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#1309717 - 11/21/09 11:11 AM Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc  
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 95
EltonRach Offline
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EltonRach  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 95
Singapore
Hi all - saw this excerpt in an advertisement by an investment bank quoting a swiss piano tuner.

I realise that the choice of vocabulary can change depending on culture and language background - but I found this Swiss Steinway concert technician's description of piano sound and cultural preferences quite different to the language that's been used on this board.

Thought it might be of interest to some of the readers on this board.

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


Are there country-specific differences between concert technicians? If so, what are they?

Yes, of course. Japanese technicians, for instance, have a completely different attitude to sound aesthetics from us. That starts with the humidity, which of course is much higher in Japan. The more water there is in the air, the softer the tone. The ideal sound for the Japanese is a sweet, round, soft tone. Steinway, on the other hand, doesn’t want that at all. We want a very clear, brilliant, rounded tone. Or in France: there, they prefer thin, softer tones, tones with a different kind of elegance. The technicians naturally bring their own idea of the ideal sound with them. It’s always fascinating to see.


What is the difference between a German and an American Steinway?

The construction is exactly the same. However, they do differ in small details such as hammer quality, felt quality, hammer construction – the intonation setup in the USA is completely different to that in Europe. The character of the sound is consciously different because the sound aesthetic in America is not the same as the one we have here.


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#1309729 - 11/21/09 11:33 AM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: EltonRach]  
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pianoloverus Offline
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pianoloverus  Offline
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Originally Posted by EltonRach
Yes, of course. Japanese technicians, for instance, have a completely different attitude to sound aesthetics from us. That starts with the humidity, which of course is much higher in Japan. The more water there is in the air, the softer the tone. The ideal sound for the Japanese is a sweet, round, soft tone. Steinway, on the other hand, doesn’t want that at all. We want a very clear, brilliant, rounded tone. Or in France: there, they prefer thin, softer tones, tones with a different kind of elegance. The technicians naturally bring their own idea of the ideal sound with them. It’s always fascinating to see.


Interesting, but I assume this is just an opinion? I would think pianists anywhere want a piano to be able to play at all dynamic levels. "Thin" is usually not very positive as description of a piano's tone. I've never heard anyone at PW with members worldwide say "I love piano's thin tone".

#1309946 - 11/21/09 05:51 PM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: pianoloverus]  
Joined: Sep 2003
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Del Offline
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Del  Offline
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Olympia, Washington
Unless things have changed in the last few weeks I'd not describe most Japanese-built pianos as having a, "sweet, round, soft tone." Indeed, these terms could better be used to describe the traditional sound of (at least the smaller) Stenway pianos.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
#1310051 - 11/21/09 09:23 PM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: Del]  
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EltonRach Offline
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EltonRach  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 95
Singapore
I did think that the words used to describe the sounds would be controversial given what I read in this forum.

I do wonder though whether sound changes depending on the humidity in the air. Hence a Yamaha may not be "bright" when the conditions are very humid.

Perhaps some scientists among the PW readers could help?

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#1310099 - 11/21/09 10:57 PM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: EltonRach]  
Joined: Aug 2005
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pno Offline
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pno  Offline
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♪oron♪o, on♪ario, canada...
These words are not true tone describing words. They are borrowed from other senses. In that usage, they usually mean different things to different people, especially people from different cultures and mother tongues. One person's "bright" may be another person's "sweet". There are only two objective ways to describe tone, they are, volume and pitch.

Imagine a world where there is no word to describe colors. Everybody just invents their own way to communicate with others the colors they see. A person sees a color and tells another person he sees a "sweet" color. A second person sees the same color but tells the first person it's a "round" color. They pretend to understand each other! Things like this happen from time to time in this forum.


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YAMAHA C2M PE
#1310219 - 11/22/09 04:34 AM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: EltonRach]  
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Posts: 456
Gregor Offline
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Münster, Germany
Originally Posted by EltonRach

I do wonder though whether sound changes depending on the humidity in the air. Hence a Yamaha may not be "bright" when the conditions are very humid.


Interesting question. I play in a band and I noticed, that on some days the sound in the practice room is very nice, but on other days extremely bad. I guess every musician knows that phenomen. I guess this has to do with climate differences, particularly humidity and temperature.

The speed of sound depends more on temperature then humidity:

http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-airpressure.htm

If speed of sound influences the perception of tonal qualities I don´t know. But time of reverberation definitely does. I read that the time of reverberation highly depends on humidity. In the range of 2 to 3 Khz the difference may be up to 0.5 seconds.

Gregor


piano tech - tuner - dealer
Münster, Germany
www.weldert.de
#1310231 - 11/22/09 06:20 AM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: Gregor]  
Joined: Sep 2003
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Del Offline
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Del  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 5,531
Olympia, Washington
There are several components of the piano that change with humidity in ways that can affect its tone performance.

Felt is hygroscopic. As relative humidity change felt will take on or release moisture. Just how much this changes the tone of a piano depends on the design and construction of the specific hammer. Generally the changes are gradual and are not noticed by most pianists.

Wood is also hygroscopic. The soundboard panel will swell and shrink with changes in relative humidity. These changes will have an effect on the overall stiffness of the soundboard system. Generally speaking, during periods of high humidity the extra stiffness of soundboard system will very slightly decrease acoustical power and increase sustain time. As the soundboard panel dries out the reverse takes place.

Again any tonal changes this causes are usually not noticeable but because changes in soundboard stiffness will also alter system resonances voicing can also change. Occasionally a spurious resonance can change enough that a pianist will request voicing changes on particular notes. Of course, with the next change in the weather cycle the pianist will be wanting the voicing changed back again. This can get a little hard on hammers.

During dry weather the soundboard will give up moisture and, along with it will go some of its stiffness. Again, this is usually not noticeable but as some pianos age the tonal changes can become increasingly noticeable through the killer octave region.
ddf



Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
#1310237 - 11/22/09 06:40 AM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: Del]  
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 342
James Senior Offline
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James Senior  Offline
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England
Might you describe this recording of a Pleyel as 'thin'?
you might do...(try around 2:00 mins if you don't want to listen to it all)
Cziffra plays on Pleyel

This came as a surprise to me as it's quite different to the Gaveau recordings of Cziffra and Poulenc you can find.

Maybe Yamaha's are lovely and warm in japan, but once they're shipped over to lower humidity climates they become....
:-D


#1310261 - 11/22/09 08:37 AM Re: Piano sounds - Steinway , Japanese, French, etc [Re: James Senior]  
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EltonRach Offline
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EltonRach  Offline
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Singapore
There's a GC1 at a relative's home that I play on when we visit from time to time. I always had the feeling that the piano sounded particularly nice at times, and at other times the sound was less "full". But I thought it was all in my head. Perhaps it's the humidity difference between the rainy monsoon season and the dry season. The piano's tuned twice a year but has never been "voiced".


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