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The Hohner D6 Clavinet

Weapon of Choice: Clavinet

A clavinet is a keyboard instrument, manufactured by the Hohner company. It is essentially an electronically amplified clavichord, analogous to an electric guitar but is better understood as an electric harpsichord. 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 consists of 60 keys and 60 associated strings, giving it 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-color keys and a plexiglass 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 disassociated themselves from the Clavinet completely by unloading their spare parts inventory to restoration web site

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" from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 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.
-- courtesy of wikipedia

The Clavinet in Action

Listen further/buy
Billy Preston "Outa-Space"
Stevie Wonder "Superstition"
Check out live footage of Stevie playing Clavinet here.
Led Zeppelin "Trampled Under Foot"
Herbie Hancock "Spank-a-lee"
I lucked out and bought a Clavinet out of the want-ads 10 years ago for $75!! It hardly worked and the hammers were gummy. At that time there were no parts to speak of so people were using the o-ring from a 350 chevy engine as hammer tips. You'd cut the o-ring up into hammer sized pieces with a razor blade. So that's how I got mine back in playing order. Then came along in 1999, and they started making hammer tips again. So I bought a set of those, hooked up the wah and used it on "Sing a Simple Song" from my Innocent Bystander CD.
Clavinet Emulations

Most of today's keyboards have some type of Clavinet patch in them ranging from bad to okay. Most of them fail to capture all of the grease of a real clavinet, but here are a few emulations that come close.
Product Name Manufacture Comments
EVD6 plug-in Logic Audio It's only available as a plug-in in Logic Audio and I'm not mad at it. I often use the EVD6 to come up with the part, and then track it with my real clavinet. You can get a variety of wah fx by using a Midi expression pedal like a Roland EV5.
Vintage Keyboard Gold Bundle Virtual Instrument -- Samples Scarbee I have yet to hear this but it supposed to be really great. The bundle includes rhodes, wurly, and clavinet samples.
Links to Clavinet Parts, Maintenance and more

Here are a few links to some great Clavinet Sites The mecca for all things Clavinet. parts, maintenance, etc ...

Current Releases

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Innocent Bystander

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