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Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
#2933569 01/14/20 05:26 AM
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Hi everybody,

I posted this already yesterday in the „normal“ piano subforum, where it was suggested that I repost here:

I bought a new W.Hoffmann T122. It‘s great overall, but even after some weeks of playing I still think it is overall too bright and aggressive in tone. In particular there are two notes (G5 and D6) which cause a painful ringing in my ears even when playing relatively softly. Concerning those two notes I am however not fully sure if this is really a property of the piano or my own ears. Concerning the overall brightness I think this is a property of the piano. I already added a rug under the piano and the room is full with furniture. Because of this I consider to let the piano get voiced softer. Here are my questions:

How much effort or risk is associated with this procedure? If it is something simple I would be more convinced to give it a try. If it‘s a major operation maybe less. Furthermore: Would such a voicing be required only once (in addition to normal revoicing because e.g. of aging or hardening of the felts), or would it need to be repeated regularly (because the change in timbre is only temporary)?
Also: is such a voicing damaging the felts or hammers somehow permanently, so that there is some relevant upper limit on how often this can be done before new hammers or felts would be required?

I bought the piano at a pretty big shop (Bechstein center), and they have eight techs. My guess is that at least some of them are absolutely capable of voicing a piano (maybe others less but I am not sure).

Many thanks in advance, all input is appreciated
Markus

Last edited by Gretel; 01/14/20 05:29 AM. Reason: Adding clarifications

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Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933604 01/14/20 09:38 AM
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Gretel,

I would like to make a suggestion respectfully before you go doing anything to the piano.

Ear wax can cause hearing distortion particularly at selective frequency ranges. I would like to suggest that you have your hearing checked by a professional to see if there is an issue in that range, AND at the same time ensure that there is no wax (possibly lodged deep inside) that is affecting your perception. I have had several situations (with clients) in which this proved to be true (and they were totally unaware of it).

After this then think about some tone regulation on the piano. Also, room acoustics can play a significant role as has been discussed on this forum numerous times.

Pwg


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Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933650 01/14/20 11:25 AM
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The trend for brighter and brighter pianos has been going on for some time and it looks like it's not going to end soon.

Pity, because you lose so much of the useable range of touch when a hammer is hard on the surface.


Max di Mario
Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933655 01/14/20 11:42 AM
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I'd second Peter's comments about getting checked by an audiologist.

If everything is OK with your hearing, then you have a basis to proceed with voicing.

A little judicious steam voicing might produce good effects in a short time. A client of mine, a music student without too much spare cash, has a small Yamaha that was absolutely as hard as nails in tone. I suggested we could try some steam voicing, rather than sit needling for hours, and it worked extremely well, in a short time.

Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933697 01/14/20 12:59 PM
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And would this steam voicing last, or is it only a temporary fix?


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Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933704 01/14/20 01:23 PM
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Why would steaming a hammer that has no chemical hardeners in it do anything at all?

Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933705 01/14/20 01:25 PM
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It lasts as well as any other voicing technique.

Piano hammers change with time and playing. They are little wooden mallets covered in highly compressed sheep's wool felt. With frequent playing, the hammer felt can get compacted and grooved. Pianos hammers need - but often don't get - remedial work from time to time (talking years here, not weeks).

So the short answer is yes.

Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933755 01/14/20 03:09 PM
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Okay, so (one of my original questions): how long do other voicing techniques last? Is this something temporary or will it last?


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Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933780 01/14/20 04:02 PM
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Since you bought the piano at a large Bechstein Center I strongly suggest that you speak to the good people there, tell them about the problems and kindly ask them to send someone to have the instrument checked in your environment. With new and solid hammerheads a good voicing will hold really long, i.e. until you start seeing deep grooves in the hammerheads.

All Bechstein technicians are usually well prepared to give original Bechstein hammers a solid voicing to your liking.

Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933812 01/14/20 05:18 PM
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Thanks OE1FEU for confirming that a voicing is so to say "basically permanent" (i.e. does not need to be refreshed every say six or twelve months or so). Here I was not really sure.


W.Hoffmann T122, Roland FP-50, Roland RD-64
Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933962 01/14/20 11:16 PM
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You can test. Open the top of your piano and suspend the edge of a handkerchief between the hammers and the strings, not too low, just enough to put some cloth between the hammers and the strings. Play those notes. In effect you have softened the surfaces of the hammers. This is the kind of tonal change voicing will produce.

If you like the sound, you may want to cut strips of muslin cloth and tape or pin them in place. This may be all the voicing you need, and it is instantly reversible. If the piano has a practice mute, you can trim back the edge of the muting felt and replace it with muslin cloth. Now you can raise and lower the "moderator" with the middle pedal.

"Moderator" is what Beethoven would have called this, and it was a common feature in historic pianos,

"Voicing" is not one process or result. There are many techniques, and many of them can be done in a few minutes as part of a service call. There is no "permanent" voicing. Pianos that are played always get brighter, sooner or later.

To understand voicing, you need to experience it with your own hands and ears. Voicing is about the relationship between effort and intention of the player and the tonal response of the piano. A well-voiced piano inspires expression.


Ed Sutton, RPT
Just a piano tuner!
Durham NC USA
Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2933983 01/15/20 01:35 AM
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To technicians:

Could some of the issues might be caused by unmuted duplexes in this case?

Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Ed Sutton #2933987 01/15/20 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Ed Sutton

"Voicing" is not one process or result. There are many techniques, and many of them can be done in a few minutes as part of a service call. There is no "permanent" voicing. Pianos that are played always get brighter, sooner or later.

To understand voicing, you need to experience it with your own hands and ears. Voicing is about the relationship between effort and intention of the player and the tonal response of the piano. A well-voiced piano inspires expression.


Very well put, Ed, thank you!

Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
TimM_980 #2934115 01/15/20 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by TimM_980
To technicians:

Could some of the issues might be caused by unmuted duplexes in this case?



The T122 is a vertical piano,


Ed Sutton, RPT
Just a piano tuner!
Durham NC USA
Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Gretel #2934190 01/15/20 11:30 AM
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Yes, duplex scales can easily cause this, as can the front string segments.


Pwg

Last edited by P W Grey; 01/15/20 11:30 AM.

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Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
OE1FEU #2934208 01/15/20 12:03 PM
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OE1FEU, When felt is made, the pressure applied to the mass of felt while steaming hot forces the fibers to interlock. When it cools and dries it becomes a material with high structural integrity.

When the hammer felt is glued to the wood moldings, it is forced into the hammer shape and thus undergoes some plastic deformation. But there is some tension around the molding in the felt.

If you then steam the felt it will swell up again. And since it is under tension and almost no pressure, it will expand and loosen the fiber to fiber interlocking to a certain degree. And thus become softer.

Felt that has been treated with vinyl solutions resists the effects of steam so they don't really swell up.


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Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Ed McMorrow, RPT #2934339 01/15/20 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
OE1FEU, When felt is made, the pressure applied to the mass of felt while steaming hot forces the fibers to interlock. When it cools and dries it becomes a material with high structural integrity.

When the hammer felt is glued to the wood moldings, it is forced into the hammer shape and thus undergoes some plastic deformation. But there is some tension around the molding in the felt.

If you then steam the felt it will swell up again. And since it is under tension and almost no pressure, it will expand and loosen the fiber to fiber interlocking to a certain degree. And thus become softer.

Felt that has been treated with vinyl solutions resists the effects of steam so they don't really swell up.


Very good explanation. Here is a video of the full production process from loose fibers to the finished hammerheads produced by Renner:



However, what you describe can only have a minimal effect on the surface of a hammerhead. I may be wrong (And please correct me, in case I am), but from what I have seen in steaming it was only used to somewhat loosen the upper layer of the hammer felt and that it never reaches the core. The closer to the core you get, the denser the material gets (you called it high structural integrity) and I cannot think of a sensible steaming machinery that a piano technician carries around to reach the inner layers and get an overall lower density and thus a sustainable effect.

I've heard a really great piano technician lecturing about forming the sound of a hammer and he constantly complained that people work on the surface only (both literally and figuratively) and thus never get to the core of the matter. He spoke about the necessity to completely reach into the parts of a hammer closest to the core and create a uniform (lower) density and thus sustainable results. He also pointed out that it's actually necessary to physically destroy the fibers (and thus achieve more resilience) as the best way to create the most dynamic and rich sound, as opposed to a hammerhead that is hard as concrete. I have seen him voicing new concert grands and he had no inhibitions whatsoever to use three needles to go really deep into a hammerhead, reshaping them with a file, rinse and repeat. The results were stunning and I am happy that my piano technician approached voicing my piano with exactly the same method and force with equally great results.

The OP actually asked about "Is this (steaming) something temporary or will it last?" and I am quite confident that it's a temporary and superficial alternative that does not serve the purpose of voicing completely new hammers in a completely new piano.

Last edited by OE1FEU; 01/15/20 05:57 PM.
Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
OE1FEU #2934373 01/15/20 07:14 PM
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OE1FEU,
Thanks for your explanation. I call the tone regulation protocols you outline as the Euro/Asian style. Start with a hammer that is too firm for best tone in the lower and middle notes and needle down to round out the tone leaving the treble hammers more or less as is.

The Old Fashioned American way is to start with a hammer that produces a proper warm, rich tone and shape the weight off the hammers to bring up the brilliance with the final addition of stiffening solutions applied to the top two octaves or so.

The OFA way makes for a vastly more stable tone with use and results in lighter hammers which make for a far more controllable and responsive touch. It is almost extinct now.


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: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
Ed Sutton #2934776 01/16/20 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Ed Sutton
You can test. Open the top of your piano and suspend the edge of a handkerchief between the hammers and the strings....

Is there any way to do this with a grand? I can imagine fishing a handkerchief between the strings and then holding up the ends to support the weight below the strings. Kind of clunky, is there any better/clever way to do that? I still have a few notes that are too bright, it would help if I could home in on what I want it to sound like for the next time the tuner comes.


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Re: Voicing a piano softer: cost/risk/effort?
OE1FEU #2934879 01/16/20 03:13 PM
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That video from the felt company was very good btw. I just watched it now.


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