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WikiProject Classical music
WikiProject icon Virginals is within the scope of WikiProject Classical music, which aims to improve, expand, copy edit, and maintain all articles related to classical music, that are not covered by other classical music related projects. Please read the guidelines for writing and maintaining articles. To participate, you can edit this article or visit the project page for more details.
WikiProject Musical Instruments (Rated B-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Musical Instruments, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of musical instruments on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.

Improving the article[edit]

"The article has a meaningful amount of good content, but it is still weak in many areas, and may lack a key element."

It explains the different types of virginal and their history. I disagree with this rating. --Gwib (talk) 07:55, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I too disagree with this rating. The majority of the material necessary is certainly present. There are no significant gaps or missing elements, and the English is clear and comprehensible. There are no other encyclopedias that do a better job as far as I can find. I think this article should be upgraded to A-class, or B-class at the very least. Nick Michael (talk) 09:29, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Hi, Gwib. Feel free to re-rate the article. That having been said, I still feel that the article is generally at Start class, and certainly no higher than B class. It could do with more information on history of the invention of the instrument, important pieces of music composed for the instrument, and when it reached the height of its popularity and when it got consigned to the annals of music history. — Cheers, JackLee talk 00:03, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for the tips, Nick Michael has agreed to tackle the article and bring it up to standards. --Gwib (talk) 17:03, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
You might want to also consider the following:
  • The lead section (introductory paragraph) of the article should really be a concise summary of the article as a whole. Therefore, you may want to try to put the bulk of the material that is currently in the lead into the main article, and revise the lead.
  • Have you got access to the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians? It may be a source for more information about the virginals.
  • Try and find a reference for the extract from Pepys' diary. Try Google Books or Project Gutenberg.
— Cheers, JackLee talk 18:31, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

Getting the English Grammer and Idiom right

It strikes me that to refer to Virginals only in the past tense implies that no such item exists any more. Surely a Virginals IS a musical keyboard instrument (present tense) ? For certain, it was far more popular and common in the past (past tense) but that does not preclude the fact that a Virginals sitting on my living room table still IS a Virginals, it hasn't now become something else making the use of the past tense appropriate. I give up trying to correct the tense in the opening paragraph of the article, because every time I do someone undoes it, so I am happy for someone else to take the credit for getting the grammer right.

Regarding idiom, I rather feel that idiomatic language is frowned on in encyclopaedias as it makes an article sort of unclear to non native English speakers.

I refer to and the current article. A Virginals was a sort of harpsichord. My initial reaction was to cringe or wince at the incorrect use of tense and the awful cockney style idiom. Surely it is a musical keyboard instrument similar to a harpsichord. A 'form of' or 'type of' or 'similar to' or 'early variant of' would all be standard English in near diametric opposition to the current use of 'sort of'; being crude idiom implying uncertainty, idiocy or imprecision. Aethandor (talk) 13:46, 9 June 2008 (UTC)aethandor Aethandor (talk) 15:20, 9 June 2008 (UTC)aethandor

Good point on the tense, but I'm not sure about idiomatic language - this isn't Simple English Wikipedia after all. On the other hand, you're quite right, 'a type of Harpsichord' would be more precise and equally idiomatic. InfernoXV (talk) 17:04, 10 June 2008 (UTC)

Improving the article further[edit]

Hi, Nick. You've done a good job fleshing out the article. I would suggest the following additional improvements:


  • The article's arrangement can be improved. The current arrangement of sections is not very intuitive, and some of the short sections can be amalgamated. I would suggest the following arrangement:
    • Etymology.
    • History.
    • Description – an amalgamation of the existing "Description" section with "Mechanism" and "Compass and pitch". I would reduce all three sections into just one section. The following can be subsections of the new "Description" section:
      • Types – it's not necessary to repeat the article title "Virginals" in the subheading.
      • Decoration.
    • Composers and collections of works – again, don't repeat "Virginals" in the subheading.
  • The "Notes" section should appear before "Further reading": see "Wikipedia:Layout#Standard appendices and descriptions".
  • The article needs more inline citations. At a minimum, there should be at least one footnote at the end of each paragraph.
  • Check all links and disambiguate those which link to redirects. For instance, "virgin" and "Virgin Mary" can be disambiguated.
  • In the footnotes, the names of the authors of works should be set out in the ordinary way (e.g., "Robert Dearling"). In the "Further reading" section, the surnames should come first ("Dearling, Robert").
  • The template {{Infobox instrument}} suggests that the instument's range be represented graphically, if possible. The images in "commons:Category:Instrument ranges" were created by Mezzofortist. You may want to contact him or her and ask if an image can be created for the virginals so that it can be used in the article's infobox.
    • I've left a message on Mezzofortist's Commons talk page on the matter. — Cheers, JackLee talk 14:48, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

Lead section[edit]

  • The lead section needs to be expanded so that it summarizes the article better.
  • Shouldn't "Medieval" and "Renaissance" be capitalized? Also, isn't "Medieval" the accepted modern spelling of the word?


The word "jacks" currently links to a disambiguation page. Link it to a more suitable article, and provide a brief explanation in the text of what a "jack" is.


  • In the "History" section, the quote from Paulus Paulirinus of Prague suggests another possible etymology for the word virginals. Shouldn't this be included?
  • Have you checked the OED's etymology for the word? That would probably be definitive.
    • Had a look at the OED out of curiosity. It suggests a link to the adjective "virginal", but otherwise says that the etymology is obscure. — Cheers, JackLee talk 14:49, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
  • The term "register" needs to be explained as its meaning is not clear to an ordinary reader. Can it be linked to a relevant Wikipedia article?


  • The quotation should be put within quotation marks, not italics: see "Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Italics".
  • "sixteenth century" → "16th century"; the same for "seventeenth century".
  • Shouldn't "Baroque" be capitalized?

Types of virginals[edit]

  • The sentence "Virginals may be described either as spinet virginals or muselar virginals" needs to be updated as two additional types of virginals have been added to the section. Alternatively, it may not be necessary to have this sentence at all.
  • It would be interesting if the meanings of the words "spinet", "muselar" and "ottavino" were explained.

Spinet virginals[edit]

  • "Northern virginals" needs to be explained – what are the countries are considered "northern"?
  • Add a link to "cypress".
  • "softwood" → "soft wood"?
  • Explain what a "vaulted lid" is.

Muselar virginals[edit]

  • "one third" → "one-third".
  • "warm rich" → "warm, rich".
  • "square wave" needs to be explained.
  • The quotation from Van Blankenberg needs a full citation.
  • "Harpichordium" → "harpichordium".

Ottavino virginals[edit]

  • "muselaar" → "muselar" (spellings should be consistent throughout the article).

Double virginals[edit]

  • "6'" → apply the {{convert}} template so that metric conversions are displayed, thus: "{{convert|6|ft|m|adj=on}}", which renders as "6-foot (1.8 m)".
  • If "jacks" has been linked earlier, it doesn't need to be linked again.

Compass and pitch[edit]

  • "C/E to c3" and similar expressions are not clear to the general reader. Can you link the symbols to relevant articles or clarify them?
  • Apply {{convert}} to figures using the Imperial system of measurement.
  • "8' pitch" → "eight foot pitch"; the same for "4' pitch".


  • Link "mouldings", "rails" and "battens" to relevant Wikipedia articles, or explain what they mean.
  • The mottoes are in Latin, so I'd put them in italics.
  • The sentence "The Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer ... examples of virginals" should end with a full stop.
  • Avoid sandwiching text between two images: see "Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Images". The positions of the images should be adjusted.
  • The materials "ivory, ebony, mother-of-pearl or tortoiseshell" have already been linked earlier on and do not require further linking.
  • "Rose" needs to be explained.

Composers and collections for the virginals[edit]

  • Rearrange the titles of the English virginal books alphabetically, and put them in italics.
  • Remove the red link from "Will Forster's Virginal Book" unless an article with this title is to be created shortly.

Further reading[edit]

After making these changes, you may want to nominate the article for Good Article review at "Wikipedia:Good article candidates". Let me know when you've done so, and I'll have another look at the article to see if it qualifies to be upgraded to GA status. — Cheers, JackLee talk 21:06, 29 May 2008 (UTC)


JackLee for all this hard work - you should really get the credit for it... I'll deal with it ASAP. Re your comments on OED, I don't think OED can be considered the definitive authority on etymology - or anything else for that matter. It's an ongoing project and whatever the current edition is, it's bound to contain mistakes, lacunae etc. Thanks again and all the best. Nick Michael (talk) 09:11, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

Hi, Nick, take your time with the edits. As regards the OED, you may be right that it is not definitive when it comes to etymology, but it does represent what the current scholarly view is, doesn't it? — Cheers, JackLee talk 19:28, 31 May 2008 (UTC)
OED is not to be trusted, seriously. It only reflects what the editors of the OED think - not current scholary views, not by far. Also 'mediaeval' is an older spelling that is perfectly correct and preferred by many of us who deal with the period. InfernoXV (talk) 12:43, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Oh, right... I thought that the OED consulted expert opinions when it came to working out the etymologies of words. What do the experts think about the etymology of the words virginals, muselar, ottavino and spinet, then? It would be interesting if there was some mention of this in the article. — Cheers, JackLee talk 16:45, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

DYK nomination[edit]

Hi. Gwib nominated this article to appear on the "Did you know?" section on the Main Page, but a reviewer has noted that the fact in the nomination is currently unreferenced: see "Template talk:Did you know#Articles created/expanded on May 27". If you would like to try and get the article mentioned in DYK, you need to fix this problem by giving the relevant fact in the article a citation, and notifying the reviewer that you've done so on the DYK template talk page. You should do so ASAP as nominations in that list are currently being considered and non-qualifying ones will shortly be regarded as expired. — Cheers, JackLee talk 21:58, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Sample piece[edit]

Could a public domain or Creative Commons work played on a virginal be added to the article? If anyone happens to have the intstrument (but not the file), simply playing a C major scale would suffice. ffm 20:14, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Article name: "Virginal" or "Virginals"?[edit]

Should the article be moved to "Virginal"? Is "virginal" or "virginals" the more common name? In the OED the instrument appears under the headword "virginal". — Cheers, JackLee talk 21:54, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

virginal or virginals (the plural form does not necessarily denote more than one instrument)

— From the heading of the article, [1]
--Gwib (talk) 16:44, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Yes, but if the more common form is "Virginal" then that should be the name for the article, and "Virginals" should be turned into a redirect. I did a Google search using the keywords "virginal"/"virginals" and "keyboard". "Virginal" yielded 112,200 results, "virginals" only 29,700. — Cheers, JackLee talk 17:11, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Don't want to put a spanner in your works JackLee, but you will find that a very substantial proportion of the 'virginal' entries pertain to a state of virginity rather than to the instrument. Just pointing out... ;-) Nick Michael (talk) 19:18, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

I realized this. I figured I could minimize the problem to some extent by using both the keywords "virginal" and "keyboard" together. If you run the Google search yourself ("+virginal +keyboard"), you will see that most of the articles listed on the first few pages all relate to the instrument. — Cheers, JackLee talk 20:45, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Ha! I should have known you'd do this properly...! Do feel free to change the article name. Nick Michael (talk) 21:24, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

:-D. We need some administrator assistance since doing an article move is not possible, so I've asked Rifleman 82 to help. — Cheers, JackLee talk 22:03, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

STRONG OBJECT - sorry, I happen to specialise in music of this period, and in literature of the period it's ALWAYS referred to as Virginals or a pair of Virginals. It's like 'scissors' and 'jeans' - a plural noun that refers to a singular object. This is as silly as moving scissors to scissor or jeans to jean. I know this is a far more obscure topic than either of those, but please consult those of us who are musicians before moving an article like this, particularly if you're not familiar with the topic at hand. Please move it back to Virginals. InfernoXV (talk) 07:54, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

Hey, look, I did raise the issue here on the article's talk page, and Nick Michael, the main editor of the article, had no objection to the change. No one else weighed in on the discussion (though perhaps I should have waited a bit longer before requesting Rifleman 82's help). On hindsight, perhaps I should have also posted a message at WikiProject Music, but it didn't occur to me at the time. I was just going with what appeared to be the more common usage, according to the OED and Google. But of course I'm happy to defer to your superior knowledge in this area. — Cheers, JackLee talk 14:06, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Tip of the hat. Sorry for reacting so strongly and perhaps rather brusquely. Since the virginals are a sort of harpsichord, a msg on the harpsichord talk page might've produced some interesting discussion. InfernoXV (talk) 15:05, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
True. That didn't occur to me either. If you're interested, perhaps you'd like to comment on how the article can be improved further, or lend a hand directly. — Cheers, JackLee talk 17:18, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Personally I favoured Virginals over Virginal not only because it's the term I always use, but it also distinguishes the instrument from the "state of virginity". JackLee is no doubt correct in that the "singular" form comes up more frequently than the "pseudo-plural": but it appears to me that historically the "plural" form was almost always employed, whereas the "singular" is probably more used today. Question is, should Wikipedia use historical terms for a historical instrument, or the possibly more frequent modern term? There is a redirect from Virginal to Virginals so no one should get confused, and the "State of virginity" is not likely to be an article as it should be under Virgin. Nick Michael (talk) 21:24, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
I'd actually dispute that the singular form is more often used today - most early musicians I know refer to it as a 'pair of virginals' or 'a virginals', and outside of that circle pretty much no-one knows or uses either form. InfernoXV (talk) 12:53, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
It is simply not true that the literature of the period ALWAYS refers Virginals. The earliest known usage, by Paulus Paulirinus (c. 1460) is singular: "Virginale est instrumentum...". I refer you also to Virdung (1511) and Praetorius (1625) who both use it in the singular (e.g., Virdung: "Das ist eben als das virginale"). Even in English usage, the term is sometimes singular, even in early usage (Van Wilder's 1553 inventory of Henry VIII's musical instruments refers to "a Virginall" several times as well as the conventional "a paire of virginalles"). By the eighteenth century, English writers were as like to use the singular as often as the plural in reference to the then-antique instrument. The only people particularly pedantic about using the term "virginals" today, I've found, are specialists in early English keyboard music. General musicologists as well as most instrument makers prefer the singular term. Also, though my own opinion is meaningless to the discussion, as an owner of an Italian pentagonal virginal, I prefer the singular. Agarvin (talk) 23:29, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

Well, Gwib has reverted the article to the pseudo-plural form, which I'm happy about. As the proud owner of an Italian virginals and a muselaar currently under construction I know what you mean about "that circle"! Incidentally can you enlighten us as to "muselar" or "muselaar" by any chance? In the article I purposely used both spellings, but it's apparently against Wikirules and was reverted to the shorter form. Not being Flemish or Dutch I understand nothing about these forms... Nick Michael (talk) 15:31, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

I fear I can't! Perhaps you might ask the question on I suspect 'muselaar' is flemish/dutch, certainly looks it. I'm actually a lute player myself, heh.InfernoXV (talk) 15:42, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
The OED headword is "virginal", but notes that the plural noun "virginals" probably preceded the singular. The Dictionary gives examples of both forms being in use since the 16th century, with the latest quotations dating to the 19th century. The general principle for naming articles is that "article naming should prefer what the greatest number of English speakers would most easily recognize, with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature. This is justified by the following principle: 'The names of Wikipedia articles should be optimized for readers over editors, and for a general audience over specialists.'": see "Wikipedia:Naming conventions". However, as InfernoXV points out, we don't really have much evidence in this case as to what "most English speakers" would easily recognize, apart from the Google search result which may not be entirely accurate given the adjectival use of "virginal" (even though I did try to minimize this using the additional search word "keyboard"). Since "virginals" is in more common use among experts in the field, I agree that we stick to it.
As for muselar/muselaar, OED uses the former as the headword. The spelling muselaar was also used from the 19th century, no doubt because the word is derived from the 16th-century Dutch word muselaar or muzelaar (also present in Middle Dutch as moeselaer meaning "bagpiper"). Muselaar/muzelaar are derived from moesel/moezel/musele (West Flemish muzel/muizel) meaning a kind of bagpipe, themselves derived from the 12th-century Old French muse/musele ("bagpipe"), muser ("to play the bagpipe"). It may be of interest to note that the Dictionary states: "The application of this name to the virginal seems to be due to the distinctive sound, reminiscent of a wind instrument, which is produced as a result of the position of its keyboard." — Cheers, JackLee talk 15:43, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

Gosh JackLee, I almost feel you like being caught up in this extraordinarily esoteric and obscure exchange! Thanks for doing what I should have done myself for Musela(a)r, lazy thing that I am. Here's another poser for you: I am not happy with the inclusion of the piano and clavichord in the "Related instruments" box at the top of the article. It depends of course how closely you want to make a relation. But if piano is there, then "Organ" should also be included - and "accordeon" and "synthesizer" of course... Oh, and then "Harp" is also a plucked stringed instrument! Do you agree to delete "Piano"and "Clavichord" in this box? Does anyone object? Oh, then we have to include Clavicytherium... Anyway, I must stop getting bogged down in niceties and try to get on with your suggestions at the top of this section! Nick Michael (talk) 15:31, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

It's not so much the instrument, I'm afraid – I've always been fascinated by the etymology of words. As for the "related instruments" in the infobox, mea culpa again. I added "piano" and "clavichord" because they were referred to in the article and so I assumed a relationship, but I really haven't a clue and am absolutely fine with whatever you and other more qualified editors decide. InfernoXV may be able to help with this. OK, really must get back to work now... — Cheers, JackLee talk 16:39, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

Italian harpsichords in England[edit]

The article contains the following statement:
Thus the masterworks of William Byrd and his contemporaries were often played on full-size, Italian or Flemish harpsichords...
Although this is perhaps not the most appropriate talk-place, I very much wonder about Italian harpsichords - or virginals for that matter - in England. Of historic Italian harpsichords, I don't know of a single one that has a chromatic bass capable of playing the English virginalist repertoire. Flanders is another matter - there are a few Ruckers harpsichords around with a chromatic bass from A which were made specifically for the English market. But no Italians. This rather makes me wonder if the English used Italian instruments at all. Of course, the repertoire pre-1570's could probably all be played on a C-c' range with a short octave bass, but certainly not later. If anyone can enlarge on this I'd be most interested. Nick Michael (talk) 18:07, 7 July 2012 (UTC)