Clavichord Technique and Performance Practice:

An Annotated Bibliography


Robert Kelley
December 1998

Table of Contents


Introduction to the Clavichord

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians defines the clavichord as:

"A keyboard instrument, the simplest and at the same time the most subtle and expressive of those whose sound is produced by strings rather than by pipes. It is likely that the mysterious CHEKKER of the 14th century was, in fact, a clavichord; in any event, it is clear from both pictures and writings that clavichords not too unlike those that are known from surviving examples were in existence in the early years of the 15th century. Clavichords were used throughout western Europe during the Renaissance, and in Germany until the early 19th century."

The clavichord is a rectangular box with the keyboard in the long side. Strings stretch from hitch pins on the left across the bridge to the tuning pins and soundboard on the right. The keys rest on a fulcrum (the balance rail) and are held in place there. When the key is depressed a brass blade (the tangent) at the other end of the key ascends and strikes two strings. The tangent stops the strings at a particular point, the length of string between the tangent and tuning pin determining the pitch, and sets the string into vibration which is amplified by the soundboard. "Listing," or woven cloth between the strings near the hitch pins, dampens the sound from the section of string between the tangent and hitch pins. The listing causes the whole string to stop vibrating when the tangent is removed from contact with the string by releasing the key.

The player determines the dynamics through varying force when depressing the keys. Since the tangent remains in contact with the strings, the player can also change the sound in pitch and dynamic after the key has been struck, creating vibrato, portamento, even a slight dynamic swelling. If struck too hard, the tangents overstretch the strings and the pitch will be distorted. This distortion of pitch represents the upper limit of the dynamic range of the instrument. The quiet tone of the instrument is a function of how the string is set in motion, analogous to striking a guitar string at a fret rather than stopping the string at a fret and plucking it with the other hand. When a clavichord shares strings between keys, it is called "fretted," but later instruments with one string per key are called "unfretted." Fretted instruments have lighter soundboards which can vibrate more freely, and they can be tuned more easily and rapidly. Fretted instruments cannot play certain notes simultaneously, however, and also cannot be played with a close legato. The "aftertouch" on the clavichord makes it difficult to play well because the player has to be consistent in touch from note to note and as long as each key is depressed.


The idea of clavichord performance practice may seem to be a paradox since, for the largest part of its active history, the clavichord has been relegated to use only as a practice instrument for organists. Why, then, would one want a "clavichord performance practice bibliography?" Further, would there be significant literature about the almost non-existent performance history of the instrument? And most pertinently, what would be the use of such a bibliography if it would be historically inaccurate to give performances of early keyboard literature on a "practice instrument?" Surprisingly, these questions have very little meaning within the realm of clavichord performance. Until electronic amplification in the twentieth century, it was impossible to use the quiet clavichord in anything but a small room. However, during the clavichord's heyday, evenings of music-making in the home formed the largest part of people's musical experiences. In the home the clavichord was the ideal instrument for solo keyboard music and instrumental accompaniment. Only those who owned large and expensive harpsichords would hear early keyboard music on that instrument. Such a perspective on the historical use of the clavichord warrants more attention to the instrument as a viable concert instrument today. The clavichord is the ideal medium for offering a revised perspective on works that have been customarily associated with the organ, harpsichord, and piano for the past two hundred years.

In keeping with this idea that the clavichord is as 'authentic' an instrument as any for performance of the body of early keyboard music, this bibliography fills a need for documentation of the techniques and interpretive practices peculiar to the clavichord. Most early keyboard bibliographies published in the past have been specific to the harpsichord or organ, perhaps including clavichord resources as well. Many of those resources will be cited here, for they often include the essential resources for the clavichordist. However, the intention in the creation of this guide to the literature about the early keyboard is to center the guide around the essentials of the clavichord and its performance tradition. I have selected from among the literature those resources which are most applicable to the clavichord and have, to the best of my ability, given an explanation of how each source can be best used to help the clavichordist. Although the purpose here is to provide a resource for performing clavichordists, many other keyboard instrumentalists may benefit from research into the specific technical aspects and performance practice concerns of the clavichord. This guide is designed to help anyone interested in researching the instrument. This bibliography has been designed in the hope of encouraging incipient clavichordists to know and play more clavichord music of the past and present, and to improve their knowledge of the tradition of clavichord performance practice.

The bibliography is divided into the following categories: Clavichord Bibliographies, Clavichord Music Resources and Discographies, Introductions to the Clavichord, Clavichord Technique Treatises, Clavichord Music Interpretation and Performance Practice Guides, Selective List of Sources on Clavichord Building, History, Tuning, and Repair, and Online Clavichord Resources. Resources that are covered are restricted to books, theses, treatises, articles, and bibliographies in the English language or translated into English. Many promising clavichord sources could not be obtained through reasonable effort on the part of the compiler. Even if thorough information was available about these sources, they were not included on this list since resources that are irretrievable or of very limited availability are not of much use in a practical bibliography. Theses and doctoral dissertations that are included in the literature here are labeled as such for the benefit of the user, for, unless serious research is being undertaken by the user of this guide, conventional books are generally easier to find and navigate for the specific information that a performer might want.

I have restricted this list to literature relevant to performance practice and keyboard technique. Music for the clavichord and recordings are not catalogued here. It wasn't until the mid-eighteenth century, when Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach began composing specifically for the clavichord as the performance instrument, that the clavichord gained its own specific music literature. After its significant popularity in Germany during C. P. E. Bach's lifetime the clavichord fell into general disuse. The remainder of music written specifically for the clavichord comes from the instrument's twentieth-century renascence. Since the body of keyboard music performable on the clavichord before it gained its own literature is enormous, I have left the decision of repertory to the performer. Most early keyboard music is suitable for this versatile instrument, and several sources given in this bibliography will give suggestions about choosing the best instrument for given works. One of the most valuable resources in finding early music for an unspecified keyboard instrument to play on the clavichord is Arneson, The Harpsichord Booke. Those wishing to find music written specifically for the instrument should investigate the keyboard music of C. P. E. Bach, Johann Gottfried Müthel, Friedrich Gottlieb Fleischer, E. W. Wolf, Johann Wilhelm Hässler, and Daniel Gottlob Türk, as well as the literature listed in Frances Bedford's Harpsichord and Clavichord Music of the Twentieth Century. Those wishing to find recordings of the clavichord should see Francis Knights' article, "A Clavichord Discography," in The Music Review, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Aug. 1990), pp. 221-233.


Clavichord Bibliographies

Brauchli, Susan. "Second International Clavichord Symposium," The Consort, Vol. 52, No. 1 (Spring 1996), pp. 34-35.

Although this is not a bibliography proper, this article serves more as a reference to the papers presented at the clavichord symposium ("the brain-child of Bernard Brauchli and Christopher Hogwood") than as a report on the proceedings. The clavichord researcher may wish to investigate the papers that are mentioned here, especially Hogwood's "A Repertoire for the Clavichord."


Knights, Francis. "The Clavichord: A Comprehensive Bibliography," The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 48 (March 1995), pp. 52-67.

This article presents a bibliography of all written material relevant to the history, music, makers, and players of the clavichord from the Middle Ages to the present. Anyone beginning research fon the clavichord should look here for further sources, but the author offers no annotations for the resources he lists.


Jackson, Roland, ed. Performance Practice Encyclopedia, (Last accessed 5:45pm, 12/10/98), 1998.

Performance Practice Encyclopedia is an online publication and represents a continuation of the print journal Performance Practice Review, 1988-1997. It also serves very well as a bibliography of early music performance practice.


Harpsichord and Clavichord Bibliography, (Last accessed 5:45pm, 12/10/98).

This is a very basic annotated bibliography designed to help the researcher begin preliminary work.

Clavichord Music Resources and Discographies

Arneson, Arne J. and Stacie Williams. The Harpsichord Booke: Being a Plaine & Simple Index to Printed Collections of Musick by Different Masters for the Harpsichord, Spinnet, Clavichord, & Virginall. Madison: Index House, 1986. 1 vol., 119 pp.

This is an indispensable reference for those searching for anthologies of early keyboard music to perform on the clavichord. The book is an index to multiple-composer anthologies of compositions that include early music (to 1800) for a solo harpsichord or its kindred instruments. Attempt has been made to distinguish between organ music and the stringed keyboard instrument music listed in the indices of this book, but "confusion has cautioned inclusion." The five major sections one should know about in order to use this resource properly are: 1) Bibliographical Abbreviations: a list of indexed anthologies and sources, arranged by the abbreviations given in the indices; 2) Bibliography: a list of indexed anthologies and sources arranged by title; 3) a composer index; 4) a title index; and 5) an editor index.


Bedford, Frances. Harpsichord and Clavichord Music of the Twentieth Century. Berkeley: Fallen Leaf Press, 1993. 1 vol., 609 pp.

This is the most complete source for finding twentieth-century clavichord music. Whereas in the case of early keyboard music it is possible (and advisable) for the clavichordist to use literature that is generally associated with the harpsichord, twentieth-century music represents the only case where trying to perform harpsichord music on clavichord would be inadvisable. Since recent composers are much more specific in their use of instruments, this book is divided into distinct harpsichord and clavichord sections. The author devotes 470 pages to harpsichord music and 16 pages to clavichord music (not including the appenix and indices). The indices to composers, titles, and first performers of clavichord music are helpful. The able clavichordist is advised to use this source to find music for performing the small repertory of twentieth-century clavichord music in addition to early keyboard music.


________. "Twentieth-Century Clavichord Music: Its Richness and Variety," The Diapason, Vol. 85, No. 11 (November 1994), pp. 11-12.

This article is basically a synopsis of the activities of twentieth-century musicians involved in the performance and composition of new music for the clavichord since its revival. The author refers the reader to his own book Harpsichord and Clavichord Music of the Twentieth Century. For the clavichord researcher this article should function as a supplement to that volume.


Beechey, Gwilym. "C. P. E. Bach (1714-1788): His Solo Keyboard and Chamber Music," The Consort, Vol. XLIV (1988), pp. 10-22.

This article gives a survey of some of the most important contributions of C.P.E. Bach to solo keyboard and chamber music. Sets of sonatas for clavichord, fortepiano, and harpsichord are briefly described and discussed for the period 1742 to 1787. A selective list of modern editions of the music is provided.


Francis Knights. "A Clavichord Discography," The Music Review, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Aug. 1990), pp. 221-233.

This article gives a short list of representative recordings of clavichord literature performed on clavichord. The author rates the recordings on a number of criteria. A more extensive and up-to-date discography may exist, but to the knowledge of the compiler, this is the only selective list available. If this is indeed the case, then surely it would be a worthwhile endeavor to compile and maintain a clavichord discography online.


Sloane, Sally Jo, compiler. Music for Two or More Players at Clavichord, Harpsichord, Organ: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1991. (1 vol., 104 pp.)

This bibliography presents music literature for multiple keyboard players in combinations that include more than just the pianoforte. It is organized alphabetically by composer. The compiler excludes piano-only pieces because of the extensive literature already published in that area. This is presently the essential source for finding music suitable for more than one clavichordist or more than one clavichord. The book also includes a discography.

Introductions to the Clavichord

Chanel, Philippe. "Clavichord as a Guide to the Interpretation of 15th to 17th Century Literature," The Diapason, Vol. 83, No. 5 (May 1992), pp. 12-13.

This article is a short and complete method (organized by aspect of performance) of playing early music on the clavichord. The author discusses the "mechanism of action" and the "playing technique" through "touch," "fretting, fingering, and articulation," "tuning and listening," and "tempo." The article ends with a helpful selective bibliography including German language sources. This may be just as comprehensive and helpful a primer in the clavichord and its technique as the article in New Grove.


Cooper, Kenneth. The Clavichord in the Eighteenth Century (Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University). Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1971. 1 vol., 286 pp. (typescript).

This complete guide to the clavichord and its literature and characteristics should form the basis of the clavichordists knowledge of how to apply specifically clavichordistic interpretations to the body of clavichord music. Cooper's organized approach to introducing the instrument and its defining characteristics and history begins with a discussion of the clavichord's function before its popularity in the eighteenth century. The author then discusses at length the two distinctive characteristics of this instrument: the capability of dynamic inflection and special effects of the Bebung and Tragen der Töne (vibrato and portato, literally trembling and carrying of the note). The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the relationships of J. S. and C. P. E. Bach to the clavichord. Especially useful are the tables and lists given in the appendices, the most pertinent of which are given here: Appendix A includes a large selection of eighteenth-century writings on the clavichord, often in facsimiles of the original printed versions followed by translations (often for the first time). Appendix B gives a much-needed guide to the intentional use of Bebung and Tragen in the literature, making the important and difficult distinction between them. Appendix C is a chronological catalogue of extant historic clavichords. In Appendix E the author offers a chronological discography of clavichord performances on LP record concluding with a very selective distillation from that list of the author's idea of the most excellent recordings. One helpful part of this book is the authors selection of works especially appropriate for the clavichord in Appendix F. Of special note is an extensive and well-organized annotated bibliography at the conclusion of this work.


Kirkpatrick, Ralph. "On Playing the Clavichord," Early Music, Vol. 9, No. 7 (July 1981), pp. 293-305.

Kirkpatrick writes a chatty and informative guide through his own exploration of clavichord technique. Even if the article is to be dismissed for its lack of coherent organization, the "Nine Precepts for the Clavichord Player" found on p. 305 form an indispensible guide to playing and learning to master the clavichord. This article contains some illustrations, but no bibliography.


Knights, Francis. "Some Observations on the Clavichord in France," The Galpin Society Journal, No. 44 (March 1991), pp. 71-76.

In his article Francis Knights argues for the use of clavichord as a viable performing instrument for some French 'clavecin' music. "To say the 'the history of the clavichord from the 17th century onwards is largely the history of the clavichord in Germany,' (Ripin) may be to dismiss the role of the clavichord in other countries too lightly." The author traces the origins of this philosophy to Wanda Landowska and her followers of "20th-century players of the modern concert harpsichord, who have enthusiastically laid claim to all early keyboard music whatsoever." Knights then investigates the assumed preponderance of harpsichords in the musical life of the French baroque. This article serves to further justify the clavichordist as rightful interpreter of 'harpsichord music.'


Praetorius, Michael (translated by Harold Blumenfeld). Syntagma Musicum, Volume Two: De Organographia, Plus All Forty-Two Original Woodcut Illustrations from Theatrum Instrumentorum. New York: Da Capo Press, 1980. (1 vol. including prefatory material, Praetorius' prefatory material pp. a-x, 80 pp., 42 plates)

A translation of Praetorius' original "exhaustive source on musical instruments." For scale drawings of early keyboard instruments see plates I-IV, XIV-XV, XXIV-XXVIII. The description of the clavichord can be found on p. 60 (XXXVI), and pictures of clavichords are on plate XV. For more commentary on this source and its musicological implications with regard to the clavichord, see the article "Clavichord" in New Grove, or Ripin, The New Grove Early Keyboard Instruments.


Ripin, Edwin M., Howard Schott, John Barnes, G. Grant O'Brien, William Dowd, Denzil Wraight, Howard Ferguson, and John Caldwell. The New Grove Early Keyboard Instruments. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1989. 1 vol., 313 pp.

This book compiles and updates all articles in New Grove concerning early keyboard instruments into an accessible organization of information. It includes detailed discussions of the construction and history of the harpsichord, virginal and spinet, the clavichord, and all related instruments, and a chronological chapter on early keyboard repertory. With the appendices (glossary, index of instrument makers, and music editions) and the bibliography, this should be one of the first sources to which one should refer for basic information on, music for, and literature about the clavichord.


Russell, Raymond. The Harpsichord and Clavichord, An Introductory Study. New York: October House Inc., 1965. 1 vol., 208 pp. and 103 plates.

This is the standard introductory work. Copious source material is given in the appendices, including inventories, letters, builders' specifications, lists of instrument collections, reference books, and photographs. Most of this information relates to harpsichords. Nevertheless, the section devoted to the clavichord provides some interesting accounts of the instrument's use from the 15th through the 18th century. Russell's extensive collection is now housed in St. Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh.


Spányi, Miklós. "Our Almost-Forgotten Friend: The Clavichord," Hungarian Music Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (1996), pp. 33-37.

This straightforward article provides a good background of knowledge about the clavichord and its major proponents. After some study of the justification of the clavichord's place in proper 'authenticity' of keyboard music performance, Spányi comes to the conclusion that "nothing ... justifies the omission of the clavichord from the successful revival of early music playing. The reason must be sought in our habits, traditions and deep-rooted prejudices. If we shove them aside, purging our minds to receive pure and sincere thoughts, our friend the clavichord will not be slow to bring real joy to player and listener alike."


Türk, Daniel Gottlieb. Clavier-School, or Instruction in Clavier-Playing for Teachers and Students, with Critical Remarks. Leipzig: Schwickert, Hemmerde und Schwetschke, Halle, 1789 (original). Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1962.

Translation of pertinent sections of this treatise are available in Cooper, The Clavichord in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 198-205. Türk's book provides an interesting eighteenth-century view of the instrument itself, qualities to look for in a good clavichord, advantages to the clavichord over other keyboard instruments, inadequacies of the instrument, basic clavichord learning tips, stylistic considerations in performance, and "On the Best Instrumental Pieces."


Introduction to the Harpsichord and Clavichord, (Last accessed 5:45pm, 12/10/98)

This is an online introduction to early keyboard instruments. The basic description of the harpsichord is supplemented by an even more brief description of the clavichord.

Clavichord Technique Treatises

Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel. Essay on The True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (1753), tr. William J. Mitchell. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1949. Original title: Versuch über die wahre Art, das Clavier zu spielen. 1 vol., 449 pp.

The Versuch is a very detailed treatise on mid-18th century performance practice. Part One deals with performance considerations and technique with sections on fingering and embellishment, and Part Two is devoted to helping the keyboardist in the role of accompanist, continuo, or improviser, offering advice on basic keyboard harmony, thorough bass, accompaniment, and improvisation. Also included is a short bibliography covering keyboard performance practice of the 18th century. With C. P. E. Bach's devotion to the clavichord as his favorite among the keyboard instruments, the clavichordist would be well-advised to study his treatise in depth.


Carter, Stewart, ed. A Performer's Guide to Seventeenth-Century Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997. 1 vol., 432 pp.

The chapter on keyboard instruments by Mark Kroll (pp. 198-222) describes the applicability of certain forms to particular keyboard instruments. The author also gives an overview of the keyboard literature of the 17th century. This short synopsis might be a good place to start when beginning the study of the clavichord and its literature. It includes an abbreviated bibliography.


Couperin, Francois. The Art of playing the Harpsichord, Anna Linde, ed., Eng. tr. Mevanwy Roberts. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Hartel, 1961. Original title: L'Art de toucher le Clavecin. 1 vol., 39 pp.

In his 1716 treatise, Couperin discusses the matters of fingering, ornamentation, and freedom of rhythm (notes inégales) and gives keyboard exercises and fingerings for some difficult passages in his music. At the end there is a table of ornaments used by Couperin in his keyboard music. Although this book stands best as a companion to the harpsichord music of François Couperin, there is also some more general benefit in gaining familiarity with the 18th-century French keyboard techniques given in this treatise.


Ferguson, Howard. Keyboard Interpretation, from the 14th to the 19th Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. 1 vol., 215 pp.

This is a compact and comprehensive reference for performance practice concerns. Although the material is presented with the performing pianist in mind as the audience, this book does deal some specifically with the clavichord and its literature. The book's performance suggestions extend into the romantic era, but focus primarily on music before 1800. There are sections dealing specifically with all of the concerns of the keyboardist including tempo, articulation, fingering, rhythmic conventions, ornamentation, pedalling and problems specific to the piano, and limitations of compass. Especially helpful are the selective guides to literature on keyboard interpretation and music in modern editions. Although reading the book is the best way of gaining information here, the ornametation section is organized sufficiently well to be used as a reference at the keyboard. Because of the careful condensation of important material accomplished in this short volume, this should be the cornerstone of the informed keyboardist's book collection on performance.


Hoag, Barbara Brewster. The Performance Practice of Iberian Keyboard Music of the Seventeenth Century (Doctoral Dissertation, New York University). Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1980. 1 vol., 361 pp. (typescript).

This is a well-organized and complete guide to the conventions of Spanish keyboard practice in the seventeenth century. This book should be used to supplement the Bernard, Interpretation of 16th Century Iberian Music on the Clavichord. This book is not suitable for use as a quick reference for ornamentation or other concerns, but it represents a necessary source for information on the subject. Of some use is the bibliography including many Spanish language sources.


Letnanova, Elena. Piano Interpretation in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries: A Study of Theory and Practice Using Original Documents. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1991. 1 vol., 184 pp.

Though this source deals with keyboard treatises specific to the piano, it also discusses the techniques dealt with in the treatises of the 17th and 18th centuries. The author uses the treatises to derive advice for interpretation in many aspects of performance.


Lister, Craig. Traditions of Keyboard Technique from 1650 to 1750 (Doctoral Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1979. 1 vol.

The author focuses on physical playing technique and fingering, as described by various treatises of the time (culminating in the C. P. E. Bach Versuch). The point of this dissertation is to divide the early 18th-century pedagogues and their technical advice into the categories of "conservative tradition" and "progressive tradition." The book deals with both French and German keyboard technique traditions. One of the most valuable contributions of this thesis is its appendix with a table devoted to an extensive comparative discussion of fingering techniques of the time.


Rosenblum, Sandra P. "Keyboard Articulation: Concerning Articulation on Keyboard," Performance Practice Review, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 1997), pp. 31-40.

This article gives a survey of articualtion practices by chronological period, with reference to the pertinent instruments. The author points out that the organ, harpsichord, clavichord, and piano have quite different articulative characteristics. She also discusses the role of non-legato and legatoplaying techniques from the Renaissance to the present and observes the more detached articulation and less use of legato in the 20th-century keyboard music. Although hardly comprehensive, this helpful article can be used to help understanding of one of the most important aspects of clavichord performance.


Saint-Lambert, Michel de. A New Treatise on Accompaniment with the Harpsichord, the Organ, and with Other Instruments, tr. John S. Powell. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. 1 vol., 155 pp.

Originally Nouveau traité de l'accompagnement de clavecin, de l'orgue, et des autres instruments (1707), this second treatise of "Monsieur de Saint Lambert is a significant and influential treatise on ... French baroque contiuo accompaniment." The author's attempt here was to logically arrange a compendium of rules designed specifically for the keyboard accompanist. Although the first treatise (Les Principes du clavecin) was merely pedagogical, this work is more performance-oriented. In this volume are the author's "personal insights into the artistic aspects of contiuo accompaniment." It would be valuable to the clavichord accompanist to look at this book before attempting to accompany any French vocal or instrumental music. Also see the chapter by Mark Kroll from Carter, A Performer's Guide for appropriateness of clavichord in certain kinds of French music.


Troeger, Richard. Technique and Interpretation on the Harpsichord and Clavichord. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. 1 vol., 252 pp.

This book offers a very thorough and well-organized approach to explicating all matters of clavichord and harpsichord technique. Especially useful are the sections on articulation and timing. If no other modern treatise on the playing of early keyboard instruments is to be given attention, this book would serve well to form the basis of the clavichordist's knowledge of technique.

______. "The Clavichord and Keyboard Technique," The American Organist, Vo. 30, No. 3 (March 1996), pp. 59-63.

This article considers the clavichord and its use in regard to the techniques of other keyboard instruments, because of its two roles as an expressive instrument in its own right and as a training ground on which one could lay the foundations of a good technique on other keyboard instruments. Finally it gives insight into how the clavichord, with its shallow key action and small tone relates to the thundering modern piano. Although the purpose here is to provide help for players of other instruments, it does discuss in some detail the clavichord techniques with a coherent organization.

Clavichord Music Interpretation Guides

Badura-Skoda, Paul. Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard, tr. Alfred Clayton. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. 1 vol., 573 pp.

Deals with the performance of Bach's keyboard music on historical or modern instruments, focusing on ornamentation, certain rhythmic matters, articulation, and the choice or treatment of the appropriate keyboard instruments. The author attempts to put the music in a historical perspective in view of the influences on Bach and his compositional and pedagogical influences through his keyboard music. The book concludes with an extensive bibliography including many German sources.


Bernard, Nelly van Ree. Interpretation of 16th-Century Iberian Music on the Clavichord. Buren, The Netherlands: Frits Knuf Publishers, 1989. 1 vol., 96 pp.

After a basic introduction to the instrument, including detailed descriptions and tables of structure and tuning, the author proceeds to treat every possible aspect of the performance of Iberian music on the clavichord, including notation conventions, meter, playing technique and fingerings, playing in consort, composition, ornamentation, comparison of glosas (melodic ornaments), recipe for introducing quiebros, redobles and glosas, and a supplement covering keyboard tuning and the short octave. Also included are a bibliography, a list of Iberian composers, glosa tables, and a selection of representative compositions. According to Bernadette Nelson in Early Music, Vol. 23, No. 3, p. 507, "it is somewhat anecdotal (reading rather like a personal notebook in unconnected prose).... The most useful contributions are her examples and facsimile reproductions from the primary sources, and her tables of ornaments and glosado figures taken from Oritz's Tratado de glosas, Santa Maria's Arte and Antonio de Cabezon's Obras de musica." Nelson also mentions the usefulness of the bibliography (in which Bernard's own works feature prominently).


Butt, John. Bach Interpretation: Articulation Marks in Primary Sources of J. S. Bach. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 1 vol., 278 pp.

This excellent resource should aid the clavichordist in the performance of Bach's keyboard music. Although the book is not specific to the keyboard, the chapters that focus on the keyboard are useful to the Bach-interpreter at any clavier. The book is further supplemented by an extensive and selective bibliography that any Bach interpreter would be advised to investigate.


Karrin, Ford. "The Pedal Clavichord and the Pedal Harpsichord," The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 50 (March 1997), pp. 161-179.

Reviews the history, dating back to the 1400s and focusing on Baroque and Renaissance music, of the construction and use of and music for pedal clavichords and pedal harpsichords for use in the home and, in the case of the clavichord, as preparation and practice for organ playing. Suggests that these instruments were often made by organ makers, and often both used by the same musician. The clavichordist should be thoroughly familiar with the history of the use of the pedal clavichord as an expanded clavichord or as a practice instrument for organists.


Kenyon de Pasqual, Beryl.. "Clavicordios and Clavichords in 16th-Century Spain," Early Music, Vol. 20, No. 4 (November 1992), pp. 611-630.

The author provides the following description of the article: Discusses the meanings of the terms clavicordio, monacordio, clavicimbalo, and espineta. Surveys 16th-century Spanish makers, owners, and players of keyboard instruments, including the performer Francisco de Peraza the younger, who probably used Bebung on the clavichord. The types of spinets, virginals, harpsichords, and clavichords, both Spanish and imported, found in 16th-century Spain are also described. The 1609 estate inventory of Felipe II's keyboard instruments is appended (in translation).


Koopman, Ton. "Dietrich Buxtehude's Organworks: A Practical Help," Musical Times, Vol. 132, No. 1777 (March 1991), pp. 148-153.

This article is a helpful guide to the philosophies to be aware of in performing Buxtehude's keyboard music. On the basis of the versatility of early keyboardists and the questionability of the "if it has a pedal part it's obviously organ music" argument Koopman brings into question the proper performance medium of this body of music usually associated solely with the organ.


Laukvik, Jon (translated by Brigitte and Michael Harris). Historical Performance Practice in Organ Playing: An Introduction Based on Selected Organ Works of the 16th-18th Centuries. Stuttgart: Carus Einheitssacht, 1996. (German title: Orgelschule zur historischen Aufführungspraxis.) 2 vols. Vol. 1: Text, 318 pp. Vol. 2: 16th-18th-Century Organ Tutor Book (printed music), 75 pp.

This modern treatise of early keyboard technique is an extensive and well-organized complete technical guide to interpreting baroque music at the keyboard. Although the author deals primarily with the organ technique and discusses organ registration, much of the text is also applicable to the clavichord. Part B devotes each section to a different country's literature and performance practices, plus a chapter on J. S. Bach and the Late Baroque Period in Germany, and a survey of the classical style of C. P. E. Bach and W. A. Mozart. One of the most valuable contributions of this extensive technical treatise is the section devoted to the practice of learning and rehearsing music at the keyboard, including practicing procedures and how to mark the performance scores for successful rehearsal.


Loucks, Richard. "Was the Well-Tempered Clavier Performable on a Fretted Clavichord?" Performance Practice Review, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring 1992), p. 44-89.

This is an extensive study of the clavichords Bach was likely to have preferred and the applicability of the Well-Tempered Clavier to the instrument. The conclusions include that the fretted clavichord was ubiquitous in eighteenth-century Germany and among the instruments of Bach's use, that of the 357 minor seconds in the WTC (179 of which cause fretting conflicts) only two or three appear to be genuinely unplayable, and that the fretted clavichord "was held to be a suitable instrument for the WTC. I am certain that Bach was able to perform this work on it, and skillfully. He very likely did so frequently." Although the detail of this study is admirable, it is of little interest in terms of interpretation or performance practice. It is of some interest for the clavichordist attempting to play the work to be able to find technical solutions to fretting conflicts. Most interesting is the discussion in the introduction of this article of the appropriate instrument for the performance of the WTC. Since the composer simply uses quotes from the major figures in early keyboard music interpretation, with full bibliographic citations in the footnotes, one can use this as an annotated bibliography to the major philosophies of Bach interpretation.


Nurmi, Ruth. A Plain & Easy Introduction to the Harpsichord. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974. 1 vol., 248 pp.

This is one of the many fine guides to harpsichord performance practice. The approach taken here is that of introduction of the harpsichord technique to the pianist. Obviously, the most practical use for this handbook that the clavichordist might have would be referring to the very extensive chapter on fingering, the somewhat unique organization of ornamentation, and the considerations of tempo and rhythm (including binary against ternary). Otherwise, the clavichordist should favor the resources that are more specific to the clavichord.


Poile, David. Rhythmic Conflicts in the Keyboard Music of J.S. Bach: A Problem of Binary Against Ternary Rhythms (Doctoral Dissertation). Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University, 1995. 1 vol., typescript, 236 pp.

A comprehensive study of the question of ternary and binary conflicts in Bach's keyboard music that has not received many reasonable solutions among performance practice scholars. This dissertation uses primarily the internal musical evidence to come to specific conclusions about the interpretation of such conflicts in certain works. For the purposes of the clavichord performer, the best use for this book would be as a reference whenever a duple-against-triple conflict presents a question of interpretation.


Schott, Howard. Playing The Harpsichord. London: Faber and Faber, 1971. 1 vol., 223 pp.

This book is an extensive and organized resource on the interpretation of early keyboard music at the harpsichord. Since it is so heavily biased toward the harpsichord, the only real benefit the clavichordist would draw from this volume would be the sections on fingering, analysis and synthesis, articulation and phrasing, rhythm and tempo, ornaments and ornamentation, unequal notes and other rhythmical alterations, the bibliography, and the recommended music editions provided at the end of the book. The treatment of many of the aspects of interpretation is thorough enough to warrant some study by the avid early music performer.

Selective List of Sources on Clavichord Building, History, Tuning, and Repair

Bavington, Peter and Miles Hellon. "Evidence of Historical Temperament from Fretted Clavichords," FoMRHI Quarterly, No. 64 (July 1991), pp. 55-58.

Although this paper is intended to make some conclusions about the historical tuning practices of all keyboard instruments, it serves the clavichordist who tunes his/her own instrument by offering several tables.


Bernard, Nelly van Ree. Seven Steps in Clavichord Development between 1400 & 1800: An Annotated Audio-Visual Review. Buren, The Netherlands: Uitgeverij Frits Knuf, 1987.

Although this source is also a good introduction to the clavichord, it is especially useful for its technical description of clavichords through history and its diagrams, illustrations, and bibliography. The history is augmented valuably by many recorded examples on an accompanying cassette tape. Also valuable in this book is the emphasis on reconstruction of the earliest stages in the clavichord's development with recordings of hypothetical reconstructions of instruments no longer in existence. This is a helpful resource for the clavichordist searching for the appropriate type of clavichord for performance of specific literature. It is most useful for the researcher wanting exact technical data about clavichords throughout history.


________. The Keyed Monochord: Rediscovery of a Forgotten Instrument. Benebroeck, The Netherlands: Nelly van Ree Bernard, 1993. 1 vol., 48 pp. plus a CD.

Based loosely on three fifteenth-century sources, Bernard's keyed monochord consists of a single course of strings stretched over a small rectangular sound box 57 cm long by 11.5 cm wide. The twelve-note keyboard, consisting of maple naturals and a single ebony accidental (B-flat), projects beyond the front of the case, and is of the compass B to E and octave and a half above. To give the instrument a more medieval flavour the instrument is euipped with two bourdon strings, which can be arternatively tuned to D and A, E and B, or F and C. Although interesting as a piece of organological experimentation, the keyed monochord is more speculation than historically accurate reproduction of the missing link between the monochord and clavichord. Nevertheless, the conclusions drawn from this experiment and the recordings provided of the instrument and some representative literature (recording and notation), do provide some valuable information for the historical recreator.


Boalch, Donald. Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440-1840. New York: Oxford University Press, date unknown.

"This book records about 850 makers of the harpsichord, spinet, virginal, and clavichord who worked between the years 1440 and 1800. Wherever possible a brief account of their lives is given, together with a note of such of their instruments, over 1000 in number, as have survived until the present day." It lists the makers alphabetically and instruments for each chronologically, where possible. In many cases present owners are given. There is a geographical-chronological conspectus of the makers, a selective but extensive bibliography, and 36 illustrations covering a wide range of instruments. Information on each builder is complete, including every scrap of information available, even for builders whose initials are all that is known.


Brauchli, Bernard. "The Clavichord in Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Thon's Keyboard Manual, Ueber Klavierinstrumente (1817)," American Musical Instrument Society Journal, Vol. IX (1983), pp. 68-88.

The author gives the following description of this article: A summary of those parts of Thon's keyboard manual which deal specifically with the clavichord. Discusses the technical aspects, ranging from building materials for the case, soundboard, and keys, to the key-guiding mechanism, tangents, damping cloth, strings, and general sound quality. Reproduces Thon's list of contemporary keyboard instrument makers. Also describes tuning, means to execute minor repairs, and offers general advice on the care of keyboard instruments.


Irvin, Paul Y. "More on Sympathetic Strings," FoMRHI Quarterly, No. 79 (January 1993), pp. 55-56.

This is a short description of the acoustical reasons (as opposed to the mechanical) for double-stringing clavichords. The author comes to the conclusion that the difference in sound between single-strung and double-strung keyboard instruments is substantial enough to warrant the tradition of double-stringing.


Jeans, Susi. "The Pedal Clavichord and Other Practice Instruments," Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 1950-51, pp. 1-15.

This article gives technical information about pedal clavichords that have been used as practice instruments by organists. There are several helpful illustrations and a good deal of technical information.


McGreary, Thomas. "Karl Lemme's Manual on Fortepiano and Clavichord Maintenance (1802)," Early Keyboard Journal, Vol. 8 (1990), pp. 111-129.

Lemme's treatise is a useful companion and supplement to the only other manual so far translated or reprinted, Andreas Streicher's Kurze Bemerkungen über das Spielen, Stimmen und Erhalten der Fortepiano published the previous year. Lemme's manual , written at the request of owners of his instruments, is more useful and informative for modern owners, builders, and historians than Streicher's, for Lemme spends more time on the practical matters of placement, care, tuning, repair, and maintenance of the instruments. In this article, McGreary reviews Lemme's technical advice and adapts it to practical uses for modern clavichord owners and builders. More time is spent on fortepiano care than clavichord, however.


______. "Peter Sprengel's description of Clavichord Building," Organ Yearbook, Vol. XIX (1988), pp. 104-131.

This article presents a detailed technical description of the construction of the historic clavichord based on the description in Sprengel's Handwerke und Künste in Tabellen (1767-95). This article is well-suited to the clavichord builder or knowledge-hungry clavichordist.


O'Brien, Michael. "A Pedal Clavichord at the University of Nebraska," The American Organist, Vol. 28, No. 2 (February 1994), p. 47.

This short description of a project that the author undertook to construct a replica of a two-manual pedal clavichord (basically three instruments stacked on top of each other) is chatty and evaluates the success of the project and the instrument. However, there are a few pieces of useful information about the use of such an instrument for organ practice.


Ripin, Edwin M. "A Reassessment of the Fretted Clavichord," Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 23 (August 1970), pp. 40-48.

The author provides the following description of his illustrated and detailed article: The widely held view that fretted clavichords are grossly inferior to unfretted ones derives in part from a misreading of Jacob Adlung (1758). Actually, when no more than two tangents are served by each pair of strings, a fretted instrument is, if anything, better than an unfretted one, so long as one plays in the restricted range of keys dictated by meantone tuning. Spanish and Portuguese clavichord-builders succeeded in expanding the range of usable keys slightly at some sacrifice of ease in playing in the usual ones, but eventually the desire to play with complete freedom in all keys caused the replacement of fretted clavichords by unfretted instruments in spite of the fretted clavichord's cheapness, simplicity, and superior touch.


Rose, Malcolm and David Law. A Handbook of Historical Stringing Practice for Keyboard Instruments: 1671-1856. East Sussex: Malcom Rose & David Law, 1991.

The handbook gives detailed technical data about stringing historic clavichords, plucked instruments, fortepianos, upright pianos, and square pianos. The information it offers includes principal stringing tables, fragmentary evidence about certain examples, the use of graphs to compare instruments and as a stringing tool for restorers and makers, graphs of string tensions, and appendices of calculations, wire density figures, frequency figures, and a bibliography. This is the essential reference for the historical instrument builder.


Segerman, Ephraim. "What Happens When and After the Clavichord Tangent Hits the String?" FoMRHI Quarterly, No. 89 (October 1997), pp. 36-38.

This is a short paper describing the physics of the string as it functions in a clavichord. It may be helpful to the technician, but this article is probably most useful to the performer who wants complete understanding of the physics of the instrument in order to produce the desired sounds and effects.


Vodraska, Stanley. "The Flemish Octave Clavichord: Structure and Fretting," Organ Yearbook, Vol. X (1979), pp. 117-125.

The author gives the following description of this article: Flemish clavichords of about 1530 form a structurally distinct kind of instrument. They almost certainly had bottom plate, the string tension being taken by their and fronts. They had a peripheral structure, in to the plate structure of later north European clavichords. Furthermore, they were probably the earliest clavichords to employ the pairwise fretting system. These conclusions are based on iconographical evidence, and in particular on Jan van Hemessen's painting Young Woman Playing a Clavichord.

Online Sources

Willis, Andrew, president. The Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society, (Last accessed 4:30pm, 3/27/99).

An excellent site that includes many resources and numerous clavichord-related links.


Harpsichord Clearing House, (Last accessed 4:30pm, 3/27/99).

Site devoted to historical keyboard instrument manufacture and sales. Many clavichords are for sale and/or on display in their virtual gallery.


The British Clavichord Society, (Last accessed 4:30pm, 3/27/99).

Although at the time of this publication the BCS website is currently under construction, it promises to be a useful clavichord resource online. They currently have their projected site contents posted at the web address listed above.


Alan Durfee. The Boston Clavichord Society Site, (Last accessed 4:30pm, 3/27/99).

This reputable site provides interesting information, some clavichord resources, and some varied links.


Kelzenberg, Dave and Ben Chi. Harpsichord and Related Topics, (Last accessed 5:45pm, 12/10/98).

Zapf, Michael. The Clavichord List, (Last accessed 4:30pm, 3/27/99).

HPSCHD-L is an email listserver designed to be an open forum on the subject of early keyboard instruments. The Clavichord Onelist is a newer list specific to the clavichord. It may help the clavichordist to be a part of the "net community" associated with their chosen instrument.

Return to The Robert Kelley Composition Page

1999 . Reproduction of any part of or ideas from this document without permission is unlawful.