How a reimagined classical instrument changed pop music

Photo: Ulrike Muehlbachler

During the mid-20th century, West German inventor Ernst Zacharias combined his passions for classical music and technology in designing a number of electro-acoustic keyboards for Hohner—a company that also made a wide variety of other instruments including accordions, harmonicas and melodicas. In designing the Clavinet, Zacharias set out to create an electric variation of the clavichord, a smaller and quieter sibling of the harpsichord popular in the 16th through 18th centuries. The first model that debuted in 1964—the only one to feature built-in amp and speakers—was actually snubbed by the classical musicians for whom the instrument was intended.

Hohner persevered, and the Clavinet began to get a visible foothold in contemporary music with Jerry Goldsmith’s 1967 score for the spy spoof movie “In Like Flint” and Stevie Wonder’s 1968 “Shoo Be Doo Be Doo Da Day”. A few years later, Wonder thrust the Clavinet fully into the spotlight on the mother of all funky keyboard songs, “Superstition”, on which he actually layered eight Clavinet tracks! Other notable examples of the instrument’s full-on funk, pop and R&B driving power include Edgar Winter’s “Free Ride”, Zep’s “Trampled Under Foot”, and Max Middleton’s work on Jeff Beck’s “Blow by Blow” LP. It also proved invaluable as the perfect energetic addition to electric guitar and bass in the left hand of rock songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “You Make Loving Fun” and The Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane”.

Hohner made about 38,000 Clavinets over the course of nearly two decades, the most popular being the 60-key D6 model that we’ve modeled in the Clavinet V. Clavinet parts are no longer available, making a fully working unit very hard to find and maintain today.

Arturia’s incredibly faithful Clavinet V lets you command the full range of sounds, controls and dynamics of the keyboard behind many iconic hits.

Will the real Clavinet please stand up?

Meticulous component-level modeling is the secret to authentically recreating a legend.

Let’s face it—most “clav” sounds you’ve heard from electronic instruments are less than convincing. That’s because a Clavinet is a unique combination of discrete electro-acoustic components that each have a dynamic life force all their own as they interact with each other. Even multi-layer sample switching can only attempt to nail all those nuances. Instead, we’ve modeled each component to bring the signature sound and continuous playing dynamics of the Clavinet fully to life under your fingertips.

Physical modeling of real strings and action

When you play a Clavinet, rubber pads on the end of the keys drive the corresponding strings against a metal plate, giving the instrument its characteristic bright, percussive sound, similar to that of hammer-on guitar or slapped bass. When the key is released, a yarn weave beyond the strike point damps the strings. We modeled each of those individual components, so you get the authentic sound—including all the nuances of increased volume and brightness as you play with more force. A master damper slider also controls a variable degree of master muting for more subtle plucking effects. Yep, we modeled that, too.

Algorithmic emulation of pickups and circuitry

The Clavinet’s string vibrations are converted to an electric signal via a pair of large phase-switchable 6-core humbucking pickups similar to those found in electric guitars, then preamplified to line level. Left-hand rocker switches determine the pickup engagement and phase, as well as all-or-nothing passing of low-, mid- and high-frequency ranges. We used our algorithmic emulation to perfectly reproduce the sound and behavior of each of these electronic components and controls individually. Various combinations of the modeled controls give you the exact tonal variations popularized on numerous flagship funk, pop, R&B and soul recordings of the ‘70s.

With the combination of accurate physical modeling and algorithmic emulation, playing the Clavinet V is exactly like playing the real thing.

Tech it to taste in a heartbeat

Dial in your perfect Clavinet.

People used to pay seasoned techs to painstakingly modify their instruments to get just the right sound and response. The only reasons a player opened their keyboard was to tune it or fix it—not fun. With the Clavinet V, you’ll actually want to pop the top, because that’s where you’ll find control over every aspect of the modeled components.

1. Get Started
Start with one of six intrinsic harmonic profiles characteristic of various original instruments.
2. Get Living
Dial in how old your instrument sounds by changing the string resonance and hammer hardness.
3. Get Serious
Determine how much gritty hammer and pickup noise you want, or how loose our tight your instrument feels.

This isn’t just any Clavinet. This is your Clavinet.

A complete all-in-one vintage rig

What’s better than an authentic Clavinet? Having the perfect amp and effects right onboard.

Like guitars, most Clavinets were processed. It was common to use compression to punch things up for more presence, and chorus to fatten and animate the sound. Those are just two of the effects you get in the full array of modeled stompboxes built right in—flanger, analog delay, overdrive, wah pedal and more. You can even use our unique new vocal filter for an ear-catching vowel effect. Clavinet V also lets you run direct for a cleaner sound or through our model of the most popular tube amp of the era for more warmth. The amp features both channel and master gain to heat things up to taste. It’s all saved with your patches for instant recall of your entire custom rig.

With processing built right in, the Clavinet V has everything you need to instantly access complete sounds that bring back the past or are uniquely yours.

A world of definitive Clavinet sounds at the click of your mouse

Why have just one Clavinet sound when you can have them all?

Physical modeling and algorithmic emulation combine in the Clavinet V to give you all the variations of authentic Clavinet sounds behind countless funk, pop, R&B and rock hits. The built-in effects complement puts your hands on sounds like the funky auto-wah on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” or a swirling chorus effect like Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne”. Our world-class sound design team has spent late nights working with the original instruments and historic tracks to bring you a library of 60+ inspiring presets to satisfy the needs of the most seasoned professional. Of course, you can tweak your own variations and save them for instant recall, too. You’ll never again wish you had a vintage Clavinet in perfect condition—because you’ll finally actually have them all.

Wah Dry

BD Amped

Wah Amped

AC Amped

Whether you’re flashing back or jumping forward, the Clavinet V bring the authentic edgy sound of a keyboard legend to your performances and mixes.

In-App Tutorials

Integrated in-app tutorials guide you through every aspect of the instrument, from individual parameters to tips from our sound designers, so you can focus on the creative stuff. It shouldn't be this easy, but it is!


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DAW ready

Our virtual instruments and plugins are designed to fit right into your setup without hassle. Whatever your style, you can explore sound while enjoying full compatibility with major DAWS, on both Windows and MacOS.

Preset browser

Instantly find the sound that’s in your head with intelligent & streamlined preset browsing. Search with keywords, explore by instrument type, musical style, and more - you can even save your favorites to quickly recall later.

Resizable GUI

Whether you want the full visual immersion of our classic instrument emulations, or to save precious screen real estate, the interfaces for all of your Arturia virtual instruments can be resized to a scale that suits you.

Perfect integration

Instruments come seamlessly mapped for the Arturia KeyLab range - but they’ll place nice with other MIDI controllers too. Instant sound tweaking macros, easy DAW integration, and standalone operation.

Platform specifications

  • Windows: Win 8.1+ (64bit) PC: 4 GB RAM; 2.5 GHz CPU.
    2GB free hard disk space
    OpenGL 2.0 compatible GPU
  • Apple: 10.13+: 4 GB RAM; 2.5 GHz CPU.
    2GB free hard disk space
    OpenGL 2.0 compatible GPU

Required configuration

Works in Standalone, VST, AAX, Audio Unit, NKS (64-bit DAWs only).

VST 2.4


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All manufacturer and product names mentioned on this page are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with Arturia. The trademarks of other manufacturers are used solely to identify the products of those manufacturers whose features and sound were studied during the development. All names of equipment, inventors, and manufacturers have been included for illustrative and educational purposes only, and do not suggest any affiliation or endorsement by any equipment inventor or manufacturer.

Main Features

  • Advanced Physical modeling engine (no static samples)
  • Hohner™ Clavinet
    • Mute bar
    • Accurate pickups model with generated pickup noise (4 lower and upper pickup combinations)
    • Circuit Modeled tone circuit (4 bands, brillant, trebble, medium, soft)
    • Volume control
  • Fender Twin amp
    • Modeled spring reverb
    • On and off axis mic placement
    • Tone controls
    • Mono vibrato
    • Effects are post output circuit
  • Output effects where you can change the order
    • Wah, auto-wah
    • Flanger
    • Phaser
    • Compressor
    • Chorus
    • Analog Delay
    • Overdrive
    • Vocal Filter
  • Advanced mode for editing the model itself
    • Harmonic profile selections
    • Velocity curve editor
    • String resonance
    • Release time
    • Tuning
    • Key release noise
    • Dynamics
    • Hammer hardness
    • Hammer noise
    • Pickup noise
  • 74 factory presets
  • Easy to use MIDI mapping