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Thread: Harpsichord Help!

  1. #1
    Recruit, Pianissimo
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Harpsichord Help!

    Hello All,

    I have been playing piano for a while, but have always loved the harpsichord. I love how it sounds and I love Baroque music. With that said, recently I had an opportunity to purchase a harpsichord. Being new to the harpsichord world, I have many questions. I purchased "The Harpsichord Owner's Guide: A Manual for Buyers and Owners" hoping to learn more. I did learn a lot from the book, but many of the author's explanations are difficult to understand and he assumes the reader has previous experience with harpsichords.

    Anyway, the harpsichord I purchased has broken strings that need to be replaced. The original owner said that the strings were fairly old and would be a good idea to have the instrument re-strung. I know this is no easy task, but I am looking forward to the challenge. One of the things that cause great confusion is disposition. The author from the owner's guy keeps on mentioning 8' and 4', but never goes into detail explaining exactly what that means. I've looked at wikipedia and while it does clear things up a bit, I am still unsure how it applies to my harpsichord, or any harpsichord for that matter. The person I bought the harpsichord from said the harpsichord is 8'x8'x4' but still not sure what that means or how it affects tuning. I am very excited about stringing the harpsichord so I can start playing on it. I am attaching a few pictures with the hope that someone can help me.

    Is it possible to tell the style (French, Italian, Fleiminsh?) of the harpsichord from the picture? The harpsichord also has four pedals which are used to couple the keyboards and also to change registers (i.e. which strings are plucked by the bottom manual).

    The picture shows the harpsichord with the jack rail, music rack & front covers removed. The harpsichord has the name "Kimball" on the front and when I removed the top manual I found the number "1227" printed on the harpsichord.

    I would really appreciate any help or if anyone can point me in the right direction. I am very eager to get my instrument working.


  2. #2
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    It sure as hell ain't MY "lucky" country :(
    Lovely looking instrument, but someone with a far better eye for detail than me will have to make the guess at French, Italian or Flemish.

    The 8' and 4' references are about the sets of registers available. The nomenclature by the way, is borrowed from organ specification - if you played middle C on an organ manual using an 8' rank, it would sound the same register as middle C on the piano. If you play the same key but with a 4' rank drawn, it sounds the C an octave higher, 16' octave lower, and so on (the measurements in feet refer to the length of the lowest pipe in the rank, so the pipe that plays the lowest C on an organ manual is 8 feet in length).

    So the same applies to the string sets on a harpsichord. If yours is 8, 8, 4, then it means you have two sets of strings at 8' pitch and another at 4' pitch (usually, one set of 8' strings is a different material so as to give a slightly different sound to the other set. Often, one set is brighter than the other). You'll notice in your harpsichord where the strings run along the soundboard that there are sets of differing lengths.

    Hope that is of some help.
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

  3. #3
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Taylors, South Carolina, USA
    Congrats.. I am sure you will have hours of pleasure when you get the instrument in full working order. It looks as if it is in very good shape.Where do you live? profile does not say. Perhaps I can find you some help/ I have friends that built their own.
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.


  4. #4
    Recruit, Pianissimo
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by wljmrbill View Post
    Congrats.. I am sure you will hae houes of pleasure when you get the instrument in full working order. It looks as if it is in very good shape.Where do you live? profile does not say. Perhaps I can find you some help/ I have friends that built their own.
    I live in New England (USA), Vermont to be exact. Any help would be appreciated.

  5. #5
    Apprentice, Piano
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    That's beautiful!

  6. #6
    Duckmeister teddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Best of luck with the project. We look forward to hearing you play it


  7. #7
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso John Watt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Welland, Ontario, Canada, mid Niagara Peninsula, between Great Lakes Erie and Ontario
    I'm not surprised. Vermont is a harpsichord hot-bed. I heard that street crossing buttons have a harpsichord function.
    Even the canary in the coal mine has a harpsichord function.
    This looks like something someone put together out of new wood, a tourist thing.
    The ones made out of radioactive lumber from deeper mines, have a more modern tonality.

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