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CLAVIERS BAROQUES -- Library of Stringing Schedules

Italian Virginal, eg Perticis 1684 from plans drawn by R. K. Lee, and similar

Little brass-strung virginals like this were very popular throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Their small size, portability, modest cost, and just plain cuteness make them favouites today as well. Many twentieth century builders made small Italian-style virginals using historical models or their own designs. Often they were strung in phosphor bronze (done a lot during the '60's and 70's, but a Bad Idea, as we now believe). We restrung this little virginal in brass, as the original would have been. It was built in 1970 by Matthew Redsell of Toronto from plans drawn by R. K. Lee.

The schedule below will work, at least as a starting point, for many similar small brass-strung instruments. Important note: This instrument is at A440, has 46 notes and a short and broken bass octave. Instruments designed for A=415, more or fewer notes, chromatic or different short ocave bass arranements will need some experimentation to determine the correct wire diameter. If the instrument scaled for other than brass wire (eg, Sperrhake or other German factory spinets, which use steel music wire) brass may not work at all.

How do you know when you have the 'right' size wire? Stringing is a compromise between art and science. The string knows all the physics and will let you if the diameter is too far wrong: a wire that is too thick will break when you try to bring it up to pitch, a wire that is too thin will sound dull at pitch. Once you have satisfied the physics angle, let your ear be the final judge. If a note sounds bad -- dull or harsh compared to its neighbors -- try another size until it doesn't break and 'sounds right'.

String or pair number*

Notes (American)



Actual length**
42 to 46 (5 wires)
G#5 to C5
yellow brass
.0085" / .22mm
31 to 41 (11 wires)
A4 to G5
yellow brass
.010" / .25mm
24 to 30 (7 wires)
D4 to G#4
yellow brass
.011" / .27mm
13 to 23 (11 wires)
D#3 to C#4
yellow brass
.012 / .30mm
8 to 12 (5 wires)
Bflat 2 to D3
yellow brass
.013" / .32mm
5 and 7 (2 wires)
G2 and A2
yellow brass
.014" / .33mm
2 and 4 (2 wires)
F2 and F#2
yellow brass
.016" / .36mm
1, 3 & 6 (3 wires)
C2/E2, F#2 & G#2
yellow brass
.018" / .40mm

*strings, keys and jacks are traditionally counted from the left (lowest note), although stringing schedules traditionally list wire from the highest note to the lowest, probably because most builders string the treble first. It is confusing, I know; sorry.

** The "actual length" is for our reference, although you are welcome to use it, if it is of any help to you. It is the length of the pre-looped replacement string we make, which is long enough to replace the longest string of that diameter on the instrument with enough extra for a generous coil. It is not the sounding length.







Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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