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Early keyboard instrument, an important forerunner of the piano. It flourished c. 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.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on clavichord, visit Britannica.com.