Everything about the Harpsichord


What is it?

The Harpsichord is an Italian instrument designed in the 16th century as an improvement of a mostly unknown piano called eschequir.

Here’s how it looks and sounds

Not to be confused with

You may hear about it with other names like slantside or the Z-box. Pronounced /ˈhɑː(r)psɪˌkɔː(r)d/, from the latin meaning “stringed instrument played with the fingers” and called  clavecín in spanish,  clavecín in french and cravo in portuguese. A person that plays it it’s called a Harpsichordist.

Category

The Keyboard family which means that it has a row of keys, buttons or levers that make the sound when you press them and from the subcategory chordophones meaning it makes sound with string vibration.

Materials

Different types of wood with the strings and wires made of high-carbon steel and with a small plectrum made from quill or plastic.

Variants

The types are determined by the strings :

  • Clavicytherium: the strings are vertical to save space like an upright piano.
  • Folding: It could be folded to be easily transported.
  • Ottavino: Smaller tuned at four-foot pitch.
  • Pedal: Included a pedal and an additional set of strings.
  • Spinet: the strings are at 30 degrees.
  • Virginals: Smaller with only one string per note.

Prices

For the regular harpsichord around $ 6,000 USD – $ 65,000 USD, the cheapest we found was a TPW “Junior” Single Harpsichord and the most expensive was a Fortepiano (the successor of a harpsichord). In the middle we have something like a Bizzi French Double keyboard harpsichord for $ 31,000 USD.

Weights and sizes

The size goes around 78 x 30 x 9 In (197 x 80 x 22 cm) – 87 x 43 x 13 In (221 x 108 x 32 cm) and has a weight from 88 Lbs (40 kg) to  214 Lbs (97 Kgs).

Accessories

Here’s a list of a lot of them, but for this one you won’t find many, since the piano has been the standard for a long period of time, you can get a set of keys, strings and a music sheet holder for piano and use them to maintain your instrument.

Start playing

We recommend learning to read sheet music to get the basics. We review resources to help you choose how you want to learn. Now that you know how to read them, you need to get some. 
Sheets come in different notations so we recommend checking various versions of the same sheets, searching for “scores” to get all instruments and even the “song name for piano / keyboard to save on translations.

Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups, positions and techniques.

Remember,the harpsichord is not difficult to learn, the notes are in order and the theory of piano applies almost completely, the difficulty will be on execution, it’s also similar to the electric organ, pipe organ and pump organ, so you can combine those resources to help you learn.

Luis Gerardo

Musician as a hobby for +6 years, documenting every instrument in simple words for this website.

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