A D6 model in our Mercia workshop.
The Clavinet was created by Ernst Zacharias & introduced by Mattheus Hohner in 1964. It is a form of clavichord, smaller and more portable than the classical instrument. Diminutive in size, but not in sound.Two pickups allow amplification, the first model had a built in amplifier & speaker. Apparently originally designed for classical music, fate decided its future lay elsewhere. Its potential was quickly realised by a numner of popular musicians. In particular, Stevie Wonder brought it to prominence.
It is velocity sensitive in the conventional manner. It also tends to bend notes when struck or pressed hard, not easy for a sampler to imitate. This characterisic enables performance nuances usually associated with instruments of the guitar family.
Some way from its rumoured classical intent. The D6 & E7 models feature a mute slide control to shorten sustain. The clavichord action does not allow a sustain pedal.An E7, more modern styling, mechanically & electrically similar to the D6.
Hohner are the second oldest in our current listing of classic instrument builders. Matthias Hohner, a clock maker, started full time making of harmonicas in 1857. By 1887 annual production had passed one million.
Dulcitone. An 1897 oak cased model. Courtesy of Whittaker's Museum, Waiheke Island.The Dulcitone was designed in 1860 by Thomas Machell & Sons of Glasgow. As far as I know it remained in production until the 1920s. My experience of this instrument was in the mid 1960s, when I overhauled an early one for a friend.
It is a light portable keyboard instrument, usually 5 octave, with folding legs. Action & feel similiar to a grand piano, in inverted form. The key front pushing the mechanism down.
The tone source is a set of U shaped steel bars, using the tuning fork principle. Giving a mellow tone & good sustain. Originally held by leather straps, spring steel was used later. Struck by felt dressed hammers.
A solid harp frame is not needed, reducing weight. On older models, tone bars tend to fall out of place in transit, solved by a simple mechanism. A pedal pulls a cord, wrapped round a rotating, sprung wooden rod. This is set with a row of thin steel tines, which 'comb' the bars into position. The spirit of Heath Robinson was alive & well.
Features from this instrument survived it. The tuning fork principle is used, in modified form, for the Rhodes piano, created 90 years later. The inverted front action allows a compact layout, as in the Hohner Clavinet, a slender amplified clavichord, of Stevie Wonder fame.
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Clavinet. Edited 24-8-10. © Ron Lebar, Author.