Harpsichord in the Flemish style
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. A musical instrument is a device constructed or modified for the purpose of making Music. The piano is a Musical instrument played by means of a keyboard that produces sound by striking steel strings with Felt covered hammers The clavichord is a European stringed Keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical A spinet is a smaller type of Harpsichord or other keyboard instrument such as a Piano or organ. The virginals (the plural form does not necessarily denote more than one instrument or virginal is a Keyboard instrument of the Harpsichord family The organ (from Greek όργανον – organon "organ instrument tool" is a Keyboard instrument of one or more divisions each The pipe organ is a Musical instrument that produces sound when pressurized air (wind is driven through a series of pipes, controlled by a keyboard Musicians who play the Harpsichord are known as Harpsichordists This list includes post nineteenth-century harpsichordists A musical instrument is a device constructed or modified for the purpose of making Music. A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a Musical instrument, particularly the piano It produces sound by plucking a string when each key is pressed. A key is a specific part of a Musical instrument. The purpose and function of the part in question depends on the instrument
As well as the large instrument currently called a harpsichord, the harpsichord family also includes the smaller virginals, the muselar or muselaar virginals and the spinet (but not the clavichord which is a hammered instrument). The virginals (the plural form does not necessarily denote more than one instrument or virginal is a Keyboard instrument of the Harpsichord family The virginals (the plural form does not necessarily denote more than one instrument or virginal is a Keyboard instrument of the Harpsichord family A spinet is a smaller type of Harpsichord or other keyboard instrument such as a Piano or organ. The clavichord is a European stringed Keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical
The harpsichord was widely used in baroque music. Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of European classical music which were in widespread use between approximately 1600 and 1750. It became less popular following the invention of the piano, but is still used in contemporary music due to its distinctive sound. The piano is a Musical instrument played by means of a keyboard that produces sound by striking steel strings with Felt covered hammers
Although harpsichords vary in size and shape, they all have the same basic functional arrangement. The player presses a key, causing the far end of the key to rise. This lifts a jack, a long strip of wood, to which is attached a small plectrum (a bit of quill or plastic), which on being lifted plucks the string. Often called a pick or plec, a plectrum is a small flat tool used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument. When the key is released by the player, the far end returns to its rest position and the jack is lowered. The plectrum, being mounted on a tongue that can swivel backwards away from the string, passes the string without plucking it again. As the key settles into its rest position, the string vibrations are halted by the damper, a bit of felt attached to the top of the jack.
These basic principles are explained in more detail below.
Simply plucking the strings would produce a very feeble sound. The full sonority of the harpsichord arises because the strings pass over a bridge (fig. 1, 9), which provides a sharp edge supporting one end of their vibrating length. The bridge is firmly attached to a soundboard (fig. 1, 14), a thin panel of wood usually made of spruce or (in Italian harpsichords) cedar. Spruce refers to Trees of the genus Picea, a genus of about 35 species of Coniferous Evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae Cedar ( Cedrus) is a genus of Coniferous Trees in the Plant family Pinaceae. The soundboard and case-construction efficiently transduces the vibrations of the strings to the air, making them fully audible. Also, the vibrations of one string will invite its adjacent twin string to resonate in sympathy as long as the key is pressed. Some harpsichords have a 'damper off' position so that one choir of strings is undamped and may resonate freely in response to the tones played on the other choir(s).
The strings must be held at the proper tension to sound the correct note. At one end, generally closest to the keyboard, they are passed around tuning pins (fig. 1, 4), which may be rotated with an appropriate wrench (tuning hammer) to adjust each string to its proper pitch. The tuning pins are drilled in the pinblock or wrestplank (fig. 1, 23), an oblong hard-wood plank. The other ends of the strings are fitted with twisted loopholes that pass over the hitchpins (fig. 1, 10) which are driven into the liner.
It is not unusual for a harpsichord to have exactly one string per note. However, there are several reasons why it is considered desirable to have more.
Thus, in describing a harpsichord, it is customary to specify its choirs of strings, often called its disposition. The disposition of a Harpsichord is the set of choirs of strings it contains Strings at eight foot pitch sound at the normal expected pitch, strings at four foot pitch sound an octave higher, and similarly for the rare 16-foot pitch (one octave lower) and two-foot pitch (two octaves higher). Eight-foot pitch is a term common to the organ and the Harpsichord.
When there are multiple choirs of strings, it is desirable for the player to be able to control which ones are played at any given time. This is generally done by having multiple sets of jacks (one per string), "turning off" a choir of strings by moving the upper register (through which the jacks slide) sideways a bit, so that their plectra no longer touch the strings.
In simpler instruments, this function was performed directly by hand, but as the harpsichord evolved various inventions arose making it easier to change the registration, for example with levers next to the keyboard, knee levers, or pedals.
Particular flexibility in selecting the strings to be played could be obtained in instruments that had more than one manual (keyboard), since each manual could control the plucking of a particular set of strings. In addition, makers often produced arrangements whereby the notes of one manual could optionally be sounded with the other manual. The most flexible system was the French shove coupler, in which the lower manual could slide forward and backward, and in the backward position "dogs" attached to the upper surface of the lower manual would engage the lower surface of the upper manual's keys, causing them to play. Depending on choice of keyboard and coupler position, the player could select the set of jacks labeled in the diagram as A, or B and C, or all three.
The English dogleg jack system was less flexible, in that the manuals were immobile. The dogleg shape of the set of jacks labeled A in fig. 5 permitted A to be played by either keyboard, but the lower manual necessarily played all three sets, and could not play just B and C as in the French shove coupler.
Curiously, the use of multiple manuals in a harpsichord was not originally for the purpose of flexibility in choosing which strings would sound, but rather for transposition; for discussion see History below. In Music transposition refers to the process of moving a collection of notes ( pitches) up or down in pitch by a constant interval.
The case holds in position all of the important structural members: pinblock, soundboard, hitchpins, keyboard, and the jack action. It usually includes a solid bottom, and also internal bracing to maintain its form without warping under the tension of the strings. Cases varied greatly in weight and sturdiness: Italian harpsichords often used very light construction, while heavier construction is found in the later Flemish instruments and those derived from them (see History, below).
The case also gives the harpsichord its external appearance and protects the instrument. A harpsichord of the 18th century is, in a sense, a kind of furniture, as it stands alone on legs and is usually styled in a manner similar to the furniture of its place and time. But this conception emerged only gradually. Early Italian instruments were so light in construction that they were treated rather like violins: kept for storage in protective outer cases and played by extracting them from their cases and placing them on a table.  (Such tables were often quite high, since until the late 18th century people usually played standing up. ) Eventually, harpsichords came to be built with just a single case, though a curious intermediate stage also existed: the "false inner-outer", which for purely aesthetic reasons was built to look as if the outer case contained an inner one, in the old style. .
Even after harpsichords had become self-encased objects, they often were supported by separate stands, and only gradually came to have their own legs.
In the fully evolved instrument, there is lid that can be raised, a cover for the keyboard, and a stand for holding music in place.
Harpsichords were decorated in a great many ways: plain buff paint (e. g. some Flemish instruments), paper printed with patterns, leather or velvet coverings, chinoiserie, and occasionally highly elaborate painted artwork. Chinoiserie, a French term signifying "Chinese-esque" refers to a recurring theme in European artistic styles since the seventeenth century which reflecting 
While the terms used to denote various members of the family have been quite standardized today, in the harpsichord's heyday, this was not the case.
In modern usage, a harpsichord can either mean all the members of the family, or more specifically, the grand-piano-shaped member, with a vaguely triangular case accommodating long bass strings at the left and short treble strings at the right; characteristically, the profile is more elongated than that of a modern piano, with a sharper curve to the bentside. The piano is a Musical instrument played by means of a keyboard that produces sound by striking steel strings with Felt covered hammers Bass (ˈbɛɪs as in base) when used as an adjective is used to describe tones of low Frequency or range.
The virginals is a smaller and simpler rectangular form of the harpsichord with only one string per note running parallel to the keyboard on the long side of the case. The virginals (the plural form does not necessarily denote more than one instrument or virginal is a Keyboard instrument of the Harpsichord family
A harpsichord with the strings set at an angle to the keyboard (usually of about 30 degrees) is called a spinet. A spinet is a smaller type of Harpsichord or other keyboard instrument such as a Piano or organ. In such an instrument, the strings are too close to fit the jacks between them in the normal way; instead, the strings are arranged in pairs, the jacks are placed in the large gaps between pairs, and they face in opposite directions, plucking the strings adjacent to the gap.
A clavicytherium is a harpsichord of which the soundboard and strings are mounted vertically and thus face the player. Since the strings run vertical, the jacks must move in the horizontal plane, which is why the action of clavecytheria is more involved than in harpsichords since the direction of the key-movement (up and down) must be made to go forward and back. The same space-saving principle was later embodied in the upright piano. 
Curiously, some of the earliest harpsichords for which we have evidence are clavicytheria. One surviving example from the late 15th century is kept at the Royal College of Music in London. The Royal College of Music is a well known conservatoire located in the South Kensington district of London, England, and one London ( ˈlʌndən is the capital and largest urban area in the United Kingdom.  The clavicytherium may have been one of the candidates for harpsichord actions during the early days of the instrument, when alternatives vied (see below, History), but ultimately was almost entirely defeated by the standard horizontal harpsichord, which has the advantage of being able to rely on the direct force of gravity to return the jacks to their rest position.
However, clavicytheria continued to be made from time to time throughout the historical period. In the 18th century particularly fine clavicytheria were made by Albertus Delin, a Flemish builder. .
Several harpsichords with heavily modified keyboards, such as the archicembalo, were built in the 16th century to accommodate variant tuning systems demanded by compositional practice and theoretical experimentation. Archicembalo was a musical instrument constructed by Nicola Vicentino in 1555 In Music, there are two common meanings for tuning: Tuning practice, the act of tuning an instrument or voice
Generally, earlier harpsichords have smaller ranges and later ones larger, though there are frequent exceptions. In Music, the range of a Musical instrument is the distance from the lowest to the highest pitch it can play In general, the largest harpsichords have a range of just over five octaves and the smallest have under four. In Music, an octave ( is the the use of which is "common in most musical systems Usually, the shortest keyboards were given extended range in the bass using the method of the "short octave". The short octave was a method of assigning notes to keys in early keyboard instruments ( Harpsichord, Clavichord, organ) for the purpose of giving the instrument Tuning Pitch in nowadays' practice is taken often at a=415 Hz, a semitone below modern standard concert pitch of a=440 Hz. An accepted exception is for French baroque repertoire which is often performed from a=392 Hz, yet again one semitone lower. No doubt this is overly simplified, but common practice. Historically, tuning would commence on C or F.
The harpsichord was most probably invented in the late Middle Ages. The harpsichord was an important keyboard instrument in Europe from the 15th through the 18th centuries and as revived in the 20th is widely played today By the 1500's, harpsichord makers in Italy were making lightweight instruments with low string tension. A different approach was taken in Flanders starting in the late 1500s, notably by the Ruckers family. The Ruckers family (variants Ruckaert Ruckaerts Rucqueer Rueckers Ruekaerts Ruijkers Rukkers Rycardt) were Flemish Harpsichord and virginal Their harpsichords used a heavier construction and produced a more powerful and distinctive tone. They included the first harpsichords with two keyboards, used for transposition.
The Flemish instruments served as the model for 18th century harpsichord construction in other nations. In France, the double keyboards were adapted to control different choirs of strings, making a musically more flexible instrument. Instruments from the peak of the French tradition, by makers such as the Blanchet family and Pascal Taskin, are among the most widely admired of all harpsichords, and are frequently used as models for the construction of modern instruments. Blanchet is a French surname and may refer to Blanchet (harpsichord makers, a family of harpsichord and piano makers Abbé Pascal Joseph Taskin (1723-1793 was a French Harpsichord and Piano maker In England, the Kirkman and Shudi firms produced sophisticated harpsichords of great power and sonority. The Kirkman family (variants Kirckman Kirchmann) were English Harpsichord and later Piano makers of Alsatian origin Burkat Shudi (variants Burkhart Burkhardt Schudi Tschudi Tshudi) (March 13 1702 – 19 August 1773 was an English Harpsichord maker of Swiss German builders extended the sound repertoire of the instrument by adding sixteen foot and two foot choirs; these instruments have recently served as models for modern builders. Eight-foot pitch is a term common to the organ and the Harpsichord. Eight-foot pitch is a term common to the organ and the Harpsichord.
Except for being used for continuo-playing in opera performances, in the late 18th century the harpsichord was supplanted by the piano and disappeared from view for most of the 19th century. The piano is a Musical instrument played by means of a keyboard that produces sound by striking steel strings with Felt covered hammers 20th century efforts to revive the harpsichord initially involved much importation of piano technology, in the form of heavy strings and metal frames. Starting in mid century, ideas about harpsichordmaking underwent a major change, when builders such as Frank Hubbard, William Dowd, and Martin Skowroneck sought to re-establish the building traditions of the Baroque period. Frank Twombly Hubbard ( 15 May 1920 - 25 February 1976) was an American Harpsichord maker a pioneer in the revival of William Richmond Dowd (born 28 February 1922) is an American harpsichord maker Harpsichords of this type of historically informed building practice dominate the current scene.
The first music written specifically for solo harpsichord came to be published around the early 16th century. Composers who wrote solo harpsichord music were numerous during the whole Baroque era in Italy, Germany and, above all, France. Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of European classical music which were in widespread use between approximately 1600 and 1750. Favorite genres for sole harpsichord composition included the dance suite, the fantasia, and the fugue. In Music, a suite is an ordered set of Instrumental or Orchestral pieces normally performed in a Concert The fantasia (also fantasy fancy Fantasie fantaisie is a musical composition with its roots in the art of Improvisation. In Music, a fugue (ˈfjuːg is a type of contrapuntal composition or technique of composition for a fixed number of parts, normally referred Besides solo works, the harpsichord was widely used for accompaniment in the basso continuo style (a function it maintained in opera even into the 19th century). Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer Musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords and Nonchord tones in relation Opera is an art form in which Singers and Musicians perform a Dramatic work (called an opera which combines a text (called a Libretto Well into the 18th century, the harpsichord was considered to have some advantages over the piano.
Through the 19th century, the harpsichord was virtually supplanted by the piano. In the 20th century, however, composers returned to the instrument, as they sought out variation in the sounds available to them. Under the influence of Arnold Dolmetsch, Violet Gordon-Woodhouse (1872-1951) and in France, Wanda Landowska (1879-1959), were at the forefront of the instrument's renaissance. (Eugène Arnold Dolmetsch ( 24 February 1858 - 28 February 1940) was a French -born Musician and instrument maker who spent Violet Gordon-Woodhouse (nee Gwynne ( 23 April 1872-1951 was an acclaimed British harpsichordist and clavichordist, highly influential in bringing both Wanda Landowska ( Warsaw, July 5, 1879 &ndash Lakeville, Connecticut, August 16, 1959) was a Polish
Concertos for the instrument were written by Francis Poulenc (the Concert champêtre, 1927-28), Manuel de Falla, Bertold Hummel, Henryk Górecki, Philip Glass and Roberto Carnevale. A harpsichord concerto is a piece of music for an Orchestra with the Harpsichord in a solo role (though for another sense see below See also, Rhône-Poulenc Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc (fʀɑ̃sis ʒɑ̃ maʀsɛl pulɛ̃k January 7, 1899 – January 30, Manuel de Falla y Matheu ( November 23, 1876 &ndash November 14, 1946) was a Spanish Composer of classical music Bertold Hummel ( November 27, 1925 in Hüfingen – August 9, 2002 in Würzburg) was a German composer of modern classical music WikipediaWikiProject Composers#Lead section --> Philip Glass (born January 31 Bohuslav Martinů wrote both a concerto and a sonata for the instrument, and Elliott Carter's Double Concerto is scored for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras. Bohuslav Martinů ( (December 8 1890 – August 28 1959 was a prolific Bohemian Czech Composer, who wrote six symphonies, 15 Operas The term Concerto (plural concertos or concerti) usually refers to a three part musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an Orchestra Usage of sonata The Baroque applied the term sonata to a variety of works though most works in the Baroque Period were fugues and toccatas Elliott Cook Carter Jr (born in New York City on December 11, 1908) is an American Composer from New York City. An orchestra is an instrumental ensemble, usually fairly large with string brass woodwind sections and possibly a percussion section as well
In chamber music, György Ligeti wrote a small number of solo works for the instrument (including "Continuum"), while Henri Dutilleux's "Les Citations" (1991) is scored for harpsichord, oboe, double bass and percussions. Henri Dutilleux (born January 22, 1916 in Angers France) is one of the most important French composers of the second half of the 20th century producing Both Dmitri Shostakovich (Hamlet, 1964) and Alfred Schnittke (Symphony No. Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich ( Russian: ru Дмитрий Дмитриевич Шостакович ( &ndash 9 August 1975 was a Russian Composer Alfred Garyevich Schnittke (Альфре́д Га́рриевич Шни́тке November 24, 1934 Engels - August 3, 1998 Hamburg 8, 1998) wrote works that use the harpsichord as part of the orchestral texture.
Harpsichordist Hendrik Bouman has composed pieces in the 17th and 18th century style, including works for solo harpsichord, harpsichord concerti, and other works that call for harpsichord continuo. Hendrik "Henk" Bouman (born 1951 is a Dutch Harpsichordist, conductor and Composer of music written in the baroque and
In modern times, the harpsichord has been used in popular music. Popular music is Music belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are accessible to the general public and are disseminated by one or more Examples include Tori Amos' "Caught a Lite Sneeze" (as well as many other song from her 1996 album Boys for Pele), Joanna Newsom's "Peach Plum Pear", Emilie Autumn's album Opheliac uses the harpsichord in most of the songs, the Rolling Stones' "Yesterday's Papers" and R.E.M.'s "Half a World Away". Tori Amos (born Myra Ellen Amos on August 22, 1963) is a Pianist and Singer-songwriter of dual British and American " Caught a Lite Sneeze " is a song by Tori Amos, released as the first single from her 1996 album Boys For Pele. Boys for Pele is the third studio album by American Singer and Song-writer Tori Amos. Emilie Autumn (born September 22, 1979) is an American Singer-songwriter, Poet, and Violinist currently living in Opheliac is the third full-length Album by Emilie Autumn, released in September 2006 by Trisol Music Group GmbH Yesterday's Papers is a song by The Rolling Stones from their 1967 album Between the Buttons. REM is an American rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by Michael Stipe ( lead vocals) Peter Buck ( Guitar 
The type of instrument now usually called harpsichord in English is generally called a clavicembalo (sometimes in the corrupt form gravicembalo, both masculine) or simply cembalo in Italian, and this last word is generally used in German as well (Cembalo, neuter). The Dutch word is klavecimbel (neuter). The typical French word is clavecin (masculine), though in French historical sources the word épinette (feminine, cognate with English spinet) is sometimes used, in a global sense, meaning any instrument with a harpsichord-like action. A spinet is a smaller type of Harpsichord or other keyboard instrument such as a Piano or organ. The standard Spanish word is clavecín (masculine), with clavicémbalo as an alternative (along with the rarer forms clavicímbalo and clavicímbano; all masculine). The Portuguese words are espineta (feminine) and cravo (masculine, cognate with the element clav- in the Italian words for the instrument).