The Organ, Harpsichord and Celesta – the piano’s cousins in the music class

The piano has several less known cousins which are important for us to introduce into the music classroom: the celesta, harpsichord and organ.

Discuss with students the similarities and differences among keyboard instruments. The keyboard instruments are related to each other in that they are controlled by a similarly laid-out key mechanism. Technically, however, they belong to different instrument families according to how they produce sound.

The harpsichord and the piano are string instruments (chordophones). The hammers on the piano strike the strings, while the harpsichord mechanism plucks the string.

The pipe organ really belongs in the wind family. Some pipes operate like a flute, other pipes operate like a whistle or recorder, and yet other pipes operate like a reed instrument.

The keyboard on the celesta plays bells, just like the Glockenspiel, hence why it can be called a “bell piano”

Here are some other observations: There is only one row of keys on a piano or celesta, however on the organ (and most harpsichords) there are nearly always more than one keyboard. You might also notice the various ranges of the instruments – Organs and Pianos have an extremely wide range, while the range on the harpsichord and celesta are much more limited.

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