The 85-key Steinway

July 2, 2012 Chuck Johnson

The piano has seen many variations since its inception in the 1700’s.  From four octaves to six, from the square to the upright; the piano has evolved over time to become the instrument we know today.  Since the early 1900’s, 88 keys have been the standard for pianos around the world.  Yet a glance back in history shows this wasn’t always the case.
85 Key Steinway
Though the piano was invented in the 18th century, it didn’t receive widespread popularity until the 19th century when composers began to take advantage of the piano's wide range of abilities.  During this time, the number of keys on the piano was changing.  The octave range increased from five octaves in the 18th century to seven and one-third in the 19th century.  For a period of time during this ongoing evolution, 85 keys reigned supreme as the standard.  Today, a piece of that history sits in our hall at M. Steinert and Sons.

85 Key SteinwayBuilt in 1891, this Victorian Oak Steinway Model B features just 85 keys, quarter-sawn ribbon cut oak veneer, a hand carved filigree music desk, and ornate hand carved Victorian style legs.  It was fully rebuilt in 1985, bringing it back to life by receiving a new soundboard, new action and a new pin block.  With three less keys from the top and exquisite woodwork, this piano represents the pianos of old and the grandeur of Victorian architecture.

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