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Denzil Wraight

(Fr. archiquier, eschaquier, eschiquier; Ger. Schachtbrett; Lat. scacarum, scacatorum; Sp. eschaquer, scaquer)

The earliest term used in archives and other writings to denote a string keyboard instrument. Its exact meaning is still the subject of debate and research, but it is probable that most references are to a clavichord. There appears to be no Italian equivalent of the name; Farmer suggested that it is derived from the Arabic ‘al-shaqira’ and tentatively identified this as a virginal, but there is no supporting evidence. Some writers identified the chekker as an upright harpsichord (i.e. a Clavicytherium), since a letter written to Juan I of Aragon in 1388 referred to ‘an instrument seeming like organs, that sounds with strings’, but the instrument was not named. Galpin (Grove4, suppl.) believed that the Dulce melos described by Arnaut de Zwolle (c1440) was identical with the chekker. However, instruments with hammer action, such as the dulce melos, appear to have been rare, whereas the name ‘chekker’ appears frequently, and there is no evidence to support this identification. Galpin further suggested that the chekker’s name was derived from the fact that the action was ‘checked’, in the sense that the motion of its keys was stopped by a fixed rail; this is unconvincing and could in any case apply to a clavichord, a harpsichord or a virginal. These suggestions can therefore be disregarded....


Edwin M. Ripin

revised by John Barnes

(Ger. Pedalklavichord, Pedalclavier)

A clavichord equipped with a pedal-board like that of an organ. Instruments of this type are mentioned by Paulus Paulirinus of Prague (c 1460) and Virdung (Musica getutscht, 1511), and a 15th-century drawing shows a clavichord with a two-and-a-half-octave compass B to ƒ″, with a 12-note pedal-board B to b (with b♭ omitted, perhaps in error) beneath it. Such instruments were primarily used for practice purposes by organists, and this function is specifically cited by Paulirinus. Most of them presumably had pull-down pedals directly connected by cords to the bass notes of an ordinary clavichord, but Adlung (Musica mechanica organoedi, 1768) noted that such a system presents problems because the pedal keys must be more widely spaced than the manual and, accordingly, the cords must slant and therefore tend to drag the keys sideways as they are pulled down. This problem could be obviated by the use of a rollerboard, which, however, was noisy and vastly increased the cost of the instrument. A better system was to provide a completely separate instrument to be sounded by the pedal keys; this was set underneath an ordinary clavichord and could be strung with sub-octave as well as unison strings, thereby better approximating the resources of the pedal division of an organ....



Warren Anderson

revised by Thomas J. Mathiesen


A triple kithara said by the historian Artemon of Cassandrea (fl 2nd century bce), probably following Aristotle’s pupil Dicaearchus (fl c326–296 bce), to have been invented in the 5th century bce by the music theorist Pythagoras of Zacynthus (Athenaeus, xiv, 637b–f). It had a revolving base, and a touch of the performer’s foot made the Dorian, Phrygian or Lydian mode instantly available. Whether or not the instrument (or indeed its inventor) actually existed, Artemon’s account of it has importance for modal theory and organology. Sachs pointed out the most obvious inference: the idea of such a multiple instrument can be based only on the assumption that even at this early period modes differed radically from one another. Light is also thrown on the disputed question of the function of the left hand in lyre playing: the placing of the left hand somehow within the upper part of the tripod remains inexplicable, unless it is seen in relation to a standard technique whereby the fingers of this hand damped strings rather than plucked them....