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#1 28-03-2019 13:37:15


My little brother wants to start playing harspichord ! How can I help?

Hello everyone..

Probably because I always talk of the harpsichord at home, and because I myself am playing the organ a lot with my home virtual organ setup, after I went with my brother to listen to the harpsichord audition of my friend (who played some very good Balbastre), he started to want to learn harpsichord !

I don't have a harpsichord at home, we just have a old piano and my virtual organ setup (which I build myself, made myself the pedalboard out of wood) that works with samples coming out of my computer that runs the free software GrandOrgue !

However, I have no idea how to help him play harpsichord, he would start to take lessons from september, but meanwhile, I have no idea how to help him, I have some ideas of how harpsichord should sound, but no idea on how to actually play it, especially since the real thing is so different from any piano or midi keyboard... (Organs can be played on any kind of feel keyboard).

I also don't know how to advise him on repertoire he should start learning, he already did a few years of piano about 5 years ago.

How to you guys practice ? How did you learn ? Is there any good software and samples to imitate the sound ? What repertoire is adapted for him ? Even simple looking sarabandes and such can be really tricky when you aren't used to this kind of music...

Thank you very much !

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#2 28-03-2019 16:08:38


Re : My little brother wants to start playing harspichord ! How can I help?

Hi Anthony

This is really tricky…
The one thing you need is definitely a harpsichord teacher (not a piano teacher!). Especially in the very beginning, because it is easy to get it completely wrong and take all sorts of bad habits. It seems your brother intend on taking lessons, so, good.

The next problem is the keyboard. If you cannot at all get a real instrument, even a small spinet, (they can be found at less than 2000€) and plan to use a midi keyboard, the touch should be as light as can be;  in my limited experience, the more expensive the keyboard is, the more it emulates a piano touch, and so the farther it is from the light harpsichord feel. So a cheap keyboard could be better than an high-end one, actually! Still, that is far from ideal. The feeling you get as the quill plucks the string is so special.

As for the sample sounds, there are a few available in the Hauptwerk format I think, and a few in the Soundfont format too, if you can use these formats on your setup. You'd have far better options using the Kontakt software but it is expensive. Then again, having a good, realistic sound is important so that you can have some reward while learning, but it is not what will make your playing right. I started on a bad Lindholm spinet, and though I had a far more pleasing sound with my midi keyboard / Kontakt sample player, only on the spinet could I really understand the proper way to articulate the music.

As for the first pieces to work, if your brother is not a complete beginner on a keyboard, well he can try Bach's two-parts inventions, which are rather straightforward, or some menuets by other composers (menuets are often - though not always - more simple than other pieces. See Scarlatti's K34 for exemple, really cool). Sarabandes and the french style in general, trickier without guidance.

I hope you'll get other, more authorized pieces of advice. Anyway, good luck !

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