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Microphone Month 2

Clavinet

A keyboard instrument originally designed by Ernst Zacharias and produced in Germany by Hohner from about 1971 to 1985, the Clavinet was, in essence, a 60-note electric clavichord. It was all the rage when Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” catapulted it into the music mainstream in the early 1970s. A rubber pad under each key pressed the string onto a metal fret, causing the string to vibrate. When the key was released, the pad fell away and the string stopped vibrating because it is damped by thick yarn woven across the far end. There were two electromagnetic pickups located under the strings, which pick up the vibrations to be sent out to be amplified. Much like electric guitars, the pickups could be switched to be in or out of phase with each other, giving the Clavinet a number of different sounds. The six switches on the left-hand control panel were: A/B, C/D, Soft, Mellow, Treble, Brilliance. On the right side was a slide for damping the strings, just as you’d find on a harpsichord or clavichord. Because the volume of the notes was so low, it had to be boosted using a small preamp powered by a 9-volt battery. Unfortunately, this caused Clavinets to be rather noisy, although when played in an ensemble, this noise was rarely problematic. Today Clavinets in working order are expensive, but if you’re tempted, be sure you take into consideration the fact that Hohner is no longer building any replacement parts.

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