Clavichord - Introduction

Foto aus der CD-ROM "Mechanik der Poesie I" 
Foto aus der CD-ROM "Mechanik der Poesie I"

The clavichord was popular for centuries but hardly ever heard if not played by oneself. One of the most cherished qualities of the clavichord was its reduced volume - it was considered the ideal  instrument for practicing.

The basic construction of the clavichord was derived from the monochord, the traditional tool of theoreticians, in several steps. A resonance board was applied with a greater number of strings instead of only one. The traditional movable fret for dividing the string was mechanised by constructing a keyboard with a key for each diviing point and a metal tangent at the end of the key, a simple strip, to strike the string from below to vibrate and shorten the string at the same time. The segment of the string not to vibrate (usually at the left from the contact point) was muted by a strip of cloth woven around the strings. 

Since the tangent was firmly fixed in the rear end of the key the player could feel an immediate contact to the string. This allowed a sensitive touch like no other keyboard instrument, providing a direct link from the fingertip to the vibrating string. It even permitted - eg by a slight rocking movement of the finger - to influence the strings' vibration after the touch. called "Bebung" (ie undulation).

Another advantage of the clavichord was that it did not require a separate string for every note, It was possible to strike a string at several points by a number of keys if these were not required to vibrate simultaneously (like neighbouring black and white keys). This construction was called "fretted clavichord" in parallel to a common string instrument with fretted neck where a single string could be shortened accordingly to provide for several notes.

From the early 18th century on another type of clavichord gained popularity, the "unfretted" clavichord which specific strings for every key th cope with growong music demands for chromaticism. This, however, increased the number of strings an demanded more effort in tuning the instrument, it needed the size to be enlarged and enforced and reduced the overall volume.


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