Antique Toy Pianos
The antique toy piano was created by Albert Schoenhut who's name is still synonymous with antique toy pianos and more modern toy pianos. The antique toy pianos were smaller versions of adult sized pianos and were developed in Philadelphia in the 1870's.
Although antique toy pianos were tiny versions of the adult piano, they were usually made of wood or plastic. They also had a different way of producing sound that created a “tinkle” sound. Instead of using hammers to hit strings, the antique toy pianos used hammers to hit metal rods that were fixed on one end.
Antique toy pianos used approximately the same scale as full sized pianos, though not exactly in tune. However, these toy pianos did not have the full range that normal pianos had. That is they did not have as many octaves.
Some antique toy pianos did not even have black keys. This meant that they could not play the full scale as they were not able to produce notes that were either sharp or flat. Still they were able to play the diatonic scale, just not the chromatic scale.
Although the antique toy piano was built as a toy for children, it has served other purposes. In addition to exposing children to music and giving them a practice instrument, the antique toy piano has also found a place in classical music.
A number of great composers and musicians have developed musical pieces for the toy piano. In fact, Margaret Leng Tan played a number of pieces on the toy piano in her album titled “the art of the toy piano.” However, Bernd Wiesermann preceded Tan in pioneering the use of the toy piano in classical music. This German composer used the toy piano in many of his concerts in the 1970's and 1980's.