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Joined: Apr 2009
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Hello!

I was thinking about getting a 61-key keyboard and hooking it up with Hauptwerk to try out some of the great harpsichord samples out there.

I have been working on about 15 of the sonatas of Antonia Soler, and they're absolutely wonderful, but I do see one problem... Nearly all of Soler's sontas go below the 2nd C below Middle-C. 61-key keyboard end on that C, so it would seem that the Sonatas of Soler are not playable on a 61-key keyboard.

However, there exists a preponderance of great recordings of Soler's works on harpsichord by artists such as Bob van Asperen, and Gilbert Rowland. How are they managing this? If I wanted to play these on a digital harpsichord (with a good keyboard, like the ones on midiworks.ca), what are my best options?

One might be inclined to start an octave higher, but that brings the same problem in the other direction, and would also sound weird.

Thank you in advance for any insight or advice.

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Is there any reason in particular you want a 61 key keyboard? You could get a 88 key keyboard, use the MIDI, send it to a DAW, then through a speaker. You theoretically would have hundreds of Harpsichord/Clavichord/Virginal sounds you could use.

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Thank you for your reply.

I also want to use this as an organ, and was hoping to get keyboard with built-in pistons like the ones at midiworks.ca, which also have a tracker-touch to make the keys a bit more responsive. I also would play to have 2 or 3 manuals, though I wouldn't need 76 keys on all three, maybe just one of them when I'm using the harpsichord sound-set.

Also, I was wondering how the artists I mentioned earlier managed to record these sonatas? Did they use harpsicords with more than 61 keys?

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The range of period harpsichords was not standard, since they were all hand built. Sometimes they even had short basses (missing some notes in the last octave). My Morley (1969) goes g1 - g6.

What do the people that build Hauptwerk organs use? They must have the same problem.

Sam

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Originally Posted by Mooseknuckle
Hello!

I was thinking about getting a 61-key keyboard and hooking it up with Hauptwerk to try out some of the great harpsichord samples out there.

I have been working on about 15 of the sonatas of Antonia Soler, and they're absolutely wonderful, but I do see one problem... Nearly all of Soler's sontas go below the 2nd C below Middle-C. 61-key keyboard end on that C, so it would seem that the Sonatas of Soler are not playable on a 61-key keyboard.

However, there exists a preponderance of great recordings of Soler's works on harpsichord by artists such as Bob van Asperen, and Gilbert Rowland. How are they managing this? If I wanted to play these on a digital harpsichord (with a good keyboard, like the ones on midiworks.ca), what are my best options?

One might be inclined to start an octave higher, but that brings the same problem in the other direction, and would also sound weird.

Thank you in advance for any insight or advice.


The maximum range of harpsichords in the 18th century was FF to f3, ie 5 octaves. Though many instruments had only 4.5 but typically spanish harpsichords would have the 5 octaves. The modern keyboards with 61 keys dont have the same range.

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The range was pretty standard with some minor variations. Even the early sonatas of beethoven are still written for that exact range. Occasionally you would have extension to include f3 sharp or g3.

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Harpsichords could play lower notes than the keyboard would indicate. If the keyboard went down to C, the lowest C, C#, D, D# might be tuned A, B, C, D, or maybe C, A, D, B.

Soler was rather late in the harpsichord era, and at the royal chapel, so he probably had wider ranges available to him.


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Originally Posted by Sidokar
The maximum range of harpsichords in the 18th century was FF to f3, ie 5 octaves. Though many instruments had only 4.5 but typically spanish harpsichords would have the 5 octaves. The modern keyboards with 61 keys dont have the same range.

Just to be clear, the 61 keys you are referring to goes from C to c4. The 18th century 5 octaves harpsichord would also have 61 keys (as said some would have only 54 or 56 keys) but going a fifth below that , from FF to f3. Scarlatti , Haydn, Mozart, and young Beethoven would be composing in that same range. Occasionally some instruments would have a range from GG to g3.

You can take a look to a picture, for example this one,


https://images.app.goo.gl/7JfAf3uq6i5mtZsV7

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
The range was pretty standard with some minor variations. Even the early sonatas of beethoven are still written for that exact range. Occasionally you would have extension to include f3 sharp or g3.

Also, a concert harpsichord would have 2 manuals and 4', 8', and sometimes 16' stops, extending the range.

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Originally Posted by MinscAndBoo
Is there any reason in particular you want a 61 key keyboard? You could get a 88 key keyboard, use the MIDI, send it to a DAW, then through a speaker. You theoretically would have hundreds of Harpsichord/Clavichord/Virginal sounds you could use.

A hammer weight action is not ideal for harpsichord.

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Digital keyboards are not ideal for harpsichord.


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I don't disagree, but keyboards with hammer weight actions are far more problematic than semi-weighted synth-style or organ-style actions in digital keyboards. When harpsichord music is played on a harpsichord there is traditionally liberal use of ornamentation, much more than when it is played on piano. Playing lots of trills with fingers 4 and 5 of the RH while fingers 1, 2, and 3 are busy with an interior voice is significantly more difficult with a hammer-weight keyboard, and will increase the difficulty of many Baroque harpsichord pieces significantly.

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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
[

Also, a concert harpsichord would have 2 manuals and 4', 8', and sometimes 16' stops, extending the range.

The 16 foot register was extremely rare and only present in a few german instruments. Off the 12 instruments that the Queen Maria Barbara own only one had maybe a 16 foot register and we dont know that for sure. The 16 foot register required a much stronger frame, more difficult to build. In any case except Scarlatti who did go up to g3 very occasionally (63 keys), all baroque keyboard music can be played within 5 octaves or less. Bach in particular requires 56 keys from GG to d3. Thus it can be played with 8 and 4 foot registers, which were the common registers.

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I agree that a 16' stop is unnecessary.

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The Roland C-30 has the best harpsichord action for a digital harpsichord.

https://www.roland.com/us/products/c-30/

It was about $6000 new, and now that it is discontinued, it would be hard to find. Here is one at a retailer in India:

https://www.euphonycart.com/shop/roland-c-30-digital-harpsichord/

The price is in rupees and converts to $4070 today. I doubt it will be much cheaper on the used market in the US.


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