Toronto, Ontario, Canada

SOLD! to the gentleman from Colorado!
Unfretted clavichord from Zuckermann kit

This instrument was made by an anonymous American builder from one of the famous Zuckermann kits of the 60's. Compass is C - f''' (54 notes), enough for tons of music -- the Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues, the Fitzwilliam and other virginal books, and a lot of Mozart, Hayden and even Beethoven will fit on it.

The current owner bought this instrument at an auction in the US some years ago, he is now reducing his instrument collection because he and his wife are moving to a smaller home.

A clavichord is a good introduction to keyboards for a beginner of any age, or as an introduction to baroque instruments for experienced keyboard players. The low maintenance and low volume make it an ideal companion instrument for a busy person, an insomniac, or anyone who shares their home with people who want to sleep or work when you want to play. The clavichord is a supportive and tactful partner for people who wish to improvise or compose -- Mozart composed on one, try it and you'll see why.

The keyboard is piano-style white plastic naturals with black sharps, same as the Zuckerman "Z-box" kit harpsichords of the period. The instrument plays well and has a pleasant tone and a respectable volume. The keydip, which can be a problem on an amateur-built clavichord, is even and a good depth on this instrument. The little tool compartment on the bass end currently holds a tuning wrench, a pitch pipe and a blue Tinkertoy.

It is small -- only 17" x 49 1/4" x 7" / 43 cm x 125 cm x 18 cm) but it weighs a lot for its size, about 75 lbs / 34 kg, so although it doesn't take up much space it isn't exactly portable. It *is* sturdy, though, so if you wanted to take it to the summer home, ski lodge or to university the instrument wouldn't mind at all, but extensive travelling with it would be not so convenient.

The case is quite handsome. The builder used solid teak for the case, rail, stand and panelled lid, finished with oil, I think it is the famous 60's Danish oil finish. The inside centre panel of lid has a painting of lutes, etc. in a cubist style, done in earthtone and olive green glazes, signed "Beauregard" .

The instrument has an integral folding stand in teak with brass braces, the braces are attached with two wing-nuts each. The braces can be removed and the stand folds flat against the bottom of the clavichord so you can put it on the floor of a van or on the back seat of a car for transport, and it will sit on a desk or table for playing.

There are a couple of odd things about this instrument. One is that there is a wire with a plug on it coming from the underside of the harpsichord, apparently intended to connect to an amplifier or some such device. No idea what else electronic is inside, and neither we nor the current owner have tried plugging it into anything. If that's your area of expertise we'd be happy for suggestions as to how to check this out.


The other odd thing is the large turnbuckle on the bottom. The owner may have been attempting to thwart the case twist that is an occupational hazard of being a clavichord. It may have worked, there's not much twist. A bit is usual with a clav, as long as it doesn't affect the tuning it's not considered a problem.

And you can see where the mysterious cord comes from, that is right under the soundboard, which suggests am audio pick-up of some sort.

The instrument is in excellent mechanical and structural condition. Everything works, all the joints are tight, the pins are all holding and there are no cracks in the sound board.

It keeps its tune well, like most clavichords, so you won't have to tune it often. And it's single-strung, so when you do tune you can do it in about 15 minutes -- really! 30 seconds per note is lots of time! It is also unfretted, which makes it excellent for experimenting with various temperaments.

It's not expensive and would make a good entry-level instrument. If you decided to move up later on this one could probably be sold for at least what you paid for it or you could keep it as a second instrument. Already have an instrument? This would make a wonderful second instrument to put in the bedroom, study, office or guestroom. Wouldn't it be nice to find this in your room at a bed-and-breakfast?

The only problem we found is that the action is currently a bit mushy. We feel the instrument would benefit from being re-listed. The present listing cloth (the strip of material laced through the strings, visible in the photos) is too soft and too loosely woven. It does an OK job of damping but allows the strings to move too much; a tighter weave or a listing board would improve the action and probably produce more volume, too -- not that that's a big issue, this is a clavichord after all. I've gotten a lot more volume and tone out of it during preliminary tests using a stiffer listing material. We could re-list it for $100 USD or the new owner may wish to do it -- it's not difficult. We can supply the materials for approx $10 USD or piano damper felt will serve.

The wire is also getting a bit tired after 40-some-odd years, this is not urgent but should be done eventually. A complete set of replacement is available from Zuckermann Harpsichords International for $50 USD/set, or if you'd rather have us do the work we would restring and re-list it for $500 USD. Note: There was one broken string on this instrument when it came to us. I replaced it today (April 2) and the improvment is dramatic. The old wire appears to be phosphor bronze, which has a lovely tone when first installed but after about a year sounds like an old rubber band. Do consider restringing this instrument, it would make a world of difference!

Price: asking $1,675 CAD / $1,250 USD / £685 GBP / € 1,030 / $13,800 MXN / ¥ 132,565 JPY plus shipping from Toronto and applicable taxes & duties. Made in the US so duty-free within North America (US-Canada-Mexico). Interested? E-mail Claviers Baroques or give us a call toll-free in North America at 1-888-597-0946.

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