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the mystry of voicing the "correct" way #2378466 01/26/15 08:31 PM
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ascc40 Offline OP
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This is someone who's preparing for the RPT exam and is stumbling upon voicing.
I've read many perspectives on voicing from different authors. Randy Potter, Kawaii voicing manual, various technicians, and it seems like there are many different ways to voice a piano.

Some prefer going in the shoulders, some prefer going in the strike point, some prefer going in the hammer in an angle, some prefer going in straight.

And of course, there are many arguments on this topic on elasticity of shoulders, angle effectiveness, etc etc

All of these are really confusing me, is there a "correct" way to voice the hammers?


David C.
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Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2378481 01/26/15 09:29 PM
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Ed Foote Offline
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Greetings,
Originally Posted by ascc
This is someone who's preparing for the RPT exam and is stumbling upon voicing.
I've read many perspectives on voicing from different authors.
Some prefer going in the shoulders, some prefer going in the strike point, some prefer going in the hammer in an angle, some prefer going in straight.
And of course, there are many arguments on this topic on elasticity of shoulders, angle effectiveness, etc etc
All of these are really confusing me, is there a "correct" way to voice the hammers?


No.

No more than is there a correct tone. It is a matter of taste. Some factors, like evenness, are expected in any voicing job, and balancing the power as well as the brilliance is a matter of experience and mindfulness. There are different techniques needed to achieve the same results from a variety of hammers, and there are a variety of results that you can get from any set of hammers by varying the techniques. None of them are "right", but there are some that are definitely "wrong".

If you approach the hammer as a compressed mass of elastic fibers, and begin reducing the density, you are voicing. If that hammer is a relatively soft felt that is soaked with a dilute lacquer, you will needle one way. If the hammer is a Renner Blue, you will needle a different way. Leaving the Steinway hammer out of the discussion, as it is almost unique, we have needles as the means to create a variable elasticity in the hammer. Where to soften, and when are two big questions.

If a hammer has been heavily needled in the low shoulders, and moderately needled in the upper shoulder, the near crown area can be needled lightly to create subtle effect, or more heavily to make more radical changes. Without the lower needling being done first, the amount of near-crown needling has to be reduced or the tension in the hammer will simply tear itself apart at the weak spot created by needling in that one small area of the shoulder. So, with really hard lower shoulders, you have limited possibilities.

I cannot recommend highly enough a book. It is "The Voice of the Piano:" by Andre Oorebeek. Five or six hours invested in this will yield a lot of insight. I would also recommend that you practice. A piano that needs voicing is never far away. The simple act of changing the tone of a hammer will begin training your ears. As you listen and needle, then listen and needle again, etc. your ear will begin learning how to measure the tonal changes as a result of the hands feeling the felt through the needle. Your hands will begin learning to recognize where the hard spots in the hammer are. My final voicing is as much reliant on my tactile sense with the needle as the ear telling it where to go. You will soon feel confident to bring the brightest five notes on a piano down a notch, then the brightest half, etc. Incorporate the work into charges as soon as you know you are delivering value.

There is no substitute for needling and listening, but having the theory well understood makes the learning curve far easier. University practice rooms are great for practicing voicing, as nobody really listens and even heavy voicing is a short-lived improvement. The 40 year old Asian hammers are too hard for needles, so you might consider steam.
Regards,

Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2378483 01/26/15 09:38 PM
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beethoven986 Offline
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Originally Posted by ascc
This is someone who's preparing for the RPT exam and is stumbling upon voicing.
I've read many perspectives on voicing from different authors. Randy Potter, Kawaii voicing manual, various technicians, and it seems like there are many different ways to voice a piano.

Some prefer going in the shoulders, some prefer going in the strike point, some prefer going in the hammer in an angle, some prefer going in straight.

And of course, there are many arguments on this topic on elasticity of shoulders, angle effectiveness, etc etc

All of these are really confusing me, is there a "correct" way to voice the hammers?


Voicing skill is not judged on the RPT exams. The correct way is simply whatever works. When installing a new set of hammers, it is helpful to install a set that is close to where you want it, right out of the box. On already installed hammers, what is correct will depend on the characteristics of the hammer, and the desired result. When voicing hard hammers, I have had good luck using a single-needle voicing tool, outfitted with a Victrola needle, directly on the crowns, followed by resetting the felt with a 2 oz. ball peen hammer. This protocol was developed by David Stanwood. Additional high shoulder needling with a three-needle tool (10mm length) on the high shoulders may also be required. The only way to learn is to start doing it.

Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2379376 01/28/15 10:06 PM
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That Guy Offline
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I used to be afraid of voicing because of all the warnings I would hear. But I finally jumped in and have had a lot of success. I absolutely agree that the "correct" way is whatever works. I tend to focus on the strike point. To me that's where the immediate results are. Many times on spinets that are bright or even brittle I'll use a wire brush right over the strike point 2-3 times. It works nicely for me. I use needles too and again usually focus on the strike point with just little pricks in the grooves.


"That Tuning Guy"
Scott Kerns
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com
Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2379391 01/28/15 10:48 PM
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Mark Cerisano Offline
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I am no expert on voicing, but I do voice hammers. Here are some guidelines I use:
1) exhaust all other options before using the needle. Tune, hammer filing and mating, regulation, anything else that improves tone.
2) Needles can be used to reduce unpleasantness, rather than elicit some heavenly tone. E.g. hard hammers often reduce in harshness when needling gently on the crown.
3) Less is more. If you get a good result with a little needling, STOP. More needling will not give you more results.

That's about it. In order to get good at deep needling concert level instruments, you'll need access to them.

Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2379408 01/28/15 11:47 PM
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rysowers Offline
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Ed Foot's post is super! +1 to the recommendation of "The Voice of the Piano:" by Andre Oorebeek. Although his approach is mostly geared towards Renner/Abel type of hammers - but it also is good for Yamahas.

One of my mentors told me early on that "every tuning should have at least a little voicing!". That was super advice, because voicing is a lot like playing the piano - you just have to keep practicing! Of course you will make mistakes, so proceed with caution - especially on expensive instruments. But I learned a lot about voicing on old uprights, consoles, and spinets.

Getting the right tools is half the battle. The cheap supply house voicing tools are junk. Pianotek sells some good ones. The JVT-1 Japanese factory voicing tool is one of my main stays, and there is a similar tool for uprights. Getting good needles is also important - don't by the cheap ones at the fabric store! Get the John James English needles - they don't bend and break nearly as easy. I buy the #6 needles. Don't get the glovers needles - they are too damaging. Pianoforte supply also has some very nice voicing tools and supplies including the book that was mentioned. The retractable chopstick tool he sells is one of the most useful voicing tools ever invented:
[Linked Image]


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2379553 01/29/15 10:28 AM
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Silverwood Pianos Offline
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There is no mystery to voicing.

The only mysterious part is to balance the customer desires with what and how the fixed toned instrument will offer; how to hide the shortcomings of said instrument while bringing forward the positive characteristics of the tone.

Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2379595 01/29/15 12:19 PM
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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ascc,
You are asking the largest question that can be asked about piano service. There is no narrow consensus for it either being the largest question-or the specifics of an answer.

I have spent most of my 40 years in piano service seeking to structure both the question and the answer. So I will attempt as brief a query and answer as my present time at the computer allows.

First you must start with describing the musical utility of what we call the Piano. The piano must have dynamics, these dynamics must have a perceived color change in tone quality, the balance between the percussive and sustained elements of the tone must be in the proper balance, and the sound qualities of the entire compass of notes must blend together in such a way that musical information can be expressed clearly.

For the pianist the keyboard action must allow for the most flexible control of the above tonal characteristics in a way that satisfies the ergonomics of our bodies and musical intent.

I use the following definitions: The tone of piano note can be broken down into two elements, the impact sound and the sustained sound. The impact sound is the time the hammer is in contact with the string. The sustained sound happens after the impact sound.

I also break the compass of the 88 note keyboard into three sections; the first 16 or so notes are the "gong" sound or sometimes more like a "organ/wind sound", from note 16 to around note 60 is the "vocal range" of the piano, the higher notes from there are what I call the "bird song" treble.

The impact sound can be characterized by consonant descriptions, the sustained tone within the vocal range can be characterized with vowel descriptions.

One of the best ways to train your ear to perceive tone is to study singers and/or study developing your own singing voice. The way one perceives tuning and tone differ, so both skills must be present to become a proficient tone regulator. Knowing the canon of piano compositions and styles also helps.

The simplest model of a piano hammer is to think of it as a damper. Anytime a hammer stays in contact with the struck string for more than one full period of any of the strings vibration-it is also damping string motion. It is the inertia of the hammer in relation to the frequency of the string that determines almost all of the elements that control hammer string contact time.

It is also the hammer mass that determines almost all of the inertial aspects sensed by a pianist in controlling dynamics and this same inertia also controls almost everything about the hammer string contact time.

Another very important element to be aware of is the change in frequencies across the compass. For the first 30 to 40 notes the frequency change from note to note is very much smaller than it is from notes 60 to 88. Thus the hammer mass becomes very, very significant to the tone from notes 60 to 88.

The heavier the hammer is the longer it remains on the string. This creates a longer duration to the consonant sound of the impact tone. Almost all pianos have a too long duration higher treble impact sound and the musical effect is perceived as a "lisp" to the tone. But many pianos also show excessive lisp from middle C to 88.

Also the hammer felt should behave like a non-linear spring. This gives the variable tone color with dynamics. The felt should rebound faster from a slight deformation than it does with maximal deformation. In other words the felt sounds brighter when played hard. In the high treble the felt does not require the same range of elasticity notes lower in the compass require. The felt on hammer 88 can be nearly as stiff as wood, but of course it can't BE wood.

What we do when we needle hammer felt is pry the felt apart so it is softer. Of course too much of this will shred the felt into broken fibers.

Also, the hammer must strike all the strings of it's unison in phase. The strings need to start moving at the same instant in time so the effect of coupling by the bridge/soundboard can be establish rapidly and this makes for a warmer vowel tone and more powerful sound. It also makes it easier to tune the unisons. Misfit unison strings to hammer strike produces a sound much like a slightly mistuned unison.

Hope this helps. I have to go now.



In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: the mystry of voicing the "correct" way [Re: ascc40] #2379640 01/29/15 01:55 PM
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Withindale Offline
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Should it go without saying in a thread on voicing that one of the mysteries of piano sound is the vibration of the strings?

When most pianists ask for voicing do they realize just how much the performance of their instrument depends on regulation and everything else that affects the movement of the strings themselves; things that Ed Foote, Ed McMorrow and others have covered at length in various threads in this forum?

Last edited by Withindale; 01/29/15 07:01 PM.

Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm

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