Harpsichord Jacks

The History of Harpsichord Jacks

Harpsichord jacks travel up and down, plucking strings of the instrument to produce musical tones. Unfortunately, “hangers” sometimes remain after hitting a string, creating issues.

The hanger problem stems from conventional harpsichord jacks being heavy construction and their tongue-plectrum spring assembly requiring great precision; any high-speed acceleration may result in hangers.

Early Life and Education

His workshop featured instruments that echoed historic examples, and earned him acclaim among harpsichord enthusiasts. Working to produce instruments as closely to original models as possible without resorting to shortcuts or power tools was central to his goal.

A key depresses a lever which lifts a plectrum–originally made from bird feather quill, but these days more commonly made from Delrin plastic–when struck, which then plucks it.

Some harpsichords feature multiple manuals, enabling players to switch between them for various pitches or tone qualities. Furthermore, certain models pair two 8′ choirs of strings together so both can be played at once for simultaneous crescendo/decrescendo effects; something which would be much harder to accomplish on a piano.

Professional Career

Harpsichords are not produced in mass, taking around 800 hours for one spinet instrument to complete. Therefore, this trade should not be undertaken with an aim of maximizing profits through increasing output using large power tools, shortcuts or outsourcing.

The key of the harpsichord depresses one end of a long strip known as a tongue, mounted on a pivot near its center and holding a small plectrum (typically made of bird quill, but today usually plastic) to plck a string; as soon as this plectrum rises up on its other end a felt damper comes into effect and mutes any vibrations generated from plucking strings.

A jack’s upper end is guided by pins riding in upper guides, while its lower end is navigated using pins passing through an upper guide hole. The present invention improves repeatability and reduces frequency by providing an improved guiding system.

Achievement and Honors

Harpsichord construction relies on musical tones produced by jacks riding up and down on keys, with one lightweight part comprising both spring and plectrum plucked through its opening in order to produce sound. This innovative jack design eliminates multiple heavy parts while increasing reliability over conventional harpsichord jacks.

Kottick also points out that during this era of the industry’s history, builders began moving away from multi-octave historicist instruments towards modest revival instruments designed along historical lines without using big power tools, short cuts or outsourcing services. Kit harpsichords became increasingly popular at this point.

Due to their success, his kits sold well and allowed him to abandon full-time luthier work in the late 70s. Afterward, he moved to England where he continued designing instrument kits along historical lines while writing a quarterly column for “Harpsichord” magazine for several years.

Personal Life

At its height in the eighteenth century, even large harpsichords featured many gadgets for altering their sound. Mount Vernon’s example includes three sets of strings (two at normal pitch and one an octave higher), controlled by hand stops; this model also included pedal controls to operate its buff stop that softens sound output; as well as Venetian swell that amplified upper-register tones.

A jack is pierced to hold a plectrum made of quill or leather, with its far end rocking over a pivot to raise it and pluck strings beneath a string to pluk it. A felt damper on top of the jack provides quiet when key is released; Bayer also designed his tongue mortise punch so it would resemble the shape of a crescent moon so plectra rarely split when played back through its action.

Net Worth

Harpsichords are mechanical instruments. A player activates them by depressing a key that rocks on an offset pivot at the back end, lifting a jack holding a plectrum (a wedge-shaped piece of quill; modern versions typically made of plastic), and plucking the string with it. A felt damper located atop each jack controls vibrations when key depressed again; felt dampers also serve this purpose.

Kaeser outfitted his Boston plastic jacks with dampers of various designs to facilitate individual height adjustment (though less frequently than historical instruments). Furthermore, he employs an “piano stop,” which serves to prevent weather-induced case deformation.

Most modern harpsichords feature buff batten pads to dampen either the upper or lower 8′ choir; historically two-manual instruments employed flag dampers instead. Kaeser creates his pads by adhering small blocks of cloth onto jack-supports featuring slots and screw mounts; this enables him to easily lower them when necessary.

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