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Tubby Bass #2705262
01/15/18 08:32 PM
01/15/18 08:32 PM
Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 2
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Carolyn Stone Offline OP
Junior Member
Carolyn Stone  Offline OP
Junior Member
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Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 2
I have a customer that has a Schafer and Sons ( 41 inches) about 40 years old. She said the bass has a "tubby" sound. I could try bass string restoration on one string to see if that helps. Or try using hammer hardener one hammer. Any other suggestions?

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Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2705324
01/16/18 12:41 AM
01/16/18 12:41 AM
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,017
Madison, WI USA
B
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
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Bill Bremmer RPT  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,017
Madison, WI USA
Hammer hardener would only make it sound worse. I wonder what you mean by "Bass string restoration"? There are a lot of things that people try but are not worth the time and effort. A really "tubby" sound often comes from contamination and cannot be undone.

The method I use of polishing strings with a wire wheel is quite effective on old strings that still sound fairly good but are encrusted with dust and oxidation. Remove the crusty stuff and the strings look nearly new and sound that way too. Best for old uprights and grands that are not worth restringing.

My own Walter console, built in 1996 had a beautiful Bass when it was new but about 10 years later, the lowest strings started to go dead. That sound eventually spread to nearly all of them. To this day, I do not know what caused it. I simply restrung the Bass with strings from the same manufacturer. The set cost about $250 and it took a day to install them and about a year to stop going flat. It was my piano, so I could tune it whenever I wanted. I'm afraid that is what you are in for on this piano.

That said, I think it is worth looking at to find out what kind of abnormal sound there is and if it is all strings or just some. About a year ago, I came across a fairly new, Asian made piano with the name, "Hamilton" on it. About 12 strings were peculiarly dead and tubby. I saw some stains on them.

The owner had tried to eradicate some mice that had invaded the piano and got some nasty, sticky stuff on the strings. I could see where it was and tried cleaning it with acetone after detaching the string. I worked the string with my hands to try to loosen whatever was inhibiting them. I put the string back with a twist but the result was no improvement at all.

I took off all of the affected strings, sent them in to be copied and installed them. I came back 2 days later to retune them. I included in my price, 2 more such visits when the strings were flat enough to be retuned. After that, there was a modest service call fee. Now, about a year later, I did a normal tuning on the piano but those new strings were still flatter than the rest but not terribly so. It does take a very frustratingly long time for replacement wrapped strings to stop going flat. Yes, I did all the tricks there are to help things along, including installing each string with a beckett hook so that beckett slippage would not be a factor.

I charged what I thought would be fair for all of my time in removing the strings, buying the right kind of heavy cardboard envelope to send them in, paying the postage, paying the bill from the string maker which included their shipping costs, the time it took to replace the strings, tune them initially 20 cents sharp, squeezing the loops at the end, tapping the strings on the bridge, leaving them initially 10 cents sharp and tuning them again 2 days later back to +10 cents, returning 2 more times after longer time intervals, then 2 more service calls over the course of the year. I also thoroughly cleaned the keybed and everywhere that there was any dust or debris. It was a lot of money to spend on such a piano but it was otherwise, still a fairly new piano.

The piano you are talking about would have a very low current market value if it were not for the tubby Bass problem. That lowers its value to virtually nothing. It will therefore be a difficult decision to make to actually decide to restring the Bass. It will be at least 18 months before those strings stop going flat. Be sure to tell the client that in order to make an informed decision for both of you.

Current market value however is not the only consideration. If the piano is in otherwise good condition, the cost of the repairs would certainly be less than acquiring either a new piano or another good used one. There are lots of pianos these days that do not have much market value but are still viable instruments. It is possible, therefore, that for what it would cost for repairs and considering the long period for new string settling, that the client may prefer to look for another used instrument, even if it may cost more than the repairs to get it in the home and get rid of the current piano.

I know a man that acquires such pianos. He would give nothing for it but would remove it. On his own time, as he had it to spend and at his own expense, he would restring the Bass and keep the piano until the strings stopped going flat. He would otherwise recondition it, including any finish touch up that is needed, clean and polish the keys (including the sides), level them, regulate the action, polish the pedals, etc., so that the piano would look and play well enough for someone to actually want to buy it.

He has his own truck and trailer and hauls such pianos to sales events where mostly new pianos are sold. For the clients who cannot afford a new piano, his will sell at an attractive price. He would have some materials cost invested but not much. The rest would all be his labor. He would pay the salesman a commission and have a modest profit.

Individual technicians can do likewise. Acquire such a piano, one at a time, get it to salable condition and offer it on Craigslist or to a dealer for their used piano selections and have the dealer take a commission when the piano is sold. Naturally, you could get the most eventual profit from such a piano if you sell it privately. It is still a legal way to have a cottage industry. Some technicians may have a rebuilding shop at their home and have a few such pianos sitting around that they eventually sell.

It is a way to take an instrument with very little or no market value but with good work, turn it into a piano that does, in fact, have some market value and a profit to be made from it. Even though the piano market is very soft, there will be people who will pay a decent price for a used piano that looks good and sounds good from a piano technician who will provide a 5 year warranty on it. If it is sold locally, it can also turn into a new piano service client for you from which you can expect future piano service fees.

You should try any remedy that you know of with one string, yes but if there is no improvement, then you know where you stand with the problem.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com
Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2705332
01/16/18 02:32 AM
01/16/18 02:32 AM
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 5,754
Hobart, Australia
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ando Offline
5000 Post Club Member
ando  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 5,754
Hobart, Australia
That was an extraordinarily generous reply, Bill!

Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2705426
01/16/18 12:34 PM
01/16/18 12:34 PM
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 1,944
Scotland
D
David Boyce Offline
Gold Subscriber
David Boyce  Offline
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1000 Post Club Member
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Joined: May 2007
Posts: 1,944
Scotland
He's that kinda guy! And it's all such good advice.

Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT] #2705573
01/16/18 11:06 PM
01/16/18 11:06 PM
Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 2
C
Carolyn Stone Offline OP
Junior Member
Carolyn Stone  Offline OP
Junior Member
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Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 2
Wow, thank you so much for you thoughtful response! What I meant by bass string restoration is taking the string off at the hitch pin, wrap it in a circle and run the circle up and down the string. I will try one string and see if it helps. It really sounds like replacing the bass strings will be too costly for this piano. Thank you

Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2705577
01/16/18 11:45 PM
01/16/18 11:45 PM
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,017
Madison, WI USA
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Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
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Bill Bremmer RPT  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,017
Madison, WI USA
Carolyn,

That is often a good and effective technique. Be sure to do it with some cotton work gloves on. Also, when you re-attach the string, you should give it a twist. Normally, only one full turn is recommended but sometimes, two will be what it takes but no more than that.

There is a special tool for twisting but a small pair of Vice Grip pliers will work just fine. Adjust the pliers so that they will grip the twisted tail end tightly. Grab the tail when the string is at rest and perpendicular to the loop. Turn the loop one full turn. It will resist you as you go to put it on the hitch pin. I will resist even more if you are trying two full turns.

Now, this is especially important! You need to be twisting in the same direction as the winding, otherwise, you will be making the problem worse and perhaps damaging the string. Most American made strings are made with the winding counterclockwise but I think the piano you are talking about would be Asian made and it would have a clockwise winding. Just look carefully before you twist.

After pulling the string approximately up to pitch, be sure to tap the loop because it may not be well seated. The pitch will drop but just tune it quickly back again. Try one full twist first and if it results in a satisfactory improvement, leave it. If it could still be better, try two twists. If that does not work, then nothing will.

If you decide to do this to all affected strings, you will need to re-tune them a few times before they settle but it will not be the kind of instability there is with replacement strings. Once the strings are properly settled, they will stay in tune normally. Good luck!


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com
Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT] #2705590
01/17/18 01:15 AM
01/17/18 01:15 AM
Joined: May 2010
Posts: 2,504
Vancouver, Canada
DoelKees Offline

2000 Post Club Member
DoelKees  Offline

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Joined: May 2010
Posts: 2,504
Vancouver, Canada
I once tried the method from UnrightTooner; tune the string an octave down, then bring it back up. Worked great and got rid of the "tubby" sound.

Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2705593
01/17/18 01:36 AM
01/17/18 01:36 AM
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 4,423
Rockford, IL
Cinnamonbear Offline
4000 Post Club Member
Cinnamonbear  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 4,423
Rockford, IL
Also, Carolyn--

While you are down there, make sure the bass bridge is glued on nice and tight. There is one vintage console piano that I know that has a distinct lack of volume in the bass. At first, I mistook it for tubbiness. Closer inspection revealed that the bass bridge had come unglued. The strings hold a tune, but don't speak out very well compared to the treble.

Just a thought, but possibly worth a look while you have your head stuck in the piano in that vicinity anyway...

--Andy Strong


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.
Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2705597
01/17/18 02:46 AM
01/17/18 02:46 AM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 27,750
Oakland
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BDB Offline
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BDB  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 27,750
Oakland
Just keep in mind that if the strings were made poorly in the first place, anything you do is likely to be very temporary at best.


Semipro Tech
Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2706079
01/18/18 12:43 PM
01/18/18 12:43 PM
Joined: Jan 2013
Posts: 316
Austin, Texas USA
B
Blues beater Offline
Full Member
Blues beater  Offline
Full Member
B

Joined: Jan 2013
Posts: 316
Austin, Texas USA
Originally Posted by Carolyn Stone
I have a customer that has a Schafer and Sons ( 41 inches) about 40 years old. She said the bass has a "tubby" sound. I could try bass string restoration on one string to see if that helps. Or try using hammer hardener one hammer. Any other suggestions?
I was too cheap to order a set of bass strings for one of my ancient full size uprights. The bass notes sound like the strings were made out of nylon clothesline! With nothing to lose, I put 2-3 twists in them. The improvement was spectacular.. So easy to try this on one or two strings and see if the approach has promise. My bass on this piano is still clean over a year later.

Don


Don, playing the blues in Austin, Texas on a 48" family heirloom Steinway upright, 100 year old 54" Weber upright, unknown make turn of the century 54" upright -- says "Whittier NY" on the plate, Starr, ca. 100 years old full size upright.
Re: Tubby Bass [Re: Carolyn Stone] #2706417
01/19/18 10:27 AM
01/19/18 10:27 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 536
Chesterfield. MA
C
Craig Hair Offline
500 Post Club Member
Craig Hair  Offline
500 Post Club Member
C

Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 536
Chesterfield. MA
Carolyn,
If you visit our YouTube page, "Hampshire Piano", we have a few videos trying to demonstrate how we clean old bass strings. The purpose of the process is to remove accumulations from between and inside the coils; the brightening is just a bonus. I think that the tonal change is dramatic, given that absolutely nothing else was fixed. Another benefit is that the original string will not have to go through that year-long settling in process.

Be well,
Craig


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

Every 5 minute job can be reduced to three 10 minute jobs.

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