News and Musings

Technical Articles
A Note About Pitch



Pedal Harpsichord

Reflections on our 50th
Technical articles
Web resources

by Hendrik Broekman

Hendrik BroekmanEvidence for establishing pitch standards of the 18th century indicates that there was no single standard but that most musical performance in the baroque era took place at pitches lower than today's A-440 Hz.

Surviving harpsichords are one source from which evidence can be adduced. When we mount wire analogous to that used by the ancients on our close copies and pull it up only to find that it will break before it reaches modern pitch, we must think twice about what pitch we will use as a standard. Another result of pitching a keyboard instrument at A-440 Hz is a slight penalty in the structural longevity of the case due to excess stress (12%) imposed by the elevated pitch. Most importantly, we now realize that instruments sound richer and more sonorous when strung with lower tensile wire similar to that used by 18th century builders, and when pitched at A-415 Hz or A-393 Hz, one half tone or one whole tone below A-440 Hz.

Flemish Double-manualThe transposing keyboard provides a satisfactory compromise suited to 20th century pitch standards, the modernized instruments with which the harpsichord must play, as well as the more severe physical environments which all centrally heated buildings impose. The keyboard is made and installed in such a manner that it can slide sideways to the next jack position. This permits the instrument to play at different pitches without the need for retuning every string. The instrument is initially set at low pitch and transposes instantly to modern pitch when needed. The true value of the transposing keyboard is to allow the modern musician to play with other instruments at modern pitch without compromising either the sound of the original or the structural integrity of the instrument.

Most of our offerings and all of our kits are designed to be used at A-415Hz. Transposing keyboards are provided to accommodate use at modern pitch. In cases where the transposing keyboard would interfere with the operation of the instrument, wire of higher tensile strength is available.

Top of Page

||about us|| ||news & musings|| ||books, parts, & CDs||
||custom instruments|| ||instruments for sale|| ||harpsichord kits||


|sitemap| |search| |contact| |glossary|

Hubbard Harpsichords

Copyright 1996-2003 by Hubbard Harpsichords, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Direct all inquiries about this web page to
webmaster@hubharp.com
Site designed by tWrite inc..
updated: 12/06/03