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Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? #2837738
04/10/19 04:19 PM
04/10/19 04:19 PM
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 11
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neve1064 Offline OP
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I was told to search until I found a piano that had the touch and tone I love and buy it no matter if it’s new or not.

I was told the action can be tailored to my liking but it’s better to find one where the action is already perfect for my hands.

I was told the tone of the piano can be voiced but the overall tone is already there and you can’t change it much.

With these tenets in my I began my search.

So I’ve been auditioning pianos for a few months and I’ve come close but no cigar yet. A piano restorer I know has a Steinway B that’s going to be redone completely except for the soundboard. I listened to the board and it’s rich a booming. I took my fist and hit the center of the board since all the strings are taken off. Is this a good way to tell if a sound board is good and does it for tell the type of tone it will have once refurbished?

He’s going to refurbish it anyway, so he will use hammers I tend to like and adjust the action to my liking. Am I barking up the wrong tree? Should I just continue to search? I don’t mind doing so but I’m at that point where this option seems interesting to me. Thoughts? And lastly, can two actions be made to feel similar to each other or is action kind of like the sound board issue where it’s got a soul of its own? I guess why I ask this is because I’m thinking if I have a good sound board and a restorer whose willing to custom tailor the action to my liking, why not go that route?

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Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2837779
04/10/19 05:32 PM
04/10/19 05:32 PM
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New Hampshire
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P W Grey Offline
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The best answer to each of your questions is: "It depends". So much rests on the ACTUAL condition of the raw material (piano) to work with, and the skill of who's doing It. I wish I could be more specific for you but you can search through many of the discussions on this forum and getting plenty of supporting arguments for either side.

If you have confidence and trust that your restorer is giving you the straight scoop (maybe some similar examples to try out) I suggest listening to him/her.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2837809
04/10/19 07:05 PM
04/10/19 07:05 PM
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Old Hangtown California
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Gene Nelson Offline
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It’s good to try examples of restorers work if possible.


RPT
PTG Member
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2837830
04/10/19 08:27 PM
04/10/19 08:27 PM
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Maine, USA
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Rick_Parks Offline
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If he is willing to rebuild it to your liking without commitment to buy, why would you not wait and see how it turns out? Doesn't cost you anything, and it strikes me that you might just have found a good deal.

Afraid I don't understand why you felt you needed to punch the soundboard - it didn't do anything to you LOL smile
I am surprised he let you do that!

The tone will depend on the bridge installation (cap notches and bridge pin precision, etc.), re-stringing skill, and hammer installation (proper striking line vs fouled up means the difference between a lively clear tone and a dead non sustaining tone).
There are so many factors OTHER than soundboard is what I am trying to explain, so hitting a soundboard with your fist is about a worthwhile as thumping a watermelon-- sounds good, but that won't tell you how it tastes?

I have to remember your name- and never let you in our shop when we are rebuilding!!! LOL wink


Parks and Sons Piano Service
www.parksandsonspiano.com
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Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2837841
04/10/19 09:05 PM
04/10/19 09:05 PM
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Chernobieff Piano Online content
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I do soundboard tap testing all the time. The problem with the test is that its a comparative test. You have to tap test quite a few boards to know what they are suppose to sound like, otherwise you will most likely think the board is fantastic when in fact it may not be. I have an advantage that I get to hear new boards. A good resonating board will have a deep boom on impact with your fist and have about a five second sustain. Should sound similar to a timpani. The proper tap test, in my opinion, is with the plate out. Some pianos need the assist of the mass of the plate for sustain, which is a false read of the board proper.
-chris


Maker of Fine Piano Soundboards
Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: P W Grey] #2837852
04/10/19 10:27 PM
04/10/19 10:27 PM
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neve1064 Offline OP
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Thank you for your reply. He has many examples of pianos he has refurbished. They seems to be good.

Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: Rick_Parks] #2837855
04/10/19 10:28 PM
04/10/19 10:28 PM
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neve1064 Offline OP
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He hit it first. It was a beautiful book sound. Dark and resonant. I would never do that unless he had done it first.

Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: Rick_Parks] #2837858
04/10/19 10:37 PM
04/10/19 10:37 PM
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neve1064 Offline OP
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Rick Parks, the bridge is critical to a good sound? He mentioned that he was going to make a custom bridge and it’s typically done by hand with a 5 degree angle. Is this a conventional standard?

Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: Chernobieff Piano] #2837862
04/10/19 10:43 PM
04/10/19 10:43 PM
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neve1064 Offline OP
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Chernobieff,

This sound board resonated like a timpani. He has around 20 grands all waiting for refurbishment. I can walk around and tap the different sound boards but what do I know? He has a temperature and humidity controlled room with probably 10 sound boards in it. He let me see them and feel them. I have to say I’m really interested in the entire process and mechanics of pianos. He has someone coming to install and “crown” a board into one of the grands. He invited me to see the process go down. Wherever I am, I record myself playing the same pieces in my phone. I listen back and hear such a difference between each piano. I’m loving the whole experience of learning about pianos and learning to listen closer to what’s actually happening.

Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2837917
04/11/19 05:53 AM
04/11/19 05:53 AM
Joined: Oct 2018
Posts: 214
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Michael P Walsh Offline
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Don't get too hung up on soundboards 'ringing like a timpani'. I've had literally hundreds of spruce soundboards through my hands, they were guitar and violin soundboards rather than piano. All but a very few had a distinctive vibrant ring to them. The pitch increases significantly and the 'sustain' drops significantly if the wood is thicker. If I'm honest it's never told me very much at all. I don't even tap the soundboards anymore. I measure them in terms of density and stiffness (which are closely correlated in softwoods). You can't even go by ring or grain count. It's common to hear people state that the finer the grain the 'better' the soundboard. It's largely nonsense. I've measured soundboards at 8 GPI being denser and stiffer than soundboards at 18 GPI.
If the piano is going to be rebuilt anyway why don't you just ask if you can try it before making any commitment?

Last edited by Michael P Walsh; 04/11/19 05:54 AM.
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2837962
04/11/19 08:53 AM
04/11/19 08:53 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 631
Columbus, GA
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S. Phillips Offline
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What is the year of the B?


Sally Phillips
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Piano Perfect, LLC
Steinway & Sons Pianos
Columbus, GA
New Steinway, Boston and Essex pianos
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http://www.pianobuyer.com/current-issue/07a-should-i-have-my-piano-rebuilt.html
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2837981
04/11/19 09:49 AM
04/11/19 09:49 AM
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To add a somewhat different perspective...

While we all want to get the perfect piano, sometimes it can be beneficial to keep an open mind about what we think we want. For instance, I took a big risk selling my Steinway (which I really liked a lot) to get a M&H which sounded and felt ‘ok’ when I first checked it out. I really thought I’d miss the Steinway sound even if I did get the M&H decent, but after doing a lot of work on my M&H it became a nice instrument and I haven’t missed the Steinway at all, and have even come to prefer my M&H (I have played and worked on the Steinway since selling it, so it’s not a case of a faded memory of what it was).

Without being able to play the B you don’t have much to go on, but if you trust the technician’s work and judgement then you could potentially just go into it knowing it’ll be a good final result (objectively speaking) and then adapt your liking to it.

Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2838087
04/11/19 02:37 PM
04/11/19 02:37 PM
Joined: Sep 2018
Posts: 411
Chernobieff Piano Online content
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Piano Soundboards are a much different creature than guitars and violins. They carry lighter loads and thus demand lighter structures and are thus built on different principles such as the box. The piano is a percussion instrument, not just because a hammer strikes a string, but also because the soundboard acts like a stretched membrane(spring).

Many try using scientific instruments on piano soundboards but the complexity of the variability of stiffness in one board, let alone many boards are mind boggling and in my opinion counterproductive. I believe i have gone deeper into that complexity and have quantified a simple system to measure that variability of stiffness in piano soundboards more than anyone else. If its not a simple system or if its just a digital image on a screen it's not going to be practical in the shop.

One example of how practicality can be a superior method than trying to reverse engineer on a computer screen, is the example of using sunlight. Harpsichord builders a while back discovered that holding a soundboard up to the sunlight allowed one to see through the panel and see the dense spots. Since a piano soundboard is much thicker this is obviously not an option. But a good tool is the tap test, after all, if the idea is to build an instrument for others to enjoy listening to, then we as builders need to have the ability to listen to a board.

Most boards are too stiff around the perimeter and do not totally take advantage of the parabolic curve from center to rim. Other stiff board problems are uneven rib scales, incorrect panel thicknesses and grading schemes, Poor engineering, adding excessive cut-off bars,etc. All of these things have the effect of making a piano sound smaller. Excessive stiff boards are a higher pitched board with short sustain times compared to boards that have more flexibility. This is because when the same energy input is delivered into each, the stiffer board will absorb the acoustic energy quickly, because it has to work harder to move it, and the less stiff board will not require as much effort to get the board moving and thus vibrate longer. This is why the boom on a tap test is important, the lower the pitch the more flexible the board is.

The piano is very forgiving. All of the above errors can be present and it seems a vast majority of people will still enjoy the thing.

As long as the cracks don't buzz...................


Last edited by Chernobieff Piano; 04/11/19 02:41 PM.

Maker of Fine Piano Soundboards
Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2838187
04/11/19 08:27 PM
04/11/19 08:27 PM
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Maine, USA
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Rick_Parks Offline
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But again I say, just because one thumps a soundboard does NOT mean the rebuilding will turn out a great sound.


Parks and Sons Piano Service
www.parksandsonspiano.com
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2838197
04/11/19 09:01 PM
04/11/19 09:01 PM
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Chernobieff Piano Online content
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Did someone make that claim that thumping was a cure all?
As far as I know it just one link of many in the chain.
-chris


Maker of Fine Piano Soundboards
Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2838207
04/11/19 09:42 PM
04/11/19 09:42 PM
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There is no piano, even of the highest quality, that a rebuilder cannot turn into a pile of junk.


Semipro Tech
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2838214
04/11/19 10:26 PM
04/11/19 10:26 PM
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P W Grey Offline
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But a very good rebuilder can do some amazing things with what (to the untrained eye) may look like junk.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: Chernobieff Piano] #2838312
04/12/19 07:33 AM
04/12/19 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Did someone make that claim that thumping was a cure all?
As far as I know it just one link of many in the chain.
-chris

I was not saying claiming anyone did... I was actually trying to make the point that you just made in your last sentence there... Addressing the point that the person was hitting the soundboard on the piano the tech was already planning to rebuild... The person knows nothing about what to listen for anyway. AND, what good would it do in making the decision- the rest of the rebuilding is what makes or breaks a piano... Even a not so great soundboard can sound wonderful, given the proper work in a rebuild.
These were my points- perhaps I was not clear, because my statements are in segments?
The point is, thumping a soundboard on a S&S grand that has not been rebuilt is not going to (or should not) be the deciding help that is needed. Reason out what you want in a piano, look at the plans for it, inspect the skill of the rebuilder, and make a decision on what he/she and you have concluded the piano COULD become in the end. Don't let a tech thumping a soundboard be the deciding factor for you either.
These are the points I was addressing.


Parks and Sons Piano Service
www.parksandsonspiano.com
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2838349
04/12/19 09:01 AM
04/12/19 09:01 AM
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P W Grey Offline
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My experience with "thumping" has been that it is a totally mixed bag. IOW with plate in the piano...nice ringing thump...plate out...dull and "lifeless"...move the piano to one side of the shop...it rings nicely...move it to the other side of the shop...dull, "lifeless". I still do it, but basically just for fun. I make my determination about the piano after it is all strung and the action is working nicely. Otherwise I think I'm just fooling myself.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Should I have an old Steinway custom refurbished? [Re: neve1064] #2838389
04/12/19 11:14 AM
04/12/19 11:14 AM
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Posts: 411
Chernobieff Piano Online content
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Peter,
Here are my thoughts on that, since I have struggled with that as well in the beginning. BTW, if you put different material under the casters the tone will change too (carpet, tile, caster cup etc.).

What I do is test every piano the same way in the same spot in the shop. I thump in the perceived center on the bridge (yes, I have pin scars on my hand). Every board should boom and sustain without the plate contributing. If it doesn't, then something is not working as it should.

Usually material has to be removed from somewhere to get it to sing. Most of what I have written in the past was simply for that purpose. However, you do need to hear one that works right, to have one to compare to for sure. Also, it’s very satisfying to take one that didn’t sing and turn it into an opera star. My first experience with this was at Darrell Fandrich’s shop(not Del). Often he would take a router and thin the panel around key locations. In some cases separate the panel from the rim (floating). And in other cases add material when its too thin (riblets).

I have a Baldwin L in my shop right now with an original board, and it sings, sings, sings. I've had Baldwin L's in the past that didn't. So why is that? Thankfully, I have been making measurements and taking notes for years. The L currently in my shop has a panel that is a little thinner than the others, is graded correctly, and has a lower rib profile structure than the others had.

Overall, I think it’s very similar to voicing new hammers. Hammers have to be “opened” up and made to “bloom”, so why not soundboards too?
-chris

Last edited by Chernobieff Piano; 04/12/19 11:18 AM.

Maker of Fine Piano Soundboards
Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
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