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Topic: Best keyboard key weight for playing clavichord/harpsichord?

Hello! I want to buy a MIDI controller and use Pianoteq to play mainly harpsichord/clavichord sounds. Could anyone who has had an experience with acoustic harpsichords and clavichords tell me if the force required to press the keys is most similar to 1.Semi-Weighted or 2.Non-Weighted MIDI controller keys? I currently have no way to try to play them and have no idea how they are like, also I know it is not so important for harpsichord since they do not have velocity dynamics but still I would like the experience of playing it to be similar to a harpsichord. Thank you!

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Re: Best keyboard key weight for playing clavichord/harpsichord?

I owned/played an acoustic harpsichord for 20 years, but cannot help you. Firstly there is a brief absence of weight at all, then the resistance of the quill, through which you play, then again a complete absence of weight, apart from the weight of the jack.  Added to which, on many harpsichords you can have 1, 2 or 3 quillls offering resistance depending upon the registration employed, so the intermediate resistance varies, being also heavier in the bass with thicker quills. So, no digital keyboard emulates the behaviour of a harpsichord action.  Having said that, the Pianoteq Ruckers sounds so realistic, I just enjoy it and forget about the difference in the action. This difference can bother acoustic harpsichord players, but as I rarely play an acoustic now, my guess is that those with no experience of acoustic harpsichords should be bothered too much. Having said that, there is a case for a light weight - harpsichords need to be played very precisely, so a delicate touch is needed - but this risks banging down on the keyboard in difficult/complex passages as hitting the keys harder makes no difference to the sound. Not good for the DP.  Even though I have much experience of acoustic harpsichords I can be guilty of that. A really heavily weighted keyboard avoids this but makes the trills and other ornaments more difficult. (Baroque ornamentation is so much easier to play on a harpsichord - no dynamics to worry about, so nice even tone, a precise action and lighter than a piano)
I have played clavichords, which do of course respond to weight of touch. I do not play digital clavichords, but would imagine you need a very light weight, very low volume and a very narrow dynamic range.  Other with more experience of clavichords, both acoustic and digital may have better advice.

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Re: Best keyboard key weight for playing clavichord/harpsichord?

Thank you very much for the answer, I find it very helpful! Since you say the clavichord has very light and easy to press keys, I will try to find a good keyboard without weighted keys.

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Re: Best keyboard key weight for playing clavichord/harpsichord?

Noian wrote:

Thank you very much for the answer, I find it very helpful! Since you say the clavichord has very light and easy to press keys, I will try to find a good keyboard without weighted keys.

Personally I would just get a Casio PX-1xx series with a weighted action.  It would be more expressive than any of the unweighted non touch sensitive keyboards, and a touch sensitive synth action is likely to have too much dynamic range although I guess that could be restricted with Pianoteq's velocity curve setting.  The Casio action has no springs and is gravity driven.  It's not a heavy action. but is capable if decent expression.  Also the PX-130 has a good harpsichord sound built in.  You should be able to find one on Craigs List for not too much.  I have the PX150 but don't like the harpsichord on that one as it's not as nice as the one on my older PX-130 which I sold.

Last edited by GRB (16-10-2017 23:04)
Pianoteq Pro 6.x - Linux Mint 18.2 - Mate Desktop

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Re: Best keyboard key weight for playing clavichord/harpsichord?

Thank you for the recommandation, however what I am looking for now is an inexpensive but good MIDI controller with 4 octaves to play using Pianoteq clavichord and harpsichord sounds, I will of course get one which is touch-sensitive, the only thing I am considering is semi-weighted vs weighted keys. What is most important for me is similarity to a clavichord.

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Re: Best keyboard key weight for playing clavichord/harpsichord?

Noian wrote:

Thank you for the recommendation, however what I am looking for now is an inexpensive but good MIDI controller with 4 octaves to play using Pianoteq clavichord and harpsichord sounds, I will of course get one which is touch-sensitive, the only thing I am considering is semi-weighted vs weighted keys. What is most important for me is similarity to a clavichord.

Personally I have not seen any modern keyboard that truly emulates an actual clavichord.  I use to have a 4 octave Casio that was pretty good for practicing or learning Bach.  I recommend the Casio as it's what I have and good ones can be found on Criag's List at a reasonable price.  The more recent ones have USB midi that connects to Pianoteq without the need for any configuration.  I think you will be happier in the long run with a modestly weighted key.  I hate an overly heavy action or one that is incapable of nuance. Non touch sensitive keys will give you arthritis as you will be trying to get something out of it that isn't there.  My belief is the inertia of a weighted key actually provides the potential for more control.

Clavichords
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/39690/39 … 9690-h.htm

Dynamic shadings are possible in the clavichord, as in the piano, through variation of finger pressure. In both, the strings are struck—by metal tangents in the clavichord and by leather or felt hammers in the piano.

In the clavichord the strings extend over a soundboard bridge on the player’s right and are damped (stopped from vibrating) by strips of cloth on the left. The metal hammer (tangent) mounted in the end of the key strikes the string and continues to touch it as long as the player presses the key. The tangent, while touching the string, divides it into two segments—the segment on the right being free to vibrate, the segment on the left being damped by the cloth. When the key is released, the cloth damps the entire string.

Figure 31 shows a player depressing a clavichord key (middle c). The tangent at the far end of the key lever has been raised so that it has struck the strings and has lifted them above rest position. The damping cloth on the left of this raised string can also be seen.

Known as early as the 15th century, the clavichord produces tones, though limited in volume, that are very expressive and even capable of vibrato (Bebung). Because it lacks carrying power, the clavichord historically was a solo or practice instrument, for it could not be heard in combination with other instruments or with the voice.

Last edited by GRB (18-10-2017 17:31)
Pianoteq Pro 6.x - Linux Mint 18.2 - Mate Desktop