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Voicing

If a plectrum breaks or damages in some way, as an instant makeshift remedy is possible to use a jack from a discant area. One should however remember to put it later back and to repair the bad jack. In this article I would like to give a simle tutorial how to voice a Delrin or Celcon plectrum. To solve other technical problems please refer to corresponding articles (in preparation now).

A basic terminology:
jack - wooden or plastic block with a pivoted mechanism, plectrum and felt damper
tongue - small pivoted part holding the plectrum
plectrum - a plastic piece or a quill inserted in a tongue

Needed:
- plectrum material (a sheet or cut pieces) or pre-voiced ones (not recommended)
- voicing scalpel, a small hardwood block, a watchmaker flat screwdriver
- if possible, a special device for supporting (underlaying) a tongue

First task is to get the rest of the broken plectrum from the tongue. A good way to achieve this is: cut the plectrum so that it protrudes only ca. 1mm from the tongue. Using the screwdriver try to push the plectrum through the tongue, always in a direction from the string back.

Cut the plectrum from the sheet in a conical way, it should be 2,5 mm wide on one end and 1,5 mm on the other. Be very careful about a grain direction - it must be cut lenghtwise. Carefully insert the plectrum to the tongue, at the same time support the tongue from the other side (either with a finger or - better - using for this purpuse made device). If the plectrum is slightly warped, it should be oriented upwards. Put the plectrum in just using a slight force. Remaining wide part cut skew (see the picture) and press it now firmly in, but not more than ca. 1mm. If the plectrum protrudes more than 1-1,5 mm, trim it.

Too narrow plectrum is to throw away remorselessly. Too wide one narrow down using a scalpel.

Check the plectrum lenght: it should go 0,5 - 1 mm beyond the string. When cutting the lenght, have the jack upside down, the plectrum underlaid with a voicing block. Watch out for a correct angle (ca.30 degrees). Now, big fun comes at last: cut the underside of the plectrum, first a bit skew from the left side, a bit skew from the right side and then flatwise. Start from the middle to the tip. Next cut make from the plectrum root to its tip again. Repeat these steps until the sound and touch corresponds with neighbouring keys.

After each phase check the shape. The tapering has to be strictly gradual with no thinner areas. If cut too deep by mistake, it should be replaced immediately. If the result is a bit softer than surrounding keys, it can be rescued by pushing the plectrum a little towards the string (1mm), if it still sits tightly in the tongue. All cuts should be made ONLY from the underside of the plectrum. Try to move smoothly without cut marks. Good luck!