Some of the keys on this clavichord play the same string, yet produce different notes. That’s because the blades, or tangents, strike the same string but at different points along its length. Even when two or three keys play on the same string, each shortens the part of the string that vibrates by a different amount, changing the pitch of the note.This anonymous triple-fretted clavichord is one of the best known of the early clavichords. It is thought to date from about 1620. Although the instrument itself is unassuming in looks, it is generally accepted to be one of the finest-sounding instruments of its type. It was one of the first antique fretted clavichords of which modern ‘copies’ were made, examples of which date from the 1970s.
This instrument may be the only surviving example of the type of clavichord illustrated by Michael Praetorius in Part 2 of Syntagma Musicum, published in 1619, as a `gemein [ordinary] clavichord'. It has a protruding keyboard, s-shaped bridge, and all the strings are hitched to the left end of the case. The instrument was most likely covered in decorative paper when it was made, a technique typical of Flemish-made instruments. Sadly the paper was deliberately removed at an early period of the instrument’s history, and there is no way of determining what (if any) design was on the instrument. It now has a plain painted exterior.
(Rodger Mirrey Collection).