Instruments | Harpsichord | Late Baroque | Classical
The basic harpsichord mechanism of a sprung lever with a quill plectrum plucking the string a single time, remained largely unchanged since its origins. However, a small series of stops was developed, allowing the sound quality of the instrument to be varied between a brighter sound and a muted pizzicato. Because these changes were effected mechanically, by pulling out or pushing in the stops, they could not be gradual; they were stepped, not sloped.
As harpsichord sound decays rapidly and dynamic variation is limited, Baroque composers were faced with a double challenge. They responded by developing ornamentation and trills, by building up and then dissipating the density of the texture (as in a fugue) and by moving from slow to fast and back to slow.
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