Vacuum Tubes and Alloys Bring Back the Harpsichord (Aug, 1938)
Vacuum Tubes and Alloys Bring Back the Harpsichord
Scarcely more than a museum piece since the piano sent it into eclipse, the harpsichord is coming back. Vacuum-tube
amplifiers, twentieth-century mechanics and hard metals have overcome the hand-icaps of the instrument that almost disappeared after dominating the musical world for several hundred years. Piano strings are vibrated by a hammer blow, and the strength of the sound is varied by the strength of the finger blow. The harpsichord strings are plucked. The electric model has nickel-silver picks with long wearing qualities; tone control at the fingertips like the piano, and amplification. Instead of the string vibration being transferred to the sounding board of the instrument, the vibration simply varies an electrical current in a magnetic field and sets up an electrical copy of the mechanical vibration. By means of a tone-color control the shape of the electrical pattern can be changed and thus change the timbre of the tone produced.