Bach Model

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harpsichord vs piano?

So, if you took "harpsichord" lessons how would they differ from "piano" lessons.

thought this would be a curious question.

I have been itching to answer this since I saw it first about eighteen hours ago. I do not really have any "expert" advice on this, but I do play both instruments so perhaps my commentary is valid...

When I first started learning harpsichord I already played the piano quite well, so I could already "play" the harpsichord with some proficiency. The main task of my teacher was to teach me to have expression in my playing with the limitations of a harpsichord... and of course I had to get used to the harpsichord.

The harpsichord feels "crunchy," as there is more resistance and you can feel when the plectrum plucks the string. Because of the resistance, I always feel like pressing harder, but to do so causes an unpleasant tone...

The keys are slimmer. It took me some time to get used to playing with the smaller keys, especially playing without looking at my hands, as I had the annoying habit of playing a 9th instead of an octave... (That's because of the slight size difference with the keys.) Now though, I love the small keys, as I have small hands. lol.

The keys on the first harpsichord I ever played were made of wood (Most are). This took time to get used to... It is sort of like playing a piano with plastic keys, then moving on to one made of actual ivory.

I once played a harpsichord where the black keys were the "natural notes" and the white ones were the sharps and flats. You can imagine the problems that has! Also some harpsichords have a black key between each white key, and the notes are as follows. White notes are "plain" and black notes are (bracketed):

C (C#, D) Eb (E, F) F# (G, Ab) A (Bb, B)

So there are only four white notes per octave, and the black notes can play two notes. (The bottom half plays the note in the C maj scale, the top of the key plays the "accidental").

That was seriously the most ****** up keyboard I have ever played........

At first I was scared of playing really high or really low, as I thought my hands would hit the case.

You have to curve your fingers much more with harpsichord than with piano.

Notes must be played separately, you cant just bang on it like with a piano.

There are no dynamics on the harpsichord. To make the instrument louder, you must add another set of strings. (With a double keyboard)

And if you are playing on a (useless) single keyboard instrument: chords must be apreggio-ed, you must double the root, and sometimes the fifth, you can add ornaments, extend ornaments.

So to sustain a note you would just trill the whole measure.

and to play "piano" (dynamic not instrument)... you play with only one of the keyboards, dont play all the notes in the chord and dont play octaves in the bass (Not that baroque music used this much, except for Lute and in Scarlatti's music....) and of course get rid of the ornaments.

I suggest you check out this book:

Frank Hubbard - Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making, Harvard University Press, 1965.
and this website:

http://www.pianotechnique.net/antecedents-of-piano-technique-in-the-harpsichord-and-clavichord/

The instrument I play (but - unfortunately - don't own) is a Sussmann (which is from Germany!) It is an old instrument (Built in the early 80's I think?) and is a "Bach Model" which doesnt appear to be made anymore. (This is their website: http://www.sassmann.de/ )

It has two manuals (keyboards) four registers (two eight foot, one four foot, and one 16 foot) and five pedals. The pedals do not produce a sound! They are used only to switch registers, or manuals. Both the upper keyboard and lower have an 8-foot register, but the upper keyboard sounds more treble - y )

It looks like this one, but with pedals:

http://www.sassmann.de/cembalo2/index.htm

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