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Are mellowness and softness connected?
#2934148 01/15/20 09:36 AM
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At my recent tuning visit last week I told my tech I was having trouble playing p and pp. He said he felt my piano had brightened up, and a check of his tuning records showed he hadn't done anything except maybe minor touch up voicing in around the last year.

He did some needling that I didn't observe which took only around a half hour, and the control for playing p and pp is incredibly better. Before his voicing I had to struggle not always successfully to play pp without any ghost or barely sounding sounding notes. Now it's a piece of cake to play very softly but still with a full tone. I think the tone is probably also more mellow although I am not as positive about that as I am about the much greater ease for playing very softly.

All this leads up to my question:

If voicing is done to make the piano less bright does that automatically make the piano play softer(greater control for p and pp)? If the piano is voiced more softly does it automatically make the piano sound more mellow? What is the connection, if any, between softness and mellowness?

Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934163 01/15/20 09:55 AM
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Great question. I am also very interested in the answer. To me, mellow and warm are the opposite of brightness. I can play a bright piano softly but even at lower volume but the individual notes still stand out. When I play a less bright piano the individual notes are less distinct and blend together more easily. It’s hard to describe but to me the sound is warmer and more complex. I’ve tried a couple used pianos that weren’t at all bright and they sounded like cardboard was glued over the hammers. They were rather annoying to play. Since I’ve always loved the Yamaha sound, my taste apparently leans towards a brighter, cleaner, clearer sound. I just love the crystal clear treble that I found on the two Bösendorfers and 4 Schimmels I tried. I absolutely love the characteristic singing tone on my Estonia.

Since everyone’s hearing as well as musical taste is different, this should be an interesting thread. Thank you for posting it.


J & J
Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty
Casio Privia PX-330
I don’t play well but I play far better than I sing.
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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934171 01/15/20 10:00 AM
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In theory, it doesn't make a difference if all that was done was hammer voicing. But the human ear is more sensitive to higher frequencies and because a harder hammer will produce more of them, the higher frequency content will sound "louder" to you for the same hammer striking force. The frequencies we hear the most easily at lower levels are in the 1 kHz to 4 kHz range:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal-loudness_contour

Reduced level scaling is applied, for example, in electronic organs for the note frequencies in the center of the keyboard, to avoid having the middle notes sound louder than the extremes.


What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934173 01/15/20 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If the piano is voiced more softly does it automatically make the piano sound more mellow? What is the connection, if any, between softness and mellowness?


I'm no tech, but i'd say yes, definitely.

My 1985 Yamaha was loud, bright and hard to play soft. Then, a tech from this forum advised a simple thing i could try: Replacing the thick mute rail felt (which i didn't like anyway) with very thin cloth.

I did just that, and i think the effect is kind of the same as softening the hammers.

My piano went from too loud, bright, and hard to play soft, to less loud, much mellower, and easy to play soft, but still quite possible to play loud.

It sounds way better, and the dynamic range is way bigger now, I think more as the piano was intended. I will ask my tech if he can voice the hammers of my piano to a level where it sounds about the same as it does now with the thin cloth, but of course, without the cloth.

The drawback of the cloth is, with the top open i can hear the hammers hitting the cloth a bit. Other than that it works so great I'm not even in a hurry to get the hammers voiced.

Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934202 01/15/20 10:55 AM
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There are different ways of applying needles to hammers which will produce different effects. Also, the shape of the hammer, and width of strike point affect the usage of the needles. Just jabbing them in there will do something, but it might not be what you want. You can turn a hammer into mush pretty quickly if not careful.

Ideally, you want a soft/elastic strike point, backed up by a stiff core behind it. This allows a gradation of volume as well as tonal manipulation. Sounds like your tech knows what he's doing. Remember that ALL voicing is temporary and must be adjusted regularly.

Ed M. makes a strong case for reducing their weight as well.

Also, hammers are only PART of story. If there are open wire segments other than the speaking lengths, this can be a significant factor in the voicing dept.

Pwg

Last edited by P W Grey; 01/15/20 10:59 AM.

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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934334 01/15/20 04:40 PM
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In a word: yes..

The purpose of the covering of the hammer is to reduce the shock to the string. If the wooden core were to strike the string directly, you would get a percussive clanging noise, pianissimo would be nonexistent, unless you were able to graze the string at absurdly slow hammer speed.

Mellowness implies a lack of sharp transient, and that implies a softer hammer.

Softer hammers, especially near the striking point, will not excite the string as easily at low hammer-speed than hard strings.

The most difficult thing to do is to get a hammer to play pp easily and quietly, with a round soft sound and get it to play loudly and brilliantly on fff


Max di Mario
Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934372 01/15/20 06:10 PM
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To someone English is the third language learned, I am utterly confused at your question: aren't mellowness and softness the same thing?

OED's mellow (adj.) explanation:

a. Of sound, music, a voice, etc.: warm-toned; soft and gentle; full, rich; without harshness.


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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
Davdoc #2934384 01/15/20 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Davdoc
To someone English is the third language learned, I am utterly confused at your question: aren't mellowness and softness the same thing?

OED's mellow (adj.) explanation:

a. Of sound, music, a voice, etc.: warm-toned; soft and gentle; full, rich; without harshness.

I think mellow as it refers to piano tone is not necessarily the same as some more general definition of mellow. Mellow is the opposite of bright for piano tone. A bright tone has louder upper overtones than a mellow tone. An extremely bright tone sounds harsh, overly brilliant, and brassy, at least in my thinking.

Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934460 01/15/20 10:44 PM
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If the piano is too bright the sound is more piercing and carries through walls easier .
I once heard a digital piano set on "very mellow "or so it sounded .It was far too soft
and not pleasant .(sounded like a tiny harp )
Having a piano voiced more mellow probably helps in feeling "less inhibited " in an
apartment, and so it is easier to use more detailed dynamics.
That is all I can think .For me mellowness is a softer tone.
One can have accoustic boards placed in wall.
We did this because the exterior wall is near the neighbour's garden. So I did not want
to bother them in the summer when they are in the garden .
It does help but you can still hear the piano next to the house but it is much softer and
I cannot hear them at least .The boards.are well.covered over so do not affect the
tone or make it mushy (affecting the overtones ? )
My piano is not super mellow like a Bluthner but has a rich singing tone .(so.a touch of
brightness which I like )
I may have my new technician voice a few of the hammers tommorow when he services
the piano. See what he thinks ?





Last edited by Lady Bird; 01/15/20 10:49 PM. Reason: Missing word
Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934487 01/16/20 01:30 AM
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This is a difficult question to grasp, because we do not necessarily understand what is meant by "mellow" and "soft." "Soft" usually refers to how little volume you can make the piano put out. I find that the major factors affecting this are the reliability of the action to respond to the player, and uniformity of response of the strings to one's playing across the range of the piano. I list them in this order, because that is the order that I deal with them when I am doing a complete job voicing a piano.

"Mellowness" as opposed to "brightness" is usually a function of the waveform of the sound being produced, which is related to the waveform of the string, which is a function of the initial condition that causes the sound in the first place. What happens most of all as the piano is played is that the hammers get worn, which changes that initial condition. Instead of a round hammer that offsets the string in a smooth round curve, the grooves in the string tend to offset the string with sharper bends near the ends of the grooves. So the waveform caused by a worn, grooved hammer becomes somewhat like a squarish wave, and that sounds harsh. This is why using sandpaper is a major component of the voicer's skill, and a big factor in the mellowness of the sound. Further refinement can be done by changing the elasticity of the hammer, which is what we do when we needle or harden the felt.

Voicing for me starts with sanding the hammers, to remove the grooves. I do this first, because the next step is regulating the action so it responds uniformly. Regulating is all about the relation between the hammer and the string, so the grooves come out first so that relation can be measured accurately. Then there is a little adjustment of the elasticity, so the notes sound even.

The evenness of the notes is an important factor in the piano's perceived ability to play soft. Suppose one note sounds one way, and the next note you play sounds louder or softer with the same stroke of the key. That difference becomes a limitation in the piano's ability to play louder or softer. The more even the piano plays, the greater the graduations in volume.

I do not always go through all these steps, because sometimes I can make a big difference by rough methods, especially when dealing with inexpensive pianos. It is worth doing a little on these pianos, because it makes the owner feel better about their piano, and that is good for them and their appreciation of music. It may only take me a few minutes to make a substantial improvement.


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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
BDB #2934712 01/16/20 09:45 AM
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BDB - Thank you for the explanation. The piano technician’s job is a wonderful combination of art and science. grin


J & J
Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty
Casio Privia PX-330
I don’t play well but I play far better than I sing.
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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
BDB #2934713 01/16/20 09:50 AM
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I was interested in what you said about inexpensive pianos. I’m guessing that the less expensive pianos typically get much less factory prep and little dealer prep, so some voicing work from you is a huge improvement to the sound for the owners. Thank you. It’s nice to hear about.


J & J
Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty
Casio Privia PX-330
I don’t play well but I play far better than I sing.
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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934832 01/16/20 01:03 PM
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Yes thank you for sharing this information .
There seems to be quite an interest in this
subject on the forum at the moment .

Last edited by Lady Bird; 01/16/20 01:03 PM. Reason: Extra word
Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934919 01/16/20 03:42 PM
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Pianos have "built in" sound ideals that vary - if sometimes only slightly from make to make, model to model. This is different from "spot voicing" whereby only certain notes get adjusted. To me a softer tone is nice unless it becomes 'muffled' Others may of course disagree with this. Needless to say that the application and requirements change also very much depending on use and location. Some pianos that need projecting into a space or room [like into concert halls] where they typically have to compete with other instruments on same stage, may not sound as nice upfront. But "do the job" when listening from a distance. For home use, a slightly mellower/softer tone may be preferable, again depending on personal preference. From my own experience matt and high polish finishes sometimes also play into this equation. [sorry for the plug...]
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Last edited by Norbert; 01/16/20 03:48 PM.

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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934923 01/16/20 03:48 PM
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For me, the simple (simplistic?) answer is "melowness" is a tonal quality while "softness" is a volume characteristic.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
BruceD #2934948 01/16/20 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
For me, the simple (simplistic?) answer is "melowness" is a tonal quality while "softness" is a volume characteristic.

Regards,

I would say that is correct especially for Classical musicians. But too mellow for me CAN be
" not singing " Does a small touch of brightness make the tone singing ?
I agree about softness being a characteristic, at least at least in theory.
I find in Classical music ,the pianist becomes more creative with a piano
which is not too bright .(subjective I know )

Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
pianoloverus #2934960 01/16/20 05:24 PM
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There is a reason why from the beginning different velocities have been approximated in digital piano's with low-pass filters. Volume and frequency spectrum are definitely related.

Re: Are mellowness and softness connected?
BruceD #2935238 01/17/20 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
For me, the simple (simplistic?) answer is "melowness" is a tonal quality while "softness" is a volume characteristic.
I understand completely what you are saying,

OTOH I think the two might be connected which is the thought behind my post. For example, if a tech is voices a piano to be less bright will that automatically make it softer(meaning either easier to play pp or the same key velocity will produce a softer tone than before the voicing)? And conversely, if a tech voices a piano softer will that make the tone more mellow?


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