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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....


Coltman, John W.  

Murray Campbell

(b Cleveland, OH, July 19, 1915; d Pittsburgh, PA, Feb 10, 2010). American scientist and acoustician. After studying physics at Case Institute of Technology (BS 1937), he carried out research in nuclear physics at the University of Illinois (PhD 1941). He then joined the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, remaining with the firm for the rest of his professional life; he retired in 1980 after a distinguished career culminating in six years as Director of Research and Development. In his youth he had become an accomplished flute player, and during his undergraduate studies at Case he encountered the notable acoustician Dayton C. Miller. This meeting led to a lifelong interest in the acoustics of the flute, and Coltman developed a laboratory at his home in which he conducted many important and illuminating experiments on flutes and flute playing. Particularly significant was his contribution to the understanding of the subtle interaction between the air jet blown across the flute embouchure hole by the player and the resonances of the air column within the flute pipe. Over four decades, starting in the mid-1960s, he published more than 40 papers on the acoustics of flutes and organ pipes. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers....



Murray Campbell and Mary Térey-Smith

The repetition of sound after a short time interval. In addition to the applications discussed below the term is used for a signal-processing device (also known as a delay) that produces a slightly delayed playback of sounds either by a tape loop or by digital delay; see Electric guitar §2 .

See also Organ stop .

Natural echoes arise from the reflection of a sound wave by a solid surface, such as a wall or cliff. For the echo to be perceived as distinct from the original sound, the extra path length travelled by the reflected sound wave must have a minimum value of around 17 metres, corresponding to a minimum time interval of 50 milliseconds between direct and reflected sounds.

The reverberant sound field in a concert hall is created by multiple reflections of sound waves. In a well-designed hall, the direct sound reaching a member of the audience is followed by a series of reflections within a time interval of around 35 milliseconds. These ‘early delayed arrivals’ are not heard as separate echoes; because of the ‘precedence effect’ they are perceived as a reinforcement of the direct sound. Subsequent reflections blend smoothly into the reverberation. A concave surface, focussing sound waves into a particular part of the hall, can give rise to an audible echo; a ‘flutter echo’ can arise from successive reflections between parallel walls....


Hamilton, James Alexander  

Diane Kolin

(b London, 1785; d London, Aug 2, 1845). English music theorist, translator, and instructor in musical composition, the pianoforte, the organ, and singing. The son of a dealer in old books, his interests in linguistics and music led him to learn foreign languages and translate music theory books. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, he edited primers in sacred and secular harmony as well as the piano, the organ, singing, and choral singing. His books, issued mostly by the London music publisher Robert Cocks, were often completed, reedited, and reprinted over half a century, even after his death (his method for the pianoforte reached its 13th edition in 1849).

Hamilton was best known for his Dictionary of Two Thousand Italian, French, German, English, and Other Musical Terms (1842), which was expanded and republished several times. His translation of Czerny’s four-volume Piano Forte School Opus 500 method opened English-speaking students to German treatises on tempo and metronome markings, performance practice, and musical examples by Thalberg, Döhler, Henselt, Chopin, Taubert, Willmers, Liszt, Beethoven, and Handel. His collaboration with Czerny also resulted in the publication of ...



Howard Mayer Brown


Although it now has only the general meaning of ‘musical instrument’, the word ‘Instrument’ in German used to have the more specific meaning of ‘keyboard instrument’. To judge from the title-pages of late 16th-century German keyboard anthologies by Elias Nikolaus Ammerbach (1571, 1575 and 1583), Bernhard Schmid (1577) and others, ‘Instrument’ then meant ‘string keyboard instrument’ in opposition to organ; the volumes are said to be written in a tablature for ‘Orgel und Instrument’. This interpretation was confirmed by Praetorius, who wrote in Syntagma musicum, ii (2/1619), chap.37, that the Symphony – his collective name for harpsichord or clavicymbalum, virginal, spinet and the like – was generally called ‘Instrument’, a usage he criticized for its ambiguity. Like many other musical terms, however, the word meant various things at various times, and it was not always used consistently. In the 17th and 18th centuries, for example, ‘Instrument’ sometimes referred specifically to the clavichord. At least that conclusion seems warranted from the reference to ‘Instrument, Spinet oder Clavicymbel’ on the title-page of Benedict Schultheiss’s ...



Nicolas Meeùs

(Fr. clavier; Ger. Klaviatur, Tastatur; It. tastiera, tastatura)

A set of levers (keys) actuating the mechanism of a musical instrument such as the organ, harpsichord, clavichord, piano etc. The keyboard probably originated in the Greek hydraulis, but its role in antiquity and in non-European civilizations appears to have remained so limited that it may be considered as characteristic of Western music. Its influence on the development of the musical system can scarcely be overrated. The primacy of the C major scale in tonal music, for instance, is partly due to its being played on the white keys, and the 12-semitone chromatic scale, which is fundamental to Western music even in some of its recent developments, derives to some extent from limitations and requirements of the keyboard design. The arrangement of the keys in two rows, the sharps and flats being grouped by two and three in the upper row, already existed in the early 15th century.

The earliest European keyboards were simple contrivances, played with the hands rather than the fingers. Praetorius (2/...



Owen Jander

[mean, mene] (from Old Fr. moien, or meien: ‘middle’)

English term referring originally to the middle part of a three-voice polyphonic texture. R. Brunne’s Chronical of Wace (c 1630) refers to ‘the clerkes that best couthe synge, wyth treble, mene & burdoun’. In discussions of discant, 15th-century theorists (Leonel Power, Pseudo-Chilston) applied ‘mene’ to the part sounding a 5th or a 3rd above the plainchant. In the Mulliner Book ten compositions by John Redford (d 1547) bear such titles as ‘Lux with a meane’; these are three-part keyboard works in which the middle part is ingeniously passed back and forth between the two hands, the notes being written in black to guide the eye. Morley (A Plaine and Easie Introduction, 1597) used ‘mean’ synonymously with ‘altus’, while Campion (A New Way of Making Fowre Parts in Counter-Point, c 1615) and Playford (A Breefe Introduction to the Skill of Musick, 1654...



Laurence Libin

Pure-tuned harmonium developed by the German physicist and music theorist Arthur Joachim von Oettingen (b Dorpat, Livonia, 28 March 1836; d Bensheim, Germany, 5 Sept 1920) and built by Schiedmayer in Stuttgart. An example from 1914 is in the Musikinstrumenten Museum, Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung, Berlin. Designed to sound pure 3rds, 4ths, and 5ths, it is based on an octave division into 53 (in some versions, 72) tones and has a complex multilayered but symmetrical keyboard similar to that of Bosanquet’s enharmonic harmonium. Oettingen studied astronomy and physics at the University of Dorpat and continued his education in Paris and Berlin. He was appointed a professor in Dorpat in 1863 and moved in 1893 to Leipzig, where he worked until 1919. He advocated the theory of ‘harmonic dualism’, later elaborated by Hugo Riemann, and introduced the interval measurement called the ‘millioctave’, based on division of the octave into 1000 tones. See ...


Pedal clavichord  

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....




Pythagorean intonation  

Mark Lindley

A tuning of the scale in which all 5ths and 4ths are pure (untempered). Pythagorean tuning provides intonations of several types of scale. A series of five 5ths and 4ths includes the pitch classes of the most familiar kind of pentatonic scale; ascending from F♯ the series would comprise the five chromatic notes of the keyboard. A series of seven 5ths ascending from F yields a diatonic scale comprising the naturals on the keyboard; the 3rds and 6ths in this scale, however, differ from their justly intoned equivalents by a syntonic comma, and therefore do not meet medieval and Renaissance criteria of consonance implied by such terms as ‘perfection’ and ‘unity’. When used as harmonic intervals these Pythagorean 3rds and 6ths are likely to be characterized, on an organ Diapason stop for example, by rather prominent Beats; middle C–E or C–A beat more than 16 times per second at modern concert pitch. A series of 12 Pythagorean 5ths provides a fully chromatic scale that is bound to include, however, one sour ...


Short octave  

Nicolas Meeùs

(Fr. octave courte; Ger. kurze Oktave)

A term to denote the tuning of some of the lowest notes of keyboard instruments to pitches below their apparent ones. The practice was employed from the 16th century to the early 19th to extend the keyboard compass downwards without increasing the overall dimensions of the instrument.

The short octave was not described in theoretical writings before the 1550s; the alleged description of it in Ramos's Musica practica (1482) results from a misinterpretation. However, the system originated earlier in stringed keyboard instruments. It was basically a variable tuning adapted to the requirements of individual pieces, comparable to the Scordatura of string instruments. It was first applied to keyboards showing F as the lowest key; the F♯ and G♯ keys, if present, were tuned to sound lower notes, usually C, D or E. By the middle of the 16th century an apparent E was added as the lowest key, but it was often tuned to a lower pitch. This soon resulted in the standard tuning known today as the ‘...


Soundboard (i)  

Edwin M. Ripin

(Fr. table d'harmonie; Ger. Resonanzboden; It. piano armonico, tavola armonica)

The thin sheet of wood in a piano, harpsichord, clavichord, zither, or the like, that serves to make the sound of the strings more readily audible and helps to form the characteristic tone quality of the instrument. A string presents so small a surface to the surrounding air that its vibrations cannot set the air into vibration with any great efficiency; as a result, the sound produced by a string in the absence of a soundboard, although it may well sustain for an appreciable time, is hardly loud enough to be used for any musical purpose. The soundboard, coupled to the strings by means of one or more bridges over which they pass, provides a larger vibrating surface so that the air can be set into vibration more efficiently and a louder sound can be heard. The soundboard does not serve as an amplifier in the same sense as an electronic circuit or device, since it adds no energy from an outside source; rather, it enables the energy already imparted to the string by a hammer, plectrum, tangent, or the like, to be dissipated more rapidly, so this energy is converted to a sound of higher intensity that lasts for a shorter time. The particular resonance and vibrational characteristics of the soundboard determine which components of the complex vibration of the string will be given particular prominence, and the rate at which they will be dissipated; consequently the shape, thickness and ribbing of the soundboard are of primary importance in determining the quality of the instrument of which it is a part....



Peter Williams

revised by Martin Renshaw

Term currently used by organ theorists to denote a list of the speaking stops, accessories and compass of an organ. To a builder, however, ‘specification’ would include technical information on the bellows, action, pressure, chests, case, façade, placement etc., as well as the pipes and stops. The term was used by Hopkins (Hopkins and Rimbault, The Organ, 1855) as an occasional alternative to such phrases as ‘a list of the contents’ or ‘the distribution of stops’. Previous English writers used only such phrases as ‘list of stops’ (J.A. Hamilton: Catechism of the Organ, London, 1842), ‘Catalogue of the Stops’ (Burney), ‘Schedule’ (Father Smith at the Temple Church, 1688), and ‘The Name and number of the stoppes’ (Dallam’s contract at York, 1632).

The term ‘disposition’ (see Disposition), which is sometimes used synonymously with ‘specification’, properly refers to the arrangement of different stops among the keyboards or divisions of a harpsichord or organ, whereas ...


Stopped pipe  

Philip Bate

In the terminology of organ building, a flue pipe in which the end remote from the mouth is closed by a movable stopper or airtight cap. This provides a means of tuning.

In general, a stopped pipe is any tube that communicates freely with the ambient air at one end and is completely closed at the other. The Air column in such a tube will vibrate with an antinode at the open end and a node at the closure. The fundamental is approximately an octave lower than that given by a pipe of equal dimensions open at both ends, and its wavelength is four times that of the tube itself. The harmonic series of a stopped pipe lacks the even-numbered partials; Overblowing begins a 12th above the fundamental. Because it shows this characteristic the clarinet is sometimes loosely termed a stopped pipe. Among folk instruments the stopped pipe is represented by many end-blown flutes of varying degrees of sophistication....



Mark Lindley

Tunings of the scale in which some or all of the concords are made slightly impure in order that few or none will be left distastefully so. Equal temperament, in which the octave is divided into 12 uniform semitones, is the standard Western temperament today except among specialists in early music. This article traces the history of temperaments in performing practice and in relation to the main lines of development in the history of harmony; for additional technical and historical details see Tuning, Pythagorean intonation, Just intonation, Microtone, Mean-tone, Well-tempered clavier, Equal temperament and Interval, especially Table 1.

Since the 15th century, tempered tuning has characterized keyboard music and in Western culture the art music of fretted instruments such as the lute. Its prevalence is due mainly to the fact that the concords of triadic music – octaves, 5ths and 3rds – are in many cases incommensurate in their pure forms. Three pure major 3rds (e.g. A♭–C–E–G♯) fall short of a pure octave by approximately one fifth of a whole tone (lesser diesis); four pure minor 3rds (G♯–B–D–F–A♭) exceed an octave by half as much again (greater diesis); the circle of twelve 5ths, if the 5ths are pure, does not quite cumulate in a perfect unison; and, most important of all in the context of Renaissance and Baroque music, the whole tone produced by subtracting a pure minor 3rd from a pure 4th (C–F–D) is about 11% smaller than the whole tone produced by subtracting a pure 4th from a pure 5th (C–G–D). These discrepancies are summarized in ...