Posts Tagged ‘harpsichord’

The Piano Was Not The Original Keyboard (Part 3)

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

The Virginal

 

The Virginal

The Virginal

 

The precursor to the harpsichord came in the 1400’s known as the Virginal or Virginals.  The logic behind the first virginals came in 1460 when a writer described it in a letter from Paulus Paulirinus of Praguein relation to the clavichord.  History books can differ in their opinions or ideas of its origin.

Quite a bit of music was written on a virginal because of its size and ease of transport.  This is a larger model of a virginal.  Some were quite decorative like this one while others were quite simple in their design and much smaller.

The tone quality or the virginal as compared to the clavichord was/is quite different.  While the clavichord struck the strings the virginal was closer in tone to the harpsichord.  Later as people began to want more sound we started making the harpsichord with longer strings and a larger soundboard with more depth of sound.

The virginal was identical to the harpsichord in the way it was made with the plucking of the strings rather than the clavichord mechanism which struck the strings like the piano.

A Smaller Virginal

A Smaller Virginal

The virginal was very popular during the early Baroque period although like the clavichord and by a large part the harpsichord the tone was to light to be heard with the other instruments and even more difficult in larger public performances.

If you do a quick search on the virginal you will quickly see many different variations of this cool instrument.  It is difficult to imagine that once this was cutting edge technology and this was a privilege to own.  The tone quality of this instrument was among the best available in a keyboard instrument at this point in the 1400’s.

 

Art in a VirginalArt in a Virginal

However, music for the virginal and the clavichord would be written for many years to come BECAUSE of the tone.  You may also note that many, MANY works of art show a young lady sitting in front of an instrument that most people assume is a harpsichord or clavichord but, as it turns out is actually a virginal.

Ric Overton

http://PianoSD.com

The Piano Was Not The Original Keyboard (Part 2)

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Although keyboard instruments as we commonly know them today has gone through many changes the idea on the whole was originally created in 1361.  In 1361 there were essentially no flats or sharps as we know them today.  Over the period of the next 300 – 400 years (yes, that is an accurate number) we had gone through a number of changes that brought us to the “newest” scale and was finally publicly and famously endorsed by Bach.

Bach The Well Tempered Clavier

Bach The Well Tempered Clavier

In 1722 J.S. Bach penned The Well Tempered Clavier which was arguably one of the most famous works of all time. He repeated this work in 1742 and underscored the original endorsement of the idea of equal temperament in keyboards.

More information on The Well Tempered Clavier can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Well-Tempered_Clavier in the Wikipedia website.

While we have little information of the first pianos to be created the Medici Family indicates that pianos in their pseudo present day form was in existence as early as 1700 and potentially as far back as 1698, however, the only pianos that we have in existence today date back to 1720.

The point is that the whole idea of the modern day piano would date back to the early 1700’s.  In the beginning the present day piano is closest related to the Clavichord.

The Clavichord

The Clavichord

The Clavichord

Most people agree that the clavichord was invented sometime in the early 1400’s.  Then as early as 1502 and later in 1504 there is some mention of the Clavichord being used in public performances in both England and Germany. In 1460 however, in a descriptive letter of the virginal which was also believed to have been invented in the early 1400’s and there is some reference to the clavichord as well as virginal.

The clavichord has various “editions” which differ in sense of temperament and design.  Some clavichords are “fretted” instruments while others were “unfretted” which would help determine the technique used while playing as well as the music that could be used as well.

The Virginal

The differences in the virginal and clavichord will be discussed in later posts as well as the harpsichord and piano.  So you can see some quick pictures of the virginal and clavichord, I posted a couple here.

The Virginal

The Virginal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The differences are not really noticeable at first glance but there are some significant differences between these two instruments.  We will get much more acquainted with these early instruments and how they are finding their way back into music  today.

 

Ric Overton

http://PianoSD.com

In the beginning

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The idea of having strings attached to another piece of wood that made sound had been around for years but the idea of having a keyboard was not truly developed until around the 1400’s.  For the next 300 years (give or take a year or two), the harpsichord was the instrument that set the “bench mark” for keyboard instruments.

Sure, there were many other instruments that came and went, a small portable harpsichord, and variations on the harpsichord did come on the scene from time to time and their popularity came and went, but the harpsichord was the instrument that was to be the traditional instrument for many composers and artists to use not only for “pop” music but also for worship in local churches and houses of worship.

The idea of the harpsichord was that the hammers moved forward to the strings, the strings were then plucked as the hammer returned to its resting point.  This was the standard sound that was heard but there were a few problems with this that necessitated a different technique in producing sound.  One of the biggest problems was that the sound could not be made softer or louder.   This made it  very difficult to write music that allowed feeling.

Sometime in the early 1700’s, many people believe it was between 1707 to 1712 that a man by the name of Bartolommeo Cristofori came up with the idea that the hammer could move  from its resting place, come forward and strike the string, and return to its  resting place in one very fluid movement.

this action by renner actions

There were many more differences but, this was somewhat similar to the action that Christofori made in the early 1700’s.  He referred to his new invention as “gravicembalo col piano e forte” which meant ” harpsichord with loud and soft”

This was the beginning of the piano as we know it today.  Lots has changed since that day and many things have stayed the same.

I will continue this series to help inform you of the origins of my passion.

Ric Overton

Ric@PianoSD.com

posted by Ric Overton of www.PianoSD.com via www.MaxMorganDesign.com

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