Custom Instruments

English 18th Century
Bentside Spinet

After Baker Harris (1765)
(Also available in kit form)

The bentside spinet as a type seems to have been developed around 1630 by a widely travelled Italian harpsichord maker, Girolamo Zenti. By the 18th century, bentside spinets were to be found everywhere in Europe and served for all sorts of home music making and musical instruction. No composer could have been unfamiliar with them.

English Benside Spinet

The bentside spinet is distinguished from the harpsichord in that the strings and spine run transversely to the player and are not parallel to the key levers. The strings are plucked much closer to their center points than are the strings of the wing-shaped harpsichord. As a result, the spinet produces a strong and sustained tone, but one which is darker and less brilliant than the harpsichord. Bentside spinets almost invariably had only one choir of strings at 8' pitch.

The economy of space allowed by the bentside spinet makes it an ideal instrument for musicians with limited room. The five-octave compass (FF'f''', less FF#, 60 notes) makes it a useful study and practice instrument appropriate to virtually the entire harpsichord literature. Its sound, rich and sonorous, is especially suited to chamber music and the music of the English and Italian virginalists.

Our spinet is a copy of the 1765 Baker Harris instrument restored by Frank Hubbard in 1975. It reproduces the Baker Harris classic decor of figured walnut panels on the case and in the keyboard well, outlined with degamé stringing and mahogany crossbanding. The lid, turned-leg trestle stand, music desk, and other small parts are of solid mahogany. The finish is French polish.

Reproductions of original Baker Harris hardware are used on the lid and flap: brass strap hinges for the lid, and butterfly hinges joining the keyboard cover to the lid. A brass "S" hook, eye and doily secure the lid to the case at the bentside.

Walnut panels, holly or maple inlaid stringing, mahogany crossbandingAs in the original, the keyboard for this instrument is made with bone-covered naturals set off by English style mouldings at the fronts of the keys and stained hardwood sharps. The spinet is strung in brass throughout and designed to be pitched at a'-415 Hz. A transposing keyboard is available as an option for those who must tune their spinets to a'-440.

In 1986, two earlier (1763) Baker Harris spinets came into the shop for
restoration. The work was done by Hubbard Technical Director Hendrik
Broekman. In addition to the three Harris spinets, the Hubbard shop has
also restored an ornate and much altered anonymous English spinet, School of Hitchcock, as well as a 1734 Josephus Mahoon spinet

English bentside spinet after Baker Harris, 1765 – Offering Sheet

Listen To It...
You can hear an excerpt from a demonstration CD of this instrument we have prepared:

  • Long Sample - hornpipe  - 1,100K 192 kpbs mp3 file (51 seconds)
  • Short Sample - hornpipe - 360K 192 kpbs mp3 file (16 seconds)

~ A Note About The Files ~
Not all mp3 files are equal!  The sound of a harpsichord is particularly difficult to compress satisfactorily. The bit rate we have chosen for these samples is the lowest that reproduces the original recording with negligible loss.  Download times will vary widely depending on your setup and the quality of your connection.   On a 28K Internet connection, the shorter sound sample may take from about 5 to over 10 minutes to download. If you have a fast connection (T1, cable modem, DSL) please try the long sample - you may expect download times substantially under a minute.

~ Problems Playing the File ~
If you cannot play the file through your web browser, PC users with the Microsoft browser can right click on the link, then choose the "Save target" option to download the file, then use an MP3 player (or a the Windows media player) to listen to it.

We now have available a demonstration CD of this instrument ($10.00 ppd. in U.S.). Please - inquire via our contact form.

Bone-covered naturals, ebony-capped sharps

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