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New soundboard vs restored/shimmed #2849628
05/18/19 01:07 PM
05/18/19 01:07 PM
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l8style Offline OP
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Hi, guys. Trying to learn from you all whether it's preferable to keep the original soundboard and repair cracks, or install a new soundboard altogether in a restoration project. Let's say for the sake of the hypothetical that it's a Steinway B from the 30s. Thanks!

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Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849637
05/18/19 01:23 PM
05/18/19 01:23 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 22,608
Victoria, BC
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted by l8style
Hi, guys. Trying to learn from you all whether it's preferable to keep the original soundboard and repair cracks, or install a new soundboard altogether in a restoration project. Let's say for the sake of the hypothetical that it's a Steinway B from the 30s. Thanks!


There may be a hypothetical answer to this question, but I would think that, in reality, the soundboard would have to be examined by the restorer and its condition, potential and longevity ascertained by that observation.

Regards,


BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190
Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849645
05/18/19 01:40 PM
05/18/19 01:40 PM
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Posts: 1,882
Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by l8style
whether it's preferable to keep the original soundboard and repair cracks, or install a new soundboard altogether in a restoration project. Let's say for the sake of the hypothetical that it's a Steinway B from the 30s. Thanks!


Greetings,
Cracks don't mean the board has failed, and lack of them is no guarantee that there is still crown and down bearing. A 90 year old Steinway is likely to need a new board if it is going to be as responsive as it was when it was new. The lower the performance demand, the more likely the old board will do. At some point, the condition of the board won't matter, if the piano is in a "no" demand situation. If, on the other hand, one wants to maximize their "Steinway" experience, the odds of a new board being needed to justify the expense of the action restoration go up. And, once the strings are off, a new pin-block is the only way I would send it back out, with my name on it.

We can only give you odds of you getting what you want. As BruceD says, you will have to have somebody experienced in old boards give you a recommendation before you have anything to make decisions over.

Regards,

Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849691
05/18/19 04:28 PM
05/18/19 04:28 PM
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RJ's dad Offline
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Very interesting thread, and considering I passed on a 1907 Baldwin L with a questionable board am interested in this subject as I continue my search.

Besides the cost, which I assume vs the value of the piano restored if done to a Steinway it's best to have a new board put in, but the additional question asked by the poster is one I never got a clear answer on:

Is a fully restored Steinway worth less with a new soundboard and not the original? My thinking is like an old musclecar that has a non number matching rebuilt motor...

Last edited by RJ's dad; 05/18/19 04:30 PM.
Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849702
05/18/19 04:59 PM
05/18/19 04:59 PM
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Chernobieff Piano Offline
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The real reason to replace a soundboard that is showing signs of age (cracks, flatness, fatigue) is because of the integrity of the glue joints. Installing soundboards a 100 years ago was problematic. Hide glue has to be kept warm, mixed properly, has a short shelf life, and needs a quick install time. The room needed to be kept warm, humidity watched etc. Under perfect conditions a soundboard glued that way can last a 100 years, but what if the conditions weren't perfect?
I became aware of the glue joint problem after popping out soundboards on a regular basis. After removing the strings and plate exposing the soundboard, some would just fall out, and most others would just take a light tap and fall out.

I wouldn't want to rebuild on top of an unsure structure like that.
Here's a video i made awhile back regarding this topic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBr0ZCz_Gaw
-chris


Maker of Fine Piano Soundboards
Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849703
05/18/19 05:02 PM
05/18/19 05:02 PM
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l8style Offline OP
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So many great insights here, thanks all! Piano being such a complex instrument, seems like there's a lot of trade offs to consider. Not like trying to keep a battered prewar Martin as original as possible. Thought about this as I imagine the tonal character of a 30s vintage piano must change drastically with a new soundboard.

Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: RJ's dad] #2849706
05/18/19 05:18 PM
05/18/19 05:18 PM
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Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by RJ's dad


Is a fully restored Steinway worth less with a new soundboard and not the original? My thinking is like an old musclecar that has a non number matching rebuilt motor...


If that muscle car is going in a museum, yes, the numbers must match. If you want to drive around and drag race it, you are going to need new rings, bearings, and probably a better manifold than it came with. And since it was originally built for octane that isn't available, you will need to alter the compression, etc..... If you want performance, original isn't always best.

If the piano's worth is to be determined by "authenticity" rather than performance, then the original board will fetch a better price. It will usually be one with less tone, power, and balance, so it will only be worth more to someone that isn't sensitive to those aspects of the piano. A buyer that puts more store in the fact that it is original than what it sounds like will be the right one for a piano like that. For the serious player that seeks the maximum acoustic experience, the new soundboard is much like new pistons in a motor, it is a matter of fresh compression...
Regards,

Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: Ed Foote] #2849764
05/18/19 10:14 PM
05/18/19 10:14 PM
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Originally Posted by RJ's dad


Is a fully restored Steinway worth less with a new soundboard and not the original? My thinking is like an old musclecar that has a non number matching rebuilt motor...


If that muscle car is going in a museum, yes, the numbers must match. If you want to drive around and drag race it, you are going to need new rings, bearings, and probably a better manifold than it came with. And since it was originally built for octane that isn't available, you will need to alter the compression, etc..... If you want performance, original isn't always best.

If the piano's worth is to be determined by "authenticity" rather than performance, then the original board will fetch a better price. It will usually be one with less tone, power, and balance, so it will only be worth more to someone that isn't sensitive to those aspects of the piano. A buyer that puts more store in the fact that it is original than what it sounds like will be the right one for a piano like that. For the serious player that seeks the maximum acoustic experience, the new soundboard is much like new pistons in a motor, it is a matter of fresh compression...
Regards,


Beautifully said Ed Foote.


Rich Galassini
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Phila, Pa.
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Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849775
05/18/19 11:43 PM
05/18/19 11:43 PM
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Hobart, Australia
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ando Offline
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Originally Posted by l8style
So many great insights here, thanks all! Piano being such a complex instrument, seems like there's a lot of trade offs to consider. Not like trying to keep a battered prewar Martin as original as possible. Thought about this as I imagine the tonal character of a 30s vintage piano must change drastically with a new soundboard.

There is a large trade-off with the pre-war Martin though: it is just as clapped out as the pianos of the same era - probably more so because guitar tops are less resilient due to the large amount of flexing they do compared to a piano board. The Martin needs a new soundboard too, it's just that people are convincing themselves that they still sound great and that there is something special about them. The truth is that a new Martin is a much better instrument than a prewar Martin. The old Martin has its own equivalent of the dead octave, and the poor dynamic response of a dead soundboard. The value of an old Martin lies in the nostalgia and the collectibles market value due to rarity of those in good (original) cosmetic condition.

Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: Rich Galassini] #2849777
05/18/19 11:45 PM
05/18/19 11:45 PM
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Stoneham, MA
woodfab Offline
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Stoneham, MA
Here's my thought.
If the piano has the tone you like, leave the sound-board the way it is.
If you decide to get a new sound-board you won't know what the sound of it will be until it's done.
If you like the tone, then great, but if your not happy with it then what?
I just tried about 40 pianos before I bought my piano three months ago and I knew what it would sound like for my money.

There are some re-builders who know how to make a great sounding sound-board but after the job is done you won't know if you'll be happy with it.
I think if you don't like the sound of your piano find one you love and sell your's, that way you'll know what you'll end up with rather than hopping the new sound will be what you were hoping!

Last edited by woodfab; 05/18/19 11:47 PM.

Dan (Piano Tinkerer)
Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849785
05/19/19 01:03 AM
05/19/19 01:03 AM
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Oakland
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I have been posting the width of keyboards of some of the pianos I have come across lately, because someone asked about that dimension. They have been of various ages, from about 1907 to fifty years later. Not one of them has a new soundboard. I think that anyone would be hard-pressed to find any objective worsening of the sound of any of them. I like to compare the sound of our Steinway O, from 1920, with a friend's, from 2005. There is no more difference between them than you would find in any two new similar models. People claim that it is because of the California weather, but the 1920 model spent most of its life near Philadelphia.

Several of those pianos are used for concerts fairly regularly. Nobody who has been to them has ever come up to me and said that it sounds like the pianos have lost "performance." Usually if they say anything, they see the microphones for the archival recordings and ask me if the sound system is turned up too loud. I tell them that is not the sound system; that is what they sound like.


Semipro Tech
Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: ando] #2849853
05/19/19 07:08 AM
05/19/19 07:08 AM
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Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by ando

There is a large trade-off with the pre-war Martin though: it is just as clapped out as the pianos of the same era - probably more so because guitar tops are less resilient due to the large amount of flexing they do compared to a piano board. The Martin needs a new soundboard too, it's just that people are convincing themselves that they still sound great and that there is something special about them. The truth is that a new Martin is a much better instrument than a prewar Martin. The old Martin has its own equivalent of the dead octave, and the poor dynamic response of a dead soundboard. The value of an old Martin lies in the nostalgia and the collectibles market value due to rarity of those in good (original) cosmetic condition.


Umm, I am going to disagree with this in its entirety.
Knowing this is a piano board, I won't go into the hundreds of Martin guitars I have played as they came through the Old Time Picking Parlor here in Nashville. I have watched dozens of session musicians unpack their vintage Martins in the studio, and leave the newer one in the case for going on the road. And,I have seen the prices that professionals will pay for the older instruments. If one can't work with the response of a scalloped brace, then a 1928 D-28 isn't going to be worth it to them.

My '46 D-18 is worth far more than a new one, having turned down many continual offers to buy it. It has been horribly rebuilt, refinished, repaired with putty in places, etc. Doc Watson said it was the best sounding D-18 he ever played, and Norman Blake told me I didn't deserve that guitar when I wouldn't sell it.

One last Nashville event I witnessed personally was Cowboy Jack Clements saying that back in the 1950's, "Martins were great, just as they came, out of the box, and the aging isn't the difference we hear, today" .

So, nothing in my 43 years around Guitar Town supports your description of the Martin market, today.
Regards,

Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: Ed Foote] #2849875
05/19/19 08:41 AM
05/19/19 08:41 AM
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Posts: 293
Mountain Brook, AL, USA
jeffscot Offline
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Umm, I am going to disagree with this in its entirety.
Knowing this is a piano board, I won't go into the hundreds of Martin guitars I have played as they came through the Old Time Picking Parlor here in Nashville. I have watched dozens of session musicians unpack their vintage Martins in the studio, and leave the newer one in the case for going on the road. And,I have seen the prices that professionals will pay for the older instruments. If one can't work with the response of a scalloped brace, then a 1928 D-28 isn't going to be worth it to them.

My '46 D-18 is worth far more than a new one, having turned down many continual offers to buy it. It has been horribly rebuilt, refinished, repaired with putty in places, etc. Doc Watson said it was the best sounding D-18 he ever played, and Norman Blake told me I didn't deserve that guitar when I wouldn't sell it.

One last Nashville event I witnessed personally was Cowboy Jack Clements saying that back in the 1950's, "Martins were great, just as they came, out of the box, and the aging isn't the difference we hear, today" .

So, nothing in my 43 years around Guitar Town supports your description of the Martin market, today.
Regards,

thumb


.... Jeff ▫️ Yamaha P515 ▫️ Roll Tide
Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: Ed Foote] #2849918
05/19/19 10:20 AM
05/19/19 10:20 AM
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Hobart, Australia
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ando Offline
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Originally Posted by ando

There is a large trade-off with the pre-war Martin though: it is just as clapped out as the pianos of the same era - probably more so because guitar tops are less resilient due to the large amount of flexing they do compared to a piano board. The Martin needs a new soundboard too, it's just that people are convincing themselves that they still sound great and that there is something special about them. The truth is that a new Martin is a much better instrument than a prewar Martin. The old Martin has its own equivalent of the dead octave, and the poor dynamic response of a dead soundboard. The value of an old Martin lies in the nostalgia and the collectibles market value due to rarity of those in good (original) cosmetic condition.


Umm, I am going to disagree with this in its entirety.
Knowing this is a piano board, I won't go into the hundreds of Martin guitars I have played as they came through the Old Time Picking Parlor here in Nashville. I have watched dozens of session musicians unpack their vintage Martins in the studio, and leave the newer one in the case for going on the road. And,I have seen the prices that professionals will pay for the older instruments. If one can't work with the response of a scalloped brace, then a 1928 D-28 isn't going to be worth it to them.

My '46 D-18 is worth far more than a new one, having turned down many continual offers to buy it. It has been horribly rebuilt, refinished, repaired with putty in places, etc. Doc Watson said it was the best sounding D-18 he ever played, and Norman Blake told me I didn't deserve that guitar when I wouldn't sell it.

One last Nashville event I witnessed personally was Cowboy Jack Clements saying that back in the 1950's, "Martins were great, just as they came, out of the box, and the aging isn't the difference we hear, today" .

So, nothing in my 43 years around Guitar Town supports your description of the Martin market, today.
Regards,


Well, you might be all lemmings dropping off the same cliff! The power of suggestion... laugh

The fact that you've played hundreds of guitars of the same vintage and found them to be consistently nice is neither here nor there - if that's what you like, you will like it every time. Nashville? Well, that's a captive audience in terms of going for an antiquated sound where sound old is kind of the aim for most of the music recorded there. Guitar Town? That's a self-appointed title and it's a touch conceited I must say. It really means nothing other than Nashville has a certain sound and attitude of its own. That's cool and charming and all, but Nashville does not represent the entire music world nor the recording industry - even if it does represent most of the country music industry. Your reply sounds kind of biased and sentimental rather than scientific.You live in Nashville: it's to be expected that the Nashville sound is how you conceive of the guitar. I think if you've ever recorded various guitars in a studio (which I have) and put them through a spectrum analyser, you will see changes in certain frequency bands with correspond with age - not just with Martins but with any acoustic guitar. With an customised EQ model, I can make a guitar sound 30-50 years older in general, even if it doesn't sound exactly like a pre-war Martin guitar. But playing these things for myself, it's not the sound I'm after. I like a newer, more responsive guitar.

Funnily enough, classical guitarists have the opposite mentality to you and your cohort - they are generally unsentimental about the attributes of their guitars. They will move to a different guitar when the top wears out on their current favourite - or if the original luthier is still active, some will retook their guitars, but that is rare. Most people hang on to them as keepsakes but they wouldn't use them in concerts anymore because they lack the response and projection they formerly had.

Oh, by the way, I am a professional guitarist and studio musician - it's what I do for a living, so I'm not just a piano player who has a latent interest in guitar. I can go toe to toe with you on all matters guitar, don't worry about that. wink

martins [Re: ando] #2849944
05/19/19 11:13 AM
05/19/19 11:13 AM
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Mountain Brook, AL, USA
jeffscot Offline
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Originally Posted by ando

Well, you might be all lemmings dropping off the same cliff! The power of suggestion... laugh

shocked

Well, Nashville is certainly no Hobart . . . laugh

So what guitars do you play?
And where can we see, or hear, your work?


.... Jeff ▫️ Yamaha P515 ▫️ Roll Tide
Re: martins [Re: ando] #2849951
05/19/19 11:25 AM
05/19/19 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by ando
Funnily enough, classical guitarists have the opposite mentality to you and your cohort - they are generally unsentimental about the attributes of their guitars. They will move to a different guitar when the top wears out on their current favourite - or if the original luthier is still active, some will retook their guitars, but that is rare. Most people hang on to them as keepsakes but they wouldn't use them in concerts anymore because they lack the response and projection they formerly had.

Oh, by the way, I am a professional guitarist and studio musician - it's what I do for a living, so I'm not just a piano player who has a latent interest in guitar. I can go toe to toe with you on all matters guitar, don't worry about that. wink


I was going to write, my friend who is a classical guitarist and professor of guitar in a conservatoire, changes his guitar as often as every 5 years.

He said to me that he still has a couple of favourites that he likes to play privately, but for concert work he needs the most projecting instrument and that has always been the newest one.

The Nashville sound and style of playing is entirely different to the classical style.

There was a piano in Trident studios in Britain, an old Bechstein. For classical purposes it would have been useless as a recital piano, and certainly wouldn't manage a concerto. The musicians coming to the studio loved it, and I believe it was used by The Beatles. It was being recorded, and the type of playing didn't require the purity of tone that classical pianists require.

Just so you know though, that's not me saying "a new soundboard is better than an old one". Although I believe that in most cases a new soundboard is better than an old one and you all know I think that already anyway, I'm merely saying that the rock musicians who came trident were enthralled with this old piano, while a classical pianist wouldn't touch it.

Re: martins [Re: BDB] #2849957
05/19/19 11:44 AM
05/19/19 11:44 AM
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Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
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Originally Posted by BDB
I have been posting the width of keyboards of some of the pianos I have come across lately, because someone asked about that dimension. They have been of various ages, from about 1907 to fifty years later. Not one of them has a new soundboard. I think that anyone would be hard-pressed to find any objective worsening of the sound of any of them."


Same makes and models? Same acoustics? Same prep? Same everything else? Materials - workmship - condition etc? Same design? Are you asking people to find objective worsening of sound compared between different makes and models in different acoustics with different prep, or are you asking people to find objective worsening between their memory of the sound the piano made in 1907 or 1957 vs now? Or is your point something else? And what is the expertise and the experience of the people who would be asked to find this objective worsening? Are they concert pianists? Piano technicians? Amateurs? How demanding are they? How forgiving are they?


Originally Posted by BDB
I like to compare the sound of our Steinway O, from 1920, with a friend's, from 2005. There is no more difference between them than you would find in any two new similar models. People claim that it is because of the California weather, but the 1920 model spent most of its life near Philadelphia.


Please explain how you are comparing them. Maybe there is no difference. Maybe the differences are unimportant to you or not noticed by you. Maybe to someone else who makes different demands from these two pianos they would be radically different.

I am very curious about your answers. I am sorry if this comes off as picking on you, that is not my intention.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
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Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: ando] #2849959
05/19/19 11:52 AM
05/19/19 11:52 AM
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Southwest
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Back to soundboard discussion: I have a question for the experts. How long would a Steinway D’s soundboard last for concert use?


J & J
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Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: j&j] #2849964
05/19/19 12:08 PM
05/19/19 12:08 PM
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Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
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Originally Posted by j&j
Back to soundboard discussion: I have a question for the experts. How long would a Steinway D’s soundboard last for concert use?


As usual, the answer is "it depends".

It depends on the board itself. Some D boards last longer than others and there are many possible reasons.

The most demanding use of a concert grand, IMO, would be if it was used as an unamplified concerto piano for big Romantic ( Beethoven Emperor, Brahms, Liszt etc ) and standard 20th century concertos ( Bartok Barber Prokofiev Rachmaninoff etc ) in a big hall having to be heard against a major orchestra. In that case it could be as little as 5 years. I have heard some older Steinway D boards ( 30 - 50 years ) that were fine, even wonderful for less demanding use, but I have never heard a Steinway D with an older board that was a good choice for big concerto work.
Interestingly, I have heard older Baldwin concert grands from the 60s and 70s that the boards were plenty loud for concerto work, although they usually have a thousand other issues to correct.........

For less demanding music, or if the piano will be amplified, or in a smaller venue, again, it depends on how demanding the players/venue are. Then it is usually about the octave 6 area and the treble. As long as they are good enough, the board is probably good enough for the smaller concert use. And if the octave 6 area and treble sounds weak/thin etc and it is not because of something other than the board, it is time to replace the board. Again, could be 5 years, could be 50.



Keith D Kerman
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keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460
Re: New soundboard vs restored/shimmed [Re: l8style] #2849968
05/19/19 12:18 PM
05/19/19 12:18 PM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 3,088
J
joe80 Online content
3000 Post Club Member
joe80  Online Content
3000 Post Club Member
J

Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 3,088
I don't know the answer to that question j&j, but I know in the local concert hall in Dundee which is a 2500 seater, so fairly sizeable, the 1984 concert grand was being drowned out by the orchestra in every concerto performance for a number of years. The technician and the pianists had been complaining about it for 15 or 20 years when it was restored this year.

WHEN that piano was restored, Steinways in London took on the job and they did not replace the soundboard. I don't know if they replaced the plank. The decision was taken by the concert hall to use that piano for everything where the very best was not required, exactly the kinds of things that Keith is talking about. To be fair to the piano it does have a beautiful tone but it's very intimate, shall we say. If I was being brutal I'd say, it does have good sound but it doesn't project.

In order that the hall had a piano that was suitable for the highest levels of concert work (and that hall does attract some of the world's most famous pianists including Stephen Hough, Steven Osborne, Boris Giltburg, Nikolai Lugansky, Gabriella Monterra, Katia Buniatshvilli), a new piano was purchased, chosen in Hamburg by Ulrich Gerhartz and Steven Osborne as far as I know. I could be wrong about Steven Osborne helping.

The difference in sound between the two instruments is palpable. The new one also has a beautiful sound, but it can go from a whisper to a foundation shaking thunder if required. The older piano sounds sweet in a limited range, and has neither the softness nor the loudness of the new one.

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