Early Clavichord by Kevin Spindler
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
Matteo Ricci theme     Ricci's Eight Songs     首頁
Clavichord in late 16th century style
Designed and built in 2009 by Kevin Spindler,2 (updated 20153)
十六世紀式西琴 1
Click on the present image to see a larger version 4          
Kevin Spindler described the clavichord as follows:5

Renaissance Italian fretted clavichord based on the instrument in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts once attributed to Onesto Tosi but now simply labeled as Italy, "end of the 16th or early 17th century", accession no. 17.1796, with some design modifications based on other surviving instruments of the period, namely, the 1540 Domenicus Pisaurensis clavichord in Leipzig, and also clavichords nos. 2 & 3 in the same collection; dovetailed case of poplar painted in two solid colors on the exterior and inside top, with the interior veneered in figured maple with matching mouldings finished naturally, i.e., varnished; keyboard range of C/E-c''', short & broken octave (Wiki), with two split accidentals added to the lowest two accidentals to give F# & G# along with the normal short-octave notes of D & E for a total of 47 notes; instrument is scaled for a440 pitch; temperament is quarter-comma meantone as described by Pietro Aron.

Each of the 47 keys can produce a single note: to play a note you press down on a key and the other end of it comes up and strikes the underside of the respective strings. The instrument has 50 brass strings attached in pairs to 50 tuning pegs.6 This would amount to 25 notes in all, not 47, except that the instrument is mostly double or triple fretted: the lowest 13 pairs of strings are single fretted, the next and the last pair are double fretted (each pair can thus produce two sounds, depending on where they are struck), while the other 10 pair are triple fretted (i.e., each pair can produce 3 sounds). 13x1 + 2x2 + 10x3 = 47 notes.

As for the four octave range, C/E means the bottom note looking like E actually plays as C. In some old keyboard instruments the divided black keys ("split accidentals") are designed to differentiate between, e.g., F# and G♭; here, though, the longer parts of what look like the lowest F# and G# are played as D and E while the raised shorter parts play the F# and G# (or A♭). Thus the C# and D# are missing from the lowest octave.

Note that the hinges and top edge of the cover for the keyboard can be seen along the front edge of the cover for the main body of the clavichord.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 十六世紀式西琴 Clavichord in 16th century style
"西琴 Xi qin" is used here in accord with Ricci's Songs. For issues in translating "clavichord" into Chinese see Early Chinese translations of "keyboards".

2. Kevin Spindler
When I knew Kevin he was living in and working out of Stonington, Connecticut. Sadly, after a lengthy illness, he passed away in 2022. He once had a website but it is no longer active.

3. 2015 update
In 2015 Kevin renewed the clavichord. This included re-stringing its brass strings and tuning them to what he considered its optimum sound. For this he calibrated "A" to 523 Hz, i.e., a minor-third above modern concert pitch, and used quarter-comma meantone tuning (Aron: Wiki).

4. Spindler clavichord
Photo taken in May 2009. The clavichord is intended to be in the style of the one Matteo Ricci may have taken to China at the end of the 16th century. The red color was selected as auspicious for such an event. The black table underneath is a qin table.

5. Spindler clavichord dimensions
The exterior measurements are: (n.b.: typical qin length is 48 - 50"; depth is 8 - 9" tapering to 5 - 6")
length/width of lid: 49.5"
length/width of body without lid: 49.2"
depth of lid: 11.3"
depth of body: 11.2" (without lid or keyboard protrusion)
height: 6.6" (including closed lid)
keyboard protrusion height: 6.6" tapering to 5.3" at front (lid closed)
keyboard protrusion depth: 4.5" (lid closed)
keyboard protrusion lid width: 26.9"
keyboard protrusion width (without lid): 26.7"
keyboard protrusion to left front (not including lid): 5"
keyboard protrusion to right front (not including lid): 17.5"

6. Brass string gauges
The gauges look to range from about .25 to about .65 cm (compare sample modern silk string gauges for guqin).

Return to top, to Music from the Time of Marco Polo, or to my performances.