Paul Y. Irvin - Custom Instruments

My twenty-three years experience in custom designing enables me to design an instrument to meet virtually any requirement.  The type of music preferred, the style of playing, whether for solo, ensemble or orchestral playing are some of the factors considered when tailoring an instrument for a customer.  Our harpsichords are built with a system which automatically adjusts the action for changing seasons and weather.  This eliminates the major portion of the maintenance which harpsichords need due to humidity-induced swelling and shrinking.  As far as we know we are the only builders who yet offer such a system.

We have made instruments for people in this country coast to coast and for Canada, England, Spain, and Japan.  I have studied antique keyboard instruments at many museums and collections in Europe and the United States.  My instruments and services have been used in national broadcasts, recordings, and performances by various artists such as The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia Festival, Music of the Baroque, Musica Antiqua Koeln, Academy of Ancient Music, Les Arts Florissants, Lyric Opera of Chicago, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, DePaul University, David Schrader, Daniel Barenboim, Ton Koopman, Igor Kipnis, William Christie, Jory Vinikour, Peter Williams,  Maggie Cole, and Stephen Alltop.

We have built many instruments with natural wood finishes such as walnut, cherry and mahogany.  Veneering, block printed papers and painted decoration on soundboards and cases have also been used (please see photos).  Keyboards can be made to fit virtually any playing hand size.  All  custom instruments are provided with a music rack, spare strings, maintenance tools, and instructions.  Harpsichords are provided with transposing keyboards for modern and historic pitches.

I work closely with each customer to help determine the best instrument for that individual or institution.  Several approaches can be used to achieve this:  an instrument can be built closely copying an antique model, an antique model can be modified to suit a customerís needs, or a completely original model can be designed following proven historical principles of construction.  Some of the more unusual projects presently under way are a fully decorated reproduction of the 1668  Stephen Keene virginal, a unique compact pedal harpsichord,  a five-octave transposing folding harpsichord, and an adaptation of a very portable single-strung Stein clavichord.