Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Recreating a 17th Century Harpsichord

Keyboard instruments weren't always as tough as the ones built these days. In fact, playing an authentic but fragile 17th-century instrument can sometimes be downright harmful. The solution: sample their sound so it can be recreated electronically, as Dr. Kenny McAlpine achieved through multiple sampling of each string:
"The interesting thing about the harpsichord is that there are characteristic idiosyncrasies of the instrument," he says. "Things like the sound of the keys as you strike them, the sound of the jacks and the plectra as they make contact with the strings - these are all things that tell you that you're listening to a real, analogue, organic instrument.

"And these are very often the things which are missing from digital copies of instruments."

On top of collecting all the sounds of the instrument, Dr McAlpine had to record each note several times.
You can compare the sound of the original versus that of the copy on the September 15 episode of BBC's Click On (Real Player required for playback).

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