Organ, Sacred Music, and Historical Keyboards

Harpsichord Study

The Eastman School of Music offers degrees in harpsichord performance at both the masters and doctoral levels.  In addition, many piano and organ majors take secondary harpsichord lessons, often as part of a minor field of study. The course of study includes a weekly lesson and a weekly studio class. In addition, courses in continuo realization, baroque performance practice, baroque chamber music, and harpsichord literature are offered. Students take advantage of regular opportunities for performance by accompanying student degree recitals and Collegium Musicum performances.

Department Courses

Keyboard Continuo Realization

Keyboard Continuo Realization is a two-semester course taught by Lisa
Crawford.  The course focuses mainly on realization at the harpsichord in
order to give those less familiar with the harpsichord than with the organ an
opportunity to become well-acquainted with basic harpsichord technique, to
learn more about the instrument, and – above all – to become skilled at
making a good sound. Students are required to practice their exercises every day, and to play them
in class. The goal of one’s practice is not simply to learn to play the exercises
with ease: this is only the first step. Once one has gained fluency in realizing
the exercises, the goal is to play them again and again so that one
internalizes, by the coordination of sight, sound, and the feeling in the hand,
the movement of bass and harmony. This, and this alone, will build skill in
realizing a figured bass at sight; it will also reinforce inner hearing. Practice at
the harpsichord, rather than at the piano or even the organ, is strongly
encouraged. Just as the harpsichord is not a substitute for the piano, so the
piano is not a substitute for the harpsichord. Good continuo playing goes far
beyond the ability to realize a figured bass; the ability to play dynamically and
rhythmically – with attention to shape and gesture – at the harpsichord
requires one’s intense involvement with the expressive capabilities of the
The first semester course focuses on helping the student become proficient in
realizing the basic figures, following the development of continuo during the
17 th  – 18 th  century.  In the second semester, students will learn more complex
figures, and will learn different styles of continuo playing through performance
projects, including French music, Bach, and a Handel solo cantata with
recitative.  Each project will be accompanied by readings from original
treatises (in translation).

Eastman Harpsichords