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Bass string leveling & install questions #2948620 02/18/20 04:34 PM
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Emery Wang Online Content OP
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Must be bass string week on PW! I am in the middle of installing custom bass strings on my small grand, and I notice that the strings are not level with each other. I assume it will get better once I pull the strings to pitch and seat the hitch pins and termination points better. However, I think there will still be some leveling to do. So here are the questions:

1. Is the section of bare wire between the copper windings and the back of the agraffe where I adjust the string height? If so, I've read that you should avoid pushing higher strings down and instead, pull lower strings up. This is because pushing strings down behind the agraffe flattens out the string angle, and you actually want to maintain any angles/tension against the agraffe and capo bar to reduce false beats. So the idea is to pull up lower strings rather than push down higher strings. Does this sound right?

2. I am installing the strings per Arledge's videos where they simply loosen the pins 3 turns, remove old strings, then wind the new strings onto the pins while tightening the pins. I'm using a string hook to hold the string steady while turning the pin. This is working fine so far, but I notice it gets more difficult to make the strings bend around the pins as the strings get thicker. I think it may be really tough on the thickest strings. Would you advise muscling through on the thickest strings, or get the winding started on a pin in a stringwinder for a turn or two, then transfer to the pin in the piano?

Thanks for any advice.

-Emery


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949093 02/19/20 02:35 PM
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So I have successfully installed all the bass strings, even the lowest ones. Turns out the thickness of the wires actually makes it easier to create the becket, and it bends readily around the pin. So if anyone is installing bass strings with pins intact, it does work as described on Arledge Bass Strings' site. It does get tricky to fit a string lifter between some of the closer pins, however, but between it and a string hook, most coils are tight. I'll make sure all are tight when pulling to pitch.

If anyone has advice about leveling the strings, please let me know. I plan to pull any low bichord strings up to match the higher ones, and any low unichord strings to match its higher neighbors. With luck my strings will more or less stabilize this weekend and I can post some before and after recordings to see if the new strings made any difference. Here are some photos of the work in progress. Strings are from J.D. Grandt.

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Kawai MP11SE
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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949108 02/19/20 03:08 PM
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Gene Nelson Offline
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I hesitate to pull wires up for string leveling, leaving it to a last resort.
It bends the wire. This may solve one problem while creating another.
As for leveling bass strings (wound bi-chords) I would wait until new wire is seated and up to pitch, do some action regulation and hammer string mating as well as regulating the dampers.
Possibly some minor hammer shaping.
You may find that pulling the wire is not necessary.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949541 02/20/20 04:06 PM
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Caveat: I am not a trained technician. I am just an owner/hobbyist, learning all I can.

I am suspicious of efforts to level strings by pulling or pushing them upwards or downwards. If I understand this method correctly, all it is really doing is bending the wire so that it no longer travels in the shortest line possible between its two termination points.

It seems to me that the tension on an unlifted wire would tend to straighten the wire toward an eventual, perfectly straight condition, such that the wire occupies the exact straight line between its two termination points. If two wires of a unison are not level, pulling the lowest wire upwards will introduce a bend so that the wire will now occupy a position representing the two shorter sides of a triangle, with the hypotenuse representing the perfectly straight line connecting the termination points.

Although the bending can achieve equal string heights, the string tension will immediately begin the process of straightening the wire and returning it to the position of the hypotenuse, or, the perfectly straight line between the termination points. The net result being a return to the uneven condition that prompted the effort in the first place, not to mention the additional wear/deterioration of the wire from the excess bending.

I do not have the experiences to confirm my suspicions, though.

I was attracted to Gene Nelson's advice as, it seems to implicitly acknowledge that the more reliable way to achieve a uniform transfer of hammer energy is to make modifications to the striking surface of the hammer.

I also wonder if you might need to have a very close look at the agraffes to see if the holes are not level with each other. If not, correction there might be more permanent and effective.

Remember the caveat at the top of this post. smile


Ralph

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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949595 02/20/20 07:57 PM
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Thanks Gene and Ralph. What you say makes sense. I just see discussion about string leveling in piano books like the one by Mario Igrec, and on YouTube. However, the term "pulling" may be a bit extreme. It seems they use various tools to gently smooth the strings down or up. It's more like massaging the string than pulling it. For example, Mother Goose makes this level for the purposes of checking if your strings are level, so you can adjust them as needed.

I'll pull everything to pitch tonight and hopefully the tension will level things out on its own as you suggest.

Thanks!


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949613 02/20/20 08:52 PM
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"Level" is not the right word, and the Mother Goose tool does not make sense. Strings should be in a plane. Whether they are level is not important. After all, the piano does not have to be on a precisely level surface, and the soundboard is not flat, and does not stay constant, anyway. Changes in tension and humidity will affect the plane of the soundboard and bridge, and that will affect whether the strings are level.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949672 02/21/20 01:08 AM
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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The most appropriate term for "string leveling" or "fitting hammers to strings" is: Putting strings in same phase when struck.

I have never had a problem pulling low strings up to level with it's unison partners. But I shape agraffe string holes and V-bars to an ideal shape for full function of the pivot termination principle.

In the high treble, (notes 60-88), bending the low strings up will quickly turn into breaking them. I shape the hammer surface to fit the strings if the problem is not from tilted hammers.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949675 02/21/20 01:34 AM
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Thanks BDB and Ed. I've pulled the strings to pitch and they seem pretty level now, phew! Now my only problem appears to be buzzing dampers as they don't fit the new strings exactly. Not too bad, but noticeable on some strings. I find that simply moving the damper to one side or the other by hand mostly solves things, either by shifting the entire damper, or just turning the front part slightly to the left or right.

Is this how you guys adjust dampers too? I keep thinking there is some tool I should be using.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949677 02/21/20 01:55 AM
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I chip the strings close to pitch before I glue the felts to the dampers.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949787 02/21/20 11:54 AM
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Properly regulating dampers takes more tools than regulating a grand action.

So, yes; many tools can be needed. I would never install new wound strings without removing the dampers first.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT] #2949788 02/21/20 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
The most appropriate term for "string leveling" or "fitting hammers to strings" is: Putting strings in same phase when struck.

I have never had a problem pulling low strings up to level with it's unison partners. But I shape agraffe string holes and V-bars to an ideal shape for full function of the pivot termination principle.

In the high treble, (notes 60-88), bending the low strings up will quickly turn into breaking them. I shape the hammer surface to fit the strings if the problem is not from tilted hammers.

Ed,
I have read your posts about shaping v bars but I cannot recall you mentioning shaping agraffe holes. Do you round the exit or is it give it a defined edge?
Ian


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949798 02/21/20 12:33 PM
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Interesting thread, and educational too. By-the-way, great pics, Emery!

I'm probably not qualified to chime in here, but that usually doesn't stop me, for better or worse. smile

In regards to string leveling, I do believe that means that the strings should be on the same horizontal plane with each other, and mated to the hammer evenly, without the hammer strike point having to be angled at a slant in order to hit the strings evenly.

Example: I broke an upper treble string on my C7 once while playing rather vigorously in that octave. Not a musical sound... :-) . I took a caliper and measured the diameter of the broken string and purchased the wire from a local RPT. The string replacement went well, with three consistent, even string coils. However when I pulled the strings up to pitch on that note, the power and strength the note had before was just not there.

I noticed the new strings were positioned just a little lower than the one original string in that note. I took my string hook and gently pulled up on those two new strings (while sliding the string hook back and forth and massaging the strings upward into position, rather than just pulling up and bending them all at one time) to raise them to the same level as the original. And, "Eurika" the power on that note was back, and sounded as good as before.

So, maybe I did it all wrong, but it worked. Plus, while doing some research on string leveling, I saw many YT videos of this exact same procedure being done. So, if I did it wrong, many other folks are doing it wrong also. But I figure if it works, it works.

I agree that I'd let the bass strings settle a bit before doing any significant string leveling.

Good luck!

Rick


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2949810 02/21/20 01:09 PM
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My comment was directed at wound bi-chords.
Tri-chords are different. Consider the center string being low, it won’t be practical to shape the hammer to the tri-chord imho. Lifting the string may be the last resort but if there is no noticeable hammer string issues I leave it alone. There may be damping issues especially where felts are either flat or flat in back and split wedge in front. If I can’t solve that at the damper felt I’ll lift the wire.
Factories don’t seem to pay attention to agraffe sets, when I buy them or have an existing set available during restringing I spend some time reaming to remove burrs and try to shape the inside properly and sort out those that obviously are miscut and will give leveling problems.
Shaping the capo as Ed says is very important but it is not unusual to find capo bars that are not parallel to the key bed, many slope toward the key bed because the plate warps in the casting process. Hammer shaping may be appropriate in cases related to this.
One other thought: as an alternative to reaming with a tool and having to remove agraffe and figure a way to support it, for an obvious miscut agraffe that results in a low string you can buy abrasive chord from the supply house. If extra replacement wire is close at hand just remove the wire and use the chord to try to solve the problem at the source.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2950174 02/22/20 01:57 PM
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Thanks everyone. Everything is installed and sounds normal. While tuning, however, I noticed that on many of the coils, there is a small gap between the string and the lowest coil. I should be able to fix this by lowering tension then re-tightening with a coil lifter. This is what I did initially when making the coils, but they must have moved a little out of place as I pulled the strings to pitch without the coil lifter.

Is it worth the trouble to fix the coils? I don't notice any strings sounding odd, and I'm thinking it's more an aesthetic thing only a tech would notice. However, will it adversely affect the sound?

Thanks.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2950187 02/22/20 02:26 PM
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Tighter coils are more stable, but the most important thing is that the beckets are tight to the pin. I have a slide hammer tool for pulling up the bottom of the coils, and just as often, I find that the top of the coils need to be pushed down, which you can do tapping on a screwdriver. The beckets can be tightened with pliers, or a piece of pipe, although I have a tool for that, as well.


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Re: Bass string leveling & install questions [Re: Emery Wang] #2950275 02/22/20 05:39 PM
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OK. Beckets are tight. Slide hammer is a great idea. I'll put it on the list of tools to fashion.

Speaking of home made tools, check out these side needling pliers. Basically a thumbtack superglued to parallel vise grips. Haven't tried them yet, but theoretically they should work!

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