The clavichord is the most subtle and simplest among stringed keyboard instruments. It was popular in the Medieval, Baroque, Classical, and Renaissance eras. The clavichord flourished from the 1400’s to the 1800’s. It is rectangular with generally decorated and painted lid and casing. Its strings are stretched laterally from the tuning pins up to the hitch pins where there are dampers in the form of felt strips across the strings.

In the past, it was simply used for practices and not for larger presentations because it did not produce sound that was loud enough. It produces sound by using tangents, small metal blades, to strike the strings. The name of clavichord derives from the Latin clavis which mean key and chorda which means string of a musical instrument.

History

In the early fourteenth century, the clavichord was believed to be invented. It was well-known in the 16th to the 18th century and was most popular in Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula, and other lands which use the German language. By 1850, it has fallen out of its popularity and out of use. Fortunately, the clavichord was revived by Arnold Dolmetsch in the 1890’s. Before 1730, clavichords were created small with four octaves and a length of approximately four feet but nowadays, these are made with a length of up to seven feet.

Nowadays, clavichords are manufactured all over the world and have many buyers in the market. A few modern manufacturers are the British Peter Bavington, Swiss Thomas Steiner, American Charles Wolff, and Belgian Joris Potvlieghe.

Playing the clavichord

A key is pushed down to play a clavichord’s note. Pressing one end causes the other end which is inside to come up. This end has a tangent, a metallic thin blade, which strikes the respective string. Until the player releases the key, the tangent remains touching the string and produces sound.

One advantage of the clavichord over the piano is that it can perform a sound like the vibrato on string instruments. The player can move the key up and down which causes the tangent to also push up and down on the string. This makes the string tighter or looser.

This instrument is very mellow and quiet. It was previously not used to accompany other instruments because it was barely audible. The clavichord is most beautiful when playing slow and expressive music.

Fretted clavichords

A fretted clavichord has pair of strings which could play more than one note. The tangent of at least two notes hit the strings at varied lengths from the bridge and also produces varied tones.

Fretting generally gives limitations on the playing range because it is impossible to produce the sound of the fretted notes at one time. There are times that the player has to cut a note by releasing a key just before it completes its full sound. There are also instances wherein the player has to omit a note but this is quite rare.

Thus, skill and technique is needed when consecutively playing fretted notes because there is a big chance of producing unwanted sound when overlaps happen. A solution to this would be to perform a legato.

Clavichords in rock music

In its clavinet form, it entered the genre of rock music. The clavinet is a clavichord that is electrically powered which gives an amplification signal by using magnetic pick-up.

An example of the clavichord in rock is the work on All is Full of Love by Guy Sigsworth. Tori Amos also includes the use of the clavichord in the songs Little Amsterdam and Smokey Joe.

 

The bassoon is a double-reed instrument in the woodwind family. Music written in tenor and brass registers is suitable for the bassoon. It is an instrument with a history of greater than four centuries. Together with the flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and contrabassoon, it covers the role of the bass and tenor instrument of the orchestra.

Bassoon history

The 16th century ancestor of the bassoon was given many names: fagot for the French, dulcian for the Germans, bajon for the Spanish, curtal for the English, and fagotto for the Italians. This was not made of four separate sections like in the modern bassoon but was made of only one piece of wood.

In the 1700’s, there were six varieties of curtal based on length. The French later on developed into a four-piece musical instrument. During the time of Mozart, it had six keys but, during Hayden’s, the 17 to 24 key versions arose.

It elevated its status in the orchestra during the 18th century wherein orchestral and major solo music was made for it. Bassoons for military bands, tenoroons, and sub contrabassoons were created in the 19th century. It was released from the curse of playing the continuo part. Nowadays, it is played in opera, symphony orchestra, and in contemporary musicals.

Structure

There are six major pieces of the bassoon. The bell extends upward. The tenor joint connects the bell and the boot which is at the bottom of the instrument. Fourth is the wing joint which is from boot to crook in length while fifth is the crook, a metal tube that joins the reed and wing joint. And last but certainly not the least is the reed.

Bassoons today are commonly made of pearwood or maple such as sugar maple and sycamore maple. If you prefer less expensive ones, you can also have those that are made of ebonite or polypropylene which are usually for the outdoors and beginner’s use.

Its normal range is about 3 octaves, from B1flat to E5flat. The tube, 2.79 m (9 ft 2 in) long, is bent to make a height of 1.22 m (4 ft) and consists of a metal crook on which the reed is placed and four sections of maple or pearwood: the tenor, the butt, the bass, and the bell.

Bassoons in modern ensembles

Two bassoons are typically required in today’s symphony orchestra with the first used in solo passages. It is also a valuable bass in the woodwind choirs.

Its function in the wind band is the same to its function in the orchestra. It is quite significant because it is a component of the wind quintet instrumentation standard. The quartet has recently also become popular.

Basics of playing

Here are the basics of playing the bassoon. It is diagonally held in front. Regrettably, it cannot be propped up by the hands of the player alone. A seat strap or a neck strap is required to play it to give additional support.

It is played with the left hand above the right hand. There are 5 major finger holes at the front and one open-standing key. The little fingers handle five added keys at the front while the thumb manipulates no less than twelve keys at the back. Many bassoonist use a crutch to support the right hand. It makes it easier to flatten the finger pads against the keys and finger holes.