Nursery Rhymes

Spinet

Medieval life and Times

Definition and Description of the Spinet
Definition and description of the Spinet: The Spinet can be described as a keyed instrument of music resembling a harpsichord, but smaller, with one string of brass or steel wire to each note, sounded by means of leather or quill plectrums or jacks.

History of the Spinet
The history of the Spinet: The Spinet spinet was used primarily in the 15th and 16th centuries, until the invention of the harpsichord, which gave the player more flexibility with added sets of strings.

An instrument of the harpsichord family which has significance in the development of the instruments of the Middle Ages is the spinet (from spina, “thorn”; it had leather points up to 1500), first made by Johannes Spinctus, Venice, 1500. It was a harpsichord with a square case, the strings running diagonally instead of lengthwise. When the spinet was of very small dimensions it was called a virginal; when it was in the shape of our modern grand piano, it was, of course, a harpsichord; and when the strings and sounding board were arranged perpendicularly, the instrument was called a clavicitherium. As early as 1500, then, four different instruments were in general use, the larger ones having a compass of about four octaves. The connecting link between the harpsichord, the clavichord, and the piano, was the dulcimer or hackbrett, which was a tavern instrument. 

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