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History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? #2588296
11/18/16 01:52 PM
11/18/16 01:52 PM
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Klavimaniac Offline OP
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Can anyone contribute evidence (especially literature) when and by whom these methods were invented and in which instruments/ models/ years they were/are used?
There was a very interesting thread here 1 1/2 years ago but it did not focus on the history.
This is an important invention like double escapement etc.

Thanks!

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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588301
11/18/16 02:11 PM
11/18/16 02:11 PM
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If you can get Del Fandrich to chime in I believe you will fine him very well informed.


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588411
11/18/16 11:43 PM
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It seems to me that most manufacturers use a bit of both techniques when establishing crown in their soundboards; hence, it is not a question of which method, but a question as to what degree each method is used in the crowning process. Mario Igrec provides an in-depth account of the differences between the 2 in his book "Pianos Inside Out." He also mentions Baldwin and Charles Walter as manufacturers that lean more toward the rib-crowned side of the spectrum. I'm pretty sure Steinway leans more toward the compression-crowned side of the spectrum. Hope this helps.

Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588421
11/19/16 12:50 AM
11/19/16 12:50 AM
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I don't think you would find any compression crowned boards prior to Chickering. But that is just my guess. It takes much heat to dry wood and they had a big coal fired steam engine in the basement that powered the whole plant. The heat was used to dry wood as well in kilns.

But much has been lost in the mists of time.


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588422
11/19/16 01:01 AM
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I suspect that the original crowned soundboard was not done for acoustical effect, but because the way that one avoids cracking in large panels with cross-grain supports (ribs in the case of a piano soundboard) is to dry the panel out to a very low moisture content before gluing the ribs. Then the soundboard naturally develops a crown as moisture returns to the panel.


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588426
11/19/16 02:09 AM
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So earlier European fortepianos had flat soundboards, and Chickering invented pressure crowning but nobody was ever credited and nothing ever patented?

Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588476
11/19/16 09:50 AM
11/19/16 09:50 AM
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Greetings,
The acoustical effects of wood under tension had to have been recognized by the time keyboards were invented. The string instrument world displays what the interaction of steel tension agains wooden resistance does to the sound. The compression formed boards are the result of atmospheric changes after the wood is cross banded by the ribs. When that dome is installed, and compressed, it behaves according to the same forces that a violin top is exposed to, albeit on a larger scale.

. If there is sufficient potential energy stored in the board, (via compressive forces trapped by the case), there is less mechanical energy absorbed from the string, thus passing it along as acoustical energy that we can hear. I don't' think coupling is the only defining parameter when we change the bearing pressure on a soundboard. I think compression of the board is a big part of it. A musical saw will demonstrate the need for preloading the structure if we want to make it musically responsive.

Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588497
11/19/16 11:04 AM
11/19/16 11:04 AM
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Be a little careful about making a comparison between a musical saw and a piano soundboard. A musical saw is bent to have a resonance at the frequency being played. A piano soundboard must transduce (it is a transducer, not an amplifier) sound across the whole compass of the piano. The musical saw makes the sound, the soundboard converts some of the mechanical energy in the string to acoustic energy. How quickly the mechanical energy in the string is converted to acoustic energy has a large effect on volume vs. sustain

Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588507
11/19/16 11:38 AM
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So you would say the invention of pressure- or rib-crowning goes back to the early string instruments, which are arched on the top under their bridge- unlike the older (flat top) guitar? Would it then perhaps be more than coincidence that late Renaissance-early Baroque orchestras could use these much louder instruments and that this invention (by some unsung hero?) coevolved with the development of classical music?
Would this therefore imply that even harpsichords have some weak crown,
and when restoring fortepianos one should always restore some (pressure?) crown no matter what the brand and age of the instrument?

Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588528
11/19/16 01:54 PM
11/19/16 01:54 PM
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I think it's much harder than that to make such generalizations about instruments from that era. They were made in smaller shops with relatively more hand labor, often to order. Suffice to say all kinds of things were tried smile


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588540
11/19/16 02:26 PM
11/19/16 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Klavimaniac
So you would say the invention of pressure- or rib-crowning goes back to the early string instruments, which are arched on the top under their bridge- unlike the older (flat top) guitar? Would it then perhaps be more than coincidence that late Renaissance-early Baroque orchestras could use these much louder instruments and that this invention (by some unsung hero?) coevolved with the development of classical music?
Would this therefore imply that even harpsichords have some weak crown,
and when restoring fortepianos one should always restore some (pressure?) crown no matter what the brand and age of the instrument?


The difference with bowed string instruments is that their curved tops are carved that way, not compression nor rib crowned. Early violins had much lower string tension. It wasn't until the early 19th century that a rise in pitch led to higher string tensions and more volume output in general. You could say that the Romantic period co-incided with and benefitted from this development, not the Baroque, for sure.

Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588565
11/19/16 03:32 PM
11/19/16 03:32 PM
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Violins don't have much sustain


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Gene Nelson] #2588583
11/19/16 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson
Violins don't have much sustain


Violins have as much sustain as the player can put into them. Pianos do not have any sustain, only decay.


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588663
11/19/16 10:10 PM
11/19/16 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Klavimaniac
There was a very interesting thread here 1 1/2 years ago but it did not focus on the history.


Link? smile



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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588665
11/19/16 10:29 PM
11/19/16 10:29 PM
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Thanks for your suggestions, answers and observations thus far. It seems however as if a piano historian is still missing from this round...

Just to add another observation a Juilliard student double base player told me. Apparently older bases tend to sag or cave in on the top above the bridge. This does not seem to compromise their sound though. On the contrary like with other string instruments they apparently develop better sound with increasing age.

This would indicate that they don't need high tension in their top.
I agree that unlike pianos strings are not optimized for long sustain. After all they have bows to sustain tone and don't want long lasting sustain for clean pizzicato.

So we are still left with the question which piano maker invented the pressure crowning system....

Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588670
11/19/16 11:17 PM
11/19/16 11:17 PM
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I believe you mean "compression" crowning vs rib crowning.

Last edited by Dale Fox; 11/19/16 11:29 PM. Reason: speling

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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588671
11/19/16 11:31 PM
11/19/16 11:31 PM
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http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/2329484/Searchpage/1/Main/158704/Words/compression+crowned/Search/true/Re:_Who_invented_the_Compressi.html#Post2329484

Try this link. Archives from Pianoworld


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588679
11/20/16 12:56 AM
11/20/16 12:56 AM
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Thanks Dale for that great link. So it was partially discussed. But the opinions seem to differ if just stiffness or the stiffness to weight ratio or if in addition a gradient of internal tension across the board would "tune" the board and make it more responsive to higher frequencies. Some would say that compression crowned boards sounds better but are more prone to humidity change damage.

The wider questions if string instruments are at all similar or fundamentally different and if piano makers can still learn from them, e.g. by preserving the old tone wood would be interesting to discuss. Furthermore if really the invention of compression crowning was just an undated accident in a Chickering kiln - is a bit of a question... That would suggest that all European piano makers were happily using flat boards until Steinway stole this method from Chickering and brought it back to Europe? Everybody agrees that old flattened boards don't project, don't respond and don't sustain well but Erards, Graffs, Pleyels etc., from as early as the 1830ies can sound amazing when restored/preserved well. Were they really made like string instruments with almost tension-less and flat boards? So is it all just a function of resisting a gradual increase in downbearing force as string tensions rose during the 19th century or is there more to it?

Last edited by Klavimaniac; 11/20/16 12:59 AM.
Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2588684
11/20/16 02:31 AM
11/20/16 02:31 AM
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This is not the only discussion in the archives. Use the search button on the menu bar for much more on the topic.


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Re: History of pressure- vs. rib-crowned soundboards? [Re: Klavimaniac] #2590507
11/27/16 06:55 PM
11/27/16 06:55 PM
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Resacnal: this is the most in depth discussion here that I was referring to:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2406121/2/Compression_Crown_Vs._Rib_Crow.html

However my original question about the history of compression crowning (apart from a few well-educated guesses) remains mostly unanswered. I think it is at the route to correctly restore all 19th century and even earlier keyboard instruments. As a scientist I also find it unsatisfactory that no clear experimental methodology seems to exist to optimize the amount of compression crowning inside the instrument.

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