I’m a beginner (no piano experience) going through Frank Mento’s Beginner Harpsichord Book 1. I’ve stumbled through the odd lute piece in the past on a rented lute, but never became proficient with it.

I don’t have a spinet/virginal yet. I bought a 61 key keyboard in the meantime. I joined here to learn bit as a beginner.

I’m a handyman/cleaner/painter/gardener for people on assisted living.

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Amateur here.
58 yo, I am a businessman. I studied piano for many years while a boy. I studied musicology at the University. I abandoned the academical career due to familiar events (my father fell ill and died in a very few months).
While a pianist, I had favored harpsichord music. So, as soon as I could, I had a harpsichord made for me by a renowned harpsichord maker (1994). Later I studied for three years with Enrico Baiano.
In the mean time, and since 1997, I had a passion for harpsichord making. Made some Zuckermann/TPW and Early Music Shop’s kit, then made some harpsichords from scratch.

I played in concert, both as continuo and a soloist or two-harpsichords. It’s since before Covid lockdown I haven’t anymore.


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I’m a retired piano technician who worked at a state university for 30 years. I completed a Zuckermann Flemish IX, a Zuckermann clavichord, and a Hubbard Fortepiano while on staff there, but by no means do I consider myself a professional builder. I just love making these instruments. Now that I no longer have the University’s shop, I no longer build anything, but purchased, after way too long, my own Zuckermann Z-box to learn the repertoire. My M.A. in music (piano) doesn’t help much with harpsichord technique! Glad there’s this forum, to learn so much from everyone. Thank you!

Born into a family that objected to music study, when I was old enough to go to the public library I began my self-training in organology, classical guitar and lute, passed audition to enter conservatory, but left after a year as my passion was musicology, not performance. Eventually I finished a B.F.A. in Fine Art, an Associate degree in Music and a certificate in piano technology. My career in piano technology included about a decade as editor of the Piano Technicians Journal. Along the way I built and played clavichords and harpsichords from kits, repairing quite a few instruments in universities and homes. A hand injury has healed significantly and I am regaining keyboard facility. My interest in harpsichords goes back to my teens. For the last five years I’ve been designing a new kind of instrument, a small vertical harpsichord with a simplified action, perhaps to debut if it passes endurance tests.

My conscience pricks me! Firstly, thank you to Andrew for quickly sorting out a ‘bum note’ typed when setting up my user name – now corrected.
I have always played the piano, rather badly, on and off, having had a few lessons when young. But I always dreamed of having a good grand piano and improving my playing. Now retired, I have achieved the first and am working on the second, taking lessons with a really good tutor who knows all about baroque articulation etc. It’s her fault that I have got sucked into the early music scene – “you’re playing the forte in this piece of Mozart far too loud for the instruments of the period – try to listen to some harpsichords and fortepianos”. The outcome was that I was welcomed by Katrina Burnett at the Finchcocks Charity, now re-established in nearby Tunbridge Wells, England, with a delectable collection of 14 of the best of the original Finchcocks collection of early keyboard instruments.
Coincidentally I found a John Feldberg two manual revival harpsichord on ebay which nobody else bid for and got it for £100! Despite the low price it is complete and playable and in generally quite good condition – except that the string tension has compressed the body sufficient to jam the registers.
I started attending tuning and maintenance courses at the Finchcocks Charity last year and am getting excellent advice from Lewis Jones, Cesar Hernandez and Gary Branch on rectifying the problem with the harpsichord. Admitting to some practical woodworking and mechanical experience, repairing vintage wooden gliders, I have been persuaded to understudy Cesar as an assistant curator of the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection - it didn’t take much persuading! I’m having great fun and learning a lot about tuning, temperaments, restringing, voicing plectra and all the other things that seem to need frequent attention on these delightful instruments.
I’m not sure that I can contribute much to the discussions but I’m fascinated by the rather complex matter of temperaments, which seem to generate some strong opinions!

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As promised above:

I studied piano in high school. For some reason I got interested in harpsichords/early music and built a Zuckermann Flemish IV during the year I took off before college. I took harpsichord lessons in college, then had a two-year hiatus while I finished my master’s degree (in Classics, not music). I enjoy music but am definitely an amateur with much less technique than I wish I had.

After settling into my first real job, I found a teacher and started playing again. In 1989 a friend helped assemble a Hubbard French double kit, which I still own. Then various life events came along and I mostly stopped playing. After retirement, I was eager to get back into music. My Hubbard was in need of restringing and other work, which was expertly carried out by Anne Acker. (I even took the plunge and replaced the original plastic jacks with wooden ones.) I had begun to get some proficiency back when I injured a hand — getting older is so much fun :grimacing:. Hopefully that situation will right itself soon.

It’s been interesting because there is so much more available for harpsichordists today, compared to the 1970s and 80s. Most significant, I think, is the larger corpus of music. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years exploring works by lesser-known composers, some of which are quite good (F. D’Agincour is outstanding, IMO). I’ve also gotten interested in Baroque fingering, which nobody talked about (to me, anyway) back in the day, and have made some progress in transitioning to it.

and we added the peau de buffle!

Just an amature with a background in physics (optics).
In 1975 (at 24 y.o.) I have built a Zuckermann Flemsh Harpsichord, as my wife loved playing early music then. I only play the flute.
Many years we did not make music again, but now, both being retired we started it seriously again.
We bought a well built used Flemish harpsichord built by Hugo van Emmerik in 1889.
For ease of transport and because of its intimite sound I am now about starting to build an Italian Virginal using a kit from Marc Ducornet’s TheParis Workshop. I like the craftmenship work, but fear that a good voicing job will be the most chalenging for me as an amature.

A post was merged into an existing topic: Temperament opinions

6 posts were merged into an existing topic: Temperament opinions

This is an old-fashioned attitude, which, unfortunately, still persists. There is a bit of logic in it, given that fewer people have access to harpsichords (or organs or clavichords) and that teachers of these instruments are harder to find.

But underlying this is the notion that playing the piano is “normal“ keyboard playing, Each instrument deserves to be taken on its own terms; furthermore, the more advanced you become on the piano, the more you may need to unlearn, or at least modify, when you move to the harpsichord.

So if you have an instrument and a teacher, don’t worry about that advice.

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Kind of like “Study guitar before taking up the sitar.”

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I started The Jackrail a few years ago together with colleagues Stuart Frankel and David Pickett. I run and manage the server and the software and administer the forum. That’s my role on this site.

As to myself, I was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1957 and that is where I live. I worked in IT software development for 30 plus years. Alongside that - don’t ask me how! - I managed to have a parallel track in harpsichord building as well. I worked in close conjunction with Alastair McAllister, the noted Australian builder. We have worked on a lot of instruments together.

I also play harpsichord and I have a particular interest in Louis and Francois Couperin, sources of endless subtlety and enjoyment. I am the proud owner of copy number 3 of the 1933 limited luxury edition of the complete works of Francois Couperin by L’Oiseau Lyre, a truly sublime example of the engraver’s and printer’s art, even though the musicology may now be considered slightly out of date, but the total lack of editorial markings was the first of its kind.

My background is in maths and physics and computer science. Apart from anything else, this leads me to a strong interest in relation to harpsichords in tuning and temperament, our most controversial of categories.

I have not retired, but was forced out of the workforce for medical reasons 11 years ago due to acquiring multiple myeloma, a relatively rare, fatal, and incurable blood cancer. While incurable, with clinical advances it can be managed quite well, and I am doing OK due to the remarkable doctors and specialists at The Alfred Hospital in Prahran, Melbourne. I mention them here as I would not be alive without them. We have some of the best medical care in the world here, and all paid for by our Medicare scheme. Such good fortune.

I have the time and inclination to do a lot of serious music engraving, for more than ten years with Lilypond and latterly with Dorico. I have nearly completed my edition of Bach’s BWV 988, in original clefs (!) from the first and only edition by Schmidt. I am also engraving the complete string quartets by Haydn, from the 1803 Paris ‘Bonaparte’ edition, to give quartets a taste of playing from a score of that time.

As to computing, I am a very strong proponent of open source software, and this site is entirely run on open source, running on a Linux server (a commercial instance in New York currently).

I am very happy that our small community is gradually growing and we are well over 200 users now. I’d like to see yet more, and I encourage all to post and actively participate. Don’t be shy. No topic is too small! Thank you to all for making this a great place to discuss harpsichords and music.


I saw a typo in my text, my harpsichord was built in 1989 and not in 1889.

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Dear David, many thanks for that advice. I won’t worry too much about it then and just get on and enjoy it!

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I was trained as a pianist at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto in the aftermath of Glenn Gould, but decided to pursue a career in book publishing instead of music. Upon retirement I have resumed my musical studies, the Goldberg Variations being a major project. I started playing the harpsichord to avoid what I considered distortions required in playing this work on the piano. I commissioned a two-manual instrument based on Ruckers from William Horn in Brescia, Italy, which I now have in my apartment in Boston. I enjoy playing Louis Couperin, Louis Marchand, and Rameau as well as J. S. Bach, and have given a few performances in private venues in Italy and the U.S. I have learned to maintain the instrument myself as I guess we all have to.

Dear fellow harpsichord enthusiasts,

I see my first post has turned into quite a ramble, but I’ve only come to engage seriously with the harpsichord quite late in my life, so for anyone interested, here is the back story.

I’m Mark from Pretoria, a 50-something researcher and lifelong musician. I took piano, violin and trumpet lessons as a child, then progressed to viola, baritone horn and church organ as a teenager. I studied mathematics and natural sciences (PhD in Chemistry) but always continued music as a hobby, playing church organ and joining symphony orchestras wherever I went as a student and young adult. My work has included chemical process improvement, environmental chemistry, waste management, Life Cycle Assessment and material development for energy devices (fuel cells, batteries).

In 2010 I bought my first piano, knowing little more about pianos than how to play them. Somewhat naively, I acquired an old Ed. Seiler upright that was offered as “fully restored” by a local German-trained master piano builder, but turned out to be little more than refinished and cosmetically refurbished. The wrest plank hardly held a tuning and the more I played it, the more I realised that the uneven action was a minimally maintained high-miler - dirty and “kept running” with different spare parts over the decades. The seller exchanged the Ed. Seiler for an equally old Zimmermann, and while this had a better looking keyboard and more even action, and held a tuning better, it had a more brash, percussive tone. An inspection by an independent tech confirmed that the “Master builder” had refinished the case and installed heavy, hard hammers (Chinese, by all accounts) and plastic keytops, but done little else. Lesson learned.

Fortunately I came across a private sale of a 1970s Ibach upright, which I had inspected independently. It was reasonably well kept, especially the action, and I decided to play this for enjoyment, while making the Zimmermann into my project piano. Always having been mechanically inclined, I familiarised myself with piano technology. I spent much time reading up textbooks and online information, including meeting piano technicians online, and bought tools from Schaff Piano. In due course, I practised tuning and regulation, replaced felts and leathers in the action, re-glued a bridge apron and carefully tried to voice down the worst offending, rock-hard hammers. Over time, I’ve come to tune and service pianos for a small but loyal circle of customers.

In 2021, my parents moved into a retirement village and had to dispose of their harpsichord. I inherited the instrument, which I had known from new and tuned since I was a teenager. It was built in the mid-1970s by German engineer and instrument builder Rainer Schütze from Heidelberg. The model is called “Ortega” and is a replica of the Flemish Ruckers style, single manual with two 8’ stops, one of which has a damped lute stop.

Other than regular tuning and replacing the occasional broken string or plectrum, the harpsichord has seen very little maintenance in its lifetime and with regular playing, I’ve come to realise that it needs serious regulation. Also, the soundboard is showing signs of sagging, and the hitchpin rail is starting to separate from the case (hairline crack).

I’ve been a member of the PianoWorld forum for many years, and when I asked the technicians there about some harpsichord basics, I was referred to Carey Beebe’s webpage and to this forum. (I know I’ve seen Ed Sutton here.)

So, in due course, I’ll read more on harpsichord regulation and some repairs, and post questions as I go along.

Glad to be here!

After reading some more posts here, I’ve edited this to add:
I have had pitch memory ever since I can remember (was shocked in primary school to find that other kids could not recognise any played note or produce any named note). My two brothers grew up under the same conditions I did, but don’t have this “gift” / curse. If I know a piece and it is performed at more than about 50 cents off A=440, it sounds wrong to me and I cannot enjoy it. If I see a keyboard instrument played and the resulting sound is a semitone or more removed from A=440, I’m immediately confused and sometimes quite viscerally upset. Also, I find a very deeply satisfying sense of balance in a thoroughly, carefully tuned ET - a balance that is easily disturbed, particularly by sweeter and even more so by sourer thirds. (And I’ve certainly tried some mild well temperaments for several years.) Basically, the whole oeuvre of “historically informed” practice is inaccessible and unpalatable to me. I’ve made peace with that. (Even though some HIP-performing friends still try to “rescue my musically damned soul”.) I even tune my own harpsichord at 440 - gasp - and - double gasp - in ET. I hope this won’t get me summarily banned off the Jackrail…

Dear Mark,

You have been baptised through fire with your pianos!

A good start for your restoration plans is Ed Kottick’s book *The Harpsichrd Owner’s Guide".


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