.
The concert hall echoed with the sound of the grand piano.


An instrument with a constant volume, lacking dynamics.
Baroque composers wrote complex melodies for the harpsichord.


An acoustic instrument with 88 keys typically.
She practiced daily to master her piano scales.


A predecessor to the modern piano, popular in the 16th-17th centuries.
The museum displayed a beautifully ornamented harpsichord.


A keyboard instrument with hammers striking strings.
She composed a beautiful melody on the piano.


Characterized by its bright, crisp sound.
The harpsichord solo added an antique flavor to the music.


Can a piano play dynamics?

Yes, it can play both soft and loud notes.

How does a harpsichord produce sound?

By plectrums plucking strings when keys are pressed.

When was the piano invented?

Early 18th century.

What's the range of a typical harpsichord?

Usually around five octaves.

What is a piano?

A stringed keyboard instrument where hammers strike the strings.

How does a piano produce sound?

By hammers hitting strings when keys are pressed.

Can a harpsichord play dynamics?

No, it produces a constant sound level.

What genres use the harpsichord?

Mainly Baroque and Renaissance music.

Is the piano larger than the harpsichord?

Generally, yes.

Do pianos have pedals?

Yes, for sustaining and softening notes.

What is a harpsichord?

A keyboard instrument where strings are plucked, producing a consistent volume.

What's the range of a typical piano?

88 keys, spanning over seven octaves.

Is the harpsichord still used today?

Primarily in historical or period music contexts.

When was the harpsichord popular?

16th and 17th centuries.

Do harpsichords have pedals?

No, they lack pedals.

What genres use the piano?

Classical, jazz, pop, and more.

Can a piano mimic a harpsichord sound?

To some extent, with specific techniques or settings.

Is learning piano different from learning harpsichord?

Yes, due to their differing mechanisms and sound production.

Who are famous piano composers?

Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart.

Who are famous harpsichord composers?

Bach, Scarlatti, and Handel.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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