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Description of the Harpsichord
Definition and description of the
Harpsichord: The Harpsichord can be described as a harp-shaped
instrument of music set horizontally on legs, like the grand piano, with
strings of wire, played by the fingers, by means of keys provided with
quills, instead of hammers, for striking the strings. It is now
superseded by the piano.
Family of Instruments: The
Harpsichord belongs to the family of String instruments.
History of the Harpsichord
The history of the Harpsichord: The Harpsichord
evolved in the early 1400s in Flanders after a keyboard was added to the
psaltery. The harpsichord may be considered
as having sprung from the clavichord,
consisted of a separate string for each sound; the key, instead of
setting in action a device for striking and at the same time dividing
the strings, caused the strings to be plucked by quills. Thus, in these
instruments, not only was an entirely different quality of tone
produced, but the pitch of a string remained unaltered. These
instruments were called bundfrei, “unbound,” in opposition to the
clavicembalo, which was called gebunden, or “bound.” The harpsichord was
much more complicated than the clavichord, in that the latter ceased to
sound when the key which moved the bridge was released, whereas the
harpsichord required what is called a “damper” to stop the sound when
the key came up; once the string was touched by the quill, all command
of the tone by the key was lost. To regulate this, a device was added to
the instrument by means of which a damper fell on the string when the
key was released, thereby stopping the sound.
Medieval Music -
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