Welcome to Friends of Square Pianos! This is a sort of on-line club for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano. Or anyone who is just interested, possibly to learn a little more.
Please get in touch with me, David, on email@example.com with questions, comments, or just to say 'Hello'. This is a site for everyone, especially those new to the world of Square Pianos. And of course, we very much appreciate the support of those with more experience.
We have had a Spinet Page for some time now, and this has included spinets and harpsichords offered for sale. These now have a page of their own - Spinets for Sale. Please have a look - a nice little Dolmetsch Spinet has just been added.
OK, not exactly square, but a stunning early piano. This one, and many others, will be in the December sale of Piano Auctions.
Please see the Auction Page for more details.
See you there? Please come along to Conway Hall if you can.
We frequently see references to the 'Dust Covers' of square pianos - often when they have been lost. However, we are agreed that whatever they are (or were) their purpose is surely not to keep out the dust. There are at least three obvious reasons for this:
- We do not have any dust in our houses
- Surely that is the job of the lid, anyway?
- and although some (like early Broadwoods) cover most of the interior, the majority only cover part of it, sometimes leaving the soundboard mostly exposed, sometimes covering the soundboard only and leaving the action open. The suggestion that they were some sort of 'modesty board' falls over for the same reason (and is ridiculous anyway).
One popular suggestion is that they were intended to muffle the noise of the action. But this theory does not stand up: Many (like the Clementi above) have a slot over the hammers and dampers. This prevents the dampers clicking against the underside of the lid, but also allows any other sounds from the hammers or dampers to escape.
However, recently it was my privilege to do some restoration work on a delightful little 'portable' piano, which had a folding undercarriage amongst other interesting features. There was no trace of a name on the 'nameboard': there had been a possible attribution to Joseph Merlin, and although there may be a connection, it was almost certainly made by Charles Trute.
One feature of particular interest was an 'Inner Board' (let's call it that for now) of unusual design and construction. Apart from a small aperture front-left to allow access to the handstops, it covered the whole area. The picture above was taken before restoration - the piece at front-right was missing. It is now restored. This part is hinged, with a leather pull-tab, to allow it to be opened like a lid-swell.
The board itself was of high-quality soundboard wood, and only just over 2 mm thick. It was reinforced around the edges, and had a sound-hole (over the action!) and two bars, like a guitar soundboard. It was retained firmly in place with little wooden turnbuckles.
It was evident that the piano was not intended to be played without it, because the damper-limiter was a strip of cloth on the underside of the board itself.
The real evidence emeged, though, when the piano had been restored, and could be played again. Without the board, the sound was perhaps what one would expect from a 178o-ish piano. But with the board in place, there was a transformation. The tone was truly excellent, with no trace of harshness. Add to this the combinations of dampers on or off, buff on or off, and swell open or closed. I particularly liked the combination dampers off/buff on.
The problem is, of course, what to call the board? One eminent restorer has suggested 'Passive Soundboard, and whilst this is undoubtedly accurate, it's not very whizzy. This article is headed 'Schalldeckel' which is German for 'sound-lid', and has provenance: they were fitted above pulpits, to help the congregation to hear the preacher. As seen in the heading picture.
My suggestions are:
- Operimentum canticorum
- Tabula secunda sonorum.
But what do you think? Please drop me a line, David on
The Haydn Society of Great Britain has been given permission to comemmorate Haydn's first visit to London with a plaque on the house where he stayed, in Great Pulteney Street. We are pleased to say that the necessary funding has been achieved.
Please click on the link below for more information.
We can confirm that the dates for our fifth Square Piano Weekend at Finchcocks will be Saturday and Sunday May 9th and 10th 2015.
Keynote Presentation - Martyna Kazmierczak
Please see the Finchcocks Page for a report on Finchcocks 2014.
We all love those beautiful English Spinets, and now they have a Page of their own, where I hope to encourage interest, ownership, and amateur makers.
Please take time to visit our sister website www.squarepianotech.com This is run by our Friend Tom Strange in America, and is rapidly growing into a treasure-store of permanent wisdom.
About the 'Webmaster' (David Hackett)
My only claim to respectability is that Carl Dolmetsch once offered to take me on as an apprentice. This was in 1962, when I had just shown him my first clavichord, and been his guest at Haslemere. However, he also advised me that it would be better to go to University, and I accepted his advice. Early Keyboard Instruments have therefore remained a hobby, and now happily retired, I am able to spend a bit more time enjoying them - and encouraging others, I hope..
My real work is with homeless cats now, though - I have the privilege to be Co-ordinator of the local voluntary branch of Cats Protection.