Zuckermann Harpsichords International

Harpsichords, clavichords, spinets and virginals ... closely based on the best extant antiques from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Tour of the Harpsichord

Point to the name of a part, click your mouse, and read the description!

Top view of a harpsichord
Top view of a harpsichord

isometric view of a harpsichord

Isometric view of a harpsichord

Definitions:

4' Choir
This term refers to the general pitch of a choir (group) of strings: 4' refers to a pitch from which, if sounded on an organ, low C would be emitted from a pipe about four feet long. The 4' choir is pitched an octave above the 8' choir (see below). Top
4' Bridge
A piece of wood glued to the top of the soundboard that marks off one of the ends of the sounding lengths of the 4' choir of strings that pass over it. The other ends of these strings pass over the 4' nut. Thus the sounding lengths of the strings are found between the bridge and nut, and the vibrations of the strings (when plucked) are transmitted to the soundboard by the 4' bridge. Top
4' Hitchpin Rail
A piece of wood glued to the underside of the soundboard that delineates the 4' section of the soundboard, and helps provides an anchor for one end of the 4' choir of strings. The hitchpins, to which the strings are actually anchored, are driven through this hitchpin rail. The other ends of these strings are anchored by the 4' tuning pins. Top
4' Nut
A piece of wood glued to the top of the wrestplank that marks off the other end of the sounding lengths of the 4' choir of strings. Top
8' Choir
This refers to the general pitch of a choir (group) of strings: 8' refers to a pitch from which, if sounded on an organ, low C would be emitted from a pipe about eight feet long. This is considered 'normal' pitch. Top
8' Bridge
A piece of wood glued to the soundboard that marks off one of he ends of the sounding lengths of the 8' choir of strings that pass over it. The other ends of these strings pass over the 8' nut. As with the 4' strings, the sounding lengths of the 8' strings are found between the bridge and nut, and the vibrations of the strings (when plucked) are transmitted to the soundboard by the 8' bridge. Top
8' Hitchpin Rail
Two pieces of wood glued to the soundboard (one next to the bentside, the other next to the tail) that help anchor one end of the 8' choir of strings. The other ends of these strings are anchored by the 8' tuning pins. The hitchpins, which actually anchor the strings, are driven through the hitchpin rail, the soundboard and the liners. The hitchpin rail and the liners provide the resistance required to withstand the tension of the strings. Top
8' Nut
A piece of wood glued to the top of the wrestplank that marks off the other end of the sounding lengths of the 8' choir of strings. Top
Bentside
The side of the case between the cheek and the tail. Top
Bottom
The bottom of the instrument serves two proven purposes: it provides stiffness to the sides of the case (cheek, bentside, tail and spine), and protects the interior structure from physical damage. As the bottom of the instrument encloses a volume of air (along with the case sides, the soundboard and the upper and lower belly rails), it has a significant effect on the sound produced by the instrument. Top
Cheek
The right side of the case that joins to the bentside. Top
Cutoff Bar
The cutoff bar adds stiffness to the soundboard, to which it is glued, and also affects its sonic properties. Top
Jacks
The long, thin, rectangular pieces of wood or plastic that rest vertically on the keys. They hold the plectra that actually pluck the strings. Top
Liners
The liners are glued to the sides of the instrument and provide a ledge for the soundboard on all sides except the front, where the soundboard is glued to the upper belly rail. Top
Lower Belly Rail
The lower belly rail extends across the bottom of the instrument from the spine to the cheek. Like the lower frame members, it adds to the structural integrity of the case. Top
Lower Frame Members
The lower frame members extend across the bottom of the instrument from the spine to the bentside. Like the lower belly rail, they add to the structural integrity of the case. Top
Nameboard
Positioned above the keyboard, the nameboard keeps it in place and conceals its back portion. The builder's name is frequently displayed on a batten attached to the nameboard. Top
Register
A wooden device with slots for each jack. Each choir (group) of strings has its own register, and each register can be turned 'on' or 'off', so that its jacks either pluck their associated strings or do not. Harpsichords with only one set of strings may have a fixed register (one that does not move). Top
Soundboard
The soundboard vibrates the air, which transmits the sound to our ears. This transmission is a complex process initiated by the plucking of the strings, which causes them to vibrate; these vibrations are transferred to the bridge, then on to the soundboard. Top
Soundboard Bars
The soundboard bars are glued underneath the soundboard, providing stiffness that gives it greater structural integrity and modifies its sonic properties. Top
Spine
The left side of the case that joins to the tail. Top
Tail
The side of the case between the spine and the bentside. Top
Upper Belly Rail
The upper belly rail extends across the top of the instrument (even, at the top, with the liners) from the spine to the cheek. Like the lower belly rail, it adds to the structural integrity of the case. It also provides the front mounting surface for the soundboard. Top
Upper Frame Members
The upper frame members extend across the top of the instrument from the spine to the bentside, often positioned just below the liners. Like the lower frame members, they add to the structural integrity of the case. Top
Wrestplank
The wrestplank is a heavy slab that connects the spine to the cheek. It is usually mortised into these two sides, and further supported by blocks on the bottom. It holds the tuning pins and also supports the 8' and 4' nuts. Top

8 foot hitch pin rail 8 foot bridge 4 foot hitch pin rail 4 foot bridge cheek 8 foot nut 4 foot nut name board registers spine tail bentside top view upper frame wrest blank upper belly rail lower belly rail lower frame sound board bars cut off bar 4 foot hitch pin rail sound board bottom liners isometric view

  Updated on
  13Oct2010

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