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MIDI on a pedal clavichord

Building organ consoles for use with Hauptwerk, adding MIDI to existing consoles, obtaining parts, ...
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shivasage

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MIDI on a pedal clavichord

PostSat May 23, 2020 4:39 pm

Hello all. I'm new here. I have only recently gained an interest in organ software, and I have been researching many related topics. I have a specific project in mind, and I'm looking for some opinions.

My project involves a pedal clavichord that I will have custom-built for me (ideally). But instead of it having a manual and a pedal keyboard, I only want the pedal keyboard.

I want the pedal clavichord to be an acoustic instrument, or at least a mechanical instrument that is amplified using a pickup. But at the same time, I want it to have MIDI which I can use with Hauptwerk. From my 'research,' it seems that most MIDI pedalboards are designed to actuate some sort of electro-mechanical element (such as a reed switch), by having the foot-activated lever move another element close to, or in contact with, this element. In my case, my pedal keys will actually be 'plucking' the strings as would a normal pedal clavichord. So, my question is: is it feasible to have a pedal keyboard that both plucks strings and also actuates an electro-mechanical element at the same time? Would this be a massive headache for a builder?

Thank you!
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engrssc

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Re: MIDI on a pedal clavichord

PostSat May 23, 2020 6:30 pm

Definitely a unique situation;. Is it possible that you could post some pictures? There are various means including Hall Effect systems to generate MIDI messages from a pedalboard,, many have been posted on this Forum. The question is adapting a physical/mechanical method to work in your case. One question comes to mind as to what is the pedal's travel distance?

Rgds,
ED
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shivasage

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Re: MIDI on a pedal clavichord

PostSun May 24, 2020 3:05 am

engrssc wrote:Definitely a unique situation;. Is it possible that you could post some pictures? There are various means including Hall Effect systems to generate MIDI messages from a pedalboard,, many have been posted on this Forum. The question is adapting a physical/mechanical method to work in your case. One question comes to mind as to what is the pedal's travel distance?

Rgds,
ED
Hi Ed. Thanks for your response. I can't provide many pictures because nothing exists yet. I'm trying to figure out what is feasible before contacting a builder. However, here is a picture of the tidiest pedal clavichord I was able to find on the internet: http://www.friedhelm-capelle.de/images/Clav_1-man.jpg, which I will probably use as a reference when messaging the builder.

I have seen the projects using Hall Effect systems. In one example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4Bhlpba7Q8, the builder attaches to the pedalboard a strip of wood with the sensors attached. The keys have magnets embedded within them, and when a key is actuated, it moves closer to this strip of wood.

In the case of the pedal clavichord, the key is moving towards a string to strike/fret it with a tangent. I believe it is common for the key to come from below the string, though in the image I sent, it seems like the strings are below the key. Either way, that means the sensors must be placed on the opposite side of the strings. I suppose this is possible, yeah? In fact, if the strings are below, it would be easier because the sensors could be placed on the wood beneath, rather than somehow 'floating' above the strings. Additionally, if the tangent itself was magnetic, then there would be no need for additional magnets.
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engrssc

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Re: MIDI on a pedal clavichord

PostSun May 24, 2020 3:23 am

shivasage wrote: Additionally, if the tangent itself was magnetic, then there would be no need for additional magnets.


Not exactly. When magnets are used, you have the ability to position each magnet such that the point at which the contact is made can be adjusted. You want each to be approx the same so that the pedal note sounds at the same point pedal. to pedal. (Sometimes referred to as the strike point).

One issue would be the pedal spacing as most products are built to a certain spacing standard, naming AGO (American Guild of Organist). Such a product setup is here:

https://midi-hardware.com/index.php?section=prod_info&product=HALKA

From your description, you appear to have a good idea as to what's involved.

Rgds,
Ed
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IainStinson

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Re: MIDI on a pedal clavichord

PostSun May 24, 2020 3:42 am

Thie idea of pedal clavichord is a little unusual.

The (manual) keyboard of a clavichord are balanced on a simple pivot, when the key is played the metal tangent at the end of the key strikes the string from below an makes the sound. When the key is released the string is damped by felt. By controlling the pressure you use in pressing the key you can slightly vary the pitch (essentially by stretch the string a little) which is a feature/skill used when playing the clavichord. The strings are not plucked, they are stuck. Harpsichord strings are plucked.

I don’t quite understand how this would translate to a pedalboard - I think it might need a very different technique from organ pedalling.

The clavichord sound is very gentle and soft. The mechanical noise of the pedalboard might be too noisy.

If you want to modify a pedalboard in the least intrusive way, you might consider an optical system which could detect the velocity of the key (a proxy for the key pressure). Some Yamaha pianos include such a midi system which has no impact on the key touch.

I’m not sure amplifying the clavichord pedalboard,perhaps using guitar pickups,would retain the quality of the clavichord’s delicate sound.

Would you intend using the clavichord pedalboard with a clavichord (keyboard)?

Have you thought about a pedal harpsichord? The touch would be less of a problem.

Good luck.

Iain
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engrssc

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Re: MIDI on a pedal clavichord

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shivasage

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Re: MIDI on a pedal clavichord

PostSun May 24, 2020 5:22 pm

engrssc wrote:Not exactly. When magnets are used, you have the ability to position each magnet such that the point at which the contact is made can be adjusted. You want each to be approx the same so that the pedal note sounds at the same point pedal. to pedal. (Sometimes referred to as the strike point).
Rgds,
Ed
That's a good point. Well, although the magnets couldn't be adjusted, I imagine the sensors could be adjusted before permanent installation.


Of course, I now realize that if I want the strings to be amplified via a magnetic pickup, then the strings themselves must be magnetic (iron), which would make the Hall Effect solution not so feasible. If I choose to use a soundboard transducer like what you linked, then I could use non-magnetic strings (brass), but then the instrument must be fully acoustic, as opposed to another option I was considering which would be a 'solidbody' clavichord, akin to a solidbody guitar, i.e. without a vibrating soundboard. I was considering this option because it would probably reduce the cost.

IainStinson wrote:I don’t quite understand how this would translate to a pedalboard - I think it might need a very different technique from organ pedalling.

The clavichord sound is very gentle and soft. The mechanical noise of the pedalboard might be too noisy.

If you want to modify a pedalboard in the least intrusive way, you might consider an optical system which could detect the velocity of the key (a proxy for the key pressure). Some Yamaha pianos include such a midi system which has no impact on the key touch.

I’m not sure amplifying the clavichord pedalboard,perhaps using guitar pickups,would retain the quality of the clavichord’s delicate sound.

Would you intend using the clavichord pedalboard with a clavichord (keyboard)?

Have you thought about a pedal harpsichord? The touch would be less of a problem.
Hi Iain, thanks for helping. Unfortunately (or fortunately, in this case), I have no pedal technique because I am not an organist, and therefore I would be starting from scratch anyway, so I could presumably develop the proper technique. There is a guy on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsZUAq5yvw4) who has a lot of pedal clavichord videos, so I could perhaps contact him for a lesson.

That is a good point about about the noisiness of the pedals, though judging from his videos, it seems that the pedal section is loud enough that the action of the pedals are not too intrusive. Perhaps this is because of a larger soundboard. Either way, this is a point in favor of having a 'solidbody' instrument, rather than a purely acoustic instrument which produces its sound using a soundboard.

I think you are correct that pickups might mask some of the character of the clavichord sound. This is a sacrifice I'm willing to make. My main impetus for this project is to have an instrument that I can play with my feet, as opposed to, for example, a desire to attain a clavichord tone. I also want it to be relatively portable. The pedal clavichord seemed like the simplest and cheapest solution. I considered the pedal harpsichord (in fact I even found one for sale here: https://www.claviersbaroques.com/OCIPedalHpschd.htm), but I think it will be more expensive and less portable.

I plan on playing guitar while playing the pedalboard. Ideally I would like to have the option to play both acoustic (quiet) and electric (loud), but I haven't quite figured this part out yet (given all the complicating factors). Judging from the youtube videos, I believe the pedal clavichord would keep up with an acoustic guitar just as well as a pedal harpsichord, but neither would be able to attain the volume of a loud electric guitar. Therefore I don't see much benefit of the harpsichord.
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Re: MIDI on a pedal clavichord

PostWed May 27, 2020 6:21 pm

I've looked around at pedal clavichords and I am surprised to see what's available.

I can understand what you want to do and guess that the struck pedal strings would complement classical guitar playing in an interesting way and having the option of a sustained bass (from the midi connection to an organ sample set ) would also sound pretty good.

The pedal clavichord's I saw did not look very portable (about 72" long) and I wonder how much adjustment they might need on setting up. They also seemed to be expensive. (http://www.robertduffyharpsichords.com/instruments/clavichords

Whilst not so beautiful, have you considered a midi pedal board (commercial one's ready to use are available from several sources on the web... ) which you could use with HW and perhaps with one of the harpsichord/clavichord/chamber organ sample sets. These might be more convenient if you need to have a portable "rig".

I was wondering about the playing position of holding the guitar and playing the pedal board....

Good luck with the project.

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