/klav"i kawrd'/, n.
an early keyboard instrument producing a soft sound by means of metal blades attached to the inner ends of the keys gently striking the strings.
[1425-75; late ME < ML clavichordium, equiv. to L clavi(s) key + chord(a) CHORD2 + -ium -IUM]

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Early keyboard instrument, an important forerunner of the piano.

It flourished с 1400–1800, especially in Germany. It is usually rectangular, with the keyboard inset. The strings are struck by metal tangents, rather than plucked as on the harpsichord. The tangent becomes the endpoint of the vibrating string; thus the point where it strikes determines the pitch. So-called fretted clavichords permit more than one tangent to strike a single pair of strings (which somewhat limits the notes that can be sounded simultaneously); unfretted clavichords use only one tangent per pair of strings. The player's touch can produce dynamic variation; variation in finger pressure can even produce vibrato. Its tone is silvery and soft, best suited for intimate music.

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      stringed keyboard musical instrument, developed from the medieval monochord. It flourished from about 1400 to 1800 and was revived in the 20th century. It is usually rectangular in shape, and its case and lid were usually highly decorated, painted, and inlaid. The right, or treble, end contains the soundboard, the bridge, and the wrest, or tuning, pins. The strings run horizontally from the tuning pins over the bridge to the hitch pins in the left, or bass, end, where felt strips woven through the strings act as dampers. A small brass blade, the tangent, stands on each key just below its string. When the key is depressed, the tangent strikes the string, dividing it into two parts. It thus both determines the vibrating length of the string and causes it to sound. The string segment between the tangent and bridge vibrates, producing a note; the left part is damped by the felt. When the key is released, the tangent falls away from the string, which is then silenced by the felt.

      The usual compass is from 3 1/2 to 5 octaves, with one or two strings for each note. Tangents of adjacent keys (which produce notes that are unlikely to be played together) sometimes share a pair of strings. Such clavichords are fretted, or gebunden; those with independent strings for each key are unfretted, or bundfrei.

      Alone among the forerunners of the piano, the clavichord can achieve dynamic variation—piano, forte, crescendo, diminuendo—by the player's touch alone. It can produce vibrato, or bebung, if finger pressure on the key is varied. Its tone is silvery and soft, best suited for intimate music such as C.P.E. Bach's keyboard sonatas and fantasias.

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Universalium. 2010.

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