Technical Library

ACTION IX: Stagger

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Consistent plucking order from note to note is crucial for the correct operation and feel of the harpsichord. If the multiple plucks of an instrument with more than two registers tried to occur simultaneously, each key would be more far difficult than necessary to depress. Makers intentionally separate the plucks as part of the regulation process. In English, we use the wonderful word “stagger” to describe this—a word more often applied to the walk of a drunk.

The stagger depends on the instrument. Some makers have different preferences, but the following is regarded as normal practice:

After the last pluck, a little keydip must remain for comfort. At normal playing speed, the separation of the various plucks is not audible.

The prepared movie clearly shows tenor f on the lower manual of a French Double being played slowly.

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Carey Beebe demonstrating the timing of the pluck (“stagger”).
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Assuming the harpsichord was consistently setup when new—which sadly isn’t always the case—stagger can be upset in several ways:

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