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Rebuilt actions #2836127 04/06/19 12:51 PM
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Sanfrancisco Offline OP
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Over the past 2 years attending performances in people's homes and small venues I have sampled 6 rebuilt performance level pianos- 5 Steinway Bs (4 NY, 1 Hamburg) and last night a Grotian Concert. Their ages ranged from 30 to 70yrs with the restorations done in the past 10-15yrs. One had a new sound board, 2 had been restrung, all had hammers replaced, all of course had been extensively regulated with the original actions. All the work was done by local rebuilders of the very highest quality and reputation.
The sound on all of them ranged from slightly to significantly better than the same models new in showrooms. The actions were well regulated but all of them were noticeably less precise, crisp and responsive than any new performance level piano and even most Yamaha cx's in showrooms. 1. Is this an inherent limitation in rebuilds (it was pretty obvious talking to the owners that money was not a factor in the rebuild) if the original action is kept? Even if all the bushings were redone and whippens, dampers etc. replaced? 2. Does this problem arise because it is not possible to replace the entire action with a new one that is exactly the same as the original so the owners choose to keep the original?

Last edited by Sanfrancisco; 04/06/19 12:54 PM.
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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836134 04/06/19 01:15 PM
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Another significant factor- all of them had the original ivories.

Last edited by Sanfrancisco; 04/06/19 01:16 PM.
Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836137 04/06/19 01:25 PM
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Gene Nelson Online Content
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Good question.
I recently rebuilt an action on a 9 ft concert grand and over the season the facility hosted performance this and last year the comments were mostly good, some highly praised and a couple said they did not like it.
Then compared with another 9 footer that I rebuilt the action about 3years ago, very similar comments.
Another interesting thing is the touch weights on both are identical, same parts and only very slight difference in key leading patterns.
I had one complaint the action on one was too light and preferred the other.
So much perception involved. Voicing, acoustics etc.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836172 04/06/19 03:22 PM
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Keith D Kerman Offline
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Originally Posted by Sanfrancisco
Another significant factor- all of them had the original ivories.


None of them had new keysets. It is beyond rare to find a rebuilt piano regulated and set up to the same standard one finds on a new Yamaha.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Gene Nelson] #2836181 04/06/19 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson

Another interesting thing is the touch weights on both are identical, same parts and only very slight difference in key leading patterns.


As I have said before, static touchweight measurement doesn't predict (or diagnose) dynamic performance. You have described a specific instance.

A couple of examples...
1) Both high mass and low leverage as well as low mass high leverage could have the same static touchweight. But they won't have the same dynamic response in actual playing. For one reason, velocity is a more significant factor than mass in energy transfer.
2) Latency also affects dynamic response. High latency actions (for example a lot of squishiness and flex in the components) will not be enjoyable regardless of mass/leverage combinations.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836194 04/06/19 04:58 PM
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Conclusions like this should come from random participants who have no prior knowledge of the instrument they are judging.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: kpembrook] #2836219 04/06/19 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by kpembrook
Originally Posted by Gene Nelson

Another interesting thing is the touch weights on both are identical, same parts and only very slight difference in key leading patterns.


As I have said before, static touchweight measurement doesn't predict (or diagnose) dynamic performance. You have described a specific instance.

A couple of examples...
1) Both high mass and low leverage as well as low mass high leverage could have the same static touchweight. But they won't have the same dynamic response in actual playing. For one reason, velocity is a more significant factor than mass in energy transfer.
2) Latency also affects dynamic response. High latency actions (for example a lot of squishiness and flex in the components) will not be enjoyable regardless of mass/leverage combinations.


I do understand static touch weight and it’s limitations as a performance indicator.
Mass and leverage almost identical. Hammer sets identical. Action parts identical.
All factory parts and identical. I have no idea how to measure squishiness or flex.
They both perform and respond to the most demanding artists.
Not really my point however.
I could talk about any one of the pianos individually and relate quite different opinions from different artists. I was getting more into perception and it really plays a roll.
Also, many artists arrive with nerves on edge not knowing what to expect. When they get a fast responsive controllable action that don’t play like a tank, some are surprised, don’t like it at first but after rehearsal their opinions change.
There is no perfect piano and if there were there are plenty of artists who would have issues with it.
As I said, voicing and acoustics are also perceived different by individuals, just like touch.
Then there are other issues like a melody octave that isn’t dead and sings, some need time to adjust to it.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836228 04/06/19 07:11 PM
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Actually, up and down touchweight measurements are not really static. The action parts are in motion, plus friction can be estimated as well as some aspects of regulation.
It’s a very useful tool but as pointed out, it had its limits.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836231 04/06/19 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Sanfrancisco
Over the past 2 years attending performances in people's homes and small venues I have sampled 6 rebuilt performance level pianos- 5 Steinway Bs (4 NY, 1 Hamburg) and last night a Grotian Concert. Their ages ranged from 30 to 70yrs with the restorations done in the past 10-15yrs...


I'll stop you right there- "10-15 years" post rebuild is no time to be comparing. One does not know what has taken place with that particular instrument since the rebuild, to be able to jump to such conclusions as this. So, the entire concept of comparison is flawed from the start.

If one wishes to compare a rebuild to a new piano- why would you not compare a fresh rebuild to a new piano? Instead of apples to oranges.

Now, if you wished to compare a new piano (which is actually not new, but rather 10-15 years old) to one of these rebuilds you have mentioned, you might see things a bit differently. But, even so- one does not know what takes place with an instrument over the course of 10-15 years which can make such a world of difference to that of another.

If one rebuilds a S&S concert grand with all new S&S parts- the results will be determined by a number of factors, not the least of which is 'knowledge', 'experience', and 'skill' (skill, being the talent for the work-- which is entirely different than knowledge and experience). Depending on the skill of the craftsman/woman, you will naturally have completely varied results. BUT, this is much like factory pianos- depending on the quality control of said factory on said morning, you will see varied results.
No two S&S are the same you know. Everything varies.
So, I would caution making such blanket assumptions. Or, thinking along so narrow a line of thought.

I won't take the time here to get into the rest of the post, which makes clear that only very specific jobs were performed...Rather than a FULL Restoration of said instruments. You are not holding a fair contest in your comparisons at all.

That's how I see it from here, anyway.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836235 04/06/19 07:35 PM
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Sorry- but, to answer your questions:
There is absolutely no reason one cannot expect a fully restored instrument to be of the level and performance of that as when it was new. In some cases (as others in here boast) it can turn out even "better" than when they were new (knowledge, experience, and skill level again).

There are so many personal opinions of what is "good", "better", "bad" as there are people that play piano!
One who hates a light key/action response will naturally not like a "heavy" touch.
Reminded of the differences between Horrowitz and Rubenstein (according to Franz Mohr)- neither would have even considered approaching the other's instrument (holding the key and action response of the other's in disdain).

AND, there are so many varying environments in which instruments are kept which will cause extreme differences as well...One of our instruments that we rebuilt in recent years, was exposed to an extremely dry environment after delivery...Surprise! When I met up with it the following year I could not believe what they had done to it!

Oh so many factors to take into affect.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2836250 04/06/19 09:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
Originally Posted by Sanfrancisco
Another significant factor- all of them had the original ivories.


None of them had new keysets. It is beyond rare to find a rebuilt piano regulated and set up to the same standard one finds on a new Yamaha.


Keith this sounds like the most reasonable explanation ie. the owners didn't want to lose the ivory keys to a new keyset. Interestingly the Grotrian was imported new in 1986 to an LA dealer with ivory keys. Customs must not have been taking a close look as all ivory imports supposedly stopped in 1972. The Grotrian's ivories are in the best shape I've ever played, they felt heavenly. So much for the argument that if earlier manufacturers had access to today's plastic, they would have never chosen ivory. I of course agree with the ban on new ivory keys.

Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836257 04/06/19 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Sanfrancisco
Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
Originally Posted by Sanfrancisco
Another significant factor- all of them had the original ivories.


None of them had new keysets. It is beyond rare to find a rebuilt piano regulated and set up to the same standard one finds on a new Yamaha.


Keith this sounds like the most reasonable explanation ie. the owners didn't want to lose the ivory keys to a new keyset. Interestingly the Grotrian was imported new in 1986 to an LA dealer with ivory keys. Customs must not have been taking a close look as all ivory imports supposedly stopped in 1972. The Grotrian's ivories are in the best shape I've ever played, they felt heavenly. So much for the argument that if earlier manufacturers had access to today's plastic, they would have never chosen ivory. I of course agree with the ban on new ivory keys.


The ivory ban has nothing to do with these pianos... No elephants are being killed due to these instruments.
If one looks at the results of such legislation (such as with guns as well), it only drives a black market price up. AND, the criminals still *surprise* pay no attention to the law!
Only the law-abiding citizens care about what law says. And these are not likely to be going out poaching.

Wasn't the 1972 ban only on new ivory? The current ban is what affects pianos (silly to think to ban ivory that has been 100 years in existence- it's all about $$$).

Why do you agree with the ban? What good do you see from it?


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836260 04/06/19 10:32 PM
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I can rebuild an action to out perform and outlast any made new. It will not feel mushy. The decisions of what work is needed must be derived from judgements of the suitability of the various components for producing the required tone and feel. It takes someone with consumate tone-regulating skills to begin to make these judgements.

The base problem with the piano industry is almost no one understands the first principles of musical function in relation to pianistic technique and desired auditory output.

In simpler terms, uniting how an action plays and is controlled with how the sound generated by the action is perceived, is what tone-regulation is all about.

It is possible to make a piano that pleases most pianists of all levels and musical genres. I have been doing it for 40 years.

I think I have the most advanced and proven models useful to this task. Models that are based on known physics. I have been sharing them with the industry, but the rate of change is slower than global warming.

Just a simple specification regarding string terminations has taken 40 years to get one manufacturer adopting the idea.

If pianists really understood how negligent piano manufacturers are about testing musical utility and developing first principles engineering, they would never buy a new piano.


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.
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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Gene Nelson] #2836277 04/07/19 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson
Actually, up and down touchweight measurements are not really static. The action parts are in motion, plus friction can be estimated as well as some aspects of regulation.
It’s a very useful tool but as pointed out, it had its limits.


The downweight -upweight method to assess friction is functionally a static measurement. Yes, the parts are actually moving -- but just barely, in order to overcome friction. There is no acceleration. Movement is not the point but rather applying enough pressure to start movement. Once movement is started, you have your measurement.

From the standpoint of physics, the formula for friction ... (DW - UW) /2 .... has nothing to do with the formula for energy transfer .... E = (M*V^2) / 2
This is why the original Stanwood formulas are wrong with their application providing variable results.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836280 04/07/19 12:57 AM
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It seems that there comes a time when all of the miracle treatments for pianos runs up against someone who disagrees with them.

I think that the pianos that Sanfrancisco mentioned originally were not all regulated as well as he believes they were.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: BDB] #2836373 04/07/19 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
It seems that there comes a time when all of the miracle treatments for pianos runs up against someone who disagrees with them.

I think that the pianos that Sanfrancisco mentioned originally were not all regulated as well as he believes they were.

Exactly.
It's a matter of not understanding the details as to what you are experiencing from that particular piano.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836390 04/07/19 09:23 AM
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How can rebuilt Steinway sounds significantly better than the one on the show room?

Would it be because the rebuilt have changed the original tone of the pianos (for better or worse)? Or is it only due to the pianos in the show room received insignificant preparation?

Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: willpianist] #2836406 04/07/19 10:02 AM
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As I said elsewhere, there is no universal definition of "better" for pianos, or just about any other matter of taste.


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2836421 04/07/19 10:43 AM
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Most pianos receive a showroom "prep"... S&S does not send the instruments in as ready to go, but they (as other mfg's) must be worked with... Regulation, Hammers must be prepped for the desired tone, etc.
It all depends on the dealer, and whether the instrument has been brought up to its "full potential" by a skilled tech.
Aside from this factor, S&S are not each one the same, since they are not mass manufactured (as many tier one instruments)...Each has some different characteristic from that of another. It is up to a tech to be able to bring out that quality to that particular instrument's ability. Some instruments come out of S&S that are not able to be out-done, and some require more work to get to a "concert level". And a very few simply will never be able to what is expected. It is in the building and in the prepping of the instrument.
All instruments are like this, really. Even the mass assembly instruments have their different quirks- as nothing is perfect in life.
Thus, if an instrument comes out to us (techs) in a 'not so great' condition-- we can improve it "better than it was when new out of the showroom".
And then, again, there are the times when it is all a matter of opinion as to what is "better"-- as has been pointed out. This 'opinion' factor accounts for a great portion of most of the boasting out there by skilled techs that say they know how to make it "better than S&S"...They may truly be exceptionally talented techs, who do stellar work above and beyond, BUT, work (specialize) in areas of opinion: i.e. what is "better" is a lot of times simply the difference between liking a brilliant tone opposed to liking a mellow tone, or a light-touch vs heavy-touch... All of which are up to the tech on where to set it (better the skilled tech, better the results).


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Re: Rebuilt actions [Re: Rick_Parks] #2836449 04/07/19 12:38 PM
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Why should piano buyers accept that some individual pianos of a given manufacturer are just "better" without more technical explanation? What "problems" are extant in the less than stellar examples of a models production?

Wouldn't it be more professional for we piano techncians were to codify what technical issues are not being met to satisfactory standards by the industry and communicating to the public and the industry that these are important issues we professional technicians have found and think need solving?

Wouldn't it be useful to prospective piano purchasers if we techncians provided a set of recommended specifications for standard design features found in pianos that purchasers could present to a dealer and request that any piano they buy from them meet these specs?


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Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
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