I heard this concept from one my friends, who is a guitar player, that first the guitar and the drum were created, and then somebody decided to drum on guitar and so was the piano born.

I really thought about this since the piano is really a guitar where keys hammer the strings like a drum.

  • The two instruments probably have a common ancestor if you go far enough back in history and choose your evidence carefully enough, but saying a piano is a drum guitar is no more valid or helpful than saying a guitar is a drum piano. I'm really not sure what this question is seeking to achieve, hence the downvote. Sorry! Jun 19 '20 at 17:34
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    The concept is ludicrous, and needs a lot more convincing information from your friend. Drums have skins, which are missing from pianos. And how do pianos change the length of their strings, as guitars do? Maybe he meant banjos?
    – Tim
    Jun 19 '20 at 17:53
  • Is your last paragraph trying to explain why you found this intriguing, or is it trying to explain why you feel that it sounds plausible?
    – awe lotta
    Jun 20 '20 at 3:11
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    Playing different pitch notes on a guitar string necessitates changing their speaking length - by fretting in different places. Pianos and drums don't do that.
    – Tim
    Jun 20 '20 at 10:44
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    Each string in a piano is a certain length. Each string stays that certain length. On guitar, there are normally six strings, of certain length. If that length could not be changed by fretting, a guitar would only play six separate notes. As it is, a guitar can play 48.
    – Tim
    Jun 20 '20 at 11:12

Is a piano really a drum guitar?

'Drum guitar' sounds cute, but there are more precise words we can use.

The piano and the guitar are both chordophones, using strings to make their sound. The piano is a 'struck' or 'percussive' chordophone, while the guitar is generally a plucked chordophone (though some percussive techniques are possible).

The practice of classifying instruments is called 'organology'. One classification is the Hornbostel–Sachs system, which sees the Piano as a 'board zither'.

first a guitar was created and a drum, and then somebody decided to drum on guitar and so was the piano born

I'm not an expert on the history of the piano, but from a quick google around, that does not seem correct. When it comes to struck chordophones, the piano seems to have been predated by the hammered dulcimer:

and the piano itself seems to have originally evolved from the harpsichord, rather than the guitar. According to http://www.piano-keyboard-guide.com/history-of-the-piano.html, the early piano may have simply been seen as a type of harpsichord:

Many years after the first version of the piano was created it was still called a harpsichord. This has made it difficult to know this specific aspect of the history of the piano, whether the great composers of the age such as Scarlatti or Vivaldi knew of its existence. The word pianoforte, shortened later to piano, appeared only in 1732.


The other answers are great, but I would like to add some historical context.

The piano was developed from the family of harpsichord instruments (including several variants like virginals) in the 18th century. The predecessor of the harpsichord is believed to be the medieval psaltery and to some extent the organ. The psaltery is most likely of middle eastern origin.

The modern guitar evolved from the baroque guitar, which substituted the earlier vihuela, a common instrument in Renaissance Spanish music. The predecessor of both the baroque guitar and the vihuela is the lute and the arabic oud.

Although there might be a common predecessor to both psaltery and oud, it is located deeply in prehistoric times.


(PhD in music history, so I will just pontificate in as officious a manner as possible)

(also, former harpsichord student - I've always maintained that piano is a percussion instrument, so the notion of a 'drum guitar' is seriously LOL. But if you drum a guitar you get, I dunno, a flamenco guitar with touch plates?)

The piano was one of a huge number of 17th- and 18th-century experimental keyboard instruments. In pre-industrial times, it was easy to make keyboard instruments with all sort of weird designs. Most of these vanished; a couple had brilliant futures.

The best-known keyboard instruments were: the organ, which continued on through with various designs but no interruptions, the harpsichord (which plucked metal strings), which gradually dwindled out during the 18th century, and the fretted clavichord, which was by far the most common instrument, at least in Germany and Iberia. This worked by touching the strings with little brass blades. "Fretted" means that each set of strings could play more than one note, for example C and C-sharp would be played on the same set of strings by shortening the string, sort of like a guitar (they did this by angling the key-levers).

In addition to these 3 standard instruments, there were all sorts of experiments including the unfretted clavichord (each key played only one set of strings), the piano, the tangentenflügel (the strings were hit by jumpy little "jacks"), the lautenwerk (a harpsichord with gut strings, which must have been a monster to keep in tune), the geigenwerk (which produced a continuous sound by means of cranked rosin wheels; you can find modern replicas on youtube and they sound weirdly awful), the cembal d'amour (a kind of double-length clavichord), etc., etc.

The piano, in fact, was invented maybe independently several times, the first in Italy in the early 18th century, where it kind of died out, and then again in Germany a few decades later, with a different design. It took a little while to get enough kinks worked out before it started to catch on (JS Bach helped a bit here, actually, advising one of the makers about the tone).

So, the piano is just a survivor from the experimental period, and there's no historical connection with the guitar.

But I like the idea, anyway.


Yes it is "true". But I wouldn't call this ancestor a guitar but a Psaltery, kind of Dulcimer. In particular, the entry on Wikipedia about the Piano is correct.

Btw: In modern music (mostly, but not solely), the piano is sometimes regareded as a drum-instrument, see e.g. some compositions of Cage or Bartok.

  • So guitar came first, then dulcimer / piano camer after?
    – awe lotta
    Jun 20 '20 at 3:08
  • @awelotta I think first came the drum, then the voice, then the brass, then the string or guitar, then piano. Jun 20 '20 at 5:33
  • I've never seen a piano classified as a percussion instrument Jun 22 '20 at 20:56
  • @skinnypeacock Edit: You may want to listen to this pieces: - Bela Bartok - Out of Doors - With Drums and Pipes: youtube.com/watch?v=BUuIc_Tj1mA - John Cage Sonata no.5: youtube.com/watch?v=DiXS2WnlfSE
    – tommsch
    Jun 23 '20 at 7:45

My understanding has always been that the piano was derived from the idea the increased dynamics could be achieved in the harpsichord if the strings were hammered instead of plucked, but I can imagine that those dynamics may have been realized when someone hammered the strings on a guitar or dulcimer or a harp. I have not come across actual documentation to verify this idea and I don't know if it even exists. I can only say for sure I haven't heard this story before.

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