The clavichord is a keyboard instrument developed in fourteenth-century Europe and which gained popular usage mostly in German-speaking lands, a popularity that would endure well into the nineteenth century.
Owing to its rectangular shape and small sound board, it makes a quieter sound than the harpsichord or piano. As one of these clavichords demonstrates, it is common for the sound boards to be ornately decorated.
The clavichord is the earliest known example of a key-hammered string instrument, the same mechanism that produces sound in modern pianos. The first clavichords had fretted strings, allowing one key to produce multiple pitches. The clavichords on display here are unfretted, meaning each key produces a single pitch. The unfretted clavichord only came into being in the seventeenth century, as it lent itself more easily to the ornamented playing style typical of the Baroque period.
The Music Department at King's boasts a world-renowned, varied and pioneering team of researchers and composers exploring musical traditions from myriad places and periods. The instruments on display here illustrate this variety.
To find out more about the Cabinet and other objects on display, click here.