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Steinway D, improving sustain? #2851439
05/23/19 11:04 AM
05/23/19 11:04 AM
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Outside of hammer-related issues and cracks around bridge pins, what are solvable causes of poor sustain on a Steinway D?

The tone in the higher range was also a little weak and so last night I installed a Treble Tone Resonator. It seemed to have balanced the output better, but the sustain was not affected at all. It says it might improve the sound 24-36 hours after installation, so maybe when I go back Friday there will be a miracle improvement in sustain smile (Not expecting so...)

It’s really disappointing how ‘dead’ the upper range is. I don’t recall ever hearing a high end piano this bad. Certainly not a D.

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Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851494
05/23/19 01:27 PM
05/23/19 01:27 PM
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Its actually very common.
Here is 5 possibles. 1) the strike line is too close to the capo. also check blow distance and over-centering 2) The rib scale on Steinways is too weak in many of the upper ribs. 3) coupled by the fact that the panel is thinned too much up in the high end (a problematic diaphramatic). BTW, comparing a Baldwin rib scale to Steinways- its almost an identical copy but Baldwin made the ribs taller in that upper section. Hmm. 4) Excessive downbearing. I have seen Steinways with excessive downbearing angles in the high treble choking the board.

5)the soundboard has fatigued (due to 2,3,4 ) and a new board is needed.
-chris


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Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851519
05/23/19 03:13 PM
05/23/19 03:13 PM
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Thanks for the thoughts!

Do you think the Treble Tone Resonator addresses your items 2 & 3 to some extent? Honestly I’m not entirely sure how the thing works smile

I’m curious about 4. I understand it of course but have never explored downbearing (except for Baldwin’s accujust). Is the downbearing adjustable in such a way that if I can verify it is indeed too much that I’d then be able to set it non-destructively (for instance, small increments where I could test the result but where it would be reversible)?

Last edited by jsilva; 05/23/19 03:14 PM.
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851605
05/23/19 10:30 PM
05/23/19 10:30 PM
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Resonator: you may need to tweak it a bit and have two people one playing notes and one tweaking. Not a guarantee but a strong possibility (if it works at all). I have installed one (only one) and I think it helped.

Downbearing: Please don't try to mess with it. You can't change it up there at this point.

Here's another (not seemingly related) possibility: Check the keys for front to back chucking. If so, this can rob the piano of sustain. I have seen D's with SERIOUS key chucking problems. Of course the key bushings would need attention too doubtlessly.

Don't forget the V bar!

Otherwise everything Chris said.

Pwg

Last edited by P W Grey; 05/23/19 10:31 PM.

Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851610
05/23/19 10:52 PM
05/23/19 10:52 PM
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Make sure your keyframe is bedded PROPERLY. This can be huge.

Do the basics first. Then start looking for esoteric things.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851631
05/24/19 01:32 AM
05/24/19 01:32 AM
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What type of hammers are they?

Is the decay adequately long if you pluck the strings?


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Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851682
05/24/19 07:59 AM
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Bad tuning can ruin the sustain of a concert grand. A good concert technician will make sure that the tuning is in balance with the whole ensemble of strings, bridges and sound board.

I have a recording with my old Steinway B from 1887 that has been tuned really badly. The technician I then had over spoke about a mangled soundboard that needs straightening out by at least 2-3 tunings with 5 months. He tuned three notes that sounded really bad, had no character and little sustain and his tuning worked wonders.

I've now had the numbers of tuning by really experienced concert technicians and the piano is completely different and marvellous to listen to.

Somebody mentioned the strike line, which is another point of really great importance. A couple of millimeters away from the best tonal quality makes all the difference. I've had 42 hammers removed from the shanks and glued back in the position that we have previously defined by pulling out the action millimeter by millimeter and marking the best tonal spot. It's a completely different piano by now.

Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851754
05/24/19 10:36 AM
05/24/19 10:36 AM
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To add to the advice above.

Treble tone and sustain is strongly affected by the mass of the hammers. They are no doubt quite a bit heavier than they need to be. One can narrow and taper the hammer sides, shape more wood from the tails, and remove wires to allow for removing of felt on the low shoulders.

You will need to remove front leads from the keys if you do this work and maybe add back leads to the top octave and a half.

Correct treble strike point distance from the V-bar can be derived by using the following multipliers to the speaking lengths. Note (88 .064), (83 .075), (78 .085), (73 .089), (68 .094).

GOOD LUCK!


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.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT] #2851785
05/24/19 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
You will need to remove front leads from the keys if you do this work and maybe add back leads to the top octave and a half.


Thanks everyone for their advice and tips!

Ed, it’s interesting you bring up removing the front leads. The touchweight is too light and I had been planning on removing some (the action itself is also extremely heavy). Do you know if this the ‘standard’ amount of weighting for a middle C from a 1940’s D? It seems rather excessive.

[Linked Image]

I’m using 16lbs hammers on this piano.

As I’ve been thinking I realised sustain might not be the best way to describe the issue, although that is part of it. Maybe a better way to describe it is that the volume of the note drops off sharply after the attack. If the notes sustained the same amount but the drop wasn’t so sudden I’d probably not care too much. I haven’t voiced these hammers yet but I did the best I could with the previous ones and the new ones sound identical in terms of the issue I’m describing.

Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851791
05/24/19 01:03 PM
05/24/19 01:03 PM
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Wow! That has as many leads as my 1981 B with Teflon action had in it before I had it rebuilt. I wonder if the previous work was done during that time when Steinway was adding a lot of lead to the key sticks.

Last edited by GC13; 05/24/19 01:04 PM.
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851891
05/24/19 06:28 PM
05/24/19 06:28 PM
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That kind of leading usually indicates some geometry and/or weight problems. I can't even imagine what the bass keys look like. That thing needs some serious help.

Pwg

Last edited by P W Grey; 05/24/19 06:29 PM.

Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851914
05/24/19 08:10 PM
05/24/19 08:10 PM
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Yes the bass keys are really heavy with lead. I’ve never seen so much.

Can you tell from the photo what might be originals? On the front side 2 of the leads look different from the other 4. If there were some leads added later I could easily remove at least some of them with hopefully no ill effects. I want to anyway, since the touchweight is too light.

Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851944
05/24/19 10:43 PM
05/24/19 10:43 PM
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The original first leading is indicated by little punched marks in the bottom of the key.

This D is from the era when they first introduced the Accelerated Action and they made the key-sticks thinner to compensate for the thicker balance rail bearing. They don't have a "top plate" under the button. With key-sticks this long one needs the top plate to have adequate stiffness.

Judging by your comments and seeing the keys; I am gonna venture his piano needs some serious and significant professional attention to make it perform well.


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.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT] #2851951
05/24/19 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Judging by your comments and seeing the keys; I am gonna venture his piano needs some serious and significant professional attention to make it perform well.


Yes, key weighting is not my forte by any means! After apprenticing with a technician 18 years ago I only continued to pursue things I as a pianist was personally interested in. Unfortunately there’s no budget to do any more work on this D than what I’m willing to do.

I mostly finished the regulation today though and at least that is considerably improved smile

I also recorded C6 on the S&S D and on my own M&H BB (which has a beautiful tone and sustain) and compared via FFT analysis. The fundamental was stronger on my BB but there was no apparent loss of partials on the D even though it sounds ‘dead’. The sustain, although less on the D, actually wasn’t bad. I recorded it right near the strings so I think that’s revealing—seems like it could be a soundboard or bridge issue since the string isn’t projecting what I recorded. Next time I’m around the D I’ll record it from underneath the soundboard and compare that to my BB.

Last edited by jsilva; 05/24/19 11:42 PM.
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2851958
05/25/19 12:54 AM
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Despite what is said about how the hammers have to be light to get away from the strings, the hammers have to stay on the strings long enough to impart a lot of energy to the strings. That is the reason there is felt on the hammers. They would bounce off the strings really fast if there was nothing but wood, but do you really want to listen to a piano with wooden hammers?

Ideally, the hammer should be like a dead-blow hammer so as much force as possible is transferred to the string. A dead-blow hammer is filled with weights in suspension, so that they continue to move forward when the hammer has hit to continue to apply force. This is what the cushioning provided by the felt does. If extra suspension is needed, that is what needling the felt provides.

Of course, after the hammer has hit the string, it should come off the string fairly quickly. The quality of the tone is due to the shape the hammer leaves on the string as it bounces off, according to the wave equation. If you are getting lots of fundamental, that means that the hammer is flattening out enough to damp out the partials. What you need to do is make sure that there is good support at the tip of the hammer to keep it from flattening too much. Dolge tried this by making a hammer core that was split down the middle and steamed apart, and putting the felt in the cavity that resulted, but it was expensive to do. Adding lacquer to the sides of the hammer does somewhat the same job. A little lacquer at the tip can help the hammer maintain the shape of the tip, as well, but you need to temper that with filing and surface needling.

Think of the dead-blow hammer. Some of them come with a variety of faces, depending on what you want to do. You have to provide the proper hammer face to make the sound that you want to get from the piano.


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Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2852006
05/25/19 07:25 AM
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What Ed is talking about with key stiffness is the fact that on a significant blow, the key literally bends (and the long D keys bend more than others) and will rob the system of power. Anything in the power train that reduces power is going to affect tone and sustain. Doesn't matter who made the piano. It's like an old carburetor engine with a bad accelerator pump...the faster you press the gas the worse the lag is. Or, a backcheck dragging on the tail of the hammer...

Those keys should have about 8" of top plate under the buttons. And I'll bet the BR holes are a mess too.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2852032
05/25/19 09:05 AM
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Thanks for explaining your thoughts more, BDB. These are new WNG Natural hammers which have a nice shape. I’ve heard this piano with Steinway hammers, those hammers reshaped and voiced, and the new WNG hammers and the issue is literally identical.

Thanks also Pwg for explaining more what Ed meant. That’s interesting to consider.

Next time I’m in I will remove some of the front leads. I’ll also do some more recording comparisons/analysis and if they’re interesting enough I’ll share them here.

I think I must not be giving a great description of the issue. In fact most of the people who play this D think it sounds fine, and after my previous regulation in Dec everyone was pleased. One person who never wanted to play this D started using it earlier this year. And now it feels even better with the new hammers, and the tone sounds slightly better. But I’m trying to get this piano to ‘inspire’ people. It’s not there yet.

Last edited by jsilva; 05/25/19 09:12 AM.
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2852060
05/25/19 11:01 AM
05/25/19 11:01 AM
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BDB's "dead blow" hammer analogy is useless. We are not trying to strike the strings and leave the hammer with no returning momentum from the strings like a dead blow hammer does when driving an object. The hammer must ESCAPE from the string!

Quote Fred Drasche, (Longtime Head Tone-Regulator at NY Steinway); "The hammer has got to get away from the strings", "The voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape".

In engineering parlance one could paraphrase Mr. Drasche this way; The inertial properties of the hammer must be in the proper proportion to the periodicity of the string it strikes. Hammer mass is the biggest contributor to the inertia in an action, (voicer reduces hammer string contact time by reducing weight through shaping process).

When one shapes hammers, one reduces mass. Best place to reduce the mass is anywhere but the wearing dimension if you value longevity.

Good hammer felt has a non-linear spring rate. This means that when it is highly compressed under a hard blow the felt springs back slower than when it is lightly compressed by a weak blow. That is what give tone color across the dynamic range.


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.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2852235
05/26/19 12:01 AM
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I happened to come across this in a posting by DLove from a few years ago (I actually remember him from many years ago on a PTG listserv...).

“...higher profiles tend to result in heavier hammers and excess mass, especially in the upper part of the piano, and that tends to have a damping effect on high partial and high frequency development. You might get a more percussive "whump" but you will get less string energy...”

This sounds like what Ed was saying, and at least somewhat similar to what I’m hearing on the D in question. However, he goes on to say:

“...hammer weight is a tonal decision first and a touchweight decision second. The latter can always be altered (via leverage changes) to accommodate the hammer weight characteristics. You can't alter the touchweight to modify the tone.”

But this doesn’t quite sound like what Ed was saying. Unless I misunderstood, it sounded like he was saying the excess key mass could affect tone?

I’m not meaning to question the validity of what either has said, I’m simply wanting to understand.

Re: Steinway D, improving sustain? [Re: jsilva] #2852524
05/26/19 08:51 PM
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IOW don't expect to address tone issues by changing the touch resistance. The only way you will affect tone with touch is through the fact that the pianist will (may) have more control and therefore be able to expand the tonal palette, but it won't change the fundamental sound of the instrument. To do THAT, you'll need to deal with the hammers and top action.

Pwg


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