Harpsichord Vs Piano: The Major Differences you Should Know

A Harpsichord is the English name of a popular German music instrument known as the Cembalo. It is more than 600 years old. It was one of the most popular musical instruments since the 1600’s across Europe as it was played in many courts. The instrument looks eerily similar to a piano. The ones who are unaware of it might even consider it a piano only, given the similarity. But in actuality, this instrument is quite different from the Piano in the way it is set up, used and the sound that it produces. Here we have brought up some of the differences about Harpsichord vs Piano which should make it much clearer as to how Harpsichord is different from a Piano.Harpsichord vs Piano

The Mechanism of Sound

The major difference between Harpsichord vs Piano is in the way they produce the sound. While a piano works by striking strings against a hammer and vibrating them, the Harpsichord, on the other hand, works quite differently. It produces sound by plucking the strings with a plectrum and hence vibrating them. This is much more similar to a guitar whose strings are plucked with a pick to produce a sound.

The Technique of Performance

Because of its definite structure, the Harpsichord cannot make different sounds on the basis of strength. So even if you press the key hard or light, it is still going to produce the same sound. But this is not the case with piano. A long hard press on a piano gives a different sound whereas if you make a light and a small press, then you will hear a completely different sound. This is one of the major differences in Piano vs Harpsichord.

The Sound Characteristics

When you play a tune on the Harpsichord, you can hear a sound similar to air-slashing. This sound is produced when the jack falls under its weight and then rises up back again. Also, the sound produced by the Harpsichord is much more harmonic i.e. has a double frequency of the fundamental pitch. Piano, on the other hand, tries to eliminate the harmonic sound. It starved to produce a beautiful sound.

The Total Number of Keys

There are a variety of models of Harpsichords. They come in with the single keyboard, double keyboards and even with triple keyboards. The sound range of these keys is from 4 to 6 octaves. A Piano, on the other hand, comes in with a single keyboard, with its sound ranging to a little more than 7 octaves. It has a total of 88 keys on a single keyboard.


The strings of the Harpsichord have a very weak tension, so much so that the performers have to tune the Harpsichord themselves before every performance because the strings become loose quite often. A Piano is an advanced version of the Harpsichord in this regard since its strings take much longer to get loose and have a higher tension. This is one of the major differences in Piano vs Harpsichord.

The Last Words

Though both the musical instruments look similar, they differ in the way they produce sound and the tuning of keys. Harpsichord and Piano produce strikingly different sound and are used to produce different music. The above-listed differences must be noted if you are going to a piano and Harpsichord.

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