A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed, Harpsichord designates the whole family of similar plucked keyboard instruments, including the smaller virginals, muselar, and spinet. The harpsichord was used in Renaissance and Baroque music. During the late 18th century, it disappeared from the musical scene with the rise of the piano. In the 20th century, it made a resurgence, being used in historically informed performances of music, in compositions. Harpsichords vary in size and shape, but all have the basic functional arrangement. The player depresses a key that rocks over a pivot in the middle of its length, the other end of the key lifts a jack that holds a small plectrum, which plucks the string. When the player releases the key, the far end returns to its rest position, the plectrum, mounted on a tongue that can swivel backwards away from the string, passes the string without plucking it again. As the key reaches its rest position, a felt damper atop the jack stops the strings vibrations and these basic principles are explained in detail below. The keylever is a pivot, which rocks on a balance pin that passes through a hole drilled through the keylever. The jack is a thin, rectangular piece of wood that sits upright on the end of the keylever, the jacks are held in place by the registers. These are two strips of wood, which run in the gap between pinblock and bellyrail. The registers have rectangular mortises through which the pass as they can move up. The registers hold the jacks in the location needed to pluck the string. In the jack, a plectrum juts out almost horizontally and passes just under the string, historically, plectra were made of bird quill or leather, many modern harpsichords have plastic plectra. When the front of the key is pressed, the back of the key rises, the jack is lifted, the vertical motion of the jack is then stopped by the jackrail, which is covered with soft felt to muffle the impact. When the key is released, the falls back down under its own weight. This is made possible by having the plectrum held in a tongue attached with a pivot and a spring to the body of the jack
This harpsichord is the work of two celebrated makers: originally constructed by Andreas Ruckers in Antwerp (1646), it was later remodeled and expanded by Pascal Taskin in Paris (1780).
Sound board of a harpsichord with Chladni patterns
Detail of the harpsichord by Karl Conrad Fleisher; Hamburg, 1720 in Museu de la Música de Barcelona. A decorative rose descends below the soundboard in which is it mounted; the soundboard itself is adorned with floral painting around the rose. The bridge is at lower right.