20 Mar

clavichord progress: now with strings

I can understand now why these things go for so much money.

I’ve been working on this project for about two weeks and am just now getting a sound by pressing a key.

I’ve also learned a lot, which will be applied when I build the next one.

I originally planned to build a 49-key unfretted clavichord, but didn’t realise how difficult that was going to end up being.

One of the problems with this, is that because the strings are pulled diagonally across the board, hitting one string without hitting its neighbours is a very difficult thing.

This is easier to do if there are less strings.

So, after putting in all 49 hitchpins and drilling 49 holes for tuning pegs, I realised that there was no way I could do this unfretted without extreme precision, which my <€50 instrument was simply not capable of.

image showing 49 tuning pin holes, hitchpins, and the felted balance rail for the keyboard

So, I’ve strung the instrument with only 17 strings, each of which is used by 3 keys (yes, I know – one key will get a string all of its own).

17 strings crossing the bridge to 17 tuning pins

There’s another problem I’ve yet to overcome.

Because fretting involves hitting the same string at different points (the same as a guitar or violin), and I didn’t think far enough ahead, some of my tangents are going to have to hit their strings in positions above other keys…

Looking at other existing fretted keyboards, I now realise why the tangent positions are so staggered:

staggered tangents on a triple-fretted clavichord

I’ve just finished the sharp keys, and will be working on inserting all the tangents later today.

If I’m lucky, it may actually be playable by tonight.

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