We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Historical Harpsichord Technique

Developing La douceur du toucher

Yonit Lea Kosovske

Publication Year: 2011

Yonit Lea Kosovske surveys early music and writing about keyboard performance with the aim of facilitating the development of an expressive tone in the modern player. Reviewing the work of the pedagogues and performers of the late Renaissance through the late Baroque, she gives special emphasis to la douceur du toucher or a gentle touch. Other topics addressed include posture, early pedagogy, exercises, articulation, and fingering patterns. Illustrated with musical examples as well as photos of the author at the keyboard, Historical Harpsichord Technique can be used for individual or group lessons and for amateurs and professionals.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Publications of the Early Music Institute

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.1 KB)

Table of Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (76.9 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (75.5 KB)
pp. xi

There are several people I wish to thank for helping to make the completion of this book possible: my former professors at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music—Elisabeth Wright, Dr. David Lasocki, Stanley Ritchie, Nigel North, and Michael McCraw; the editorial staff at Indiana University Press—Jane Behnken, Sarah Wyatt Swanson, Elaine Durham Otto, June...

read more

Introduction: La douceur du toucher

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.5 KB)
pp. 1-4

In his Klavierschule (1789), Daniel Gottlob Türk remarks, “That a beautiful tone is a requisite for good execution I can presume as an established fact. It is also known from experience that of two players, one is able to produce a far more beautiful tone on the same instrument than the other.” He then asks, “What is a beautiful tone?” Early writers did not consider that everyone...

read more

1. Preparing to Play

pdf iconDownload PDF (380.0 KB)
pp. 5-39

Although the majority of keyboardists today begin their studies on the piano and later specialize in organ, harpsichord, or clavichord, there is a growing population of students who choose harpsichord from the start. We read from at least three early sources that the best time to begin is before the age of ten. François Couperin recommends: “The appropriate age for children to begin...

read more

2. Touching the Instrument

pdf iconDownload PDF (391.0 KB)
pp. 40-69

As in most disciplines of the performing arts, physical and mental preparedness is beneficial to the process of learning pieces and perfecting one’s craft. For harpsichordists, this preparation includes exercising the hands both away from and at the keyboard. We recall Couperin’s suggestion to pull the fingers and stretch the hands before touching the keys. Players can do this alone or...

read more

3. Articulation

pdf iconDownload PDF (347.4 KB)
pp. 70-110

Articulation is a cornerstone of many standard courses about Baroque performance practice. It is often taught in conjunction with the principles of rhetoric, phrasing, rhythm, and overall expression, with special emphasis on how these topics are based on historical sources. Until my first official harpsichord lesson in the early 1990s, I had never heard “articulation” mentioned...

read more

4. Fingering

pdf iconDownload PDF (327.2 KB)
pp. 111-135

Several keyboard sources spanning the late Renaissance through the late Baroque promote comfortable fingering patterns and flawless technique requiring minimal motion. The motivation behind such choices is the same—to communicate the expressiveness of the music. In his Arte de tañer fantasia, after several pages devoted to fingering scale passages, Sancta Maria adds this...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.1 KB)
pp. 136

To summarize, the main points needed to achieve a good technique include but are not limited to (1) the use of an excellent instrument, (2) good musical training, (3) an upright and comfortable posture, (4) frequent practice, (5) relaxation, (6) supple fingers with independent and even strength, and (7) finger connection to the quill against the string. The following tools are needed in...

Appendix: Brief Biographical Notes on People Mentioned in the Text

pdf iconDownload PDF (156.2 KB)
pp. 137-148


pdf iconDownload PDF (315.9 KB)
pp. 149-184


pdf iconDownload PDF (157.6 KB)
pp. 185-195


pdf iconDownload PDF (202.8 KB)
pp. 197-221

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001450
E-ISBN-10: 0253001455
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356475

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 13 b&w illus., 34 music exx.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Publications of the Early Music Institute

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Harpsichord -- Performance -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access