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date: 20 November 2019

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

  • 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/...

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M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum, i (Wittenberg and Wolfenbüttel, 1614-15, 2/1615/R); ii (Wolfenbüttel, 1618, 2/1619/R; Eng. trans., 1986, 2/1991); iii (Wolfenbüttel, 1618, 2/1619/R)
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Early Music
Galpin Society Journal