Over the past few months, I've had the privilege of developing a close working relationship with a very skilled concert technician, Boaz Kirschenbaum, whose expertise is in tone regulation and voicing; In fact, he is the new Chief Voicing Technician at Mason & Hamlin. He spent the last two days working on both my new Mason & Hamlin BB and my older Yamaha C3 and now I have two beautiful sounding instruments that exhibit both beautiful tone and color! Over the next few weeks, I hope to provide some before and after comparisons of both instruments.
The experience of collaboratively working with such a skilled technician, who has many years of training at North Bennet School in Boston, at the CF Theodore Steinway School in Hamburg, as a Concert Technician working in the famed Steinway Hall â€œbasementâ€ on West 57th Street, as a Licensed Stanwood Precision Touch Installer and in his new role at M&H is one that I will never forget, and an experience that I would highly recommend for any new M&H owner. I tried to document each step in the process.
As M&H Chief Voicing Technician, Boaz main focus at the factory since April, is to establish what it takes to create the Mason & Hamlin "Signature Sound" and insure uniform quality for all pianos leaving the factory. This in theory should reduce workload on the local M&H dealer and also makes any follow-up "in-home" tone regulation & voicing touch-ups much simpler. Mason & Hamlin BB's are known for their rich & powerful bass, a smooth & lyrical tenor and a clear bell-like treble.
The goal of our all-day session was to recreate what Boaz and the Voicing & Regulation team now insure on each new piano being delivered from the factory; i.e. insure a consistent Mason & Hamlin "Signature Sound" that is: 1) smooth, round & creamy, 2) powerful (with balanced time to power) and 3) maximizes sustain & ring time. One must also make sure that the concert technician is provided the 'proper inspiration' for optimal voicing and tone regulation!:
The process begins with insuring proper key spacing and let-off.
He then sands the keybed for smoother operation of the soft/shift pedal.
Then he inspects and lubricates the sustain/damper mechanism and pedal to insure that friction is minimized.
Next, is the time consuming operation where he optimally shapes all of the hammers.
The concert technician then moves on to inspect proper string-leveling.
He then follows this up insuring that every hammer perfectly aligns with each of the strings it is intended to strike - at the same time.
Following this, he massages each strings in the undamped, treble section to insure that there are no false beats.
Next he does a critical inspection of each key's repetition, wippen assembly, pinning & shank action - e.g. insuring no "clicking" - and adjusting if necessary.
Now we are ready for a concert level tuning.
Upon completion of this step, the concert technician is now ready for final voicing. When he has completed, the pianist and technician optimally listen together and make any necessary adjustments.
Finally, upon request, the concert technician signs the piano, providing a seal of approval of the job! Great having the M&H Chief Voicer's signature of approval on my Mason & Hamlin BB... Thank you Boaz Kirschenbaum!
For a more comprehensive set of pictures from the session, here's a link to the PianoWorld Photo Gallery - Mason & Hamlin BB: Optimal Tone Regulating & Concert Voicing: Mason & Hamlin BB: Optimal Tone Regulating & Concert Voicing