Nursery Rhymes

Harpsichord

Medieval life and Times

Definition and 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 It is now superseded by the piano.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.

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