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Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Phil D's midi player harpsichord conversion

Back in 1999 we helped a retired Toronto music teacher sell her small Wittmayer harpsichord. It was purchased by an engineer in British Columbia who had always liked the sound of the harpsichord but did not play.

He told us at the time that he planned to make a player harpsichord out of it, he had an idea for using electromagnets to play the keys. We were curious and asked him to keep us posted. And he did...

Sent: 19 December 1999 12:52
Subject: The Wittmayer

Hello,

The Wittmayer arrived safe and sound --in the middle of a monsoon type downpour. The cardboard box was quite soaked.

I am absolutely delighted with it. The size and volume are perfect for the room. I never realized it would be so small. The finish is great.- it looks almost new. It even has the traditional cigarette burn on the lid.

I know these types of instruments and highly frowned on by the purists but as an engineer and a tinkerer I love the quality of the workmanship and all the adjusting screws.

I am busy experimenting and trying to decide how to mount the activation solenoids under the keyboard although I don't know how much time I can devote to it over the next few weeks -----My wife just pointed out a little saying to me that she saw in the newspaper "it is only a fine line that separates a hobby from mental illness"

I will be happy to keep in touch

Merry Christmas
Phil


Sent: 22 December 1999 12:52
Subject: Re: The Wittmayer

Hello Again

The inside of the cardboard box was quite dry -- the cardboard box probably looked a lot worse than it really was.

I have sent as an attachment a copy of a small article published in 1980 in The Music Box --the journal of the Musical Box Society of GB. This more or less describes what I am trying to do.(Note: this attachment has gotten lost but we have asked Phil to re-send it.) My system will I hope be less visually obtrusive and of course will be controlled by midi from the computer.

Regards Phil


Sent: 15 March 2001 04:00
Subject: The Wittmayer15 March 2001 04:00

I am glad you can see the frivolous side of things. Milking machine indeed!!!!!!!

I apparently didn't make myself very clear when I mentioned playing duets. What I meant was this I take a midi file arranged for two or more instruments, percussion etc --each instrument is typically on a separate channel . One channel is feed to the Wittmayer . The other channels are feed via a synthesiser to hi fi speakers Thus a duet trio --part acoustic, part synthesised.

The harpsichord can be played manually although with a heavier than normally feel [the solenoid armature /piston hangs from the keys--the keys do go up and down when playing] I didn't consider this a problem since I can't play. If it can't play automatically its not much use to me.

When I get back east again I hope to look you

Regards
Phil


Sent 04 September 2001 03:36
Subject: Midi-operated harpsichord

Hello Dawn

I have just finished the conversion of another harpsichord to midi operation. A couple of photos are attached. This time however I have used a keytop style unit with woods matching the harpsichord. It came out I think very well. The harpsichord itself is untouched even though the lute stop and choir selection is also midi operated . What about the possibility of you building and offering such a unit as an optional extra for your Althea harpsichord. There have to be some people around who can afford and would like a harpsichord but who cannot play . After all over 30 % of all Yamaha pianos are sold with the Diskclavier player action .

Phil

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