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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Keyboard Instruments

This online lesson is intended for students to learn about keyboard instruments and their importance in the lives of pre-twentieth century people.  This lesson can be used by history, social studies, and music teachers to provide a glimpse of recreational life during the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. Proposed for 9-12 grades this lesson can be modified for 6-8 graders as well.


Description: Pre-twentieth century life often centered on music. Upper-class women were expected to be able to play some sort of instrument and typically they would learn a form of keyboard. Social life revolved around music whether it was attending a ball or simply performing music at home as entertainment.  By including pieces of art from the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, students will be able to discuss how these instruments affected their owners. By examining different types of keyboard instruments from harpsichords to spinets, students will be able to see how different keyboard instruments vary. Using this resource, teachers and students will be able to discuss the evolution of keyboards and their value to citizens of all social classes.:


Learning Goals:

After viewing this lesson the student will be able to

-       compare and contrast different types of keyboard instruments

-       understand how these instruments and music in general shaped life before the twentieth century

-       appreciate the craftsmanship of the instruments as well as the artists’ representations of them in the selected paintings. 

Created By

Mary Massie


The Arts

Grade Level

6-8, 9-12