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#1125430 - 09/11/03 05:51 AM Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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There have been some interesting innovations in acoustic pianos in recent years. The Magnetic Balanced Action, Wapin Bridge, and Fazioli's 4th pedal, for example.

Are there any new innovations on the horizon? Do any of them have a chance of making to the mainstream piano market?

Where would you like to see designers/builders focus their efforts to improve piano performance?

JP


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-- Claude Debussy
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#1125431 - 09/11/03 10:21 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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I don't know if I would call fazioli's fourth pedal an innovation..

It is my understanding that the fourth pedal works like the unicorda of an upright, where it moves the hammers closer to the strings.

Mashing both pedals down would yield an extra soft effect on the Fazioli.

I like pianos the way they are. If it's built right, and plays/sounds good, I will make music on it.


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#1125432 - 09/11/03 10:32 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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I think that synthetic soundboards will be the next major innovation. I would guess that you will see prototypes in the next 5-10 years.


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#1125433 - 09/11/03 10:34 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Hm, we had a thread just like this very recently.

I think the Fandrich repetition improvement for uprights has the best potential of all. The improvement is indisputable, it's simple, it's cheap, and it requires very little modification.

It's "on the market" now in the Fandrich piano, but it's really something that ought to be adapted by all companies. Unfortunately, it may be only market pressure that will cause other companies to use the design and part with whatever rights fees they must pay. And I dunno if that market pressure will ever happen. Most pianos are essentially exactly the same as 100 years ago. But if logic ruled the day, the Fandrich idea would be in all upright pianos.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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#1125434 - 09/11/03 10:53 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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I would like to see a longer lasting hammer. Something that retains it's shape and sound for the life of the piano. I just hate purchasing a piano for the sound knowing that it will change. I know you can reshape the hammers and voice them, but why not just make something that doesn't need it?

BC

#1125435 - 09/11/03 11:50 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by Rick Clark:


(1) I think the Fandrich repetition improvement for uprights has the best potential of all. The improvement is indisputable, it's simple, it's cheap, and it requires very little modification.

(2) It's "on the market" now in the Fandrich piano, but it's really something that ought to be adapted by all companies.

(3) Most pianos are essentially exactly the same as 100 years ago. But if logic ruled the day, the Fandrich idea would be in all upright pianos.

Regards,

Rick Clark
1) I certainly agree with you about the performance aspects of the Fandrich action. However, we did not find it cheap to assemble and install.

2) The Fandrich piano is no longer in production. The pianos Darrell is importing and selling with this action are not the same thing. Good pianos in their own right, perhaps, but they are not Fandrich pianos.

3) You are quite correct. With the exception that many detail and construction changes have been made to accomodate production and materials availability, the pianos of today are depressingly similar to those of this time a century ago. And the piano industry is suffering for it.

Del


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#1125436 - 09/11/03 11:57 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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If the Fandrich improvement is "cheap" and "requires very little modification" is it feasible (sensible) to retrofit it into existing uprights? Would this be something worth considering for an intermediate player who would otherwise need to be scratching together money for a grand (and maybe wind up with a worse sounding SG or VSG).

#1125437 - 09/11/03 11:59 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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As a p.s. would such a retrofit be something that a typical tech could do with training or would it need a master? Assuming, of course, that the whole idea makes sense.

#1125438 - 09/11/03 12:11 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by BC:
I would like to see a longer lasting hammer. Something that retains it's shape and sound for the life of the piano. I just hate purchasing a piano for the sound knowing that it will change. I know you can reshape the hammers and voice them, but why not just make something that doesn't need it?

BC
Why not, indeed. Some years back I conducted a project investigating various alternate hammer materials. Without going into detail I'll just say that the only materials that came even close to giving a true piano-like sound wore out or destroyed themselves in fractions of the hammer life we've come to expect from felt hammers.

Felt, it turns out, is a rather remarkable material if we don't try to make it into something nature never intended it to be.

Del


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#1125439 - 09/11/03 02:27 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Why doesn't someone try to improve the sustain in the "kiler octave"? If I've heard correctly, the causes of this problem are understood and may even be fixable?

Also, what is the special bridge innovation referred to in the original post?

#1125440 - 09/11/03 05:11 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Faziolis fourth pedal is not really new on Grands.
I own a grand Piano made by Ed. Westermayer Berlin, Germany, about 1865 !! which has this Pedal to move the Hammers closer to the Strings.
In some details better made than Faziolis.

#1125441 - 09/11/03 05:53 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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There are some old innovations which never caught on, which probably should have. One was the Mason & Hamlin screw stringer system. I came to appreciate this when I was restringing one.

The other was the Clutsam curved keyboard, which Schimmel sort of uses in their Pegasus model. I've never seen one up close, but it makes a lot of sense to have the keyboard more equidistant to your shoulders.


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#1125442 - 09/11/03 06:07 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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To further this thread I might ask you guys what you think about the alloquot string used on Bluthner grands. In addition, Darrell Fandrich has been putting brass on the leading edge (towards the player) of the soundboard. This edge is the only one that isn't anchored, and I believe the idea is to reflect some of the energy back into the soundboard, increasing the sustain and power of the instrument. Thoughts?

#1125443 - 09/11/03 07:04 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Hi Del,

Let me try to be more clear:

>1) I certainly agree with you about the performance aspects of the Fandrich action. However, we did not find it cheap to assemble and install. <

I didn't mean to imply that. What I was trying to say is that the repetition modification idea is simple enough, and the parts are cheap enough, that if major factories wanted to take on the idea they would be able engineer ways to do it on the assembly line without adding much cost to the manufacture. IMO of course. I mean, it seems to me to be a standard action with some holes drilled and those little spring-like things, not a re-think of a traditional action.

A small company doing it all by hand is a different thing. When you're doing it the first time, and on a small scale, it's going to be pretty expensive to do. Likewise, rebuilding/recycling a piano by hand in a typical rebuilding shop ends up costing as much a buying a new piano from a piano company. The industrial processes/techniques are cheaper.

{BTW my only experience is with the new European Fandrich. I don't know if there was something different about the repetition in the Fandrich you are talking about.}

>2) The Fandrich piano is no longer in production. The pianos Darrell is importing and selling with this action are not the same thing. Good pianos in their own right, perhaps, but they are not Fandrich pianos.<

OK, I don't know if I understand this. I serviced one recently, new this past year, I believe it was Czech, and it said Fandrich on the fallboard. I assume if it says Fandrich, it is Fandrich. Have I walked into the middle of some dispute here?

Regards,

Rick Clark


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#1125444 - 09/12/03 12:11 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by Steve Cohen:
I think that synthetic soundboards will be the next major innovation. I would guess that you will see prototypes in the next 5-10 years.
Perhaps.

I rather think we'll see a few high-performance laminated boards first. For at least three reasons:
1) Improved performance potential.
2) Improved tuning stability.
3) We're running out of good quality spruce.

Del


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#1125445 - 09/12/03 12:17 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by Mike Parke:
If the Fandrich improvement is "cheap" and "requires very little modification" is it feasible (sensible) to retrofit it into existing uprights? Would this be something worth considering for an intermediate player who would otherwise need to be scratching together money for a grand (and maybe wind up with a worse sounding SG or VSG).
I think Darrell has retrofitted one or two. And, no, I shouldn't think it would be an easy task at all.

It was difficult enough in our own vertical and I designed the piano to accomodate the action. However, since the Fandrich action is based on the Renner stack I suspect it could easily fit in any piano that already has a Renner vertical action.

Del


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#1125446 - 09/12/03 12:21 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Why doesn't someone try to improve the sustain in the "kiler octave"? If I've heard correctly, the causes of this problem are understood and may even be fixable?

It is understood and it is fixable. But only at the factory level or with the installation of a new soundboard.

Del


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#1125447 - 09/12/03 12:25 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by BDB:
There are some old innovations which never caught on, which probably should have. One was the Mason & Hamlin screw stringer system. I came to appreciate this when I was restringing one.

The other was the Clutsam curved keyboard, which Schimmel sort of uses in their Pegasus model. I've never seen one up close, but it makes a lot of sense to have the keyboard more equidistant to your shoulders.
The screw stringer was an idea before its time. It needed better metallurgy than was available at the time.

The curved keyboard is an idea fraught with key leverage and action geometry problems. Better in theory than in practice.

Del


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#1125448 - 09/12/03 12:41 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by T2:
(1) To further this thread I might ask you guys what you think about the alloquot string used on Bluthner grands. (2) In addition, Darrell Fandrich has been putting brass on the leading edge (towards the player) of the soundboard. This edge is the only one that isn't anchored, and I believe the idea is to reflect some of the energy back into the soundboard, increasing the sustain and power of the instrument. Thoughts?
(1) It is effective in that it alters the tone build-up rate through the treble. It's one of those thing that you either like or dislike -- I've not found many that are ambivalent about it.

(2) It's one way of increasing the impedance of the soundboard mounting system. This is a weakness in most grands, few of them have belly braces placed to stabilize the bellyrail. Most are hung up on the so-called "tone-collector" idea which brings the bellybraces together at a point roughly under the bass/tenor crossover. A practice which does the bellyrail very little good at all. When we replace soundboards we automatically fit a bellybrace between the rim and the bellyrail up in the treble area. There are several other ways to stiffen this area up as well, at least one of which can be retrofitted without replacing the soundboard. Anything that can be done to stiffen up the bellyrail will help. It needs it.

Del


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#1125449 - 09/12/03 12:47 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by Rick Clark:
Hi Del,

Let me try to be more clear:

>1) I certainly agree with you about the performance aspects of the Fandrich action. However, we did not find it cheap to assemble and install. <

I didn't mean to imply that. What I was trying to say is that the repetition modification idea is simple enough, and the parts are cheap enough, that if major factories wanted to take on the idea they would be able engineer ways to do it on the assembly line without adding much cost to the manufacture. IMO of course. I mean, it seems to me to be a standard action with some holes drilled and those little spring-like things, not a re-think of a traditional action.

A small company doing it all by hand is a different thing. When you're doing it the first time, and on a small scale, it's going to be pretty expensive to do. Likewise, rebuilding/recycling a piano by hand in a typical rebuilding shop ends up costing as much a buying a new piano from a piano company. The industrial processes/techniques are cheaper.

{BTW my only experience is with the new European Fandrich. I don't know if there was something different about the repetition in the Fandrich you are talking about.}

>2) The Fandrich piano is no longer in production. The pianos Darrell is importing and selling with this action are not the same thing. Good pianos in their own right, perhaps, but they are not Fandrich pianos.<

OK, I don't know if I understand this. I serviced one recently, new this past year, I believe it was Czech, and it said Fandrich on the fallboard. I assume if it says Fandrich, it is Fandrich. Have I walked into the middle of some dispute here?

Regards,

Rick Clark
It probably said "Fandrich & Sons." At least it should have. The "Fandrich Vertical Piano," or simply, the "Fandrich" piano was/is a 122 cm vertical I designed in the early 1990s. We used Darrell's "Fandrich Vertical Action." One hundred of them were built in Hoquiam, Washington. Confused yet?

We are just beginning to explore methods of possibly bringing a slightly redesigned version of this piano back into production.

We are also working (albeit slowly) on a 200 cm grand.

Del


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#1125450 - 09/12/03 01:31 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Del,

Ah yes "Fandrich & Sons"; it certainly could have said that. Sorry about that.

Seeing Mike Parke's post, I'm sorry I said it was cheap to do. As I previously posted, I *meant* that it *could* be relatively cheap in the context of mass manufacture.

But doing it by hand on an existing prebuilt action would undoubtedly be a "bear".

But it's a great invention and I really hope one day everyone uses it and pays you guys a royalty on each piano.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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#1125451 - 09/12/03 01:48 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
The curved keyboard is an idea fraught with key leverage and action geometry problems. Better in theory than in practice.
I don't understand why this would be any different than other pianos that have great variations in key length, like Bluethner grands and most concert grands. The story I read was that Dohnanyi used the Clutsam with great success for a while, but that it was disorienting to switch from one to another. The psychological problems are much worse than the mechanical. This has been the case with a lot of innovations.


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#1125452 - 09/12/03 05:53 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Pianoloverus: Wapin's website is at www.wapin.com (but for some reason it's not coming for me up right now). The PTG Pianotech Archive has some information but it may be somewhat dated. You can find it by doing an archive search for "Wapin Bridge" .

Del:

Laminated soundboards: What are potential performance improvements (besides enhanced tuning stability) that a laminated soundboard could provide over a traditional soundboard?

Alternative Finishes: Has there has been any work done to develop a soundboard film or coating that is a better water vapor barrier than varnish to improve tuning stability? (One might suspect it could produce some undesirable effects too.)

This is an interesting thread. Thanks everyone.

JP


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#1125453 - 09/12/03 10:49 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by BDB:
Quote
The curved keyboard is an idea fraught with key leverage and action geometry problems. Better in theory than in practice.
I don't understand why this would be any different than other pianos that have great variations in key length, like Bluethner grands and most concert grands. The story I read was that Dohnanyi used the Clutsam with great success for a while, but that it was disorienting to switch from one to another. The psychological problems are much worse than the mechanical. This has been the case with a lot of innovations.
Briefly, longer keys have more flex in them. This is especially noticable in some Steinway D keys made in the 1950s on that used (I think) Pratt-Read keysets. Some of these pianos had keys in the long bass that were flexible enough that they could easily be bottomed out before the hammer would start to move.

Treble keys really need to be shorter to keep the mass down and the reciprical mass reasonably low.

In the keyset described each key is of a different length. The balance point has to be curved to match that varying length.

This is a feature that is not going to be showing up in the average piano any time soon.

Del


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#1125454 - 09/12/03 10:56 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by JPM:
Del:

(1) Laminated soundboards: What are potential performance improvements (besides enhanced tuning stability) that a laminated soundboard could provide over a traditional soundboard?

(2) Alternative Finishes: Has there has been any work done to develop a soundboard film or coating that is a better water vapor barrier than varnish to improve tuning stability? (One might suspect it could produce some undesirable effects too.)

This is an interesting thread. Thanks everyone.

JP
(1) The stiffness characteristics are more controllable and predictable. In general, a properly designed and constructed laminated soundboard can (does) yield an improved and more stable upper tenor and treble. The differences through the bass and tenor are less noticable. At least they weren't in the pianos I built using laminated soundboard panels.

(2) Yes. But the only finish material that is an effective vapor barrier is epoxy. And then only in coating thicknesses that add so much mass and stiffness to the panel as to render it unusable as a soundboard. (My work was done in the late 1980s. There may be some new finish material that would yield different results, but I doubt it.)

Del


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#1125455 - 09/12/03 01:12 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by Del:
Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
[b] Why doesn't someone try to improve the sustain in the "kiler octave"? If I've heard correctly, the causes of this problem are understood and may even be fixable?

It is understood and it is fixable. But only at the factory level or with the installation of a new soundboard.

Del [/b]
So why don't some(or all) manufacturers do this??

#1125456 - 09/12/03 01:20 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Quote
Originally posted by Del:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
[b] Why doesn't someone try to improve the sustain in the "kiler octave"? If I've heard correctly, the causes of this problem are understood and may even be fixable?

It is understood and it is fixable. But only at the factory level or with the installation of a new soundboard.

Del [/b]
So why don't some(or all) manufacturers do this?? [/b]
Several do, actually. At least they've improved it a great deal.

Del


Delwin D Fandrich
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
#1125457 - 09/12/03 06:39 PM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 22,660
pianoloverus Online content
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pianoloverus  Online Content
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Quote
Originally posted by Del:
Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by Del:
[b] </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by pianoloverus:
<strong> Why doesn't someone try to improve the sustain in the "kiler octave"? If I've heard correctly, the causes of this problem are understood and may even be fixable?

It is understood and it is fixable. But only at the factory level or with the installation of a new soundboard.

Del [/b]
So why don't some(or all) manufacturers do this?? [/b]
Several do, actually. At least they've improved it a great deal.

Del </strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Can you say which manufacturers do this sustain improvement?

Also(and sorry if this is a silly question)is there some ideal sustain? For example, I imagine if a piano had infinite sustain(like an organ) it might sound poor(but I've never tried to play Chopin on an organ). Yet I've sometimes thought that pianos would sound better if all the notes starting around the C above middle C had a sustain typical of the notes around one octave below them.

#1125458 - 09/13/03 12:10 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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Jolly Offline
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Back to the soundboard issue:

Wasn't there some experimentation with carbon fiber? Did is prove to be inadequate, or too costly?


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#1125459 - 09/13/03 12:35 AM Re: Piano Designs: Innovations and Improvements  
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pianomanrsn Offline
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Here are a few ideas that may have some merit, but I have no idea if any of them have been the subject of experiments and discarded:

1) More use of composites in place of wooden action parts. They are stronger, lighter, and far more dimensionally stable than wood. I'm not talking about ABS (Kawai whipens), but carbon/epoxy tubular, 2-axis weave formed, or 3-axis weave materials that can be machined.

2) Electronically regulated actions to provide a more precise delivery of the hammers for a given keying effort. Some user defined options would be possible.

3) Non rusting strings and single crystal strings that do not stretch out of shape.

4) Electronic monitoring of pitch. Perhaps something like a small diode above a key that comes on if tuning adjustment is required (both absolute and relative pitch between adjacent notes or octaves could be factored in).

5) Actions with many fewer parts. It is hard to believe that some clever group of engineers cannot redesign actions to eliminate half of the 55 or so parts in a (grand) action.

6) Use of polyethylene glycol (PEG). Woodworkers have for years soaked pieces of wood in PEG as a way of displacing water trapped in the cellular structure. When dry, PEG is a wax-like material that completely prevents reabsorbtion of water. It would probably not be appropriate for soundboards, bridges, and pin blocks, but for many other wooden parts it would greatly improve stability.

7) Use of evaporative type metal coatings (applied in a vacuum) using a material like aluminum to seal the soundboard

As I said, these are just ideas.

Robert in Dallas

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