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Voicing after filing

  • 1.  Voicing after filing

    Posted 19 days ago
    The piano is a 1938 Steinway B, completely rebuilt around 5 years ago - nice job, with all new Renner action parts and Blue Point hammers. The owner told me that the treble area around C6 was always too bright for him, and his previous technician, who also did the rebuild, would needle voice it down for him at every tuning. (The technician passed away sometime earlier this year, apparently; I didn't know him.) I actually like the sound of most of the piano as it is, but it's not my piano...

    When I pulled the action I was surprised to find that the hammers were pretty heavily worn for such a relatively short time since installation. They had substantial marks/cuts throughout the piano and were quite flattened out in the treble. I could see that they had been heavily needled in the treble - they looked kind of fluffy for want of a better term. I'm going to reshape the hammers next week, which they clearly need, but it's going to take a fair amount of felt off of them. I'm hoping that restoring the proper shape of the hammer will give a better balance to the sound north of the treble break, but I suspect that the owner, who told me he is very sensitive to sounds in that range, will want to have the overall volume and brightness brought down more.

    My question/request for advice (at last) is, what type of needle voicing on the filed hammer might give the best result to bring down the hammer to where the owner wants it, and hopefully not do more to accelerate the hammer wearing out. I've already suggested that he may be looking at a new set of hammers in not too many more years, even though the action was just rebuilt.

    Thanks!
    David

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    David Trasoff
    Professional Piano Service
    Los Angeles, CA
    323-255-7783
    david@professionalpianoservice.com
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  • 2.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 19 days ago
    Since it has presumably been heavily needled on the surface, I suggest side voicing.

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    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@pianocapecod.com
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
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  • 3.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 19 days ago
    David


    Sounds like in order to get the brightness down, the previous tech did a lot of voicing by needling the top of the hammers. This will cause the hammers to wear out much faster.

    For longer lasting results, do deep needling on the shoulder and at 3 & 9 o'clock, and also from the sides. And you're probably right that sooner or later the hammers will need to be replaced.

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    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    Mililani, HI 96789
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  • 4.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 19 days ago
    David,
    I would use “Angel Shot” voicing, after shaping the hammers. It will be effective but not disruptive to the felt. Start with a single needle inserted at the end of the center string groove on the speaking length side. Insert it so that it travels parallel to the outside of the hammer (away from the molding). If more is needed do the other 2 string grooves.

    Carl

    Sent from my iPad
    CarlPianoTech.com




  • 5.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 19 days ago
    Thanks for the suggestions. I was able to use angel shot voicing to get better control of the sound in the problem area on the worn hammers.

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    David Trasoff
    Professional Piano Service
    Los Angeles, CA
    323-255-7783
    david@professionalpianoservice.com
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  • 6.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 16 days ago
    Edited by Peter Grey 16 days ago
    David,

    If was me, before I did any needling I would try installing some riblets on the soundboard. This can really quiet it down and make things more manageable. If you have never done this you will need to do some research and you will be afraid at first.

    What's nice is that if you don't like it, you can just take them off.  But this is an alternate and additional voicing tool you should get familiar with (IMHO).

    Edit: Also try muting out all the duplex areas and see if he likes that sound. If so, make it permanent. If not unmute them.

    Pwg

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 7.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 16 days ago
    Sorry to come late to this thread.

    I've had very good luck up in octave 7, when it sounds like metallic screeching yet there is so little felt, and the felt has often been turned almost into a solid block by juicing, by applying about two drops of vodka into the string grooves. After letting it settle awhile (as I do the rest of the tuning) I might add a very small second dose on a few offenders which stand out, but certainly no more than that.

    I've never found the need to repeat this procedure. The tone after it is still very bright and still can carry, but the screaming edge is moderated.

    I like the idea that I'm leaving nothing in the piano except the change in texture of the felt right at the strike line, and that I've not needed to remove or tear any felt, up where there is so little to begin with.

    If the high treble is so worn that the string grooves are too long, I'd do a small amount of diagonal filing just to get the grooves shorter, without removing any felt from the top.

    In octave 6, on a very good piano like a performance piano, I'd not use any vodka, but would use very minimal hammer filing and some angel shot voicing, enough to get the voicing very even through the section.

    Everything one does to voice a good grand reduces the lifespan of the hammers, so I try to keep it to minor interventions done as an ongoing part of maintenance -- just enough to keep the voicing in the sweet spot. In the long run, of course, hammers on a performance grand have to do what they have to do.

    Of course, blind (well, deaf) advice is worth what you've paid for it ...................nada.

    I'm glad to hear that the angel shot voicing did the trick for this customer.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 8.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 16 days ago

    Not to be a contrarian but Angel shot voicing on only one string groove would not be recommended unless you want to redo the hammer string mating.  Where to voice will depend on where the hammer is hard and how deep.  You can only determine that by listening at various dynamic levels.  Blue points can require some aggressive radial needling (all the way around the hammer, deeper in the lower and upper shoulders and backing off on or near the crown.  If the hammers have been needled to the point of showing craters the voicing will not likely last because the felt has been compromised.  You are essentially just fluffing up layers that will likely pack back down with a minimal amount of playing.  Time to explore a replacement hammer and do some sampling with something softer (like Ronsen Wurzen--my general preference for that piano, or Weickert or even Ronsen Bacon felt).  Sometimes the Blue Points are simply too hard for that piano.

    I would NOT install riblets until  you've sampled another and softer hammer.  That's not the proper use for riblets, IMO.  



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    David Love RPT
    www.davidlovepianos.com
    davidlovepianos@comcast.net
    415 407 8320
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  • 9.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 13 days ago
    Which is why I mention the fact that they are REMOVABLE if they do not favorably affect the outcome.  Until you do this you have no idea what to expect, and you WANT to be able to go back to the starting point if needed. This is much harder to do with voicing of hammers. What happens there is cumulative and relatively permanent.

    The point behind introducing riblets (or other soundboard voicing strategies) is to determine by a process of elimination WHERE the issues are. Are they in the hammers...or are they in the SB...or perhaps a combination of both?

    On the assumption that this is still the original SB, at this point in its "life" it could very well be way too responsive with not enough impedance (for the hammers that are on there). Riblets can calm this down and spread it out more evenly. If, upon install (unglued of course), they do not have a beneficial effect...take em off...duh!  However my experience has been that they can impart some nice qualities to the assembly that mere hammer voicing cannot. It's a lot easier to put on and subsequently remove (if nec) 6 or 7 riblets than it is to install and subsequently remove a set of hammers (if you then realize that THAT was a mistake).

    The symptoms he has described (unless it is in fact a NEW SB) tell me that it's worth a shot. I am not saying: "This is your solution..."  I am merely saying this is how I would approach it given the circumstances described.   If it's a NEW board then no, I probably would not go that route.

    Nonetheless, riblets (and weights) are a good voicing tool to have in your "toolbox", and learning how and when, why, and how much to use them is very helpful in problematic situations.

    Pwg

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 10.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 12 days ago
    Edited by David Love 12 days ago
    Attaching riblets is reversible but does require a considerable amount of effort and drilling some holes and/or gluing them to the supporting structure and is unlikely to address the issue which is an impedance mismatch between hammer choice and soundboard.  The easiest thing to do is put a different sample hammer on and see if the existing hammers are simply the wrong hammer.  That is most likely given the hammers described and in my own experience.  I just did the same thing on a Steinway M that had been rebuilt with a set of Abel hammers that was clearly the wrong hammer for the piano.  The tone was overally agressive, distorted, harsh and, in general, nasty.  After some attempts to voice a couple of hammers and seeing exactly where this was going (nowhere) I suggested we just replace the hammer heads.  I sampled a couple of Ronsen hammers and opted for a light set of Bacon felt hammers (this is a new Bacon felt that's a bit denser than the old).  The result was night and day.  I did little but smooth things in a couple of areas and lacquered the top three notes only.  That was it.

    Now to be fair that same Abel hammer on a different piano might have been fine, but it wasn't here.  I have had similar experiences with Renner Blues and Blue Points most recently on a Steinway B.  The quality of the hammer has nothing to do with it (well, I mean that the hammer can be of perfectly fine quality but unsuited tor the task).  The characteristics of the hammer in the felt and the style of pressing are everything.  Different manufacturers have different goals in terms of out of the box characteristics.  Those characteristics may or may not be a good choice.

    Image result for he chose poorlyHe Chose Poorly

    We may believe that the hammer choice is not really that relevant, that we can simply voice anything to our desired goal, but that assumption would be entirely wrong.  There is a profound difference between selecting a hammer that is as proper fit for the piano and needs only minor adjustments (if any) and putting on any old hammer we choose because we like the vender and figuring we can simply voice the bejeesus out of it to get what we want.  A heavily needled hammer, or a heavily lacquered one, does not perform in the same way as a hammer that has maintained its structural integrity by virtue of less alteration and compromise that occurs in the voicing process and reduces the ability of the hammer to behave in the springlike manner we need it to.  That includes not only the compression phase but the just as important decompression phase as well.  That compromise not only affects performance but stability and longevity.  We would do well and save ourselves a lot of headaches to make the proper choice in the first place.

    Putting riblets on a piano that has the wrong hammer is the wrong approach and is in violation of the number one rule: do no harm.

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    David Love RPT
    www.davidlovepianos.com
    davidlovepianos@comcast.net
    415 407 8320
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  • 11.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 12 days ago
    David,
    Well said. I will never forget during my early days of piano technology when I thought I knew everything about pianos and installed a set of Yamaha factory replacement hammers on a 1920's vintage Steinway. What a disaster.
    Roger





  • 12.  RE: Voicing after filing

    Posted 11 days ago
    No argument from me.

    Pwg

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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