500 Years of Keyboard Instruments

This past fall, my husband and I had the privilege of traveling to Europe for the first time. Countries visited included Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (London), and France.

If you want to get a little peek into this adventure, listen in on episode #47 of The Piano Pantry Podcast!

The entire trip went quite smoothly. The only transportation hiccup we encountered was traveling via train from the Netherlands to London. One of our trains out of the Netherlands was delayed, causing a missed connection from Brussels to London. Luckily, they could get us on a train later that evening, but it meant we had an eight-hour overlay in Brussels, Belgium.

What at first seemed to be an inconvenience turned into a wonderful opportunity as we could spend an entire day exploring the city! A delay of two or three hours would have kept us waiting at the train station.

As we walked through the city, we passed a beautiful building, its splendor making me pause in awe to take it in.

A closer look revealed it was a musical instrument museum!

(As a side note, my husband and I noticed schoolchildren on field trips in multiple places, each wearing yellow vests. Brilliant!)

Aren’t the details on this building gorgeous?

Since this blog is about piano teaching, I selected around 25 favorites from the keyboard segment of the museum to share in this post – just a fraction of what the museum held! (Plus a couple of fun other instruments.)

They’re listed in date order through the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s. A few of the instruments in this post are featured here on the museum’s website. Those that are, I also directly linked below each image.

Enjoy this phenomenal collection!



Fretted Clavichord – Italy, c1587



Harpsichord – Italy, 1619


Harpsichord and Virginal – Belgium, 1619


Virginal – Belgium, 1620


Geigenwerk – Spain, 1625


Wing-Shaped Spinet – Italy, 1637


Harpsichord – Belgium, 1646



Pyramid Piano – Germany, 1745


Clavicytherium – Belgium, 1751


Square Piano – Germany, c1785


Glass Harmonica – Austria, c1786

(OK, not a keyboard instrument, but I had to include it! 🙂


Piano Table “Square Piano” – Germany, 1793



Componium – Netherlands, 1821


Cabinet Piano – Brussels, 1830


Giraffe Piano – Netherlands, 1835


Terpodion – United Kingdom, c1840 (see next photo for an up-close look)


Terpodion – United Kingdom, c1840


Claviharpe – Brussels, c1850


Double-Piano with Mirrored Keyboards – France, 1879 (see next photo for a different view)


Double Grand Piano with Mirrored Keyboards – France, 1879


Pedal-Keyboard – Belgium, c 1890 (see next two photo’s for an up-close look)


Pedal-Keyboard – Belgium, c1890 (see next photo for an up-close look)


Pedal-Keyboard – Belgium, c1890


Harpsichord – France, 1891



Isomorphic Keyboard – Germany, c1900


Player-Piano, Humanola – Belgium, c1915


Upright-Piano – France, 1930


Piano-Viole – Brussels, 1935 (see next photo for an up-close look)


Piano-Viole – Brussels, 1935


Melodica, Germany, c. 1965


Electric-Piano / Butterfly Baby Grand by Wurlitzer – United States, c. 1969

(P.S. Yes, that’s my lovely husband patiently waiting while I looked at every keyboard instrument!)


Hohner Electra Piano – Germany, 1970



  • Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful pictures. It is an incredible look into the past and even including a harmonica! My teacher played this heavenly instrument.

  • Incredible pictures, Amy! So interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    If you ever have the chance, check out The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. It’s a collection of over 15,000 musical instruments from nearly 200 countries and territories representing every inhabited continent. We thought we’d be there an hour or two but we ended up spending much of a day there.

  • This was fascinating! I plan to share this with my students! I have a few who will be very interested. (I’ll admit that being a singer 1st and pianist 2nd, that some of the instruments were new to me, so I Googled the explanation so I can tell my students about the instruments while they look at the photos.)

  • The Pedal-Keyboard – Belgium, c 1890 is really just an interesting Grand Piano w/ Extra Stops. OF course the Claviharp in English is called “Keyboard Harp” because it’s a Harp played w/ a Keyboard. Claviharp is essentially a 6 Octave Clavicytherium (Upright Harpsichord) Strung w/ Special Strings to emulate a nice lovely Harp sound.

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