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OK, if I have (or if I get) one of these harpsichord things, what can I play on it? Sooooo glad you asked! There is a ton of music for harpsichords. They were popular for three hundred years in their hey-day, and people have been writing for them non-stop since their revival at the end of the 19th century. Not to mention the wealth of piano, guitar and (yes!) Celtic harp music that suits the harpsichord as if it were written for it. In fact, guitar and harp music are great places to look for fun repertoire. After all, they are all plucked strings.

In that case, where to start? Here!

1.) Whether you have a Bermudo clavichord, a French double or a Fisher-Price toy piano, you *need* to own The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Comes in two volumes, between them they have over 800 pages of thoroughly delightful music dating from about 1562 to 1612. You could mine these two books for decades and still be finding new jewels.

Much of this music has never been commercially recorded, so you do not have to fret that your version doesn't sound like Davitt Moroney's.

Tons, absolutely *tons* of neat music here ranging from tiny 16-bar gems like Giles Farnaby's Toy to a Battle Piece, a suite of music starting with the Call To Arms and ending with Burying of the Dead. I just *know* this piece was acted out by the whole family as a do-it-yourself epic on rainy winter afternoons. " Dad, we need you to be the Valient Steede!" and "Mom, Jamie won't stay dead until we bury him!"

2.) Another oldie but goodie is My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Music. Dating back to 1591, it is another 'commonplace book" like the Fitzwilliams (ie, private collection rather than public printing) but entirely the work of William Byrd, one of the great 'English virginalists'. Byrd's music grew out of the lute tradition and works superbly well on any plucked string. Hey, that's harpsichords! All the pieces can (sort of) be played on the piano but unless you really know where they are coming from it is close to impossible to get them to 'work'. Which is probably why Byrd is not much known these days. What he could have done with an electric guitar!

Another wonderful Battle Piece here, including The Irishe Marche, The Flute and the Droome, and of course, The Buriing of the Dead.

Some sound samples from My Ladye Nevells' Booke that John Farah recorded on a little virginal we sold for a client.

More about the instrument here.

3.) If you're looking for something a bit different, try some Celtic harp music on your harpischord or virginal. These books have some classics by the great Irish harpist Turlough Carolan (1670 - 1738). One is written for harps, the other for guitar, so you may have to do a little fudging to make it work on a keyboard but it will sound *wonderful*!

4.) the Petrucci Music Library! "Our goal is to create a virtual library containing all public domain music, as well as music from composers who are willing to share their work with the world without charge." The stats to date: 37,396 works · 91,812 scores · 2,052 recordings · 5,417 composers · 76 performers · 20 languages











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last updated April 30, 2011