Classical Keyboard Instruments/Overview


     Tracing their roles from the classical and baroque periods thru today

A keyboard instrument can be described as any musical instrument which is played using a musical keyboard.  A keyboard is a devise with black and white piano keys.

 The Piano tops the most popular keyboard instrument  lists, followed by organs. Also included are hapsichords, clavicords and, of course,  electric keyboards.

The Piano

Because of its wide range –  more than seven octaves – and its ability to sustain sounds, the piano has been used with virtually every musical instrument combination.

In the 18th century, it replaced the hapsichord as the common keyboard instrument, partly because the piano can function as a one-man band, or orchestra.

What  Is An Electric Keyboard And What Is  It’s Role In Classical Music?

The term electric keyboardrefers to any instrument that has keys to create sound and uses electricity to facilitate that sound.

When one thinks of electronic keyboards  modern music immediately comes to mind. Although the use  electric keyboards  in a classical format is not as common, there have been artists who have successfully married the two.

Early Beginnings

Like a baby taking its first steps, the keyboard, as  a musical instrument, had its origins in the clavicord. Upon that platform, various types of musical instruments were built, including  the spinnet and hapsichord.  This creativity and innovation extended  well into the 20th  century which saw a proliferation of electronic keyboards and computer-linked instruments.

Keyboard Instrumentation

Keyboard instruments have played an important role in orchestration during the 17th Century. One distinguishing feature of Keyboard instruments is the way in which sound is produced.

The Hapsichord has quills that pluck the strings; pianos – hammers that strike while  the pipe organ sends air through a pipe.

Wall To Wall Piping

Not only in times past, but  the organ  continues to be one of the primary instruments in classical music today. From weddings to baseball games you can hear a pipe organ.   The pipes, ranging from dozens to thousands, come in all different shapes and sizes. As air passes through them, they make different sounds imitating anything from a trumpet to a flute.  Some  organs are so huge with pipes so numerous, they can fill several walls of a cathedral.

The First True Electric Keyboard

The first true synthesizer – a device that generates sound – was created in 1874 by Elisha Gray.  Called the musical telegraph, the instrument transmitted sounds over telephone wires and had a two-octave keyboard. A year later, Gray obtained a patent for his  invention, called the “Electric Telegraph For Transmitting Musical Notes.”

Keyboards And Synthesizers

Some keyboards come with synthesizers and some don’t. On the other hand, some synthesizers come with keyboards and some don’t.

A keyboard without a synthesizer is called a MIDI keyboard. You will not get sound unless you plug it into a synthesizer.

Price is the main factor in opting for a keyboard with or without a synthesizer. Of course, built in speakers are also an option, otherwise you can connect to your stereo, separate speakers or headphones.

A Famous Keyboardist

A keyboardist is a musician who plays keyboard instruments.

Perhaps the top keyboardist during the classic and baroque periods was none other thanJohann Sebastian Bach.

Bach has been described as a genius keyboardist, mastering the organ and hapsichord,  as well as a brilliant composer.


Sources: Wikipedia,  Electronic Keyboards, History & Development & Baroque Period Composers


Any comments, constructive criticism &/or suggestions will be greatly appreciated.