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string leveling

  • 1.  string leveling

    Member
    Posted 03-10-2012 15:13
    This message has been cross posted to the following Discussions: Voicing and Pianotech .
    -------------------------------------------
    Following on a thread in the "Voicing" discussion group( or whatever you call it), "Fazioli Voicing", there were a couple of comments that mirror my experience regarding string leveling. In particular, the limited effectiveness (read doesn't work) of trying to level strings when the front bends have been over bent/leveled/massaged/whatever  making it either difficult or perhaps it impossible to leveling strings precisely.

    As I hone my own fine prep skills, this is an area that I find escapes me at present, and  would like to put out to the larger community (I think particularly concert techs, and those who have to deal with hard heavy hammers which are more picky about leveling)  to see if we could get some chat regarding string leveling, at least to start with these points and/or questions:

    As a definition, I'm referring to leveling here, not mating.

    1- Most of the pianos I service (which are not my own rebuilds) have been in service long enough to have been leveled by other techs. For the most part, I find leveling, or attempting to level, that is raising (not lowering)the strings to a consistent level largely ineffective...ie a waste of time, because it doesn't work.

    2-on those same pianos, lowering the offending strings might work, but for too short a time to justify the time spent "leveling"

    3- I hear of techs leveling strings as a regular service procedure. Given the above 2 remarks, are they actually re-leveling?

    4- on other pianos, the level that the agraffes will accept is consistently on a skewed plane relative to the keybed, indicating a built-in hard inaccuracy that leveling cannot overcome.

    5- What are other's experience with the leveling tools?  Specifically, something like the Goss level, a visual bubble type brass level and a similar bubble type, but magnetic base level like Richard Davenport's. Both of these are indexed to, presumably, the key bed, but being such a short level, the accuracy of the reading I find extremely suspect. Does Davenport's magnetic base tend to deflect strings in very fine regulations? Then there is Charles Faulk's  which uses the surrounding strings as the "level" index. 

    My point being that the indication of "level" is subjective and because of the wandering plane of the strings, also migratory. 

    My point also being, that fine techs obviously fine tune mating quite well on fine instruments, but what are they actually doing as opposed to what they think they are actually doing.
     
    6-the cold pressed light hammers and low tension scales I design into my small venue instruments don't benefit from leveling that exceeds basic, careful but not too picky leveling & mating.

    Any comments?

    Jim Ialeggio

    -------------------------------------------
    Jim Ialeggio
    grandpianosolutions.com
    Shirley, MA
    978 425-9026
    -------------------------------------------


  • 2.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-10-2012 16:22
    For me, string leveling is a matter of efficiency. It takes, generally, something like 45 minutes to level a grand's strings. If the hammer crowns are straight (something I pay close attention to), that makes mating far easier, quicker, and with better results.

    The tonal effects of well-mated hammers - that are also on well-traveled shanks, and square to those shanks, twisted as needed - are like night and day compared to the chaos of sound from pianos lacking this refinement. It becomes possible to have voicing gradients that are consistent, for instance. With the chaos caused by not so good travel and square and iffy or non-existent mating, notes stand out at unpredictable volume levels, rather than "rising" in tonal quality (more high partials) in a consistent and reliable way. Since I started paying close attention to these factors in a refined way - travel, square, level, and mate - well, the results speak for themselves.

    To answer a couple questions:
    Magnets do draw the strings together, leading to a less precise reading, especially as you get away from the termination points. I experimented in detail with magnets, and gave up when I found that they didn't provide precise enough readings (I do use a weak magnet for uprights, placed about 10 - 15 mm from the v-bar - at the strike point, the strings are pulled together too much. This provides a good basis for mating, though not quite as good as I get with grands. But it is 30 minutes well spent).

    I am not anal about absolute level. I do try to be very precise about getting the three strings into a plane. This is both about efficiency and about making the mating work for shift as well as rest position. Mating is really where it's at. Leveling is a procedure that makes mating easier to accomplish at a higher level of precision. And, again, I think that the effect of travel and square is also bigger than most people think. Since I added precise travel and square to my standard prep, results have been a much more focused tone.

    The level I use can be found here (homemade), along with photos showing procedure. I now use a brass rod handle on my homemade string hook, sharpened and with a groove on one end for pressing down on strings as needed. Pressing down can only accomplish a small amount, but it can make an adjustment worth making, if you overshoot a bit.

    One more comment I would make is that this is finicky work, like tuning fine unisons. You have to cultivate sensitive, tiny motions to be successful. How much pull will actually make a difference? How small a pull that makes a difference can you make? Unlike unisons, if you shoot past the point you are aiming for, there is not an easy path back, if any. With practice, though, it can be done fairly quickly, securely, and precisely, especially with new strings.

    -------------------------------------------
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination." - Einstein
    -------------------------------------------








  • 3.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-11-2012 15:39

    Good questions from Jim. Good responses from Fred. I have two specific increments to add and a couple of general thoughts.

    Having string leveling result in strings being parallel to the keybed is important to soft pedal function. If they are not parallel, the regulation will be changing as the action shifts: string heights relative to the hammers will open up or pinch as you shift.

    The second point has to do with stability and tonal output of the leveled strings. I believe Susan Graham was encouraging a procedure to minimize wire curves at the bearing points (particularly of the speaking lengths) and their tonal and tuning stability consequences. If someone mating hammers and strings comes to a note that already fits, the inclination is to move on to the next note rather than to make sure that the three strings both fit and are as stable as possible, i.e. to not fix what ain't broke from the mating's perspective. If those three strings are not in their place of greatest stability, however, a very slight encouragement with a stringing hook will improve things. Before I begin the overall process of mating, I lightly lift all the strings in the piano. Any that are underlifted come up easily and any that are stable don't move.

    Overlifting creates instability in the other direction and other possible tonal problems. In general, if filing is good ("hammer crowns are straight" and square to hammer sides), hammers travel vertically relative to the keybed, and hammerheads are verticle as they strike, the leveled strings (parallel to the keybed) and the hammer surfaces will be in agreement, with very little tweaking needed. Hazards are in casting anomalies at the ends of V-bar sections and in imperfectly made or installed agraffes. There, extra leeway of underlifted strings might be strategic, so I have a look for anything obvious before lifting.

    Finally, the real results of our hammer-to-string mating efforts happen in the tuned piano, so the final mating should work hand-in-hand with the final tuning. Ironically, the erosion of our work over time to tuning, playing, and drop-in-pitch has a collateral benefit: the erosion of our work. To the extent that strings were overlifted or misleveled, eventual pitchraisings heal at least some of the harm done, wipe the slate, and give the next try a fresh start. But to the extent that best stability was also achieved, less volatile elements will be there to have eroded, and less lifting will be needed.
     
    This less-work benefit assumes that filing, leveling, and verticality adjustments take the strings and the hammers back to the same place they were when the work was last done. And if that place is strings parallel to the keybed, hammers working vertically relative to the keybed, and hammers filed to their best shape, then each such mating will be headed to the same place and require the least work to get there. The least number of compromises to solve. The least drain on psychic energy needed for other stuff. And the least extra obstructions to the subsequent final voicing.

    But good filing, vertical travel, and verticle hammerheads at strike are tricky to accomplish without a Master's eye, a very experienced hand, and best protocols, references, and stable supporting surfaces from which to work. My efforts at developing the Squaring Platform, Shank Traveler, and Hammer Square speak exactly to this point, reducing the  number of variables involved, reducing the degree of skill needed to overcome them, and making the results easy to reproduce each time the work is undertaken. Versions of what these tools offer can be obtained from in-hand squares and stuff around the shop - I hope at least the logic behind their designs can be helpful.

    Chris


    Christopher Brown
    Owner
    TPR Tools
    Littleton MA
    978-486-0610
    tprtools.com
    -------------------------------------------








  • 4.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-11-2012 16:39
    I taught a new class on these subjects at West-Pac, called "Focusing the Hammer on the String." It includeds procedures for both uprights and grands. I'll attach the powerpoint (converted to PDF) and handout for those who are interested.

    -------------------------------------------
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination." - Einstein
    -------------------------------------------

    Attachment(s)

    pdf
    FocusHammersWestPac.pdf   7.94 MB 1 version
    pdf
    Focusing WestPac.pdf   45 KB 1 version


  • 5.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-11-2012 22:14
    When Fred mentioned that the goal was to "get the strings into a plane" he hit upon a very important point.  Keep in mind that the thing that drives leveling strings on a grand in the first place is the Una Coda pedal.  If the hammers did not shift from side to side when this pedal is depressed the mating process would have similar options to those of a vertical.  While the ideal is to get the strings level if the top of the hammer is filed in the same bevel (ever so slight) as the beveled (ever so slight) string plane you will still get good mating in both the rest and shifted position(s).  I once encountered a situation in vertical piano where there was a slight divot in the V bar causing the center string to be out of plane with the outside strings.  No amount of bending would remedy this particular offensive note.  The solution I came up with was to actually shape the hammer into a slight "V" that allowed for mating and cleaned up the tone considerably.  Mating is paramount to good voicing and making a slight compromise in the plane of the strings is acceptable.

    -------------------------------------------
    Norman Cantrell
    Piano Clinic
    Lawton OK
    580-355-5003
    -------------------------------------------








  • 6.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 01:24
    Norm has a good point: we do what we have to do or can do given constraints of time, budget, the current state of the piano, and so forth. All options stay on the table to mitigate the ill affects of things we can't change.

    The skewed bounce produced by misleveled strings (or misfiled hammers or non-vertical travel), however, even if hammers are well-mated, will impact reset, wear on centers, speed of repetition, energy lost to stress and wobble, and mating in the subsequent strikes of repeated notes.

    If leveling is considered note by note rather than by the plane of a section, then parallelism between strings and keybed can be maintained, along with the essential verticality of bounce. And if compromising the shape of hammers (either from hammer to hammer or over the span of a section) can be avoided, one complicating variable that will need to be dealt with in the voicing to follow is eliminated.

    Individual fitting, as in the case of the misshaped v-bar, may be the best that can be done, but general protocols that simplify the job in favor of best execution probably reduce work in the end and improve the chances for overall success. 

    By first filing the hammers correctly, then making the shanks travel vertically (relative to the keybed), then squaring the hammers to vertical at strike, then spacing them to the strings, and then mating the hammers to the strings by string-lifting, the strings will naturally end up level and parallel to the keybed.

    Chris



    -------------------------------------------
    Christopher Brown
    Owner
    TPR Tools
    Littleton MA
    978-486-0610
    -------------------------------------------








  • 7.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 12:00
    A minor quibble:
    The order of procedures should be travel, then square, then file, as travel and square will tilt the hammers to some extent, and often will tilt some of them significantly.

    -------------------------------------------
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination." - Einstein
    -------------------------------------------






  • 8.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 16:11
    Thank you, Fred. A good point, but a worthy quibble.

    For straight-bored sections, I agree with your order. Best filing of the treble sections is either had in a clamp before the hammers are hung or at strike once the shanks have been vertically traveled, then hammer heads squared to vertical, then hammers spaced to their strings. Carefully gang-filed with that preparation, a virtually perfect job is possible. Imperfect preparation, though, can render some hammers or all in those sections methodically misfiled, so care pays off.

    In the flared sections, there can be an appearance of tipping, principally because of tail shape, when the hammers are vertical at strike. In the posting of your recent class pdf, you refer to the hammer head being balanced on the shank when squared to vertical, which I think is ideal. But to the extent that hammers are tipped for reasons of clearance, this balance is sacrificed, sapping power at strike, stressing the parts, and skewing the bounce. If the strings are level and the hammer is tipped, the shape will be unbalanced by filing to accommodate. In my opinion, this steps away from a foundation of best balance and best potential for power, repetition, and tone.

    If this situation is forced on us by a piano's design and we're not changing hammers, then compromise is what we do and the accommodating misfiling may be the best solution. I've found that hammers do not necessarily have to be tipped to clear and that accommodations like slicing a very small piece out of the under shoulder are preferable to the multiple compromises set off by tipping the hammers at strike.

    Basically, I prefer a filing where, as you say, the "hammer crowns are straight", but with that "straight" being perpendicular to the vertical length of the hammer - parallel to the molding. And the way I do it on flared hammers, if time permits, is at a jig at my drill press, which pulls the filing back a notch in my order of operations.

    Chris



    -------------------------------------------
    Christopher Brown
    Owner
    TPR Tools
    Littleton MA
    978-486-0610
    -------------------------------------------








  • 9.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 19:47
    Hi Chris,
    You come from a rebuilder's perspective. From my perspective, only the very first filing of hammers can possibly be done in a clamp, and any set of hammers gets many filings. And meanwhile travel and square change a bit as wood twists and whatnot. So, OK, file before hanging, and then filing first makes sense. In every other instance, it needs to come after travel and square. I would also note that gang filing (on hammers already hung, installed in the action) definitely does not ensure an even, straight line, especially in angled sections, but even in straight ones. The hammers "chatter" a bit while they are being filed, so you need to look at them carefully and adjust. I found, as I started to learn to do fine mating (and after I had started leveling strings), that more often than not I would see that the hammer was skewed exactly the way my plucking told me - if I had just squared the crown better, I would have been a lot closer. So it pays great dividends to look carefully at those crowns.

    I look at them after filing each section, and touch up, then keep looking at them as I do other things, like fine adjusting capstans and doing drop. This is simply a matter of efficiency, just as string leveling is: pressing the hammer against the string (with finesse and a light touch) and plucking, then pulling the action out of the cavity and doing adjustment filing, replacing and repeating, is very time consuming work.

    With respect to having the crowns perpendicular to the line of the molding, I agree. If you square the hammer on the shank as I describe in the class handout (Focusing the Hammer), the center of the crown will be directly placed vertically above the shank (assuming you traveled well). I also don't find any "lean" necessary for clearance purposes - if any, it will be a matter of a couple degrees at most, but with tapered tails, I don't find it necessary - and if it is, for hammers very close together, a wee bit of wood off one side of the tip of the tail suffices. Most of the time, clearance problems are created when the whole section of bass (or sometimes tenor) hammers are all equally slanted, leaning.

    There is, however, a good theoretical reason to slant a bit on angled hammers. Because of the angle, the mass at the far side (away from the player) of the hammer will have a "leverage advantage" over the mass at the close side, causing a degree of twist of shank on heavy blows. So I think there is a solid reason to tilt a little. I don't notice that it makes a noticeable difference, myself. But in any case, I don't think it should be more than a couple degrees. Most pianos I run into aren't set up with that degree of precision anyway. Frankly, most pianos have random leaning of sections of 8 - 10 hammers in either direction, and are greatly improved by just making the travel and square straight. I think most people twist shanks "by eye" meaning matching neighbors, which usually means the eye is deceived and they all lean a bit. That is the reason I am trying to promote a more rational and reliable approach to squaring - in that class and handout, as well as in various posts I have made over the years. It definitely makes a difference to the sound. Experience has proven it so.

    -------------------------------------------
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination." - Einstein
    -------------------------------------------








  • 10.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 23:56
    Thank you, Jim, and thank you, Fred.

    It seems to me we're seeking the same outcomes with very similar thinking. In fact, Fred, I point by point concur with all you just said. My experience has led me to the same conclusions, so I must have misinterpreted the implications of your former minor quibble.

    For me the order can be different because I employ jigs. These give me the confidence to gang-file straight bored sections that otherwise I might not. And my drill press filing of the flared hammers only needs touch-up when voicing has troubled a hammer's shape. 

    The Regulation Station is great for regulating, if too cumbersome for concert work. My quibble with the way you do things (if it is a quibble, since I admire the prowess you clearly have to achieve these goals by hand and eye) is that it takes entirely too much skill and experience to do the work well. And if the work is not done well, it's apt to be a mess. Generally, I think enough is wrong with the foundation for most technicians by the time they're at the final tuning and voicing that most of what they can do to improve things actually moves them further from reaching the best potential of the piano. Needles and additives and micromanaging shape become mitigating techniques and complicate what hammer-to-hammer integrity came with the set. And they won't overcome lack-of-verticality issues. And they're a lot of work and take more time to execute carefully than may be left for the job .

    Good references on a Squaring Platform takes the guesswork out of it. And the Hammer Filing Jig naturally produces straight crowns, so that when filed, traveled, squared, and spaced, the mating by string-lifting naturally levels the strings parallel to the keybed. The string-lifting should be the responsibility of an experienced technician, but the other steps can be performed by the apprentice with professional results.

    If the experienced technician wears all the hats, as in my shop, there is far less expenditure of psychic energy on the way to the last crucial mating/tuning/voicing and so the tech arrives refreshed rather than beaten up. The whole raft of regulating floats by a little easier and a little faster. You have to have good tuning chops, good ears, and some other hard-won qualities to realize the piano's best potential, perhaps, but whatever the chops, ears, and so forth, the job has better chances for success - my personal before-and-after experience...

    Chris

    -------------------------------------------
    Christopher Brown
    Owner
    TPR Tools
    Littleton MA
    978-486-0610
    -------------------------------------------








  • 11.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-13-2012 13:47
    I am going to disagree with the idea that the methods I am proposing (and that I use as a matter of standard procedure) require an extraordinary level of skill. They do require attention, judgement, and a careful eye, but if we don't have those, we are probably in the wrong profession (with an apology to the sight-impaired among us, who substitute careful touch for the careful eye - but my squaring method does require the eye). The traveling method (upside down) I espouse has been adopted by a lot of people, who have told me it is much more precise AND easier than previous methods they used.

    I think the same will prove to be the case with the squaring method, which I evolved from techniques I learned from a Yamaha C & A tech and from a Shigeru Kawai MPA, and which I found later is fairly common procedure among concert techs. The main improvement I have added is doing every other hammer in a section - mostly a matter of efficiency. But the principles are common, and not hard to learn.

    -------------------------------------------
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination." - Einstein
    -------------------------------------------








  • 12.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-14-2012 16:20
    Fred, David, Jim, et al -

    This discussion seems destined to end with differences, which probably makes things more interesting. It has led me to see more common ground than differentiation, however, and conjures for me a productive possibility: a venue for cross-teaching, competitive or collaborative, in which different approaches aimed at same targets get compared and contrasted, combined or refined.

    However "easy" we perceive our solutions to be, plenty of our colleagues find the overall process challenging enough to keep on attending classes. Inevitably, we see the best way through from our point of view, in our setting. It might be invigorating to put solutions side-by-side in some fashion, to be tried out by whoever stepped forward.

    And different approaches are appropriate to different settings - but they could cross-fertilize.

    I admit I have a particular interest in working out solutions for people who have seeing impediments, from being totally blind to having bad astigmatism. I now wear vari-focals full-time and initially that really challenged my ability to see straight lines and judge right angles. Also, I'm interested in the various other constraints of getting older. Systems conceived to help those with an obstruction to overcome or step around may well help those with no obstructions as well.

    My guess is that anyone following this discussion or approaching these technical issues from either of our pathways will be the sort to apply "attention, judgement, and a careful eye" and might benefit from a multiple techniques class or series of classes.

    How about October's SCRC or next year's WESTPAC III?

    Chris

     


    -------------------------------------------
    Christopher Brown
    Owner
    TPR Tools
    Littleton MA
    978-486-0610
    -------------------------------------------








  • 13.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 16:44


    -------------------------------------------
    James Busby
    Mt Pleasant UT
    801-422-3400
    -------------------------------------------
    Hi Chris,

    I know you to be very exacting and "correct" in these sort of things, but do you have any evidence that the below statement is true, or is it a theory? It seems to me that if the hammer is properly mated by filing it would be hitting the 3 strings with the same force and not a "skewed bounce", and then all the other things, wear, lost energy, etc. wouldn't be an issue, except with una corda use. Of course I'm not talking about huge string leveling problems, but the "normal" everyday concert hall matings which are usually fairly small.

    Thanks, and it was great seeing you at WestPac.

    Jim





    <<<<The skewed bounce produced by misleveled strings (or misfiled hammers or non-vertical travel), however, even if hammers are well-mated, will impact reset, wear on centers, speed of repetition, energy lost to stress and wobble, and mating in the subsequent strikes of repeated notes.


    Chris>>>>



    -------------------------------------------
    Christopher Brown
    Owner
    TPR Tools
    Littleton MA
    978-486-0610
    -------------------------------------------








  • 14.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 20:41
    This is the apt question and quite right, Jim. 

    I am a piano technician not a scientist. So somewhere between theory, experience, and assessing variables based on exagerrating them to a logical extreme, a la Chris Robinson regulating class analysis, is my defense.

    I have found frustration in trying to unscramble the tonal (and mechanical) mess I find in a lot of pianos. With the developing of my tools came a means of at least comparing variables to accurate references. I found a fair amount to correct in my own work, which I had considered to be well-executed and had tried my hardest to make "perfect". Making the parts actually work vertically seemed to be a battle that could be undertaken. I come out of a pragmatic school of piano technology, but I hate fighting against myself in my own work. So here are a couple of streams of logic I have decided to go with rather than fight (or ignore).

    First of all, I try to frame it "to the extent that" because where is the point at which a given factor is hidden in the margin of error and where can it be clearly identified? On the other hand, accumulated error has clearly been a problem for the regulator and the voicer. And the piano/bench-imperfect-match conflict is a battleground where we have fought against and often given in to the problem.

    So one logical question I ask myself is, if I can do something about something, why should I continue to suffer the annoyance of it?

    If you have seven things that might be at fault in a situation and three of them can be named and corrected, why not just do it?

    And if something is below the radar of what I can measure but I logically think it's not right, do I consider it not to matter? What if it's clearly in concert with other things not right?

    To specifics. If one side of the crown of a hammer has less felt than the other, does it interfere with the integrity of the hammer in how it performs. And if the variation is variable from hammer to hammer, is it a voicing issue?

    If you have a hammer that tilts a few degrees, is the loss of power to twist a voicing problem, or a mechanical problem? When does traveling funny or bouncing funny become problematic? There are numbers of questions like this that don't have good answers at the same time that plenty of pianos don't measure up to hoped-for potential.

    So working the other way around. Instead of proving they are problems of significance in a particular hammer with a particular voicing shortfall, how about just taking care of the potential problems as globally as possible with matter-of-fact, easy-to-execute protocols.

    My results have been significantly better since I have taken this attitude. I spend less energy deciding which things to deal with and which things not to deal with, and move faster through grooming out the known suspects by procedure.

    If you really twist over a hammer and extreme file it to mate level strings, you can see where the weaknesses of that approach might lie.

    If you really travel something to the left, you can picture where the stresses are going to be and imagine the travel pattern back.

    From another tact, if you dry fit a hammer and play it fortissimo at varying degrees of off-vertical, best vertical will be a noticable improvement.

    The whole business is complicated enough that I feel it is worth considering what the pure form of what we are after might look like. I think it gives us a better shot at coming closer to the mark more of the time. It's hard to prove a very small error, but it's easy to feel, hear, and be bogged down by accumulated error.

    But, point well-taken. It was great to be a recipient of your good organization and great Utah hospitality!

    Thanks,

    Chris


    -------------------------------------------
    Christopher Brown
    Owner
    TPR Tools
    Littleton MA
    978-486-0610
    -------------------------------------------








  • 15.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 21:21


    -------------------------------------------
    James Busby
    Mt Pleasant UT
    801-422-3400
    -------------------------------------------

    Chris,

    Good response, and not "defensive", nor need it be. It's such thought that eventually leads to change and improved techniques. In our business there is so much anecdotal evidence, and some of it diametrical opposites. For instance, Chris Robinson teaches that the distal side of the hammer (because of letoff) affects ff and the proximal side pp, but most others teach the exact opposite. Who is right? (Rhetorical)

    I've been to several classes, with outstanding technicians that I won't name, that teach that string leveling changes nearly every time you tune a string. If that is the case then one cannot level w/o tuning nor tune w/o leveling. So, it goes, that mating trumps leveling and leveling is mostly a waste of time, unless the level is so bad that a hammer can't be properly mated. (una corda aside)

    My experience is that is similar to that, but I do level some. The tone and voicing of the note tells me what to do from careful listening. But what you said rocked my world a little bit; "even if hammers are well-mated, will impact reset, wear on centers, speed of repetition, energy lost to stress and wobble, and mating in the subsequent strikes of repeated notes." If true, leveling now becomes a "big deal". I'm thinking...

    Knowing how deep you consider these things makes me question my own beliefs. That's a good thing.

    Thanks for the posts. If there is any way we can bring science into this, that would be good but I suspect it will always be experience that wins out. For now I think I'm going to do more leveling.

    Best,
    Jim Busby






  • 16.  RE:string leveling

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 03-12-2012 23:38
    Sometimes practicality trumps science.  We can agonize over the minutia but eventually we have to go to the next job.  Even the dog stops chasing its tail eventually. 

    Leveling the strings is a good way to start and I always do when setting up a new stringing job or even doing a thorough voicing.  If I can get them level to the keybed so that the top of the hammer will be exactly perpendicular to the lengthwise centerline, great.  If I can't and it's off by a degree or two, I move to the next note and don't look back. 

    The adjustments I make to strings in the leveling process are always very minor.  If I have to really yank on a string(s) to get things level to the keybed I opt not to.  Is this occasional deviation of 1-2 degrees likely to cause excess wear and tear on the centers and produce something measurable, audible, or something we need to agonize over?  I doubt it.  But getting the strings on one plane is certainly a good idea as it makes una corda voicing much easier and predictable. 

    After filing hammers (I don't gang file angled hammers) I plop myself down on the floor or a low seat so that the raised-to-impact tops of the hammers are at eye level and with fine strips of sand paper I level them one by one using my high tech eyeballs.  I'm often surprised after doing this how little serious hammer/string mating I need to do other than real subtle refinement.  If I do, and if it's because I couldn't get the strings on a particular note level to the keybed, then I modify the surface of the hammer to slope a bit to match the plane of the strings.  The deviation is so slight that I don't (and won't) worry about the effect on repetition, center longevity, tonal anomalies or anything else. 

    I enjoy the theoretical discussions as much as the next person on these topics, but I think there is a danger in suffering from the paralysis of analysis that may prevent us from just getting on with it.  I have no doubt that even with these slight "compromises" the pianos will perform just fine. 

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    David Love RPT
    www.davidlovepianos.com
    davidlovepianos@comcast.net
    415 407 8320
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