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A clavinet is a keyboard instrument, manufactured by the Hohner company. It is essentially an electronically amplified clavichord, analogous to an electric guitar. Its distinctive bright staccato sound has appeared particularly in funk and rock songs.
Various models were produced over the years, and including the models I, II, L, C, D6, and E7. Most models consist of 60 keys and 60 associated strings, giving it a five-octave range from F0 to E5.
Each key uses a small rubber tip to do a "hammer on" (forcefully fret the string) to a guitar-type string when it is pressed, as with a conventional clavichord. The end of each string farthest from the pickups passes through a weave of yarn. When the key is released, the yarn makes the string immediately stop vibrating. This mechanism is completely different from the other Hohner keyboard products, the Cembalet and Pianet, which use the principle of plectra or sticky pads plucking metal reeds.
Most Clavinets have two sets of pickups, which are positioned above and below the strings. The Clavinet has pickup selector switches, and a guitar-level output which can be patched to a guitar amp. Early clavinet models featured single-coil pickups; the D6 introduced a six-core pickup design.
Originally the instrument was designed for home use and aimed at playing early European classical and folk music. The Clavinet L, introduced in 1968 was a domestic model and featured a wood-veneered triangular body with wooden legs, reverse-colour keys and an acrylic glass music stand. The final E7 model saw the culmination of several engineering improvements to make the instrument more suitable for use in live amplified rock music, where its use had become commonplace. By 1982 however, the Hohner corporation had ceased production of the Clavinet. In 2000 Hohner dissociated themselves from the Clavinet completely by unloading their spare parts inventory to restoration website Clavinet.com.
The archetypal clavinet sound can be heard on Stevie Wonder's track "Superstition", Led Zeppelin's "Trampled Under Foot", Sun Ra's "Atlantis", The Commodores' "Machine Gun", Billy Preston's "Outa-Space", Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Tank", Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters and Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne". The track "Up on Cripple Creek" by The Band, is the first recorded example of patching a Clavinet through a guitar wah-wah pedal. More recently, John Medeski is a well-known player whose Clavinet work can be heard on nearly every release by the modern jazz group Medeski Martin and Wood. A Clavinet was also used in Tori Amos' "Not David Bowie", in Soundgarden's "Fresh Tendrils", and in the Gorillaz' "Dirty Harry".