Cembalo

cembaloA cembalo (cimbalo) – Italian –a dulcimer was on old European name was cymbal.

This ancient instrument was call cymbal by the Poles, and cimbalom by the Magyars.

The derivation of cembalo is from Greek (Latin cymba) a hollow vessel. There was a larger form of this ringing instrument used a lot in military bands.

These cymbals and bells in the middle ages were regarded as closely allied, and rows of bells of different sizes, tintinnabula or glockensopiek, were also called cymbal.

Verdung (1511) names zymbeln and glocken (cymbals and bells) together.

It was most likely the bell like tone of the wire strings struck by the hammers of the dulcimer that attracted to it the name of cymbal or cembalo.

Composers who wrote figured bass frequently used the word ‘cembalo’ and was meant as an abbreviation of clavicembalo.

The dulcimer, or cembalo, with keys added, became the clavicembalo.

In the course of time the first two syllables were dropped, cembalo was also used to designate the keyed instrument, the clavicembalo or harpsichord – just as ‘cello’ was previously called the violincello.