The Clavisimbalum, drawn and described by Henri Arnaut de Zwolle in his manuscript of c1440, could be described as an ‘early' early keyboard instrument. It has a series of mechanisms quite different to the jacks and registers that we are familiar with today. The manuscript, which is amongst the earliest known records of what may be termed a harpsichord, shows five, "devices for attacking the strings". However in his description of the instrument Arnaut is clearly talking about the first mechanism, "the first and best" as he says. For my reconstruction I have made two versions of this instrument. One using the mechanism that Arnaut apparently favoured, the other using a conventional jack that we recognise today. Although working perfectly well and effectively the original style device is a little more time consuming to adjust and regulate and from the musicians point of view the conventional jack is likely to be more convenient. In both versions the geometry of the instruments is identical, including overall sizes, string lengths and pluck points.The Clavisimbalum has a compass of 35 notes chromatic from B - a" and is strung with brass and iron un-damped. It has a clear voice, crisp and bright with plenty of volume. The sound has been likened by one observer to the clarsach, an early type of harp. The Clavisimbalum is available in a simple form with an oiled finish or may be embellished with pierced roses and painted decoration. More detailed information about the Clavisimbalum reconstruction is available (here PDF) in an article written in 2002 for the FoMRHI Quarterly.Click here to Link to PDF:Listen to the Clavisimbalum here: and here: Specification:
Compass: B - a" Strung with brass and IronPitch: a' = 554Hz. (4th above a' = 415Hz)Dimensions: Length 920mm, Width 560mm, Height 120mm.Weight: Kg. Approx.