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Inconsistent string timbre

  • 1.  Inconsistent string timbre

    Posted 05-15-2019 09:54
    Hi Folks - I am a non-professional but enjoy DIY music projects and this is my first post so my apologies if this subject has been previously addressed on the forum.  And my apology in advance for possibly using incorrect terminology.
    I recently acquired a used Yamaha U1R, SN 3472585 and the piano exhibits a problem that I would like to pose to the members to benefit from their experience and advice.
    The tone of two adjacent notes, #26 and #27, are "softer, muted or less bright" than the adjacent notes and the rest of the scale.
    After examining the hammers and mutes I removed the action and plucked the strings and the difference in tone was still very distinct.  This was true for each string in the pair.  I then inspected the length of each of the strings from the tuning block to the bridge and hitch pins.  I couldn't find any dust or felt that would the muting.  The finish on the strings is consistent and clean across their lengths with no signs of corrosion.  There is no rattle or sound that might indicate a loose outer winding.  And finally I checked the contact between the bridge and soundboard which seems to be fine.
    Now all of this evaluation has been done by an inexperienced piano tech, or an experienced piano hack (depending on your perspective), me.  So I could have easily missed a detail due to lack of knowledge and that's why I wanted to leverage this group of experts.
    From my perspective having checked the items listed, I can only conclude that these individual strings have gone "dead".  The fact that it is four individual adjacent strings out of the total string set does make me question that conclusion though.
    I would appreciate any observations and recommendations.  All the best. - Ed


    allen ed
    windermere FL

  • 2.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Posted 05-15-2019 10:02
    Is the bridge in this region nearer the edge of the soundboard?

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    David Pinnegar, B.Sc., A.R.C.S.
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    +44 1342 850594

  • 3.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-15-2019 10:16
    This piano is approaching 40 years old, right?

    Which side of the bass/tenor break are these strings on? I don't remember how many notes in the bass on a U1.

    Assume you've checked to be sure the dampers are lifting enough and not subtly resting on the wires.

    Wound strings CAN mysteriously go dead. I have observed this. What you have not made clear though is the DEGREE of difference between them and the surrounding notes.

    Who knows what has been done to this piano before?  More history might (or might not) help.


    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH

  • 4.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Posted 05-15-2019 14:17
    David and Peter,
    The bridge is about 9 inches from the edge of the soundboard.
    The dampers fully clear the strings and the dull tones are present with the action removed.
    The muted notes, which are very dull, softer in volume with no brightness whatsoever, are 12 notes above the bass (single) string break and 6 notes below the start of the trebles (triple strings).
    Thank you for your responses. - Ed

    allen ed
    windermere FL

  • 5.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-15-2019 14:40

    There are many reason why a string becomes dead. It could be that the copper windings have become loose. There could be some corrosion on the string that you don't see.   It could be a bridge problem.

    In any case, while there is nothing wrong with being a DIY, there comes a point at which only a professional piano tuner can figure out what's wrong. (And even some of them might not, either. In other words, perhaps it's time to get some help from someone who is more than a DIY'er.

    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    Mililani, HI 96789

  • 6.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-15-2019 15:46
    You could try giving those strings a twist.

    Zeno Wood
    Brooklyn, NY

  • 7.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Posted 05-16-2019 07:12
    Hello Ed,

    It does sound like the strings have simply gone "dead" - but your thought regarding how four strings, all adjacent to one-another, would go dead and the others remain fine is indeed reason to question that conclusion. However, it is still the most likely reason.

    I do want to take a moment to acknowledge your not-common ability to evaluate the problem, and also your recognition of the level of your expertise and the ramifications thereof. It seems unusual to confer with someone so well grounded in reality!

    These two notes are both bicords - correct? My suggestion would be to order one new string, install it, and see if that fixes the problem. If so, then order the other three and replace them. Or, if you don't mind gambling a few $$, order all four at once and give 'er a go.

    If you would like, I would be willing to work with you. I service Hillsborough County - I live in Brandon, just on the east side of Tampa. I enjoy riding my bicycle and every now and then I like to ride the West Orange Trail. If you'd like me to help you, because of the 80-mile distance, perhaps we could coordinate a visit on a day when I could also go for a ride on the trail.

    My phone in 813-684-3505

    Terry Farrell
    Farrell Piano Service, Inc.
    Brandon, Florida

  • 8.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Posted 05-16-2019 09:08
    Thanks to all for the great inputs.
    Terry I like your recommendation on string replacement approach.
    I'll contact you via email.
    Thanks again. Ed

    allen ed
    windermere FL

  • 9.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-16-2019 10:01
    Strings do go dead for various reasons.  Getting them wet can do it.  Try twisting one of the bichord pairs and see if that improves it.  If not order replacement strings and replace the four.

    David Love RPT
    415 407 8320

  • 10.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-16-2019 16:00
    I would just add that the OP is a DIYer. He needs to know that the strings need to be twisted, at the bottom hitch-pin end, in the direction that the end of the winding points. The opposite direction will make it worse. If he's not sure what this means, he might be better off calling someone who is sure. 

    Mark Schecter
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  • 11.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Posted 05-16-2019 10:02
    hire a tech to come evaluate it . dont mess with strings if you have no training. I have seen adjacent strings dead as well as broken. replacement strings need to be made by a string maker using certain measurements that must be precise .also keep in mind the fact they are under tension, have to be removed and replaced and will require being brought up to pitch with some additional touchup to stabilize them. Someone previously could have broken strings and never reinstalled the proper sizes or did the followup. It is also a dangerous project without the right training and safety procedures as well as the proper equipment

    James Kelly
    Pawleys Island SC

  • 12.  RE: Inconsistent string timbre

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-16-2019 15:31
    One more thing on the checklist would be to take a look at the ribs in the back just to make sure one hasn't lifted at that place on the soundboard that intersects with the end of the bridge.

    Steven Rosenthal
    Honolulu HI