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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2713825
02/12/18 09:02 PM
02/12/18 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by SMA55
And to those of you who recommend just selling the Steinway and buying a different one, well, I'll ask you: When is the last time you tried to sell a premium concert grand like a Steinway D out of your house? If you haven't already tried to do this, let me tell you--it ain't easy!.


Perhaps buy an ad right here on Piano World. Where else could you reach as many of the real potential buyers?


-- J.S.

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Knabe Grand # 10927
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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: BDB] #2713828
02/12/18 09:07 PM
02/12/18 09:07 PM
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Below is an example of a Steingraeber decay analyzed on a Spectrogram.

Tone Analysis




Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: Miguel Rey] #2713832
02/12/18 09:18 PM
02/12/18 09:18 PM
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That means nothing to me.


Semipro Tech
Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: BDB] #2713917
02/13/18 08:31 AM
02/13/18 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
I have imagined a way to measure the rate of decay of a piano tone (which has no sustain), but to the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever bothered to measure it, so I tend to discount discussions of "sustain" in pianos. I perceive that it can be changed by voicing, which some people claim is not possible. I have never had anyone come to me complaining about weakness in that range, ever. So I still have my doubts.

This is where it gets tricky, regarding measuring rate of decay of a piano tone. And it's not just rate of decay that is of interest here, but also those phases of the sound envelope preceding its decay. So, if one merely measures the length of time that the sound of a piano tone audibly sustains, that gives a very incomplete picture of how well the piano is performing. One also has to look at how the frequency spectrum of a given tone changes over time. And this has indeed been analyzed on pianos by researchers.

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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2713968
02/13/18 12:03 PM
02/13/18 12:03 PM
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OK, I'm going to chip in here, from a pianist's point of view, not a tech's.

I've played quite a few D's in my life, and some of them have been beautiful and some of them have been awful. I played a 5 year old D once that was allowed to go so far out of regulation and had taken on so much humidity that it SOUNDED like it needed rebuilt, but I suspect it needed a good regulation and voicing, and some kind of humidity control. I've seen 30 or 40 year old D's that sound big and beautiful, and I've heard younger D's sound very tired, and vice versa.

The thing is, a 20 year old D will likely need *some* kind of work, but it might not need what is now considered to be a full rebuild - that is a new soundboard, tuning plank, strings, re-capped bridges, and possibly a new action and keys. Depending on what kind of life the piano has had, it might simply need a few days with a technician doing some work on it - regulation, voicing, setting the strings, checking the key-bushings and perhaps turning the guide pins a bit (or replacing felts), re-centering, it might even need new hammer heads, or dampers, or both, and it could even need the bass re-strung, or the treble re-strung, or depending on the luck of the draw, it might need the whole piano to be restrung. Some of that work falls within the realm of rebuilding, but some just falls within the work of servicing, or reconditioning. I'd say that rebuilding, and I'm focusing on the word building, would be replacing structural components like the plank and/or soundboard.

There was a film done by I think PianoCraft, about a 1994 Steinway which had developed a soundboard problem, and so it needed to be rebuilt with a new soundboard. There was a situation where a member here bought a 2005 B (was it 2005?) and it developed a soundboard problem, and he decided to get a new piano, so there are situations where younger pianos require new soundboards. I know personally of a 2000 model D that required a new soundboard, but it had been dropped from a stage and things had come a bit loose, so that's an abnormal situation (but you don't know that your piano hasn't been dropped, although it probably hasn't). The kind of situation where a younger piano requires a new board is very rare, and not even every older piano requires a new soundboard although many do, and with older pianos, replacing the soundboard gives the rebuilder more control over the final result.

As for the question, can you rebuild a piano and know what the result will be? Yes, absolutely, I think you can. I think if a rebuilder understands their work, and has experience in this work, then the customer can have a fair idea how the piano will sound. One could play 3 or 4 examples of that rebuilder's work and get an idea of the quality level of that rebuilder, and could safely assume that their piano will come out within those parameters. It worked for me, twice. Think of that question this way: If you walk into Steinways, do you know how two new Steinways will sound? You don't exactly, but you have a fair idea, and usually they play how you'd expect them to play.

You should, if you haven't already, ascertain whether your piano needs a full rebuilding, or an partial rebuilding, or whether it just needs a good servicing. You could have your piano fully rebuilt and find that although the work was fabulous and the piano was improved, it wasn't so much better than just having the piano serviced with perhaps new hammers (or maybe not).

A good person to talk to is Sally Phillips. She posts regularly on this forum and she knows pretty much everything about servicing Steinway Ds, since it has been her profession for over 40 years. There are good posts by her here on the subject, on how some pianos in constant use in concert halls age very quickly, but others don't.

It's so difficult to know if a younger piano needs rebuilt. First of all it's impossible to tell on a forum - you could give us all lots of information and even post sound and video clips, and it would be difficult to tell. Secondly, it really takes an experienced and honest technician to determine if your piano needs rebuilt. You could ask any pianist and their opinion would be so biased as to what they like that it would be almost useless. I've seen this when pianists choose pianos for venues.....

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2713993
02/13/18 01:48 PM
02/13/18 01:48 PM
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joe80, thank you for chipping in here. It’s interesting to hear your thoughts. For the record, I have spoken with Sally Phillips multiple times concerning this piano, and some of her thoughts are similar to yours, while others are quite the opposite. At any rate, even “honest and experienced technicians” have differences of opinions on the best approach with a given piano. And therein lies part of the problem for me in deciding what to do. Consequently, in the end, I will wind up having to make a decision, based on my own (hopefully informed) layman’s understanding of the problem with my piano. We shall see where that takes me...

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2713996
02/13/18 02:05 PM
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It's a difficult one isn't it? I know that soundboards can and do fail after 20 years on larger pianos especially, so of course it's a possibility that the soundboard has failed, in which case replacing it might be the only realistic option for that piano.

My guess is you are coming to this forum having had the piano serviced, and you're still not satisfied with it's tone, and in this case you're now needing to open up the can of worms and have some work done on it. Obviously you don't want to pay for a restringing job only to find the soundboard is still not working, and you don't want to replace the soundboard and find that you don't like the tone, because it's a big, expensive job, and then you'd have to sell the piano and get another one which is always a pain in the....

I'm certain that if the piano was restored by a reputable experienced rebuilder, that it would be a phenomenal piano. I'm not sure if it would be to your taste, and while voicing and regulation can transform a piano, it can only go so far.

I can offer this piece of knowledge though: If a piano is rebuilt without being redesigned or rescaled, and the original soundboard is copied and mounted correctly, the piano actually retains the character it had before rebuilding, but only better. As long as the soundboard has been put in properly, the fifth octave problems should disappear and the piano should sound like a better version of the piano you know and love. I know that because when I had my own pianos rebuilt, they still retained their warm sound, with lots of sustain throughout the range (except before the rebuild they had dead spots in the 5th and 6th octaves, and a terribly unbalanced bass), but the problems that the pianos had before have been ironed out and the pianos have a far greater dynamic range, colour, and better tone than they did before. However, fundamentally, it's still a very familiar sounding piano, if that makes sense. Of course it's not exact. One can't say the pianos now play and sound as they did when new - for a start there are very few people alive who were alive when my pianos were new and those who are alive most certainly wouldn't remember how a piano sounded in 1912... but it's certainly how I imagine they'd sound when new.

I'm waffling but I hope you get the idea. You just have to decide if your piano needs this work or not. The other option is trading it in for another piano, and that option shouldn't be off the table until you're certain which route you want to take.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2714268
02/14/18 01:40 PM
02/14/18 01:40 PM
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To those who think a 20 year old Steinway wouldn't need this kind of work, never say never. Some might remember my saga of the ten year old B that had a failing belly, though it's tough to say whether this was from owner neglect or poor workmanship/materials in Astoria. However the main difference is mine had visible compression ridges to the point where the board was uneven at the top, and was visibly peeling off the ribs on the bottom in certain places. It sounded amazing, but I didn't want a timebomb so I sadly returned it to the dealer.

In your case it sounds like this exercise is purely subjective, but I haven't heard the piano so I will take your word for it. Considering the piano is not materially compromised and most techs give it their blessing, if you're not bonding with this instrument, if you don't have confidence in it, then sell it and find one you feel more secure with.


2012 NY Steinway Model B | Kawai MP11 | Nord Stage 3 Compact | Moog Sub 37 | Behringer DeepMind 12 | Sequential Circuits Prophet 6 | Korg Prologue
Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2714324
02/14/18 07:02 PM
02/14/18 07:02 PM
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BTW, SMA, where are you, geographically?


-- J.S.

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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: JohnSprung] #2714326
02/14/18 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by SMA55
And to those of you who recommend just selling the Steinway and buying a different one, well, I'll ask you: When is the last time you tried to sell a premium concert grand like a Steinway D out of your house? If you haven't already tried to do this, let me tell you--it ain't easy!.


Perhaps buy an ad right here on Piano World. Where else could you reach as many of the real potential buyers?



Oh, it's already listed in ads across the U.S.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: Markarian] #2714327
02/14/18 07:24 PM
02/14/18 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Markarian
...I haven't heard the piano so I will take your word for it. Considering the piano is not materially compromised and most techs give it their blessing, if you're not bonding with this instrument, if you don't have confidence in it, then sell it and find one you feel more secure with.

For the record, I would venture to say that many pianists would find this piano lovely in tone and touch, as I myself do. For all I know, this piano has not degraded in any significant way from the time it was first selected at the factory by the original owner. After all, that owner was selecting it for a home environment--and a small room within that home, to boot. But from my own experiences playing some of the better Steinway D's that I have, I know that they can perform better than mine, and so I'm out to find what the difference is. What is it about the builds of the best D's that differs from mine, that causes them to project and sustain better than mine in the range of the killer octave? And by rebuilding, is it likely or even possible to minimize that difference? But yes, my selling it remains on the table as an option for me.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: JohnSprung] #2714328
02/14/18 07:25 PM
02/14/18 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

BTW, SMA, where are you, geographically?

St. Louis, MO

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2714330
02/14/18 07:34 PM
02/14/18 07:34 PM
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I know of someone who might buy it but they wouldn't give you anything like what you needed to replace it with something of a similar calibre, and therein lies your problem. Steinway Ds are difficult to sell on the open market, often fetching only a fraction of what one might think they should be worth. In some cases Bs and Ds for the same year will sell for the same amount of money, and sometimes the D will be cheaper.

A soundboard doesn't have to look bad to the naked eye to be faulty, it can look very good with no compression ridges or cracks on the finish and still have issues. Conversely, it can have lots of compression ridges and be working absolutely perfectly, but I know Markarian had his piano checked over and it was thought best for him to move on.

I really do feel for you, you've got this piano which should be magnificent and you're just not getting on with it right now. It's a tough situation. I am pretty much convinced that the right rebuilder could turn this piano into the piano of your dreams but you're experiencing apprehension about giving your piano over to a restorer incase you don't like the result. It's natural.

Have you thought about going around the rebuilders and asking what they'd give you for your piano in part exchange? You might find that part-exchanging it for an already rebuilt piano means you pay something similar to what you would if you were having it rebuilt for yourself, with the advantage that the piano you end up with is not an unknown. You may find in visiting the rebuilders that you can trust them with your piano after all and end up having it rebuilt.

Direct question: Do you actually like your piano? I know of someone who bought a Steinway B that was rebuilt and they didn't like it. They tried the piano already rebuilt, and decided they wanted it (they HAD to have a Steinway). They accepted the piano as it was and they decided that it didn't have the tone they wanted, they didn't like the touch, they didn't like this or that.... I can assure you because I played this piano many times, that it was typical of an excellent Hamburg B, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the piano. The buyer of the piano went on to say that he hasn't played one Steinway that he ever fell in love with, and he wished he'd kept his Yamaha C7 (which was also a beautiful piano). You see the problem was in this customer's case, that he loved Yamaha pianos but they didn't have the kudos of Steinway, and he was swayed by the kudos, but didn't like Steinway pianos...... I hope I'm making sense.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: joe80] #2714514
02/15/18 11:04 AM
02/15/18 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by joe80

Have you thought about going around the rebuilders and asking what they'd give you for your piano in part exchange? You might find that part-exchanging it for an already rebuilt piano means you pay something similar to what you would if you were having it rebuilt for yourself, with the advantage that the piano you end up with is not an unknown. You may find in visiting the rebuilders that you can trust them with your piano after all and end up having it rebuilt.

Indeed I have considered this. I’ve talked to more than one rebuilder about doing just this. Now I just have to visit some of them. In fact, as I write this, I’m driving to one of them now.

Quote

Direct question: Do you actually like your piano? I know of someone who bought a Steinway B that was rebuilt and they didn't like it. They tried the piano already rebuilt, and decided they wanted it (they HAD to have a Steinway). They accepted the piano as it was and they decided that it didn't have the tone they wanted, they didn't like the touch, they didn't like this or that.... I can assure you because I played this piano many times, that it was typical of an excellent Hamburg B, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the piano. The buyer of the piano went on to say that he hasn't played one Steinway that he ever fell in love with, and he wished he'd kept his Yamaha C7 (which was also a beautiful piano). You see the problem was in this customer's case, that he loved Yamaha pianos but they didn't have the kudos of Steinway, and he was swayed by the kudos, but didn't like Steinway pianos...... I hope I'm making sense.

Yes, you’re making a lot of sense. But let’s put things into perspective here. I have never loved EVERYTHING about any one Steinway—or any other brand piano, for that matter. There’s always something I would do differently for any given piano, were I a tech. It might be something in the tone or the touch, or some unevenness in one or the other, some note sustaining longer than it should after the dampers fall, some action noise or vibration, or possibly slightly loose leads in the damper underlevers (I’m very sensitive to that slight vibration or click). In short, I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a perfect piano, and I’ve always had at least some reservation about any given piano. But to answer your question, yes, I do like my Steinway. It has a nice warm tone and a nice touch. And while I can’t pretend that I’ve never been affected by the mystique of the Steinway name, I have seen far too many problems with Steinways to believe that they are the best made pianos out there. That is why I do own other pianos. But I do happen to love the sound of a good Steinway, too. So that’s why I bought the one I have. It’s just that I know it could be better.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2714524
02/15/18 11:41 AM
02/15/18 11:41 AM
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I took the liberty of going through some of your earlier posts to see if there was some common thread about why you appear to be dissatisfied with your pianos.

You say you are promiscuous with your pianos, and given the Steingreabers, and now the Steinway you're currently concerned with, wonder if that isn't a very accurate comment! Although I've had a lot of panos through my hands over the years (see above), I've always had *my* piano which I play on a daily basis, and which I rarely change. (I have had 3 grands since 1973, a Rogers, a Bechstein and now my Steinway 'D').

I've always found that it takes some time to learn to love and work with *my* piano, and I've always sought the sound that appeals to me, irrespective of whether it's a classic sound for that particular manufacturer. Having played many dozens of Steinways (and their peers) over the years, I'm not terribly convinced that there is a particular 'Steinway' sound that endures with the piano, any more than there is with any other piano make, which is leaving me scratching my head as to what your final destination is over all this. Are you after the best piano you can get or the best collection you can get ?


The English may not like music much, but they love the sound it makes ... Beecham
Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: Fareham] #2715040
02/17/18 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Fareham
I took the liberty of going through some of your earlier posts to see if there was some common thread about why you appear to be dissatisfied with your pianos.

You say you are promiscuous with your pianos, and given the Steingreabers, and now the Steinway you're currently concerned with, wonder if that isn't a very accurate comment!

Well of course it is! Describing myself as “pianistically promiscuous” was my lighthearted way of describing a very real phenomenon for me: I enjoy multiple kinds of pianos. And I see no reason why I should be beholden to just one. I know guitarists who own dozens of guitars. Why? Because there are many flavors of guitars out there. So, apart from the limitations imposed by the pricey nature of pianos and the large amount of space they require, I see absolutely no reason it need be any different for pianists.

Quote
Having played many dozens of Steinways (and their peers) over the years, I'm not terribly convinced that there is a particular 'Steinway' sound that endures with the piano, any more than there is with any other piano make...

I might disagree with this statement, depending upon what you mean by the word, “endures”. I myself would say that there is a range of sounds that encompass what I would call “the Steinway sound”. That range is broad with Steinway and dependent on multiple factors, including during what decade the piano was manufactured. And being “pianistically promiscuous”, I happen to like the sounds of multiple Steinways. But just because their range is broad doesn’t mean there are no particular Steinway sounds. Otherwise why would there be so many people who prefer Steinways? It certainly is not for their exacting standards in their craftsmanship historically. And with a company such as Yamaha, who historically have been far more consistent in their results, the range in their pianos’ sounds is much narrower and in fact even more specific than Steinway’s.

Quote
which is leaving me scratching my head as to what your final destination is over all this. Are you after the best piano you can get or the best collection you can get ?

As I’ve explained, I like a variety of pianos, and ideally I’d like the pianos that I settle upon to complement one another. This may or may not turn out to be the case over the long haul. You see, obviously when I purchase a piano, I’m really infatuated with it. When I take delivery of it, there’s usually a two or three week honeymoon period when I’m still very excited about the piano. During this period, I begin to really get to know the piano, how it responds to me and vice versa, and how it interacts with the unique acoustic environment of my home. And of course, during that initial settling in process, I also begin to note the particular flaws of that piano (and every piano I’ve ever owned has had multiple minor flaws, flaws that simply may not be apparent even after several hours of playing on multiple days in the piano showroom). And then after that initial honeymoon period, as you found for yourself, it may take me several months before I truly bond with the piano. So to answer your question, I seek BOTH a really good piano and a really good collection of pianos that complement one another. And of course I seek those that are the best for me .

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2715528
02/18/18 09:59 PM
02/18/18 09:59 PM
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I was in the same boat as you. I traveled the country looking for a used D that I wanted to change to my specifications.

I highly doubt you will need a new soundboard at 20 years. I did not replace my soundboard and it is a little bit younger than yours. That said, the soundboard is THE heart of the piano. Unless you get the piano at a shell price, I do firmly believe you are taking a 'shot in the dark' with what you will get. Although, I think that shot is with a shotgun - you stand a good chance hitting the target and may be right on but you are likely not going to get exactly what you want. You may get another flavor of good with a new soundboard - and get nothing spectacular. That said, I would only do a soundboard if the current one was dead.

Voicing hammers and action improvements will do what you are wanting to do. As techs know, this is craftsman level work and it takes time, experience and know how.

I did a lot of things to my D all which I absolutely love. I have a lot of respect for techs that did the work. Surprisingly, to me, The biggest 'bang for the buck' was putting on a treble stabilizer. BOOM! the top end lost the hazy Steinway top and the killer octave became better sounding. That said, I did a lot of other things to the piano my wonderful techs put their heart, soul, blood and tears into.

I literally told my techs, the sky it the limit. Make this piano the very best you can.

Last edited by SF10; 02/18/18 10:05 PM.
Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2715580
02/19/18 04:53 AM
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What is a treble stabilizer ?


The English may not like music much, but they love the sound it makes ... Beecham
Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SF10] #2715872
02/20/18 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by SF10

I highly doubt you will need a new soundboard at 20 years.

You are not alone in this belief. There are plenty of knowledgeable techs and rebuilders out there who would agree with you on this. And plenty who would also say that even if the crown on the soundboard is significantly shallow (as is the case with my piano), still the soundboard on a 20 year old piano needn't be replaced. On the other hand, there are also plenty of knowledgeable techs and rebuilders out there who would argue both of these points--some who would even argue that loss of crown is prima facie evidence that the soundboard needs to be replaced, that even if it is functioning well, it will be functioning even better with better crown. After all, if crown isn't important to a soundboard, why is it put there to begin with?

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That said, I would only do a soundboard if the current one was dead.

Well, "dead" needs to be defined here. Should a soundboard that works well in all areas other than the killer octave be considered alive?

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Voicing hammers and action improvements will do what you are wanting to do. As techs know, this is craftsman level work and it takes time, experience and know how.

I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my post and your trying to help. And I wouldn't argue with your second sentence here. But regarding the first, how can you possibly know this about my piano? You seem to be saying that in every case where a section of a piano is not projecting and sustaining well, voicing and action work will solve the problem. I doubt there are many techs out there who would agree with the absolutism in this statement. Now there ARE techs out there who will lacquer hammers to increase their volume. And while this will certainly harden the hammers, when a soundboard is not functioning well in a particular area of the piano, hardening the hammers further in that section will result in increased brilliance--but at a cost: the hammers lose flexibility with a resulting narrowing of the diversity of tones/colors possible.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2715894
02/20/18 11:56 AM
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The modern grand piano has been around for getting on for a hundred and fifty years, and has hardly changed in the last 100.

Mostly, technicians learn over a lifetime what affects what, and in large part can agree with each other. This is because they happen to be right.

However, there are a few areas which are still a bit of a mystery to almost everyone, and at the top of the list is the soundboard. Soundboards can lose their crown, become delaminated (where the spruce fibres separate because of the internal accumulated stress of playing), and a host of other things such as becoming separated from the ribs or the rim and so on. First and foremost they are not all problems per se and only become so because someone frets about them. Very few are best fixed by changing the soundboard, the soul of the instrument Think of it like a head transplant - you never know what you're going to get!

All techs are individuals and my experience with them is that if there is a common thread in their advice coming through, then they're right, and you would do well to listen to what they say. I know that you've had a tech. in from out-of-state and feel no further forward after paying him than you did when you started, which apart from being infuriating leaves you at a loss as to what to do next. I would repeat my advice above, and have a good look at getting your piano assessed by a technician who specializes in Precision Touch Design (David Stanwood is the 'inventor'). It takes a couple of hours and you can expect to have a chat with others who have been through this particular exercise. The techs. that put themselves through this learning process are normally the keenest and most progressive ones with open minds.

As others have said, the problems you are attempting to negotiate are mostly well known and their solution is often a mixture of regulation, voicing, and possibly some work to strings or bridge(s), and most techs. would balk at changing the soundboard for reasons explained in great detail in earlier posts.


The English may not like music much, but they love the sound it makes ... Beecham
Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: Fareham] #2715939
02/20/18 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Fareham
I would repeat my advice above, and have a good look at getting your piano assessed by a technician who specializes in Precision Touch Design (David Stanwood is the 'inventor'). It takes a couple of hours and you can expect to have a chat with others who have been through this particular exercise. The techs. that put themselves through this learning process are normally the keenest and most progressive ones with open minds.


I have only played a few pianos that have been through the Stanwood protocols (and they were fine), but I am not really aware of a lot of brand new (let's lump in rebuilds that are using the most current parts with keys that aren't leaded down like the stuff from the 1960s-70s) NY Steinway D actions that are terribly problematic, to the point where such a redesign is warranted. I've seen some <10 year old Hamburg D's that have had some minor alterations done, here in the humid southeast, but the new NY actions on the big pianos tend to play really well, when properly regulated.


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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2715964
02/20/18 06:02 PM
02/20/18 06:02 PM
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I thought I might try to add a bit to this discussion.

PianoCraft has rebuilt several Steinway Ds made in the 1990s that included replacing the original soundboard with a new soundboard. We have also done several from this period in which the original board was kept. Of the Steinway Ds from the 1990s in which completely new soundboards were installed, maybe only two or three of the original boards were objectively bad. By objectively bad, I mean for example inverted crown combined with poor sound. Of the instruments in which the boards were marginal or even objectively healthy that still had their boards replaced, the problems were they simply didn't sound good enough for the intended use or owner, and there was no confidence that without PianoCraft replacing the soundboards ( along with the rest of the belly and action ) would they ever perform sufficiently. Now, 80%+ of these were pianos that were to be used in concert halls or recital halls so the demands were high. There is no doubt in my mind that for most home usage, most of the concert grands from the 1990s in which we replaced soundboards could have been fine without replacing the soundboards. However, for some home usage, especially where the pianist was particularly demanding, new boards would have been necessary.

The owner of the Steinway D is this thread also owns a Steingraeber 232. The design of a Steingraeber 232 gives it some real advantages particularly in the octave 6 area compared with a Steinway D in terms of power and slowness of decay. I consider this to be not a matter of opinion. One may prefer the sound of the Steinway D over the Steingraeber 232 in that area, but the superior power and sustain in the Octave 6 area of a Steingraeber 232 compared with a Steinway D with a factory board is pretty obvious.
It is quite possible that this is influencing the owner's satisfaction with his Steinway D. It is also quite possible that his Steinway D just has a weak octave 6 which for those familiar with Steinway Ds wouldn't be a huge surprise.

There are lots of things that can and should be addressed in improving any piano well before one gets to the point of doing major work such as soundboard replacement especially in a piano that is not so old and seems otherwise in good condition. Several of those have been mentioned here. Bad hammers, or bad work on the hammers, prep work, tone building, strike point, string problems, bridge problems, even structural issues such as bad glue joints and many many more possibilities or some combination could certainly be at fault. A better tuning can even radically improve a piano that is thought to be in tune. The room acoustics can also be considered.

The bigger the piano the higher the expectation. What may be good enough on a 6' piano or 7' piano is often quite disappointing on a concert grand. Steinway concert grands in particular enjoy ( or are cursed with ) some of the highest expectations of any instrument out there.

As has been pointed out, the sound on a concert grand works a bit differently than smaller instruments and takes a bit of getting used to if one is not experienced with concert grands.

There is a lot that can be going on here, including the possibility that for this piano and/or this pianist, a new soundboard is warranted. It could be a bunch of other stuff as well. Pianos, especially concert grands, especially when high demands are being made, are endlessly complicated and surprising.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: Fareham] #2715974
02/20/18 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Fareham

However, there are a few areas which are still a bit of a mystery to almost everyone, and at the top of the list is the soundboard. Soundboards can lose their crown, become delaminated (where the spruce fibres separate because of the internal accumulated stress of playing), and a host of other things such as becoming separated from the ribs or the rim and so on. First and foremost they are not all problems per se and only become so because someone frets about them. Very few are best fixed by changing the soundboard, the soul of the instrument Think of it like a head transplant - you never know what you're going to get!

If my piano was functioning fully to my satisfaction, I wouldn't even consider having my soundboard replaced--nor would any techs that I personally know suggest it. However, in the instance when a piano in otherwise mostly good condition has been well-regulated and voiced--as describes my D--the options for improving the sustain and projection in the treble area are limited to a few likely areas: the strings, hammers, bridges, and soundboard. Now, I hadn't mentioned it in my original posting, but several bridge pins were initially loose enough to be causing false beats in over a dozen strings. These were corrected using ultra thin CA glue, but the very existence of this problem suggests that my piano would benefit from some bridgework. The sound might be improved by replacing the strings. The hammers? Not sure at this point. And the "mysterious" soundboard? Well, it's still unknown whether it needs to be replaced. For now, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that rebuilding work will result in a better piano than I currently have. During rebuilding, IF the soundboard is deemed to be part of the problem, I won't hesitate to have it replaced. Why? Because I've now visited a couple of rebuilders who I have every confidence can rebuild a soundboard more than adequately. Yes, I'm aware of the dictum that "you never know what you're going to get" when you replace the soundboard. And I was also one of the people who subscribed to that belief--until recently, that is. Last week, I was kindly transported around town by Sam Bennett of Piano Works in Atlanta, where he showed me examples of pianos in the community that Piano Works recently rebuilt, as well as pianos in their showroom that they had recently rebuilt, including their soundboards. Most of the pianos I focused on were Steinways. Were those Steinways different tonally from one another? Yes, to some degree. But I can honestly say that if my soundboard was replaced and my piano sounded/performed like any one of those Steinways, I would be happy with it. So while the precise tone that may result from replacing the soundboard probably cannot be predicted, I now feel that the overall quality of a piano and how it functions following soundboard replacement CAN be predicted if the company doing that work can demonstrate previously consistent results--and Piano Works demonstrated that to my satisfaction. So they are one company that I'm considering to do my rebuilding work.

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All techs are individuals and my experience with them is that if there is a common thread in their advice coming through, then they're right, and you would do well to listen to what they say. I know that you've had a tech. in from out-of-state and feel no further forward after paying him than you did when you started, which apart from being infuriating leaves you at a loss as to what to do next.

With all due respect, this is not an accurate assessment of how I felt about my out of town tech's visit. I hired him as a first attempt to rectify that aspect of my piano's performance that was dissatisfying to me. I was fully aware that his reshaping my piano's hammers, as well as regulating and voicing my piano may not do the trick. He did excellent work, and consequently the piano was improved in multiple ways. So the results weren't infuriating to me at all, because I had previously suspected that more work needed to be done to correct the problem than could be done within the purview of his field work. The results of his work informed me that, if I chose to keep the piano, I would need to do some kind of rebuilding work to make me completely happy with it.

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I would repeat my advice above, and have a good look at getting your piano assessed by a technician who specializes in Precision Touch Design (David Stanwood is the 'inventor'). It takes a couple of hours and you can expect to have a chat with others who have been through this particular exercise. The techs. that put themselves through this learning process are normally the keenest and most progressive ones with open minds.

I appreciate your suggestion. But I don't believe for a moment that the problem with my piano is in any way related to its touch, regulation or voicing. And I honestly have no idea if PTD would make my piano feel better. But the truth is that it feels just fine the way it is. If it isn't broken, I see no reason to fix it. And for the record, the fact that PTD training is not undertaken by most techs does not necessarily point to those techs being either too intellectually dull or close-minded to undertake it. I would guess it's more likely that David Stanwood's methodology is not universally accepted.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2715981
02/20/18 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman

The owner of the Steinway D is this thread also owns a Steingraeber 232. The design of a Steingraeber 232 gives it some real advantages particularly in the octave 6 area compared with a Steinway D in terms of power and slowness of decay. I consider this to be not a matter of opinion. One may prefer the sound of the Steinway D over the Steingraeber 232 in that area, but the superior power and sustain in the Octave 6 area of a Steingraeber 232 compared with a Steinway D with a factory board is pretty obvious.
It is quite possible that this is influencing the owner's satisfaction with his Steinway D. It is also quite possible that his Steinway D just has a weak octave 6 which for those familiar with Steinway Ds wouldn't be a huge surprise.

Welcome back, Keith! wink And yes, this is absolutely the case--and I think I did make mention of this fact in a previous post. I was actually fairly content for the first few weeks of playing my Steinway D. If it was the only piano I owned, I would never have felt there was a deficiency in its projection and sustain in the killer octave. But after my honeymoon period with the Steinway ended, I went back and spent a week playing my Steingraeber exclusively, so that I could return to the Steinway with fresh ears. And it was in fact upon returning to the Steinway that I began to grow dissatisfied with its performance in the killer octave. And Keith is correct--I do believe that I'm quite demanding of my pianos. I also happen to believe that 8 or 9 out of 10 pianists would be perfectly satisfied with the performance of my Steinway. But please don't misconstrue these statements to mean that I'm in any way a piano snob or proud of my discriminating ear. Far from it; I'd much prefer to be less sensitive and demanding. It certainly would be much easier on my wallet.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2716005
02/20/18 09:19 PM
02/20/18 09:19 PM
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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: Fareham] #2716008
02/20/18 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Fareham
What is a treble stabilizer ?

Sam Bennett of Piano Works in Atlanta wrote to me about this--actually called a "treble resonator" or "treble tone resonator". He says that they cost about $300 and that he's used them a few times in the past, and that he's heard a difference. Here is some info about it, including installation instructions (which I don't recommend for the layman).

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2716012
02/20/18 10:05 PM
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FWIW, it's our opinion that it may help in some cases and is much less expensive and invasive than rebuilding efforts. It's not something we regularly use or frequently recommend (in fact it's been years since we've installed one), but we've seen noticeable improvement for some.

In your case, we think you need bridge work at the very least, but since your possible solutions include selling the piano to find another, the cost to try this for some improvement is low risk.


Sam Bennett
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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: PianoWorksATL] #2716016
02/20/18 10:08 PM
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Okay, Sam. Thanks for clarifying.

Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: master88er] #2716018
02/20/18 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by master88er

Soon we will have a fun comparison video of a Fazioli F278 vs. Bösendorfer 290 Imperial and one of the test pieces is Clair de Lune. If only I had more time to catch up. frown smile


Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
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Re: Steinway D--to rebuild or not to rebuild [Re: SMA55] #2716131
02/21/18 02:49 PM
02/21/18 02:49 PM
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A majority of people in this thread seem to be of the opinion that a soundboard of a 20 year old piano such as mine should not be replaced. I asked Jim Reeder, a Michigan rebuilder whose work is very well respected in the trade, whether a soundboard that has lost its crown will likely need to be replaced during the rebuilding process. For those interested, here's his response:

"Yes, I see it to be more than a good possibility. Generally, it is a
combination of areas that we find need attention. Often times we find
that the glue joints need reinforcing so we now do this on every piano we restore. We
also check the inner rim surface and perfect any inconsistencies such as the amout of
beveling needed, etc. In the designing of the new soundboard we keep in mind the need to
match the upward force of the board to match the downward force of the strings. Another
important area is making sure that the down bearing is set the proper amount. That means
that the new board has to be constructed in a manner that allows it to be the proper
amount in the finished piano. All of these items make for a beautiful resonant piano.
So should the original sound board be maintained being deficient in any of these areas?
It is not always just a loss of crown. We always carefully note everything; even string
length, bridge placement, plate alignment, etc. In this era of Steinway pianos, we have
found either deficient glue in the joints or too much glue in glued joints. Especially
so between the bridge and the soundboard and ribbing."

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