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#1693772 - 06/10/11 11:17 PM Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway  
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conmoto Offline
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Long time lurker, first post. After extensive searching for a new piano, I have tentatively settled on rebuilding a Steinway grand, either an A or B. (I'll spare you the details, but after trying all the usual suspects and keeping an open mind, I prefer the colorful American NY S&S sound. New S&S is out of our price range.)

I have played over 50-60 Steinway rebuilds from NY S&S and other rebuilders of the highest reputation, many of whom contribute to this forum. While fit/finish and sound quality of rebuilds were comparable to new S&S, consistency of the action was lacking in the rebuilds compared to new ones.

The best rebuilt actions were comparable to new actions, but the average rebuilt action felt far less substantive than a new one, closer to that of a medium quality upright, not a high-quality grand.

Each rebuilder reassured me that objectively I was incorrect, that they had painstakingly regulated the action, etc. But having studied piano performance through college, I have a decent ear and sense of touch, and I still found the rebuilt actions lacking.

I will not name the rebuilders I tried for fear of being lynched in this, my 1st PW post. But I must ask:

Do others share my observations about rebuilt S&S actions?

And for those who love their rebuilt S&S actions, could you tell me about your rebuilder and what model of piano you had rebuilt?

I would like to avoid this degenerating into an argument of the general merits of rebuilt vs new Steinways, whether Steinways are overrated, etc. I have searched and read those threads already.

But if you have experiences with rebuilt and new S&S actions, I would love to hear what you have to say.

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#1693793 - 06/11/11 12:27 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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crogersrx Offline
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I am not a technician, but have been through a rebuild process with my grand and my rebuilder and tech always include me on what they are doing and the mechanics of what they are doing. A rebuilt action is, or at least should be rebuilt with virtually all new parts. The keybed, keys, action rails, etc will be the same, just spiffed up.

The keyrail punchings, bushings, weights, whippens, springs, shanks/flanges, hammers, should all be NEW... not old ones that are rebuilt. Possibly someone might use the old whippens with new pins and bushings, but that would be more expense in work to do 88 whippens than to buy new ones. Steinways are easy to get replacement parts for.

I think that what you might be experiencing is the new action is stiff and inconsistent. There's a lot of friction in new action parts, and the person installing them can decrease the friction to the desired amount... often a rebuilder leaves this step for a skilled regulator to do based on the final requirements of the client. Some rebuilders might be excellent regulation technicians, and if so, will likely regulate the action well, but leave some room for adjustment to the buyer's tastes. In my case, the rebuilder left the action in really decent shape, but I had to find a good concert technician to finesse it and voice it.

No doubt, you have a good idea of what you want in an action, and as you realize, every piano is unique in it's tone and feel, so you can't just go buy a Steinway B and be assured that it is going to be like YOU want. It is very likely, that if they used Steinway parts, it can be regulated and voiced to your liking, but you're taking a big chance on it being a long and expensive road for it to turn out like you want. Keep looking until you find a rebuilt that you like the way it is. Otherwise, you're in store for an adventure.


Cary Rogers, PharmD
San Francisco, CA
1887 Knabe 6'4" (Rebuilt)
#1693801 - 06/11/11 01:31 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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sophial Offline
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Conmoto,

I agree with you. I have played quite a few rebuilds, including from some high end rebuilders, and there were only a few where the action felt right to me. Most had a rather sloppy, loose feel lacking in precision. Putting a new action into a rebuild yielded better results. I really like the tone of some of the older Steinways but would want a new action put in if I got a rebuilt piano.

Sophia

#1693846 - 06/11/11 06:40 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: sophial]  
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Keith D Kerman Offline
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How many of those rebuilds that you played had entirely new keysets? Not just new keytops, but the entire keyset was replaced?
Another big difference in the feel of a new Steinway vs a rebuilt Steinway is that many of the older Steinways have smaller keys, so even if the keyset is replaced, if it is not rescaled with a modern playing length of the key, it will feel odd.

There are many many things to consider in rebuilding a Steinway piano action that are beyond most rebuilder's awareness or ability if their goal is to make a perfect and new feeling action.
We are regularly sent pianos rebuilt elsewhere, and new pianos for that matter, with the purpose of getting their actions to feel exactly right for the end user, and often these come from famous
rebuild shops or manufacturers. They are often well built or rebuilt using good quality parts, but there are a few subtle details incorrect, or overlooked. Often, there are just big mistakes.
Interestingly, we just as often find that by improving the tone of the piano, the end user suddenly loves the piano's feel.

The thing is, I can tell you it took a ton of investment of purpose, time, energy, money, study and just blood sweat and tears for PianoCraft to develop a true mastery of rebuilding Steinway actions to an absolutely predictable level. And that predictability is not easy when you consider that from the factory, the very size of the action cavity ( the space in which the action is placed ) will be different on every Steinway. This difference alone causes a kind of domino effect with the way the action ultimately will feel if it is not taken into account.
New Steinways all feel different from each other as well, some better than others, but they all do feel new, so I know exactly what you mean, and making sure our rebuilds have that new feel has been a driving force.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
www.pianocraft.net
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#1693874 - 06/11/11 08:14 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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Steve Cohen Offline
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You are only buying one piano. Find one that has the tonality and action that you like, within your price range, and buy it.



Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

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My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.
#1693912 - 06/11/11 10:22 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: crogersrx]  
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Originally Posted by crogersrx

I think that what you might be experiencing is the new action is stiff and inconsistent. There's a lot of friction in new action parts, and the person installing them can decrease the friction to the desired amount... often a rebuilder leaves this step for a skilled regulator to do based on the final requirements of the client. Some rebuilders might be excellent regulation technicians, and if so, will likely regulate the action well, but leave some room for adjustment to the buyer's tastes. In my case, the rebuilder left the action in really decent shape, but I had to find a good concert technician to finesse it and voice it.
I've never heard of a good rebuilder that doesn't regulate and voice a piano quite well before it reaches the sales floor or before it reaches the original owner's home. I think regulation and voicing are a part of rebuilding and a buyer would normally buy a piano basd on what it is at the time of purchase as opposed to what it might be.

There is always some room to do additional regulation or voicing, but why would a rebuilder not do a bood basic job of this beforehand so as to present his work in the best light?


#1694060 - 06/11/11 08:30 PM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: Keith D Kerman]  
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conmoto Offline
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
How many of those rebuilds that you played had entirely new keysets? Not just new keytops, but the entire keyset was replaced?


Only a few I tried had entirely new keysets. One was wonderful, like new. The others were average, only slightly better than the ones with rebuilt keysets.

Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
And that predictability is not easy when you consider that from the factory, the very size of the action cavity ( the space in which the action is placed ) will be different on every Steinway. This difference alone causes a kind of domino effect with the way the action ultimately will feel if it is not taken into account.


Very interesting point, Keith. Now I'm actually amazed that the rebuilt actions aren't worse than I've noticed ...

So when Piano Craft (or another high end rebuilder) rebuilds an action, what generally stays in the action from the old piano, and what is replaced?

Sorry for such a basic/ignorant question, but your comment above made me realize I know even less than I originally thought.

#1694061 - 06/11/11 08:34 PM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: Steve Cohen]  
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conmoto Offline
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Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
You are only buying one piano. Find one that has the tonality and action that you like, within your price range, and buy it.



I agree 100%, Steve. But most rebuilders work by having the customer put down a deposit for a yet unfinished piano. It's not like they have a dozen rebuilt Steinways sitting around to try. Any suggestions?

#1694150 - 06/12/11 01:29 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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Rod Verhnjak Offline
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Originally Posted by conmoto


So when Piano Craft (or another high end rebuilder) rebuilds an action, what generally stays in the action from the old piano, and what is replaced?



It depends on the condition of the original action.
Sometimes everything is replaced including the tubular action rails to correct/modify the action spread.

Most high end rebuilders will change all the action parts on the stack and if the keys are not replaced, all the balance and front rails pins are replaced. The key bushings, key end felt & back checks are replaced. All the felts under the keys are replaced. The back action is replaced and if they have a key pounder like we have the action is played in after the first regulation and re regulated and voiced. We generally play in our piano for 30 hours before final set up. Even after that a follow up visit is suggested within 3 months for a regulation touch up and voicing.



Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

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#1694155 - 06/12/11 01:39 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: pianoloverus]  
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crogersrx Offline
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I've never heard of a good rebuilder that doesn't regulate and voice a piano quite well before it reaches the sales floor or before it reaches the original owner's home. I think regulation and voicing are a part of rebuilding and a buyer would normally buy a piano basd on what it is at the time of purchase as opposed to what it might be.

There is always some room to do additional regulation or voicing, but why would a rebuilder not do a bood basic job of this beforehand so as to present his work in the best light?



Agreed... a *GOOD* rebuilder will regulate and voice a piano. But what I was stating is that there is usually a difference between good regulation and voicing and concert regulation and voicing. And, often that subtle difference is what makes a piano distasteful to one person while okay to the next. The OP may have already run accross a dozen pianos that would suit his tastes, but just need to be finessed. However, there's a risk in buying a piano that is not pleasing in it's current state... there's also the risk that it will change after a year or so and need to be revisited with a serious regulation and voicing.

All this to say, a rebuilder is probably not a concert technician and certainly can't predict what an individual will want. They're likely to regulate and voice the piano to a nice agreeable middle ground and then allow the client to take over from there to specify what they'd like, or have a concert tech take over to bring it to their particular tastes.

Not at all trying to say that all rebuilders know nothing about regulation or voicing, quite to the contrary.


Cary Rogers, PharmD
San Francisco, CA
1887 Knabe 6'4" (Rebuilt)
#1694393 - 06/12/11 01:58 PM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: crogersrx]  
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Bech Offline
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Makes sense to me that the only safe way to own a rebuilt piano is to buy one ALREADY rebuilt so you can play it and know EXACTLY what you have BEFORE you buy!

Bech

Last edited by Bech; 06/12/11 02:04 PM.

Music. One of man's greatest inventions. And...for me, the piano expresses it best.
#1694647 - 06/12/11 09:51 PM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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Good discussion. I am in a similar dilemma, as my tech has told me the original wippens in my (1985-rebuilt) 1928 M&H are deteriorating, and I need new hammers anyway. Major decision time, need recommendations. This will not be easy.

I'm surprised at the dissatisfaction with the action in many S&S rebuilds. Maybe you're all playing the wrong rebuilds. laugh

#1694662 - 06/12/11 10:27 PM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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Perhaps you could be more specific about what you didn't like about the actions?

#1694806 - 06/13/11 07:36 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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CTPianotech Offline
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Originally Posted by [quote=conmoto


The best rebuilt actions were comparable to new actions, but the average rebuilt action felt far less substantive than a new one...



I wouldn't disagree with that observation. The older these 'vintage era' pianos get, the more work they are likely to need for them to be able to perform at least as well as new. Many are already on their 2nd and 3rd generation rebuilds. For example, if not new keysticks, new sets of key buttons, and new inserts for the balance rail holes are commonly needed.

Originally Posted by conmoto
consistency of the action was lacking in the rebuilds compared to new ones.


Just to be clear--were you talking about consistency from one piano to the next, or about and individual action performing inconsistently from one note to the next?

There are a number of reasons why one rebuild action could feel different from another...and sometimes this is done intentionally (or at least as a 'natural consequence' of rebuilding each piano to its own ideal standard). Each action though, should have an overall consistent feel to itself.

Originally Posted by Keith D. Kerman
Interestingly, we just as often find that by improving the tone of the piano, the end user suddenly loves the piano's feel.


+1 It can be surprising for everyone how much the tone affects the perception of the feel. (and vise versa)


Rich Lindahl
Piano Restorations in Central CT
www.rivervalleypiano.com
#1694812 - 06/13/11 07:51 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: crogersrx]  
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Originally Posted by crogersrx
Not at all trying to say that all rebuilders know nothing about regulation or voicing, quite to the contrary.
The rebuilding shops I am familiar with all have many employees, with some specializing in regulation and voicing usually at a very high level.

#1695934 - 06/15/11 07:33 AM Re: Action in rebuilt vs newer Steinway [Re: conmoto]  
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Rich Galassini Offline
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Originally Posted by Keith
predictability is not easy when you consider that from the factory, the very size of the action cavity ( the space in which the action is placed ) will be different on every Steinway. This difference alone causes a kind of domino effect with the way the action ultimately will feel if it is not taken into account.


This is a factor Keith. Additionally, the way that a new action stack is installed on a new Steinway during historic production in part sets them up for their unpredictable feel (from piano to piano).

This means that a new keyset can certainly be helpful in acheiving a "new feel". Of course, in order for this work to be effective, weight and placement of every other part needs to be carefully considered as well. Using the same dimension parts because a piano is a certain model and year is no longer an option (I am not saying that you do not consider this, Keith - just developing the idea). If this is done, then the rebuilder does not have to depend on overleading the keys to achieve the final desired feel as the original manufacturer sometimes is.

Interestingly, the result of this work can be "quintessential Steinway". It can also offer a response that many pianists like, but is decidedly "unSteinway-esque"... That topic is a thread in itself.

My 2 cents,


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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