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Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

  • 1.  Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-10-2021 20:37
    Hi Everyone,

    The conversation on "voice up or down" got me thinking about a job I have this week.

    My new customer (studio session player) had a previous technician replace hammers on his 1993 Baldwin L, Renner Blues were installed.  The regulation is sloppy (roughed in) and the voicing is inconsistent. Customer has never been happy with it in general. It's in his home-where the formal dining room would be located. It connects to the foyer on one side and the large open living room and kitchen on the other side. All hardwood floors and mostly bare walls. I have tuned it once and agreed about the condition of the piano. The previous tech has been called in multiple times but can't achieve better results. I see it can handle a more refined regulation and anticipate it handling a more consistent voicing.

    My main concern is that my customer is also complaining about the volume and strident tone.

    My main question; can Renner Blues be voiced well for this environment and for my customers desires? Though I have a decent amount of voicing experience it is mostly on Steinway and Yamaha (New and Old) or random older pianos. I have no experience with Renner Blues.

    Based on what I read in the thread on "voicing up verses down" are these hammers even a good fit for this customers needs? And does anyone have any advice on voicing these?

    I have a procedure for exploring unknown hammers that has served me well but I am always open to learning more and especially better understanding the relationship between hammer choice and belly.

    Thanks in advance!
    Daniel

    ------------------------------
    Daniel Achten
    Chattanooga TN
    423-760-2458
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Member
    Posted 05-10-2021 20:54
    First thing is to regulate it to a high degree, and tune it really really well.  You really cannot know what's up until the thing is in top form. Don't try and skip this step in determining what the tonal possibilities are, as it will lead nowhere fast.

    This happens in rebuilding, and is something we all have to remind ourselves about over and over again...one does not know what one, has until all system are mated to within an inch of their lives. Probably all of us, in understandable impatience, want to see we have created, before things are mated and tuned real well . All that ever does though, is lead to unhappiness...and kicking one's self around. Until the regulation and tuning happens, and is done really well, there is no reliable data to draw conclusions on.

    Then...start the hammer match thought process.

    Also, if the regulation is rough, and said tech just installed hammers, it probably means he's incompetent, not only to regulate and tune, but certainly to install hammers. Hanging hammers well is not all that easy to do well if you do not have the skill set. Poorly hung hammers, will be tough to mate and regulate, So poor workmanship may also enter into the data set.

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



  • 3.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-10-2021 22:23
    I would say if you have to work that hard to get the tone to cooperate it probably wasn't a great choice.  The Renner blues also have a very round shape which, if you're not careful, will broaden and flatten out.  Keep the shape of the hammer through the voicing process.

    Otherwise:

    Assuming you've already done this (5-8 stitches each side or as needed until you can feel some give in the shoulder)


    And this (4-5 stiches each side or as needed)

    Then do this (1-3 stitches each side).  Cautionary note.  The center stitches show a crossover stitch but don't do that unless you must.  Start at the ends of the string marks and work in as needed crossing over only if you need to.  Go slow and check until you feel confident about what's needed then you can proceed one section at a time.   The upper part of the piano will react pretty quickly with this type of stitch.  



    And finally this (though you can start with this too just to take the edge off)

    Using something like this


    You can also do this.  These are relatively close together and not that deep (~4mm).  You're just freeing up the outer layers which can be very tight on a heat pressed hammer.  The name speaks for itself.

    After that go through and check with firm blows and go back to phase 2 and 3 if you have harshness at forte.  Then clean it up with single needle through the string testing at various dynamic levels.  Be sure to double check hammer/string mating as you can mess it up especially with crossover stitches.  Needless to say the piano should be tuned and regulated first and hammers carefully spaced and mated to strings.  If the needle work causes the hammer to balloon and/or flatten out recapture the original shape with sandpaper.  But I'm not a fan of converting these to pointy hammers as some do.  Cutting through the contiguous layers is not a good idea, in my opinion, and removes tension and produces a top with dead layers.  Not a good idea for longevity.

    If that doesn't get what you want then change the hammers to a Ronsen Bacon or Wurzen, 14lb.

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



  • 4.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 11:54
    Let me just add a bit of an addendum to help visualize what needs to happen and why. Our goal is a spring that is somewhat open with room to compress and stiffen increasingly with greater force at a rate that is appropriate to achieve a complete dynamic range.  (note: a non linear spring compresses progressively less with increases in force, i.e. it gets stiffer the more it compresses.  A linear spring doesn't, for each unit increase of force the spring increases the same amount, i.e., it doesn't stiffen.  Piano hammers are all non-linear but the coefficient changes depending on the dynamics of the hammer--see illustration at the bottom)






    In the case of many Renner and Abel and similar style hammers the spring is too stiff with little room for dynamic change.  We have to open the spring while leaving the dynamics of the hammer in place (in other words we don't want to destroy the internal tension and interlocking of the felt.  We do that with needles, typically.  Shoulder voicing is often insufficient if the spring won't release at the crown which means we have to work closer to the crown.  This condition comes about with over aggressive pressing and the application of heat which disproportionately affects the outer layers of felt.  The dynamic range of this type of hammer will be limited especially at the lower end of the dynamic range and produces harshness at the upper end.





    In this case the spring is too open and linear and will be limited on the upper end of the dynamic range as the more linear aspect of the spring combined with it being relatively open means that we can't compress the spring adequately for it to stiffen appropriately to achieve forte or fortissimo.  So we stiffen this spring also adding some density to the hammer by "voicing up" or applying stiffening agents like lacquer.  Note that we still want the hammer to remain flexible and the spring to function as a spring, we just want it to start out a bit stiffer and be able to stiffen adequately with increasing applications of force.




    In practice what this means is that when we want to open the spring we need to use needles in all the areas where the spring needs to respond and open up.  Depending on the hammer it may be more or less responsive as a whole.  The spring at the crown of the hammer also generally needs to open and with some hammers needling off the crown is enough for the hammer to respond at the crown.  With other hammers addressing this stiffness directly at the crown and slightly below the crown will be required. I find Abel hammers generally a more non-responsive hammer that way requiring needling much closer to the crown than most Renner hammers.  Abel hammers will respond but you need to be a bit more aggressive in terms of proximity to the crown.  Many of the older Renner Blues have the same problem (I haven't used them in awhile so can't comment on the current iteration).  The Blue Point hammer is more responsive that way but I would not use anything smaller than a G4 hammer there.  On the G3 hammer I find that there is an inadequate amount of felt over the molding to allow those springs to open and stay open.  The most non responsive hammers that way tend to be Imadegawa.  In my experience those require the most aggressive treatment at the crown.

    With hammers that are too open (like Steinway or some Ronsen hammers), they are generally too open everywhere including both the crown and deep in the hammer so a full saturation of stiffening agents is almost always required.  Moreover, since initial applications of stiffening agents tend to seal the interior of the hammer from additional applications, it's important not only that the proper strengh solution is used but that penetration to the core of the hammer is achieved.  Some people do that from the side of the hammer and I have done that in the past.  The problem I found with that approach was that sometimes the hardener didn't reach the outer layers over the crown that were also too open and soft and that a second application trying to target that area was sometimes required.  That I found hard to control plus I prefer that the very outer layers at the crown aren't too hard.  Fundamentally I want a progressive gradation of stiffness from crown to core.  I don't want a hard outer layer, then a softer layer under that, then a harder layer under that.  That's the danger of that type of application.  Now I simply apply the stiffening agents to the high shoulder (10:30 and 2:30) of the hammer being sure to allow it to penetrate to the core of the hammer and wick all the way to the crown.  I can then address the strike point directly if it's a bit too hard.  If you use a soft setting lacquer, such as Pianotek's PianoLac, you won't have a problem with pings and zings that come from little crystalline formations that occur with other types of lacquer or sanding sealers or keytop solutions, etc.

    Obviously less is more.  The more we disturb the felt layers with needles the more we compromise the stability of the voiced hammer to remain where we want it.  Subsequent needling only compromises that further so the closer we can come to our goal out of the box the better we are--and the less work we will have to do to maintain things.  That is also true with hammers that are too soft.  If we have to apply an inordinate amount of stiffener to the hammer we will compromise the felt to function as felt does which is to spring and to spring back.  We want to stiffen the fiber and in so doing stiffen the spring but we don't want to make it rigid and inflexible.  That eventually causes the fiber to lose resilience and break down.  With that we lose voicing stability and ultimately compromise the dynamics of the hammer.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Notes:

    Linear vs non linear.  Piano hammers are non linear.



    (illustrations on this and the previous are from a my presentation "Structural Voicing", please don't use without permission--thanks)

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



  • 5.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Posted 05-11-2021 00:48
    Renners Blue Points are actually a good choice for Baldwins. I use All Fabric Softener mixed with Alcohol (1:2) and a sprayer. Spray the shoulders (1 or 2 passes) if the Sustain wants to drop off rather than display a long smooth decay. If there are pings in the tone spray the top of the hammer, and use a small wire brush. If the volume is too loud tip the action on its side and apply with a dropper or pipette a few drops right above the moulding. If some sections are too soft and you want to brighten a little, use Big Sexy Play Harder Hairspray (best lacquer for hammers).
    All of this can be done in the home and takes just a few minutes.

    -chris

    ------------------------------
    Chernobieff Piano Restorations
    "Where Tone is Key"
    chernobieffpiano.com
    grandpianoman@protonmail.com
    Lenoir City, TN
    865-986-7720
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Member
    Posted 05-13-2021 00:57

    I just did a Baldwin L. I used Ronsen Bacons heavily tapered. And voiced them up with B-72. Here is the result. Judge for yourself. 

    https://youtu.be/O3CzD2HTw7E



    ------------------------------
    Michael Evans
    Mansfield TX
    817-822-3591
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Member
    Posted 05-13-2021 08:55
    Nice...I'm looking to see how you set up the two mic's, which appear to be facing each other at 90 deg angle. Am I seeing that right?

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



  • 8.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-13-2021 09:57
    Looks like XY micing

    Here's a helpful article with sound samples

    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/how-to-record-a-piano/

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



  • 9.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-13-2021 09:44
    Michael

    Sounds great!

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



  • 10.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 11:19

    All,

    Re: Daniel Achten

    Daniel, you didn't mention when those Renner Blues were installed.

    All:

    Didn't Renner Blues use a firmer felt in the past? I believe they are currently using Weickert felt. I just installed Renner Blues on a C7 and found the hammers to be rather manageable -- no needling required -- only voicing up in the treble.

    Roger



    ------------------------------
    Roger Gable
    Gable Piano
    Everett WA
    425-252-5000
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 11:39
    Roger, great questions. I want to say they were installed within the last 2 years. I am waiting for a replay from the owner and will post a clarification when I hear back.

     I also have no real clear idea  how the previous technician needled or voiced the hammers.

    Jim, thank you for the encouragement to do each step appropriately and patiently.  I agree, it's amazing how much affects tone before you ever put a needle in the hammer.

    David, thanks! That's exactly what I was looking for regarding procedure.

    Chris, thanks for chiming in. I have never used fabric softener. I might try a hammer to see how it does. I am more comfortable with needles.

    Daniel



    ------------------------------
    Daniel Achten
    Chattanooga TN
    423-760-2458
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 13:20
    Ok, here is the timeline. My customer had the work completed last October 2020. He had a technician come out a couple of times immediately. My customer called me and scheduled an appointment for November 11, 2020.  That's the last time I saw the piano. I'm getting ready to service it later this week.

    ------------------------------
    Daniel Achten
    Chattanooga TN
    423-760-2458
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 14:45

    All,

    The belief about sustain relating to hammer resiliency and hardness has always been troubling to me. I've never related the hammer as a factor in sustain, except with regard to the amount of power the hammer delivers or dampens into the string. To me sustain is strictly a factor of the string-bridge-soundboard impedance. A softer hammer may appear to deliver less sustain but certainly a soft hammer will deliver less energy to the belly making it appear the piano has less sustain. If your mindset is placed within the concept that the hammer determines sustain, you may be led down the wrong path when troubleshooting.

    Roger



    ------------------------------
    Roger Gable
    Gable Piano
    Everett WA
    425-252-5000
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Posted 05-11-2021 18:15
    Its not a belief Roger, it's a fact and is easily demonstrable.
    Sustain isn't all or nothing, Hard shoulders cause a quick sustain drop. It's not too common with Ronsens but, i have heard a couple. With Renners its much more common.  Todd Scott RPT gave a wonderful class at my shop last year. For the class i had prepared a Baldwin R with a new soundboard and Renner Blue Points. Todd sat down and instantly picked out several hammers with a sustain drop. He let everyone in the class listen and all confirmed the phenomenon. He pulled the action out, and sprayed 2:1 Softener across the shoulders and put the action back in. The sustain drop was gone and a long sustain developed. So the hammer with hard shoulders was the cause.  I posted about this on pianoworld and many techs have reported back that indeed the hard shoulder caused the short sustain and were able address it in the prescribed manner.
    -chris

    ------------------------------
    Chernobieff Piano Restorations
    "Where Tone is Key"
    chernobieffpiano.com
    grandpianoman@protonmail.com
    Lenoir City, TN
    865-986-7720
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 23:11

    Chris,

    You misread my post. Except in those situations you mentioned. My point -- maybe not enumerated clearly -- is that I have witnessed technicians standing on their head to acquire sustain by "working" the hammer, when, in fact, the problem is in the belly.

    Roger



    ------------------------------
    Roger Gable
    Gable Piano
    Everett WA
    425-252-5000
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Posted 05-11-2021 23:31
    Was clear to me, and when I'm unsure why tonal issues persist I often pluck the string of offending notes to examine
    how the tone and sustain exist apart from the hammers.





  • 17.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-12-2021 14:31

    All/Joel: Good post(s). When plucked some strings swell/blossom. The main thing I'd quantify across the board was sustain time.  All kinds of charts and graphs about…  but not ring time. Why?  I've asked this before and wonder if no response is due to info absence or privacy. Paul




  • 18.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Member
    Posted 05-12-2021 15:14

    What is ring time?

    I don't consider, in my own work, the length of time the string vibrates as particularly relevant regarding sustain. The reason being, the "sustain" I'm interested in is the length of time the fundamental audibly exists. Is it there at all, or a microsecond, or does it last a musically perceivable length of time, before it drops out and just leaves higher partials vibrating?  I do not consider a string vibrating (ringing?) without fundamental, to have sustain, at least in my definition. As well, a note that has no fundamental presence, or very short duration will always be a pain to voice, and any voicing success will be minimal.



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



  • 19.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-12-2021 16:26

    Jim:  To each his own. We both value time spent on string terminations anyways. Ring time to me is simply length of audible tone. Sure there is more to piano timbre but note volume/ length is the basis of music in general and instrument maintenance in particular, kind of like taking height/weight at the Drs' office. A decibel meter would be good too but a watch with a second hand is handy and it does not take much time to record a couple of ring times per octave to hear belly w/o hammers. Paul




  • 20.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Posted 05-13-2021 01:21
    Without the string vibrating, there would be no sustain of anything.
    One might speak generically of total ring time or audible sound as the sustain, while using the idea of decay to
    describe how quickly the amplitude changes during sustain.

    Sustain of the string alone I don't think, can be improved or rectified by hammers or voicing - though the colors or
    attack can make a more or less interesting tone while it sustains.

    ------------------------------
    Joël Weber
    Weberpianocare.com
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 22:45

    FWIW, today I serviced a piano for the first time. Steinway 0 ~1915, original board. It received a new set of Abel naturals about one year ago. He plays 30 minutes to an hour each day. One year later he could not stand the piano. The hammers had developed into something quite obnoxious  The sound I can only describe as kicking the side of a metal garbage can. 

    I was there for three hours, including tuning. Most of that was spent needling the you know what out of those  hammers to try and get some warmth out of the piano. I followed the procedures I've outlined.  To be fair, it was a weak soundboard, next stringing it should be replaced but still capable of a reasonable sound with the right hammer or, in this case, very aggressive voicing. Interestingly, when I was done, he said "that's what the piano sounded like when the hammers first went on". We'll see how it develops in six months.  



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



  • 22.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 23:32

    David,

    When I was in my mid-twenties I installed a set of Yamaha hammers on an old Steinway with a flat board believing those high-tech hammers would make the piano anew. What a disaster; too heavy and too hard. All the needling in the world would not make that piano sound as we would have expected of a Steinway.

    Your comment about Abel's on a Steinway mirrored my experience I had when I install a set on a Steinway "M". They sounded okay at first, but rapidly the piano became ugly. This was during the time when "steaming" was a fad. I quickly learned that steam was only a superficial remedy – only affecting the very surface of the hammer. I have since realized that any hammer that requires massive needling is not going to produce the resiliency (i.e. tone color) of a softer virgin felt. Needle holes in the felt has a different resilience matrix than virgin felt.



    ------------------------------
    Roger Gable
    Gable Piano
    Everett WA
    425-252-5000
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-12-2021 01:31

    Roger

    I think we've all had that experience.  

    BTW I quite agree with your last statement about heavily needled hammers having a very different  dynamic than softer Virgin wool. No amount of skill at needling will produce a hammer that responds like one that is softer and more resilient to being with.   

    The truth is that I think the current European and Japanese aesthetic is very different from that which governed early 20th century American piano building and that difference is reflected in hammer design and manufacturing. Yet, with the exception of Ronsen, the hammer manufacturing that dominates the world  markets, namely Abel and Renner, follows that Euro/Japanese model and seems to favor power over everything else. It's not an aesthetic that I favor personally and judging from my customer requests and complaints it's not one they generally favor either. I wonder about that. Are we being conned? What is driving the insistence on producing overly hard hammers?  How did we get here?  

    One of my fears is that Ray Negron will retire and close up shop. Not before me Ray!  



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



  • 24.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Member
    Posted 05-12-2021 07:59
    My understanding is that Ray's son has decided he wants the business, and Ray is in the process of training him.  Definitely a problem if we loose those hammers, and I totally agree regarding the Asian and European aesthetic predominating in hammers...hate'em.

    On the sustain point, I think there may be a miscommunication regarding what some folks are referring to as sustain problems. To clarify, there are several "sustain" issues.

    One, is sustain where the impedance of the belly system is adequate for that frequency, but the hammers are robbing the sustain. This is fairly straightforward to correct with hammer work. This sustain condition often appears in the tenor, where there is plenty of tone capability not being realized by the hammers. The other "sustain" issue, is a more problematic one, and basically only marginally fixable. It s my personal bugaboo in this work...it drives me nuts.  That is, because a board has to respond to such a huge bandwidth of frequencies, somewhere, there will, in every board, usually somewhere around the high 4th-low 5th octave, be one or two notes, whose frequency is way too close to the board's impedance. This will present as a "thud".  Its a board issue, and hammer work or choice will not fix it, in my experience. My hypothesis is, that board modes are so dense dense in that area, it is basically impossible, even with board design changes to completely avoid. I have experimented over a period of years with board stiffness profiles that go from hyper stiff, reducing by incremental stiffness profiles, to outright flexible, reconstituting old boards. The problem persists, just like a cello wolf persists...its a physical gotcha, and quite annoying.

    On these notes, if you play one string alone, some sustain, will be evident. Play two strings, and sustain is still there, but decreasing. Play all three, and sustain is killed dead. What gains some minimal improvement in sustain, is to purposely, a very tiny bit, un-mate the hammer to the string...Purposely...have the hammer strike in a gently graduated mis-mate side-to-side. The object is to avoid having the board system overwhelmed by strike energy which it can't contain.  Strike power reduction will not be apparent, because explosive strike here is the problem with an impedance match, already, so the mismatch, reduces energy delivered to the string to a point where strike is still explosive, but much less so. That is, the mis-match impact matches notes around it reasonably well. Sustain is still short, but can be increased enough to kill the outright thud. I have not found hammer needling effective on these "wolfs"...which are, in my experience, on all boards of any manufacturing provenence, endemic.


        .


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



  • 25.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 21:24
      |   view attached
    Roger wrote:

    Daniel, you didn't mention when those Renner Blues were installed.

    Yes, good question. Also, are we sure these are the Premium Blues, or are they the new Blue Points?

    All:

    Didn't Renner Blues use a firmer felt in the past? I believe they are currently using Weickert felt.

    The Blues use (and used) Wurzen A felt, hard pressed with minimal heat. These hammers also have a rounded shape. They respond well to exacting voicing procedures. When excessive heat is used to make the felt easier to press over the moldings, then no positive results from needling would be apparent. Renner does not overheat their felt. The new Blue Point hammers use the Weickert Special felt (an old formula, but relatively new as to current availability). This felt is processed with a unique fiber interlocking mechanism that requires less force in pressing the hammers. The Blue Points come with a more pointed shape, hence the name.

    I just installed Renner Blues on a C7 and found the hammers to be rather manageable -- no needling required -- only voicing up in the treble.

    Yes, this registers with me. All Renner hammers (particularly Renner USA) are designed and built as high-end performance hammers, and are typical voice-down types as (in general) are all Renner hammers as used in many high-end European instruments. The Yamaha C7 (7' 6") is designed as a concert level instrument, and requires a good deal of push from the hammers. So no surprise that Roger found the Renner Blues to be a suitable choice. Although, in my extensive experience with Renners, I imagine that a fair amount of deep shoulder work would typically be required.

    **********************************.

    Now, taking a deep breath:)

    RE the initial post from Daniel Achten: Too much missing information. However, we understand that RE action regulation

     

    "it can handle a more refined regulation and anticipate it handling a more consistent voicing."

     

    A more refined regulation is vague, but suggests that the regulation is not a disaster. On the other hand, maybe it is too rough since Daniel also claimed the regulation to be sloppy.

     

    Daniel also writes: My main concern is that my customer is also complaining about the volume and strident tone...can Renner Blues be voiced well for this environment and for my customers desires.

     

    My answer is, absolutely yes, but it is going to take some hard work by someone who knows exactly how to proceed. This assumes that the first technician did not, for some reason, juice the hammers. Voicing for hardwood floors, bare walls and big open spaces is always an issue, for any hammer and piano. Missing information includes hammer travel, flange pinning, and now everything seems suspect. Still, focusing on the hammers and tone only I know how I would proceed. This brief sketch is just that -- brief.

     

    Renner hammer voicing as we teach it at the Renner Academy follows a definite set of procedures.

     

    At the Academy, work begins by solidly gang-clamping the entire set of hammers in rigid hammer clamps (tails down sitting on a stiff rail). Then, standing and leaning over the clamped sets allows for the best, least stressful and most forceful use of a three-needle voicing tool. A significant amount of pre-voicing per deep needling in lower and mid-upper shoulders is applied. This is done until the tool can be inserted relatively easily, but with some definite sense of resistance, which indicates that the hammer has not been over-needled (hard to do, really).

     

    Deep needling is followed by sanding with 320 grit sandpaper strips, pulling up small tufts to the top, and then lightly shoe shining the tops. Everything looks nice and pretty, and resilience has been introduced into the hammer set. This can be sensed by squeezing the hammer sides between thumb and fingers.

     

    Hammers are then bored, cut to length, coved and side tapered (lower molding only) and hung on the shanks. Final voicing is accomplished at the piano, most of which pertains to attack and evenness. So my rhetorical question to Daniel is (and I don't require a reply): was this work done? Comment: if at present, you cannot insert a three-needle tool to at least an 8 mm depth (10 is better) with some force but relative ease in the upper shoulders, then I am raising an eyebrow.


    If currently the hammers are too stiff, then any voicing technician is working at a disadvantage, as a significant amount of deep needling is required with the hammers on the shanks.

     

    Still, were it me, I would want to put out the biggest fire first, which seems to be the "loud and strident" and uneven tone. Here is the big, club you over the head clue from Daniel,


    My main concern is that my customer is complaining about the volume and strident tone.


    Note the words, main concern. At this point, gaining the customer's confidence is job one.


    If the regulation is close, this work can wait until setting an acceptable voicing baseline. I know this is backwards, so please, not to be rude, save the chapter and verse for another time. This is triage time, so we must assign the degrees of urgency. I've been there a bunch, so I know what works in calming down upset customers, many of whom are reluctant or loath to possibly "throw good money after bad".  With experience and common sense, attending first to the worst pains will clear all heads and start moving things in the right direction.  

     

    In my experience the dramatic change in tone made on day one will instill a much needed confidence and hope in the client, such that on day two (and probably day three is necessary) all refinement efforts to string work, tuning, hammer travel, burn in, regulation and hammer fitting followed by the final voicing tweak will seem warranted and accepted. There is no point in making sure that the front door swings and latches perfectly if the house is on fire.

     

     The brief high-points of the work using traditional needling techniques. I have used felt softeners in the past, but only on hammers that absolutely would not respond to needles.

     

    -          Align hammers to strings (if not too far off should take only a few minutes).

    -          Check your fussy alter ego in the closet and quickly set a hammer line to blow distance that allows for some aftertouch. Set a quick letoff and drop. Ignore spring tension, jack to knuckle interface and checking (take a half hour).

    -          Don't take any time filing or cleaning up the hammers. Save for later.

    -          Lift and "level" strings (30 minutes max, correct the worst out of level).

    -          Tune the piano. Time on the job is now ~2 1/2 to three hours. Spend the rest of the day with your voicing needles.

    -          Play the notes firmly but not forte.

    -          Call in the customer and have him point out the worst and best of the tones, but guide him to those notes you think are the worst, and those not so bad. Don't argue.

    -          Isolate and mark the worst loud and strident offenders.

    -          Take a loud offender and deep needle the lower shoulders (just above the equator at 3 and 9 o'clock).

    -          Try radial insertion, but if too difficult, then insert more or less parallel to the molding (this will require insertion entries higher on the low shoulders than radial methods).

    -          This stitching will probably not make a noticeable change, but if density exists there, it needs doing.

    -          Try radial needling in the center of the upper shoulders as a test. Full insertion of the needles may not be possible. Test a single needle 10 mm long. If difficult or impossible to insert, the hammers are too stiff indicating that serious pre-voicing or final voicing has not been done.

    -          Time to deeply insert needles in the upper shoulders, moving upward on the hammer in small increments on front and back shoulders. Stop about 6 mm from the crown.

    -          If it is difficult to insert needles going up the shoulders, turn the voicing tool 90 degrees such that the three needles are parallel to the sides of the hammer rather than perpendicular to it (learned this technique when I worked at Kawai). This will make deep vertical insertion much easier (see photo of Renner Blue Point).

    -          Test the hammer. The tone should be improved, though not finalized.

    -          On stubborn hammers, I have taken the deep vertical insertion technique all the way to about 1 or 3 mm from the crown, finishing with 4 mm deep sugar coating, or else angular cross stitching per single needling into the core under the crown.

    -          This is why in such instances I save hammer fitting to the strings for last.

    -          With the tone noticeably improved, you have "broken the code" for bulk work with hammer tail supports on the bench (bring one with, or else an action cart, or use the piano lid with a moving blanket). The "code" may be different for the various sections, i.e. the first capo section may require less work, or maybe the same --- depends.

    -          With your client watching, take another offender and repeat what was done on your trial hammer. He will be impressed with how much work is involved.


    By gaining the customer's confidence and appreciation at this point, the gates are open to further refinements and follow-ups in all categories of our work. This approach has worked for me over and over and over again. In fact, depending on difficulty, I have scheduled the above type voicing jobs by concentrating heavy deep needling work on certain sections of the scale only, and then returned soon for other sections and so on. Gives a chance for the ears and forearm to relax. Had the pre-voicing and deep shoulder needling been done in the hammer clamps, where it is much easier and more effective, there would be no sore forearm. I give customers a break in price when I spend entire days with their piano. 

     

    The new Renner Blue Points are easier to voice than the classic Blues. The Renner Blue Point in the photo is from our instructor demo setup, and had all the pre-voicing deep needling done in front of the class. At present, the voicing tool inserts easily, and with some resistance.


    I could go on for pages, but I'll leave it there.

     

     

     

     







  • 26.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2021 22:20
    Hammers were installed fall 2020. Around October.

    Nick, wow! Thank you for that!


    ------------------------------
    Daniel Achten
    Chattanooga TN
    423-760-2458
    ------------------------------



  • 27.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-13-2021 23:17
    All,

    Thank you so much for your input!

    I did the job yesterday. The customer was fully satisfied! And I too agree now that Blue points are a great choice for a Baldwin. I had to needle the he** out of them though. Still feeling it in my arm!

    They were in fact Blue Points. Never received prevoicing. But they were randomly "final" voiced during the return trips from the original tech. That may have caused some inconsistency. Not sure. The procedures that David and Nick gave worked wonderfully. I took the triage approach and won the trust of the customer as soon as I voiced 4 G notes to show the effect of different registers of the piano. Nick was right when he said it is hard it over voice the shoulders (maybe lower shoulder). Anyway, that's what I  found. I kept getting more dynamic out of them when I would needles down there.

    The regulation was in fact very sloppy. Previous tech did not have a key pounder so I wondered of the regulation fell apart with use but the customer said the action felt this way from day one and he didn't play it much because it felt and sounded so bad. Part of the reason for the initial call backs. All I could do was what Nick suggested but it  worked great.

    The tech replaced hammers, shanks and wippens, btw.

    I took a few random sampling's of center pin readings and DW, BW readings etc just to see. They were inconsistent but close enough to work with for now.

    Also, what is the typical hammer hanging distance on a Baldwin L. Center pin to center of hammer molding was either 5 1/8 or 5 1/4 (can't remember off hand).  The reason I ask is because the action was sitting 1/8 toward the player after he hung them to get struck point in a good place. He shimmed out the key slip with 3 0.060 punchings! You could feel that the action had an old and new bedding spot. The old one felt a little better but the new one was technically bedded. Not sure how he got back checks to work if he hung hammers long.

    I look forward to putting a really good regulation on this piano and some more voicing.

    Even at this point the customer said he went from not wanting to play it to getting sucked in. It really did sound good. It had power when he wanted it, clarity,  mellow musical tone when he needed it, nothing harsh, and a great volume and color change up through the dynamic range as we played from soft to loud.

    I look forward to further improvement to both touch and tone on return visits.

    Thanks again everyone! I am glad I asked for help.

    Daniel

    ------------------------------
    Daniel Achten
    Chattanooga TN
    423-760-2458
    ------------------------------



  • 28.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Member
    Posted 05-14-2021 08:21
    Great!

    In these cases where much needling was performed, it would be prudent for your long term relationship with the client, to let them know, that further needling will be needed, constantly. Often, in a case like what you successfully performed yesterday, believe it or not, the next day. After a 2nd session, the hammer may become more equilibrated internally, but right now, stresses throughout the hammer have been released and are re-distributing themselves, in ways that are really surprising to see. One also sees the redistribution playing out even with minor needling in a voice-up hammer, frankly, but not to the degree you will probably see on this set. If the client understands this, it will help keep him from becoming disconsolate when the voicing inevitably shifts to the brash side again.

    But congrats on your successful initial assault.

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



  • 29.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-14-2021 12:20
    Interesting.  I have just installed my first set of Renner Blue Points.  The piano is a Yamaha CF, c. 1988.  I did a minimal amount of low shoulder pre-needling, as per the Renner protocol.  Without much play-in yet, the result is overly mellow, though there is much to love about the tone.  I need to refine the hammer mating, but from what I'm hearing here, I need to be careful not to rush to brighten the tone before the piano gets some use.

    ------------------------------
    Floyd Gadd
    Regina SK
    306-502-9103
    ------------------------------



  • 30.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-14-2021 14:06
    Floyd,

    If you have access to a key pounder, you can peer in to the (played-in) future. I acquired a pounder (from Chris Brown, RPT) for the purpose of playing in new parts quickly and evenly, facilitating a more stable regulation by the time the pianist first lays hands on it. Soon found out that it has value as a voicing tool as well, regardless of whether it is a voice-up or voice-down situation. It is a bit of a hassle to schlep it to a client's home (although I have done that), but well-suited to institutional work.

    Alan

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 31.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Member
    Posted 05-15-2021 01:58
    This is an L I just finished with Ronsen Bacons voiced up with B-72. Grab some earbuds and give this a listen. 

    https://youtu.be/O3CzD2HTw7E

    Best regards,

    Michael Evans





  • 32.  RE: Possible mismatched hammers and belly?

    Posted 05-15-2021 12:36
    Very nice recordings and playing, The tone was very nice too, i will have to reconsider using Bacons again. I have had too many sets from Ray that were very inconsistent in quality, so i had abandoned them. I use B-72 all the time on Ronsens and they sound better using it over lacquer. I found that just a little at the top of the moulding is all that is needed. On some sets the tone is rather closed and there is sustain drop caused by the hammer shoulders, in that case one pass on the shoulders with All Fabric softener opened the tone up nicely. Breaking them in with a key pounder also helps save the customer from having to break them in as well and save money.

    -chris

    -chris

    ------------------------------
    Chernobieff Piano Restorations
    "Where Tone is Key"
    chernobieffpiano.com
    grandpianoman@protonmail.com
    Lenoir City, TN
    865-986-7720
    ------------------------------