Harpsichord

Keyboard Instrument

The "harpsichord" is a keyboard instrument known for its plucked-string mechanism that generates sound. Its distinct sound and historical significance have made it a prominent instrument in early music. The harpsichord's design allows players to control volume through key pressure, and its unique tonal character adds depth to both solo and ensemble performances.

The harpsichord produces sound by plucking the strings when keys are pressed, as opposed to the hammer mechanism of a piano. This gives the harpsichord its characteristic "plucked" sound. Its keys are attached to individual strings, and when a key is pressed, a small quill or plectrum plucks the corresponding string, producing sound.

Unlike the piano, where pressing the key harder results in a louder sound, the harpsichord's volume is not affected by key pressure alone. Instead, the harpsichordist can use various registers or sets of strings to control the overall loudness and tonal quality.

The harpsichord had a significant role in music from the Renaissance through the Baroque period. It was a primary keyboard instrument for composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, François Couperin, and Domenico Scarlatti. Its distinctive timbre and ability to play multiple voices simultaneously made it an ideal instrument for intricate contrapuntal compositions.

In modern times, the harpsichord remains a vital instrument for performances of early music, both as a solo instrument and as part of ensembles. Its revival has led to the exploration of historical performance practices and a renewed interest in its unique tonal palette.

The harpsichord's influence on music history cannot be understated, as it represents a crucial link between early keyboard instruments and the development of later instruments like the piano.

Example of Harpsichord

J.S. Bach: Prelude in E Flat Major BWV 998, JungHae Kim, harpsichord