The Clavinet is an electrically amplified clavichord that was manufactured by the Hohner company of Trossingen, West Germany from 1964 to the early 1980s.
The clavinet is an electric/mechanical instrument that requires a keyboard amplifier to produce a usable sound level. Most models have 60 keys and a keyboard range of F1 to E6 (fundamental frequencies of 43.6 Hz – 1318.5 Hz). This five octave span covers the range of an electric guitar and most of the range of a four-string electric bass guitar. The sound is produced by a harp of 60 tensioned steel strings oriented diagonally below the key surface. Each key of the simple keyboard action is a single lever element that pivots on a fulcrum point at the rear. A spring returns the key to the rest position. Beneath each key, a metal holder grips a small rubber pad. Depressing a key makes the pad perform what is known in guitar technique as a "hammer on" (forcefully fretting the string). An electro-magnetic pickup turns the string vibration into an electric current. The unique playing feel of a clavinet comes from this abrupt impact of the pad striking its anvil point against the string.
The end of each string farthest from the pick-ups passes through a weave of yarn. When the key is released, the yarn damps the vibration of the string. Each string is tuned by a machine-head positioned along the front of the harp. This harp mechanism is completely different from the other Hohner electric piano keyboard products, the Cembalet and Pianet, which use the principle of plectra or sticky pads plucking metal reeds that do not require user tuning. Most clavinets have two sets of pickups, positioned above and below the strings. The Clavinet has pickup selector switches, and a guitar-level output that connects to an amplifier. Early clavinet models featured single-coil pickups. The D6 introduced a six-core pickup design.
When the clavinet was used in funk, soul, rock and jazz fusion in the 1970s, it was often plugged into electronic effects units (mostly Phaser and Wah-wah) and then into an instrument amplifier. Electronic effects added a unique sound to the clavinet. The 2010-era music that draws on the sound of the 70’s and 80’s often uses similar effects with the clavinet.
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