The Hohner Clavinet is a multi-stringed, electronically-amplified keyboard instrument, a hybrid of a clavichord and an electric piano.
The Clavinet is essentially a large box full of short, tightly-stretched metal strings. Above each string is a key, and attached to the key is a rubber striker.
| ____|| |
-> ____||__________________________________________| <-- key
|___| <-- striker
^-- string |^| |^| /^^^^^\ <-- anvil
| | | |
Hitting a key allows the striker to contact the string, pushing it downwards. Running below all the strings is a metal bar, the anvil. After being hit by the striker, the string bounces off the anvil and begins to vibrate at a frequency dictated by its length, thickness and tension.
The string's vibration induces an electric current in two magnetic pickups running the length of the keyboard. This passes through a microphone transformer, a small preamplifier and the keyboard's tone circuitry, and finally reaches an amplifier which boosts it to a level suitable to drive a loudspeaker. On later models switches are provided to adjust the tone (by taking various bits of filter circuitry in and out of circuit) and to allow for different combinations of pickup and pickup phase.
The Clavinet's action is quite similar to that of a bass player playing slap bass, and the action of the string hitting the anvil gives a similar sharp sound to the bass string hitting the fretboard. Like slap bass, the Clavinet's sound has found many uses in funk music.
The Clavinet has been through several revisions:
- Model I: the first Clavinet, produced in 1964. Wooden casing with black top.
- Model II: an improved Model I. All-black casing.
- Model C: Humbucking pickups instead of the regular single coils. Used on Stevie Wonder's "Superstition". Red casing, white top.
- Model L: Introduced in 1968, this is the rarest Clavinet. Woodgrain case, with reverse color keys.
- Model D6: Introduced in 1971, this is the most famous and popular Clavinet. Unlike the previous models, the D6 featured four tone switches to allow different sounds to be generated, a sliding mute lever (producing a sound similar to a palm mute on a guitar or bass) and an AC power socket to power the active pickups and filter circuitry. Black case, woodgrain top.
- Model E7: Introduced in 1977, this model has better shielding and noise filters, both of which reduce the problems previous models had with noise. This model is also much sturdier than the previous Clavinets, although its redesigned black-on-black case is less attractive.
All the Clavinet models have 60 keys (five octaves).
Hohner also created the Hohner Duo, a combination Clavinet Model E7 and Pianet Model T in a single case sharing one keyboard. Controls were provided to allow the keyboard to be used to control either both instruments at once, using different parts of the keyboard.
The original Clavinet strikers were made of a hard rubbery orange material called Urepan. Unfortunately, this material degrades over time, eventually becoming soft and squishy. Coupled with the hard-hitting action many players used to achieve the funkiest tone, this allowed the strings to wear grooves into the strikers, leading to sticky keys and unwanted popping sounds on key release. Also, like guitar strings, Clavinet strings tend to oxidise over time, producing a 'dull' sound. Hohner stopped making Clavinets, strings and spare parts around twenty years ago, but a couple of companies sell custom-wound strings and striker tips for this unique instrument. New pickups are also available, albeit in humbucker form rather than the original single coil design - cracked and unrepairable pickups are common in heavily-gigged Clavinets.
The Hohner Clavinet Resource Homepage: http://www.gti.net/junebug/clavinet - Aaron Kipness