Today marks the first day of our "How to Build a Piano" series. We'll be looking at the growth of keyboard instruments - the "portable ones" (as opposed to the organ) that led up to today's piano, and how the instrument developed alongside the music. Special thanks to our SU practicum Stephanie Clark who has done a great deal of the research on this series.
This first week we are focusing on the various harpsichord type instruments.
Here are two pictures of the harpsichords. These are later "double manual" harpsichords (two rows of keyboards) which greatly increased the range of the instrument. Many harpsichords (like the virginal pictured below) can be separated from their base/legs, so they are considered portable. In these two pictures you can see why the rows of strings were referred to as the "harp" of the instrument.
Next is a picture of a virginal. Note that there is a top cover and front cover. The front cover falls down in front of the legs or table. Because virginals were separate from their leg base, they were very portable, and could be set up on any available table surface. Note that the range is quite small, just over 3 octaves.
We hope you enjoy this journey through time with perhaps the most favorite instrument of all time, the piano.
Kara Dahl Russell