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#1995535 - 12/06/12 04:16 PM String breakage in top two sections
JRS Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/13/03
Posts: 7
Loc: Oxford - UK
Hello techs. I have not posted in a very long time but every now and then have a read up.

I wonder if anyone can add further theory to the ever persistent problem of string breakage under the capo bar. I have under my overall care many fairly new Hamburg Steinways in some of the busiest conservatoires here and our ongoing nightmare is breaking strings. Yes the pianos do get a huge amount of use, yes it is difficult to keep the pianos maintained at a similar rate to the very heavy use and yes we understand all or most of the issues relating to string breakage.

But is there more to know and learn from fellow technicians? Even with top two section restrings and careful cleaning of the bar and with nice new hammers kept well shaped they still break strings. Usually it is gauge 14 through to 15.5. As soon as we enter into the start of breaking strings era it is difficult to keep the piano well in tune as more and more new strings are seasoning for stability.

I'm sure our conservatoires here are no different to ones in your part of the world and the pianos are in use for 12 hours or more a day so wear and tear is a big issue. Often the repertoire is right on the limit of any piano comfort zone and as exciting as it is to witness those poor pianos......I'm sure you know what I mean.

Is the wire as good as it should be? we use Roslau Blue exclusively. I hear Yamaha are using something different in the top two sections on their CX range...

Any interesting thought patterns would be most appreciated, thank you.


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#1995545 - 12/06/12 04:38 PM Re: String breakage in top two sections [Re: JRS]
Olek Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 9230
Loc: France
Hello, I would think of the bar not rounded enough, but as you seem to say everything is done, may be the strings, it is possible that Roslau strings are less good those days... I heard that have been said (?) where did you get the information on Yamaha ?

A friend who had the problem on a recent Steingraerber changed the strings using Paulello type M. with good results.

I have no more idea, when strings break I think also of regulation/voicing and even hammer strike line.

All the best .

I am curious about that Yamaha thing...
Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!

#1995557 - 12/06/12 05:02 PM Re: String breakage in top two sections [Re: JRS]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1666
Loc: Tennessee
The wire is not as good as it used to be, but the best I have found is the Mapes International Gold wire. It lasts longer than any other I have seen or tried. We break quite a few strings here at the school, but that is because the students are determined to play as loud as possible, whenever possible.

#1995563 - 12/06/12 05:11 PM Re: String breakage in top two sections [Re: Ed Foote]
JRS Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/13/03
Posts: 7
Loc: Oxford - UK
Yes....the load as possible and fast as possible does seem to be popular these days....

Thank you so far for your comments.

I was informed about the Yamaha change at the UK launch of the CX range.


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#1995593 - 12/06/12 06:17 PM Re: String breakage in top two sections [Re: JRS]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24795
Loc: Oakland
I was talking about this with a sound tech at the show Saturday. He was wondering about string breakage and how it compared to guitars. If you remember a short while ago, there was a discussion here about how the percentage of the breaking strength depends only on the pitch and the length of the string, not its thickness, since reducing the thickness increases the tension proportionally. So in that sense, the strings at the top of the piano's range are actually the longest, and are closest to the breaking point. As you go down the scale, the length is shortened compared to the pitch. To illustrate this point, a string near the top of the piano broke as I was tuning!

Strings break from fatigue, like bending a paper clip back and forth until it breaks. The highest notes rarely get played, which is why they do not break as often. It can take little time, as shown by the Shout House pianos.

It is something I just come prepared for. I carry a small amount of wire in most sizes when I tune. Saturday I replaced the string while the techs dried out the monitor board. It does not take very long for me to do that, because speed comes with experience.

For prevention, I have had good success by keeping the piano reasonably well regulated. I do not believe in increasing the letoff, as that just encourages the pianist to play that much harder to compensate. Voicing also helps. Properly shaped hammers and a good cushion under the strike point transmits more power to the strings without unduly stressing them. Mapes wire is very good for staving off the inevitable. I am very happy at how well it stabilizes at pitch compared to my younger years in the business.
Semipro Tech

#1995759 - 12/07/12 03:32 AM Re: String breakage in top two sections [Re: JRS]
Olek Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 9230
Loc: France
A point I did not consider but unisons tuned harsh may be hard on the wire.

Larger letoff may mean 2.5 mm, close letoff provide better dynamics but the hammer can block a little on the wire.. This concert setting may be hard on wire and action.

Good luck for all the exams prepare...

Edited by Kamin (12/07/12 03:37 AM)
Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!

#1995808 - 12/07/12 07:25 AM Re: String breakage in top two sections [Re: JRS]
rXd Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 2431
It's in the culture, Jeff, it's in the culture.

We have to remove it from the culture.
When I first started at the conservatory I service now, string breakage was rife. In talking with the students, I found out that it was the professors who broke strings when they play along on the other piano an octave higher and really heavily.

This behaviour engrained into the students that it was OK to break strings and it didn't help that I was repairing them the very next morning. To them it was as though there was a string fairy that magically made it all OK.

In one day, there were so many broken strings (bass strings too) on one 2yr old 7'6 piano that I put a rod across the hammers and put a note on the piano that began something to the effect of due to vulgar playing and vandalism.... That got their attention!!!!

It helps that I can flagrantly name drop about some of the older pianists that I have worked with at a time when they were in their '80's and hardly able to climb the few steps onto the stage, let alone play with string breaking brutality and yet they produced a high quality sound that would mask a whole symphony orchestra. It was part of my job to lighten piano actions for two of them which does nothing for the basic sound of a piano and yet they could create such sound, plus a pianissimo that would drip down the walls. I feel very priveliged to have even heard these masters play, let alone be associated with them and their culture. I have serviced their practice pIanos at home and there is no sign of abusive playing on a piano that might be 60-70 years old.

Now, I am told, it is not possible to win a piano competition in Italy without breaking a string.

I have refused to service one professors home piano because of the broken strings I have to replace each time. He could get that done for less than half the price I charge him.

All this has the result that I have just got through 3 weeks of auditions where I had to check on up to 16 pianos before 9 am every morning and there has only been one broken string. All the rest of the time, most of these pianos were up for grabs as practice pianos.

There is no doubt that vulgar playing can weaken strings to the extent that they may break when the next person, who plays intelligently, uses the pIano. So vulgar tunIng habits serve to weaken strings also.

It helps that I now have a head of keyboard who is on my side. She often says that if they can do that to a piano, what are they doing to the musculature of their hands?

I just now heard a student of a famous teacher rebearsing on a pErfectly good Shigaru 7' and making an unholy clatter. Only last week I heard this same piano sounding majestic and magnificent under the hands of a more refined musician.

When players invoke Liszt and Beethoven in mitigation, I ask "did you ever hear them play?" One was just ugly tempered and when that temperament is applied to a piano, of course strings would fly. (that is also a cause). Liszt most likely had an ugly sound, no different than current players who have an ugly sound but a clamorous following of impressionable little girls. Yamaha did a survey and found that the most strings were broken by teenage girls.

What other instrumentalists play passages unconscionably loud when practicing???they think doing that 'gets the notes under their fingers' ....stupid!!!

I have much more to say on this but enough for now before I really start.

Edited by rxd (12/07/12 08:00 AM)
Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


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