03 February 2011

Homebrew Clavichord

Once upon a time, ... No, only 6 months have gone by since I finished my first Clavichord. So it is time to present it in my reopened blog.

Clavichord - Finished

It has a short octave CDEF-c3; from c.  It is fretted 2 & 3 times and measures about 280 x 900mm: A truly Travel-Clavichord. It is no exact copy of an old instrument but is constructed after early baroque models. It was designed by Johann-Gottfried Schmidt, a well known Cembalobuilder in norther Germany (http://www.cembalobau.de) with the aim to provide an instrument which is easy to build and of course well to play.

In fact he organized some so-called workshops were several people appear with nothing in their hands and leave after a week with their own clavichord.  Have a look at the menue "Workshop" where you will also find at the bottom of the page several picures of the last course. Johann-Gottfried Schmidt just informed me, that there will be another course: 4. - 9.7.2011 in Rostock.

I built the clavichord at home with the help of a detailed 1:1 plan, pre-sawn wood and all other pieces (strings, bridge-pins,...) and the help of Johann-Gottfried Schmidt, who gave me a lot of precise instructional hints to ease the rough way ;-)

And of course when I ran into deep trouble there was always someone from the Clavichord yahoogroups, who helped me with a professional advice. (Thanks to this great group).

Oh, and before I forget it: A lot of members of the Deutsche Clavichord Societät were also willing to lend a helping hand..

It started with the case, which was the easiest part. Woods used are maple and spruce.

Clavichord case
Next came the spruce soundboard. Used to build classical guitars this was also no big problem. The thickness was about 2,5 mm and has no braces underneath and no opening. I thought about optimizing the response by reducing the thickness at the edges, but decided against it. The reason was very simple: I had no experience with the torque forces from the strings.

The claviature was really the hardest part. It took a long time to saw the individual keylevers.The basic wood is lime. I didnt have a bandsaw and had to do it with a hacksaw. The keycover is from olive and the upper keys are mahogany.

Later on I noticed that this was only the beginning. The fine tuning of the keys took a considerable amount of time too. These problems arised when I placed them on the balancing rail. Fine tuning was asked.

Keylevers fit into place
Next were the "thousands" of holes to drill for pins etc. Not dramatic but needed high precision. And I could finally start to wind up the strings. I thought that was easy for I had 45 years of experience in tuning classical guitars. But my knowledge didn't help me. It took me some strings to notice, that the elongation of copper and nylon is different ;-(

Strings are in place
The tuning of the instrument nearly turned out to be a disaster. I was used to tune a guitar which sounds an octave deeper. So I had no problems tuning the instrument until I came to the bass strings. The strings rattled like mad. My electronic tuner didn't show the actual octave. I thought that something was wrong and tuned a octave higher. Result: see above. But finally I managed to tune this instrument.

Clavichord - Ready to play
I am quit happy with the instrument. It took some time for my ears to get accustomed to the different sound. After 2-3 months the temper is stable. Now I have to learn to play my clavichord ;-).

Of course after some time I have noticed some drawbacks of the design. The fretting scheme 3x is for some music not appropriate. And my first clavichord was build to get an impression. (I never saw or heard one in real live except on Youtube and of course some CDs of Johann Sebastian Bach:

So I already have the plans for a Hubert Clavichord. But thats another story which will begin in the next winter season.