A fretted clavichord

The instrument

After having built a virginal, my first keyboard instrument, I started to realize the importance (and the pleasure...) of playing on a sensitive keyboard, that 'feels' and responds to the touch. And, to this respect, no keyboard instrument beats the clavichord. Wonderful for intimate, private playing, a clavichord is also a formidable study tool. And so I got hold of the drawings of a Swedish instrument dated 1732 (Anders Wahlstrom. Drawings available from Musikmuseet - Stockholm) and started building. The instrument is of the 'fretted' kind, where each string is used to play more than one note. This means a smaller instruments and less strings to tune. As a drawback, the notes that use the same string cannot be played simultaneously. This not only implies that some chords are forbidden, but also calls for a much cleaner 'legato' technique, as tolerance to fingering technique errors is much less than on 'unfretted' instruments.

The instrument is not going to be a true copy. The basic layout is the same as the historic instrument, but the materials are not. Moreover, some 'odd' measurements have been adapted to fit ready-cut wood, in order to speed up the construction. The only variation to the 'sound' structure is in a slightly thinner soundboard and in more crown to the bridge, as the historic instrument is known to be a little 'dull'. In all, unlike the virginal, this instrument should be suitable for production in more than a single piece. If the results are satisfactory, I might consider the idea of putting my drawings and plans on this website. Please however note that the drawings of the original historic instrument are copyright-protected by Musikmuseet, and so they will not be available from me, neither in electronic nor in paper format.


Construction is currently in progress. I have taken some photographs of the instrument during a few stages, and I will update the page as building goes on.

the empty instrument

the key guide comb

a detail of the comb

the soundboard and bridge

fitting the keys

applying shellac to the case

What next?

The next steps are planned as:

Is success guaranteed? Actually, no. It may well not work at all. As a start, the original instrument is not the best in its kind, but just one of the simplest. And some variations to the original design have been made. However, up to now it has been fun to build it, and all indications are for a satisfactory result.


Last updated 06.09.2003
Mario E. Giardini