Setting up a clavichord

(This is a shortened version of ‘Workshop News’, March 2004)

I have not been idle since my last report: I have completed one clavichord and am working on another one. Both are versions of the small 'German' fretted clavichord. I shall shortly begin setting up the second one to play.

Setting up a clavichord is a surprisingly complex process; it calls for quite large amounts of time, as well as skill and judgment acquired through experience. Yet unless it is done well, a clavichord can all too easily be disappointing in performance. There must be many instruments which could give much more pleasure to their owners than they currently do, if only they were set up with sufficient care.

Setting up involves repeatedly pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Let me try and describe the process:

The clavichord which is the subject of all this care has been fitted with ‘twined’ strings, made as described in my previous bulletin, on the three notes of the short octave (C, D and E). I can report that they are a big success: there is hardly any audible transition from the twined notes to those strung in plain wire, which in view of the large change in scale between E and F is remarkable. The twined strings are also much easier to tune than the plain wire strings I fitted in this position on a previous instrument of the same type. I have done some bench-top experiments on the behaviour of twined strings, the results of which I am still analysing.

Meanwhile, I have begun work on a little book on Tuning and Maintenance of the Clavichord, based on my series of articles in the British Clavichord Society Newsletter. [This book has now (2007) been published by Keyword Press].

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