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Clavichord for Beginners

Joan Benson

Publication Year: 2014

Written by Joan Benson, one of the champions of clavichord performance in the 20th century, Clavichord for Beginners is an exceptional method book for both practitioners and enthusiasts. In addition to detailing the historical origins of the instrument and the evolution of keyboard technique, the book describes the proper method for practicing fingering and articulation and emphasizes the importance of touch and sensitivity at the keyboard. A CD featuring Benson in performance and a DVD of interviews and lessons accompany the book, illustrating important exercises for the beginner. The disks also include discussions on topics that range from 16th-century keyboard masters to the frontiers of electronic music research.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Publications of the Early Music Institute

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

Several summers ago Wendy Gillespie, the esteemed early music specialist, visited my home in Eugene, Oregon. As we strolled along a woodland path, she asked what I, in my eighties, still wished to accomplish with the clavichord. I responded that I hoped to find a way to encourage others to enjoy this exquisite instrument...

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1. Clavichord for All Keyboardists

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pp. 1-7

A good clavichord is the simplest, softest, and most sensitively responsive of all keyboard instruments. Its basic structure is as follows: An oblong wooden frame contains a soundboard on the right. Attached to it are one to three bridges on which strings are stretched. These strings extend from tuning pins on the far right to hitch pins on the far left. Below and perpendicular to the...

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pp. 8-12

In order to play the clavichord, make certain that your hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders remain flexible and at ease. The following relaxation exercises are helpful particularly before and after short practice periods...

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3. Clavichord Lessons, Series I

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pp. 13-30

Of all the major keyboard instruments, the clavichord is most like a violin. Both pitch and quality of tone are subject to your touch. The mechanism is so direct that you can actually feel your fingers, via the tangent, pressing against the strings. Learning to play the clavichord requires focused attention. It is important to...

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4. Clavichord Lessons, Series II

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pp. 31-46

Of all keyboard instruments, the clavichord is the most capable of delicate, dynamic shading down to the softest pianissimo. These fine shadings are heard best by the player and a few listeners positioned near the clavichord’s soundboard. Shading on a clavichord involves many variables. Each key has its own shading...

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5. Preparing for Pieces

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pp. 47-57

Before you begin to play short pieces of the eighteenth century, it is important to have a repertoire of basic ornaments. At that time, beginners on the clavichord were first taught to play ornaments without music. You too may begin with individual ornaments, learning to make them clean and even. This is not simple on the clavichord...

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6. Eleven Easy Pieces

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pp. 58-67

The following miniature pieces are included for your enjoyment as you advance from exercises to music. In order to apply and perfect what you have learned, proceed slowly and attentively...

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7. Exploring the Past: Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries

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pp. 68-82

The clavichord has an amazingly rich heritage from the centuries before Johann Sebastian Bach. This chapter offers glimpses of that time, involving the instrument and its music, its patrons, composers, and performers. May they inspire you to explore on your own the wealth of early material so readily available...

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8. Exploring Eighteenth-Century Germany

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pp. 83-102

Comp ared to France during the eighteenth century, Germany was fragmented, with no central church or central king to dictate musical tastes. Lutherans, abandoning the pope, preferred a more personal relationship with Jesus and God. Perhaps it was Johann Sebastian Bach himself who wrote in a 1738 thoroughbass primer: “The...

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9. Exploring the Present and Future

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pp. 103-106

Although this century appears to revel in loud, amplified sound and endless stress, there is a growing need for quietness as a balance. A clavichord can fill this need. Already a century ago, Arnold Dolmetsch stimulated a clavichord revival among a few elite in England and America. He wrote on his Chickering clavichord...

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Appendix: Biographical Details

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pp. 107-110

Joan Benson is one of the foremost clavichordists of modern times. She has been a leading pioneer in promoting the clavichord as a concert instrument, performing in concert halls, universities, and museums around the world. She has taught on the faculty at Stanford University, the University of Oregon, and the Aston Magna...


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pp. 111-114

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 115-120

Extended Bibliography

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pp. 121-124

CD and DVD Contents, About the Author

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pp. 125-127

E-ISBN-13: 9780253011640
E-ISBN-10: 0253011647
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253011589

Page Count: 144
Illustrations: 19 b&w illus., 77 music exx.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Publications of the Early Music Institute