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I have a vague memory of seeing a photo of an ancient keyboard instrument (a calvichord?) that had only some of the black keys - maybe just B flat and F sharp. Alas, I can't find anything similar now. Can anybody here help?

Many thanks!

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Yes, many old organs were built with only some of the 12 chromatic keys in some octaves (particularly the lowest one, since the biggest pipes are the most expensive ones). The reason is that the more remote chromatic tones were rarely used in compositions of the time, and so this saved a lot of money for only a little inconvenience.

The same was also done for other keyboard instruments. Here's a section from German wikipedia with pictures of a harpsichord and clavichord like this.

  • Thank you, Kilian. I am familiar with this image, and was looking for a clearer one, preferably a camera photo, that shows a stretch of several octaves with some of the black keys missing. Any idea? – Buchuck Apr 25 '16 at 5:23
  • I don't know of any early keyboards that didn't have all five black keys (with the exception already mentioned of "short octaves" in the bass. I'd be curious if anyone knows of any. – Scott Wallace Apr 25 '16 at 18:40
  • I managed to find this, but am still looking for something better. Any help will be appreciated. – Buchuck Apr 26 '16 at 4:58

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