Hi all, and particularly Lewis!
On the ubiquitious (here in France anyway) Heugel/Bedard kit virginals with a short octave this problem comes up regularly. As the string band shifts across the scale due to -choose between:
sloppy construction, thinned down tables, flexible cases, etc and the general problem of the entire string band being pulled back due to the vector pressure of the string angle over the bridge, half the plectra get shorter over time. Bridge repinning as a solution can involve repinning the hitchpins also as the side bearing angles may become insufficient. The problem is exacerbated by the rotation of the bridge as the few transversal soundboard bars are way back over in the treble.
Another solution to getting a longer plectrum here is to move the entire jack back by widening the register slot directly in the soundboard and filling the front in with matching wood. As the register slots are aligned with each other, this brings the ones on the back further back, staggering them. It is true that this intervention will only work on a directly in the soundboard slot system, perhaps not the case here, I haven’t checked all the posts back to see the arrangement here. Truer also, chér Lewis, that this is a permanent fix and not museum standard.
Hope it helps!
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| alvisezuani Lewis Jones
December 26 |
To the wealth of good advice about late-plucking virginal bass string(s) I add some suggestions which might allow the problem to be approached experimentally, before modifying the instrument itself.
STRING STRESS, TENSION, AND DISPLACEMENT
Whereas most historical Italian virginals (spinetti) have a C2/E2 short bass octave, which is well served by bass strings between 1200 and 1300 mm long, the Zuckermann examples I am aware of extend the compass downward to G1/B1 without lengthening the bass strings proportionately. If tuned with a short octave this, even using dense red brass, puts the G1 and A1 strings at the lower margin of acceptable inharmonicity; and, because at low stress, they need to be relatively thick in order not to be displaced excessively by the plectrum.
The English virginals of the second half of the seventeenth century with keyboards descending to B1, G1, or F1 have longer bass strings, and typically pluck closer to the nut than their Italian counterparts, thereby lessening the displacement problem. And those Italian virginals whose keyboards now descend to B1, such as ‘Queen Elizabeth’s virginals’ (attributed to Baffo) in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, have been modified.
Increasing slightly the mass of the lowest couple of strings (by using thicker wire or perhaps by substituting silver for brass) to increase their tension, would reduce displacement and is unlikely to cause other problems; but before actually replacing a string, it should be possible, by raising the pitch of the existing one to the higher tension the intended thicker one would have at the proper pitch, to show the effect on displacement of increasing tension.
Alternatively, depending on the intended use (acknowledging that the instrument is an amalgam of historical design elements), one could partly or completely abandon the short-octave tuning of the bass.
To lengthen the plectrum, which is too short and inflexible:
Investigate moving the string further from the jack. It appears that the close-spaced pairs of strings in question are closer than they need to be. For a forward-facing jack, it should be possible to experiment with the benefits of longer plectra by displacing the strings temporarily, before moving the nut pin permanently: lodge a small piece of hard material (metal, Delrin, or dense wood) between the string and the pin. Although the sound will be impaired, this should help decide on a suitable displacement before the instrument is permanently modified.
Alternatively, if the pins are soft enough and the wood resistant enough it might, depending on the height of the step in the nut, be possible to advance the string plucked by a forward-facing jack, away from the jack, by carefully bending the nut pin forward slightly.
See whether it is possible to cant the upper part of the jack tongue a little further away from the string, without its protruding beyond the thickness of the jack body or interfering with the string behind it. If it is, adjust the position of the tongue at rest by gluing a tiny pad of paper or skived leather between the foot of the tongue and the bearing surface of the jack. This change will have the effect of tilting the plectrum upwards by the same angle of rotation which, within limits, is unlikely to be problematical; it will help the plectrum to engage with the string and the jack to return. If, however, the gain in plectrum length is beneficial but the plectrum then slopes too steeply, the plectrum mortise could be adjusted accordingly.
Before doing anything permanently, temporary displacement of the string (by 1 or 2, above) and increase in tension could be tried separately and together, perhaps, if the jack allows, in combination with moving the tongue back a little.