One of the nice things about having so many historical keyboards around the house is the ability to just walk up to something and just start playing on it... we have a double-manual French harpsichord, a 5-octave fortepiano, a clavichord and the more normal modern pianos. However, this means that it is a pain in the arse to keep them all in tune and in decent playing condition. After all, many of these instruments are quite temperamental with their lighter constructions, and so they are quite sensitive to humidity and temperature fluctuations. This was solved with the modern piano with STEEL frames, STEEL strings... and stupidly high amounts of tension. Take that, natural forces!
However, this means that you lose the intimate nature of the older instruments the lighter tensions of the mostly wood constructions make for more transparent and softer sounds. The lightest of these is the pictured clavichord, the strings of which are hit with a metal blade to make the softest of sounds. This is an instrument that you play in the still of the night... and you will not be heard beyond the room that you are playing in. It is incredibly intimate...
However, that means that it is a pain in the arse to tune in the middle of the day... with all the attendant noises from inside and outside the house which all serve to distract and overpower the delicate sounds. Unfortunately, it needs to be done... and I don't feel like waiting until after midnight to do it...
This time, I've opted to tune the instrument at the usual A=415Hz pitch and with a 6-comma meantone temperament. For those who aren't familiar with this sort of information, the pitch is just the absolute up/down of where you sit a reference tone... in this case A is set to A=415Hz, which is the Baroque standard pitch. The modern reference is generally A=440-445Hz... so, significantly higher.
The temperament is the way that you solve the "circle of fifths" problem of dividing up the scale and the distribution of the wolf tone. The modern approach is to divide the wolf equally between the semitones.... which means all keys are identical (hence the A=430 Hz crowd have no theoretical basis for their beliefs). However, in past eras, the wolf was divided amongst the intervals differently... which meant that certain keys sounded sweeter (more in tune) and other keys sounded horrifically out of tune,
6th comma meantone is one such Baroque era tuning... one that is quite beloved by keyboard players... slightly less beloved by string players!
Trust me... after an hour of tuning by ear, and slowly moving through the doubled unison strings of the clavichord. It becomes quite hypnotic from an aural point of view... and the many parallel lines of the strings across the instrument start to form some weird illusion! It is actually quite relaxing and puts you in such a nice frame of mind, total concentration... but you do wake up at the end feeling like you have just been roused from a trance/dream!
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