Alternative Ways of Playing Clavinet

When John Erik Kaada began experimenting with playing directly on the strings of clavinets, developing a unique technique in the process, he unveiled an entirely new soundscape. These sounds likely couldn’t have been produced any other way.

This unorthodox method of extracting music from a clavinet showcases the instrument’s versatility and resilience. The electric clavinet, known for its association with funk and artists like Stevie Wonder, is traditionally played via its keyboard. However, Kaada’s innovative approach highlights its capacity for creative misuse and even abuse, offering an equally valid form of musical expression. Through direct contact with the strings

Consult any well-meaning music dictionary, and you’ll find descriptions of the clavinet as a keyboard instrument linked to funk. They rarely mention alternative playing methods like plucking, strumming, or using unusual objects as plectrums.

Hohner Clavinet Schematics

Kaada’s use of various tools—drumsticks, toothpicks, fans, eBows, and screwdrivers—has expanded the clavinet’s sonic possibilities. 

He has employed electric drills, vibrators, forks, robotic toys, and wind-up dogs to manipulate the strings, which are often loosened or tightened to achieve different effects. His adventurous techniques include playing two clavinets simultaneously during performances with his band, Cloroform.

Using metal objects on the strings can create dive-bombing sounds and allow for microtonal playing, adding an exciting dimension to the music. Feedback, the howling or squealing sound produced when a clavinet or pickup is too close to its speaker, is another feature Kaada embraces. While traditional players avoid feedback, Kaada and his contemporaries harness it to enrich the instrument’s sustain and tonal palette, often employed in sample libraries.


The amplified clavinet’s feedback is highly responsive to changes in physical positioning, turning spatial arrangement into a technique. Beyond a certain level of amplification and distortion, the instrument takes on a life of its own, producing unexpected sounds. At times, the clavinetist can simply stand back and let the instrument “speak.” Even subtle interventions, like gently blowing on the strings, can yield remarkable results.

Ultimately, the greatest joy in playing the clavinet is not merely its ability to endure extensive experimentation and abuse but its surprising capacity to “fight back,” creating a dynamic interplay between the musician and the instrument.

Clavinets Sample Libraries For a Less Bleak World :  

 Links related to Hohner Clavinet
  1. “Ernst Zacharias & The Hohner Clavinet”. Sound on Sound. June 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  2. “Clavinet-Erfinder Ernst Zacharias gestorben”. Keyboard Magazine (in German). August 21, 2020. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  3. “Hohner Clavinet”. Emusician.com. Archived from the original on June 19, 2018. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  4. “Clavia Nord Stage 3”. Sound on Sound. March 2018. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  5. “Feel the funk all over again with Ticky Clav 2, a remastered version of the free Clavinet plugin”. Music Radar. February 27, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  6. Bill Oddie. “It sounds like Parliament on a bad day – the making of ‘The Funky Gibbon'”.
  7. Hogan, Ed. “Billy Preston ‘Outa-Space'”. AllMusic. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  8. “Van Der Graaf Generator: “Things went a bit mad after a while””. Uncut. November 2, 2018. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  9. “What the funk? Lachy Doley gives us a rundown of his Whammy Clav”. Mixdown. Retrieved November 4, 2021.
  10. The Hohner Clavinet Resource Homepage
  11. A Look Inside Lachy Doley’s WHAMMY CLAV (Clavinet)
  12. Hohner Clavinet videos, soundsamples & schematics
  13. Manufacturers replacement parts for Clavinets
  14. Kaada on Facebook
  15. Cloroform On Facebook
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