The May 4 Google Doodle is seen featuring its inventor Bartolomeo Christofori.
Leon Hong—Google
By Kevin McSpadden
May 4, 2015

Considered the “king” of musical instruments, the piano has proved a key vehicle for the genius of Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven and many other composing greats, which is why today Google is celebrating the 360th birthday of the instrument’s inventor, Bartolomeo Cristofori, with a new Doodle.

Already an accomplished musical instrument maker, Cristofori moved from the northern Italian city of Padua, then part of the Venetian republic, to Florence in 1690 at the behest of the famed Medici family. There he would eventually invent his masterpiece.

The piano was not a voilà ’invention — Cristofori’s first incarnation was built in 1709 but it took 17 more years before he created a version that encompassed all the elements of the modern-day piano.

The piano was originally called the gravicembalo col piano e forte (harpsichord that plays soft and loud) in reference to the instrument’s ability to produce varying volumes based on how hard or soft the key is struck. But Cristofori’s greatest instrument was largely ignored in Italy and did not become well-known until after his death in 1731, when the Germans popularized it through articles in music dictionaries.

Monday’s Google Doodle features a figure of Cristofori playing a melody from Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and features a sliding scale that allows visitors to adjust the volume of the piano’s volume — much like the characteristic that gives the instrument its namesake.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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