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#2143383 - 09/03/13 11:14 AM New S&S Hammerheads question  
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Bateson Offline
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Hi to all and thank you very much indeed for reading my question.

I'm a student, I have inherited my grandfather's 211 Steinway grand (Hamburg) and I have recently asked a qualified technician for a new hammerheads set, pre-voicing and final voicing. He used the current maple-moulded Renner hammerheads for Steinway, but the sound is surprisingly stringy and woolly. Is it normal?

I have asked for clarification to the tech after, but he just said "The work has been made right".

I'm quite sorry for the result.





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#2143386 - 09/03/13 11:18 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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I have a client who purchased a late model Steinway product with raw, untreated hammers. The tone is unusually soft and muted for a Steinway product.


Dan Silverwood
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#2143387 - 09/03/13 11:19 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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If the new hammers are indeed Hamburg hammers, it sounds like they may have been over-needled.

Where are you located - I suspect somewhere in Europe? Perhaps someone can recommend a technician in your area for a second opinion and follow-up.

#2143403 - 09/03/13 11:42 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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A good technician can do wonders with Steinway hammers.


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#2143421 - 09/03/13 12:24 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Although your terms "stringy" and "woolly" are not commonly used here, I suspect that the hammers have not been fitted to the strings and after needling the hammers were not ironed. The technician may not have even done an initial filing to correct the surface of the hammer.

The German Steinway hammer voices a bit differently from the US hammer and they are not as hard initially as the other German hammers. That being said, if the hammers shanks are travelled properly and hammers hung at the correct angle and strike point then fitting them to the strings should be a simple matter. However if the German hammers are filed and needled but not ironed they will have that woolly sound that you describe. The ironing needs to be done before the final mating/fitting to the strings.

Also any time new hammers are hung, unless the technician has access to a pounding machine as used in the factory, it will take quite a bit of playing to reach the correct tone.

Be a bit patient and play the piano a lot to see if it comes up in tone before rushing to judgement. Give the hammers a chance to break in before seeking to harden them.


Sally Phillips
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#2143426 - 09/03/13 12:35 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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I don't understand the terms but I agree. It is also up to the tech to be civil.


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#2143435 - 09/03/13 01:10 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Thank you very much for your support. I live in Europe and in my country is quite forbidden to a student to "criticize" a techician... But I feel that something in the voicing could have been done wrong.

I saw a part of the process. The tech was voicing hard, exactly this way: http://youtu.be/UtkUZIh9uBg

#2143474 - 09/03/13 02:25 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Originally Posted by Bateson
I live in Europe and in my country is quite forbidden to a student to "criticize" a technician...


I am sure this is a long standing tradition in the country in which you live. There are probably many traditions in your country.

Being un-happy with the outcome is not to criticise. Perhaps the technician completed this job to a certain standard resulting from training and that end result is not what you are looking for.

Another long standing tradition in all of Western Europe and the West in general;

That is the tradition of purchasing services and goods, having them installed by a competent contractor, if necessary, and being satisfied with what you have paid for.


Dan Silverwood
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#2143475 - 09/03/13 02:27 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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After watching that video I'm a lot less concerned about over-needling my new hammers than I was before!


Jim (amateur musician and composer..and piano tinkerer).

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#2143482 - 09/03/13 02:39 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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The guys in the film clip are on the three week class in Hamburg.
They simply pre voice the hammers. Short needles. This will not destroy the hammers, just make make it possible to voice them in the piano.
Do your hammers come from Steinway or from Renner?
I suspect your tech did not do the job correctly.

#2143486 - 09/03/13 02:44 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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They come from Renner. The tech showed me the voicing and says "feel the shoulders... When they are resilient, the hammer is ready to play".

About the filling and the fitting of the heads in the piano and to the string, it is perhaps the only aspect of the whole matter that I'm sure it has been made right.

#2143583 - 09/03/13 06:44 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Originally Posted by Bateson
They come from Renner. The tech showed me the voicing and says "feel the shoulders... When they are resilient, the hammer is ready to play".

About the filling and the fitting of the heads in the piano and to the string, it is perhaps the only aspect of the whole matter that I'm sure it has been made right.


Hello the Renner hammers are different from the one they make for Steinway.
the tone difference you experience may come from there (also)

Even with Steinway hammers the piano need to be played a good amount for the tone to develop. Is the dynamics good? (the terms you used seem to relate to the color of tone)






Last edited by Olek; 09/03/13 07:20 PM.

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#2143707 - 09/03/13 10:39 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Bateson,
Sorry you are not happy with the technical work on your Steinway.

Thanks for posting the "Intonation" (voicing we in the US call that), video.

When I see new hammers that need to be needled as much as the ones in the video-I just cringe. The traditional Steinway hammer would never need that much needle work, especially in the treble unless it was impregnated too heavily with felt stiffeners. How can one justify buying new hammers that NEED to be shredded with needles to fix the ugly sound! New hammers can be had that need almost no needling when new. Needling is destructive to felt. If the hammers are properly made and fit to the piano, needling many hammers should only be needed after the hammers are significantly worn and work hardened.

The tone regulation procedures that produced the historically great dynamic range and tone color of Steinway are; to begin with a hammer that is a little too big (heavy), and a little too soft in the treble from about note 60 to 88. The tone regulator shapes the hammers by tapering and even reducing the width of the hammers which brings the tone up. The tone comes up because the hammer has less inertia and it can rebound from the fast vibrating string.

Then stiffening solutions are applied to the treble hammers to reduce the damping character of the felt. Hammers are best thought of as dampers. The inertia of the hammer determines the contact time in relation to the vibrational frequency of the string.

The felt compresses during string contact faster than it springs back. The rate of the felt spring varies with force. A slight striking force barely compresses the felt, a hard blow compresses it significantly more, and the felt returns from these compressions slower than the string vibrates.

Also since hammer felt work hardens with use-the tone will brighten up over time.

With new hammers a skilled tone regulator should be able to make the piano have a full dynamic range-but the slight "ping" that is so useful to shape the musical phrases will take a couple hundred playing hours to develop.

If the touch also has a "sluggish" return feel that is another indication the new hammers are too heavy and that is contributing to the dull tone.

Way back in 1972 the first tone regulation class I took was taught by Steinway NY head tone regulator Fred Drasche. The first words out of his mouth were,"The hammer has got to get away from the string". "The voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape".

I have seen instances where technicians who have a prominent position servicing performing pianos in a local market do less than complete work for"student" clients. When faced with complaints they will engage in name dropping and say something along the line that "Ashkenazy doesn't complain about my work".

Good luck and do give your technician a chance to address your concerns. Describe and demonstrate how your piano is not producing the musical expression you expect, and request that he do the best he can to produce great tone that also stays that way with use.

Last edited by Ed McMorrow, RPT; 09/03/13 11:03 PM. Reason: incomplete quote

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#2143821 - 09/04/13 02:38 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]  
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Ed,
What you see in the video is the traditional way of pre voicing hammers in the Hamburg factory. These are raw hammers. After the pre voicing the voicing can begin in the piano and some sections, norlally the high trebble, might get some collodium.

#2143882 - 09/04/13 07:03 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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I belive that the pressed hammer is maintained mostly because it allows a firmer foundation for the Ffff levels.

Then the tone can be made saturated.

The dynamic plague seem to be larger too but I only can refer to recordings and a few pianos I have tuned.

The tone character possibly can be worked more with the cold pressing, but impregnation tend to straighten the resiliency/hysteresis. My opinion.

I like the natural very warm tone of cold pressing, but the pianists seem to ask for more large possibilities at higher levels, so the ppp nuances are not as silky, there is may be less natural tension and more forced one.

On older boards softer hammers are less a problem.

I have some problems to see the hammers as dampers, if so they damp very high frequencies so they are very hard dampers, more shock absorbers than anything else.



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#2143883 - 09/04/13 07:07 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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The way the hammers are pre voiced creates an energy bowl under the shoulders.

I like the concept of "energy storage" as soon as contraried stresses are installed in an element. I

Last edited by Olek; 09/04/13 09:57 AM.

Professional of the profession.
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I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#2143896 - 09/04/13 07:43 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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I appreciate very much your help.

I'll try to describe the problem in a better way. With the old hammers, the common steinway impregnated hammers, the sound was the typical steinway sound, the same as you can listen to the records of the 20th century great pianists.

But now it's something "genetical" different, it's another kind of sound.
I can't recognize that as "the steinway sound" and I guess that it will never sound as before even after 3 thousand hours of hard playing.

Yes, the dinamics are more compressed, but the thing that make me more sorry is the fuzzy and confused definition of the voices.
When you play for example Chopin Scherzo n.1, the left hand bichords in the first measures, are just unrecognizable and indistinguishable and it's also difficult to "open" the fast progression of the right hand.

I was so worried about the result that I called a trusty retired piano teacher of the academy of my city who says "Nowadays it's difficult to find a new Steiway that sounds good without spending a lot of money after... in the past the hammers were different...".

And so on... So I honestly don't know what to do.

#2143901 - 09/04/13 07:52 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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If you post a recording of your piano it would help immensely. It's impossible to give an opinion on someone's hammer installation and voicing work without hearing it.

How old is your piano? Did the tech also install new shanks and flanges along with the new hammers, and do a complete action regulation? Has the tech recommended other work that has not yet been done?

Also, why did you have the old hammers changed out if you liked their sound?


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#2143903 - 09/04/13 07:58 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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I agree with James, but I think you could also contact Steinway in Germany, London or Vienna and ask them to put you in contact with a Steinway trained technician to advise you.


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#2143977 - 09/04/13 11:06 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: pianolive]  
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Pianolive,
The OP posted video may well be current Hamburg Steinway tone regulation practice, but I can assure you it was not the practice 100 to 40 years ago.

Newer Hamburg hammers do not hold up as well as properly prepared NY or other hammer makers such as Ronsen.


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#2143984 - 09/04/13 11:13 AM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]  
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Pianolive,
The OP posted video may well be current Hamburg Steinway tone regulation practice, but I can assure you it was not the practice 100 to 40 years ago.

Newer Hamburg hammers do not hold up as well as properly prepared NY or other hammer makers such as Ronsen.


That's my concern.

I have listened recently to a Sokolov concert in the 2nd row and it has been something similar to my current sound, just in a bigger way. The instrument was also prepared by the renowed Fabbrini, but the sound was not "Steinway" as I mean (somehow dull and evidently hard to play). The same fact happens in the new recordings of Andras Schiff or Pollini, where the sound is totally different (very very beautiful, open, expressively bright...) but anyway not "Steinway" at all.

Have something changed in the hammerheads production?

#2144006 - 09/04/13 12:04 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Originally Posted by Bateson
I can't recognize that as "the steinway sound" and I guess that it will never sound as before even after 3 thousand hours of hard playing.


This is the unknown when comparing a new set of hammers with a set that has been used for the better part of the previous five or more decades.

I am wondering if it is a mistake to be comparing the old set tone wise to the brand new set at this point in time. I would recommend playing this instrument for a while previous to making any further decisions.

Originally Posted by Bateson

Yes, the dinamics are more compressed, but the thing that make me more sorry is the fuzzy and confused definition of the voices.


This is very typical of a new set of hammers but also can be caused by the aforementioned over-voicing.


Dan Silverwood
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#2144012 - 09/04/13 12:16 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Very helpful. Thank you very much.

#2144039 - 09/04/13 01:28 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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There are a number of new instruments that tone dark and woolly when fresh out of the box with new hammer sets; Kawai RX series, Ritmuller148, Hailun products and some others that have slipped my mind for the moment.

Six months into use and these instruments tone quite different I have found. Not to compare these instruments to your 211, but yes there are new processes to making hammers along with the use of long forgotten felts such as Weikert/ Wurzen combinations.


Dan Silverwood
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#2144046 - 09/04/13 01:40 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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what is sure is that not making the first voicing, at the pretext that the hammer have yet some tone, is a huge mistake, as the tone begins with limited dynamics, then get dry , hard and restricted on year later.

there is an obligation to begin with a too round tone.

thz today pressing is less hard on the felt, that is supposed to keep its resiliency better in time. To obtain more density the felt should be more pressed and then more heated, that was the case until the 90's where the process have evolved after having being studied by scientists , with comparaisons between the felts of the era and the older ones, that tend to keep way better their elasticity in time, strangely.

We are really lucky with good felts today, my opinion.

Possibly also the taste of the public evolved, there is a bigger demand for pianos that can be played brutally and still produce a round tone. This was not possible with older versions of the S&S hammers, you had to be really good to manipulate those beasts.





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#2144055 - 09/04/13 01:56 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]  
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Sorry Ed, but you are wrong. This pre voicing has practised way back.

#2144058 - 09/04/13 02:03 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Silverwood Pianos]  
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Originally Posted by Silverwood Pianos


Originally Posted by Bateson

Yes, the dinamics are more compressed, but the thing that make me more sorry is the fuzzy and confused definition of the voices.


This is very typical of a new set of hammers but also can be caused by the aforementioned over-voicing.


I agree that the lack of definition is typical of hammers not being played and/or not shaped well (plus not at the best strike point as an option)
I believe that the strike can be adapted to the style of hammers used.
Anyway power (and good tuning) is what allow voices definition.

voices are mostly in the soprano section. there 2 mm mistake at the strike point is yet enough to rob some definition.

The quality is raised by steps, some are large ones, but there are many many small ones that together make an even larger one in the end.

plus room acoustics, ....

The hammers are a very important part but basically they have to provide playing comfort. They have their own resiliency style, shape, color due to the felt, but the piano is providing the tone.

So unadapted hammers can be modified toward the expected tone, but must basically "work" fine, and should not be so frustrating.

The way the hammers are prepped will push toward a style of tone and the piano do the rest.

Now they are within their own limits in terms of felt thickness and quality, inner shape, type of pressing.

A talented tech/voicer is supposed to save the situation even with the "wrong" hammers.

Will not provide the "authentic" tone but a really playeable instrument.




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#2144064 - 09/04/13 02:18 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Now, your hammers come from Renner, not Steinway. Renner has got some different kinds of felt that they say is suitable for Steinway pianos. For example they deliver hammers they say is good for old pianos. Maybe you got some of those?

Yes, some years back Steinway changed hammerfelt. Some people like it and some don't.

Most of the Steinway pianos we have got with the new felt have to be played for at least a year before you can really hear the character of the piano.


#2144070 - 09/04/13 02:26 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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Sounds to me like the shoulders are too much weaken during the prevoicing. I encounter that in my country, as the Ooerebecks book was out there are several technitians that took some words of the book like a Bible so I now usually encounter pianos with destroyed shoulders with explenation "but squeze the couschion, look how beautifully soft it is". That is still a bit better than the voicing technique I saw once, three needels, 6 mm straight to the top of the crown, to the strike point. To me, and I am not an experienced technitian, more a begginer the most chalenging part is prevoicing, especially hard hammers, to get that feeling where is the end of working on the shoulders and beginning with the crown, dont know, here the people like harsh and open tone, maybe due to to much petrof and foersters on that pre 1990. era that were more on the soft side, or maybe the taste changes with time, as the instruments, so the technitians, way of life, we live in a noisy enviroment today....

#2144086 - 09/04/13 03:00 PM Re: New S&S Hammerheads question [Re: Bateson]  
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BDB  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 25,333
Oakland
This is not going to be resolved by anyone here. You need to talk to the person who did the work, and see whether it can be expected that the piano will meet your expectations with time and use, or if more work needs to be done.


Semipro Tech
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