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Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? #2960138 03/24/20 09:40 PM
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Is it true that when the sound board is cracked, the sound is not affected like many people (sellers?) claim? I always suspected that the claim was not true because if it was so, the piano manufacture would not even bother gluing the pieces of the sound board together. If the sound got affected when the sound board was cracked, then how and in what way it would?

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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960151 03/24/20 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by DreamPiano80
Is it true that when the sound board is cracked, the sound is not affected like many people (sellers?) claim? I always suspected that the claim was not true because if it was so, the piano manufacture would not even bother gluing the pieces of the sound board together. If the sound got affected when the sound board was cracked, then how and in what way it would?


The easiest way to put it is that a crack in a soundboard is a symptom, but not the disease. A crack shows that the soundboard is moving. This is usually the result of changes in the relative humidity that has caused the pieces of wood making up the assembly to expand and contract. What I refer to the assembly , I mean the board itself, as well as the bridges and the rib stock that make up the entire unit we call the soundboard.

A crack, in and of itself, does not subtract substantially from the area of active soundboard. It usually will not impede parts of the board from becoming active. However, if the soundboard is cracked, then it is moving.This is frequently caused by rapid or extreme changes in humidity over time.

If the soundboard is moving, then it is likely not at the specified position it should be in. For example, the height of each end of the speaking length of the string (bridge pin to agraffe) will not be where they ought to be. The soundboard assembly itself may have lost what we call crown, which is the "curve" of the entire assembly that helps to create tension - and better tone.

When a soundboard loses crown, the piano will not sound as it was designed to sound. It will not have the breadth of tone or the length of decay that it was designed to have.

So, while a crack in a soundboard may not, in itself, cripple a soundboard, it is a sign that something is beginning to happen.... or has already happened.

I hope that helps,


Rich Galassini
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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: Rich Galassini] #2960168 03/24/20 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Originally Posted by DreamPiano80
Is it true that when the sound board is cracked, the sound is not affected like many people (sellers?) claim? I always suspected that the claim was not true because if it was so, the piano manufacture would not even bother gluing the pieces of the sound board together. If the sound got affected when the sound board was cracked, then how and in what way it would?


The easiest way to put it is that a crack in a soundboard is a symptom, but not the disease. A crack shows that the soundboard is moving. This is usually the result of changes in the relative humidity that has caused the pieces of wood making up the assembly to expand and contract. What I refer to the assembly , I mean the board itself, as well as the bridges and the rib stock that make up the entire unit we call the soundboard.

A crack, in and of itself, does not subtract substantially from the area of active soundboard. It usually will not impede parts of the board from becoming active. However, if the soundboard is cracked, then it is moving.This is frequently caused by rapid or extreme changes in humidity over time.

If the soundboard is moving, then it is likely not at the specified position it should be in. For example, the height of each end of the speaking length of the string (bridge pin to agraffe) will not be where they ought to be. The soundboard assembly itself may have lost what we call crown, which is the "curve" of the entire assembly that helps to create tension - and better tone.

When a soundboard loses crown, the piano will not sound as it was designed to sound. It will not have the breadth of tone or the length of decay that it was designed to have.

So, while a crack in a soundboard may not, in itself, cripple a soundboard, it is a sign that something is beginning to happen.... or has already happened.

I hope that helps,


Thanks Rich for the explanation!

So a crack might not affect the sound very much unless other parts are moving.

if a crack is big enough that makes the sound board pieces that are involved to completely separate, I guess it would prevent the sound board acting as sound board?

Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960175 03/25/20 12:22 AM
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I am not certain whether soundboard cracks or lack of crown has any effect on the sound in most circumstances. I have tuned lots of pianos with cracks, and even a couple of Rippens with reverse crowns (made flat and crowned downward by the force of the string downbearing), and they fall within the normal range of piano sound. That is not to say that is true of all pianos, but I am not convinced that anyone knows every last secret of how soundboards work, and probably not enough to say for certain what element of their design and construction makes a particular difference in the sound. I understand hammers a little better, and I know that changes in them make quite a difference in loudness, sound decay, and tonal quality, which correspond pretty much with my understanding of the wave equation. Soundboards also seem to work according to one part of the wave equation, that which has to do with going from one, two, and three dimensions, but as for specific changes making specific differences in the tone, that remains arcane.

I have never heard a piano that has changes in tonal characteristics that I could ascribe to a crack or loss of crown in the soundboard during the time that I have heard, tuned or played it. It could happen, I suppose, but as far as I can tell, it is not likely to happen within the lifespan of other components of the piano, and unless there is a catastrophic event, not during a particular tenure of ownership. There are some pianos I have known for many decades, and many of these pianos are much older than I am.


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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960287 03/25/20 12:28 PM
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One of my neighbors had a house fire in his attic. His grand piano, a Yamaha G3, was on the main floor (2 below). Between the fire and the fire department, the piano experienced zero humidity and then 100% sauna within an hour. A few cracks opened up.

We removed the piano, treated it for smoke damage and stored it during the home repairs. By the time we returned the piano 8 months later, the cracks had all sealed and looked "healed". The piano was lucky. Most do not heal, and we see a lot with fire and water damage.

Those are instances of an "event" that caused the failure. Most cracks are due to cyclical changes and longer time spans. A bigger problem than a crack is often a bridge or rib separation. In these case, bad buzzes can develop or significant loss of performance in 1 or more registers.

If a soundboard is designed to have crown and looses it, the performance is diminished. If the downbearing is no longer at spec, flatness of sustain is typically lost, and sometimes total sustain.

Most pianos in homes have more than enough top end range, that is loudness, so when that diminishes, it is far less obvious than it is for a performance venue. In those venues, the loss of top end projection can lead to the retirement of an otherwise still good piano.


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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960361 03/25/20 04:39 PM
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Given that I am not an expert, it seems to me that sound board cracks sometimes produce changes in sound, and sometimes don't. Of course, as Rich points out, the changes in sound might be produced by the same factors that cracked the soundboard in the first place, in which case the cracks don't change the sound, but, if the sound has changed, it might be due to the same things that caused the cracks.

In any event, even a crack that has not either caused or accompanied a change in sound can and probably does affect the value of a piano, or why would anyone care whether there's a crack or not? Cracks in the soundboard are not viewed as a good thing by customers, and hence cannot be viewed as a non-issue by sellers either.

Just my less than two cents, as a non-expert customer. . . .

Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960370 03/25/20 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Rank Piano Amateur
In any event, even a crack that has not either caused or accompanied a change in sound can and probably does affect the value of a piano, or why would anyone care whether there's a crack or not? Cracks in the soundboard are not viewed as a good thing by customers, and hence cannot be viewed as a non-issue by sellers either.

Just my less than two cents, as a non-expert customer. . . .

I'm no expert either, RPA.

The piano mover I use on occasion, and also a long-time acquaintance and friend, said he road up to north Ga. to move a Yamaha grand piano for a buyer, who met him at the seller's home. He said when he got there and was looking the piano over before he started work, he noticed a small crack in the soundboard.

He pointed it out to the buyer, who had not noticed it (not sure if they got a tech inspection, but probably not) and the buyer pointed it out to the seller, who had not noticed it, apparently.

My mover friend said the seller reduced the price $1000 immediately, and the buyer agreed to follow through with the deal. So, yes, a cracked soundboard does indeed affect the price, even if it doesn't affect the sound/tone. I'm not sure what the actual selling price was, I don't think the mover ever mentioned it. But he did mention the immediate $1000 discount because of the crack.

The older I get (and I'm already old:-) I've come to the conclusion that what you hear when you play a piano is much more important than what you see when you play the piano. Maybe that is why I like old relics that sound and play good but look bad? smile

Just a few thoughts...

Rick


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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960373 03/25/20 05:32 PM
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I think a crack is sort of analogous to a tumor. The tumor might be benign, premalignant or malignant. Regardless, it's better not to have a tumor at all. A given crack may not cause problems, or it may cause problems in the future. Better to not have a crack at all.



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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: Rickster] #2960374 03/25/20 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Rickster
I've come to the conclusion that what you hear when you play a piano is much more important than what you see when you play the piano.

thumb



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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: Rickster] #2960435 03/25/20 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Rank Piano Amateur
Given that I am not an expert, it seems to me that sound board cracks sometimes produce changes in sound, and sometimes don't. Of course, as Rich points out, the changes in sound might be produced by the same factors that cracked the soundboard in the first place, in which case the cracks don't change the sound, but, if the sound has changed, it might be due to the same things that caused the cracks.

In any event, even a crack that has not either caused or accompanied a change in sound can and probably does affect the value of a piano, or why would anyone care whether there's a crack or not? Cracks in the soundboard are not viewed as a good thing by customers, and hence cannot be viewed as a non-issue by sellers either.

Just my less than two cents, as a non-expert customer. . . .








Originally Posted by Rickster
Originally Posted by Rank Piano Amateur
In any event, even a crack that has not either caused or accompanied a change in sound can and probably does affect the value of a piano, or why would anyone care whether there's a crack or not? Cracks in the soundboard are not viewed as a good thing by customers, and hence cannot be viewed as a non-issue by sellers either.

Just my less than two cents, as a non-expert customer. . . .

I'm no expert either, RPA.

The piano mover I use on occasion, and also a long-time acquaintance and friend, said he road up to north Ga. to move a Yamaha grand piano for a buyer, who met him at the seller's home. He said when he got there and was looking the piano over before he started work, he noticed a small crack in the soundboard.

He pointed it out to the buyer, who had not noticed it (not sure if they got a tech inspection, but probably not) and the buyer pointed it out to the seller, who had not noticed it, apparently.

My mover friend said the seller reduced the price $1000 immediately, and the buyer agreed to follow through with the deal. So, yes, a cracked soundboard does indeed affect the price, even if it doesn't affect the sound/tone. I'm not sure what the actual selling price was, I don't think the mover ever mentioned it. But he did mention the immediate $1000 discount because of the crack.

The older I get (and I'm already old:-) I've come to the conclusion that what you hear when you play a piano is much more important than what you see when you play the piano. Maybe that is why I like old relics that sound and play good but look bad? smile

Just a few thoughts...

Rick


I agree with cracks affecting the value of the piano. A small or big scratches, heck many scratches or even dents, might not be stop a car from being drive able, but it will certainly lower the value of the car.

Nobody will pay same price for a piano with cracks vs a non-crack imho.

Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960489 03/25/20 11:45 PM
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Sorry, I posted a wrong video, let me find the right one.

Last edited by VladK; 03/25/20 11:51 PM.

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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2960871 03/26/20 11:21 PM
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There's a story about one of the Steinway brothers proving that a crack wouldn't affect their soundboards, cut a hole in the soundboard of one of his new pianos and challenged anyone to notice a difference. Two points though - the soundboard was still in good *shape*, and also we don't know where he cut the hole. The point he was trying to make was that despite changes in the soundboard over time, the instrument would still maintain beautiful sound. That's changed days for sure!

Colin Leverett of Blüthner's UK, later Piano Restorations Ltd Uk told me that the first time he encountered needing to replace a soundboard was a Blüthner grand that was about 50 years old at the time, back in the late 50's. He told me that they'd tried everything to get the tone of this piano back - changed the down bearing so many times, the scale, the bridges, the hammers, and nothing worked. Remember that they were also importing and servicing the new pianos before they were sold at that time so they did have a comparison. Anyway Colin called up his boss and said he felt the soundboard needed to be replaced, and his boss said that was unheard of in piano repair and not to do it. They went ahead and replaced the soundboard and told the boss to come in and see the piano. Boss said "it sounds as good as new, how did you do that then?", and Colin winked and told him "soundboard was replaced boss", and boss went ballistic at first but was ecstatic soon after.

Most of the soundboards they replaced actually didn't appear cracked, but in a lot of them you could see with the naked eye that the crown had gone and in some cases reversed. Colin Leverett says that his workshop was the first in Europe to replace soundboards, which is probably true because it's actually something that's generally not done very often in Europe where the approach to piano restoration is far more conservative.

Does anybody know when soundboard replacement first became a 'thing' in piano restoration? I know that Steinway and Blüthner in the UK have offered it as part of their service for many years now. What about the USA?

I know there's disagreement even on this forum about soundboards, but I just post that to share an anecdote from within the trade.

Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: joe80] #2960991 Yesterday at 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by joe80
Colin Leverett says that his workshop was the first in Europe to replace soundboards, which is probably true because it's actually something that's generally not done very often in Europe where the approach to piano restoration is far more conservative.

Does anybody know when soundboard replacement first became a 'thing' in piano restoration? I know that Steinway and Blüthner in the UK have offered it as part of their service for many years now. What about the USA?

I know there's disagreement even on this forum about soundboards, but I just post that to share an anecdote from within the trade.


I believe that Colin and now Paul may have been the first in the UK. Soundboard replacement has probably been happening longer here in the USA. It certainly happens more often, or at least it had, from my admittedly limited exposure.

I take as experience my first time visiting Europe in the 1980's, which included London, Paris, and Athens. Even then, I visited piano shops whenever I traveled. In London and Paris I found piano shops who also restored pianos. I saw no new boards in either city, and was surprised that the general opinion was to restore, rather than replace and rebuild, even when it came to actions.

For instance, a shop in Paris had a technician who was painstakingly breaking joints in a wippen so the entire assembly could be cleaned, reglued, rebushed, and reassembled. It was amazing to me that this effort was taking place. With 20/20 hind sight, I think this was either a throw back to the days when new replacement actions were less available. They WERE generally available in the 1980's, but if someone had been in the industry for years, they may have just been in the rhythm of doing this - or preferred it for some reason.

After that visit, and experiencing first hand appreciation for history and the richness of culture throughout Europe, it could be that something else was happening as well. In parts of the USA, a building 75 years old is OLD and there is no qualms about generally ripping it down and replacing it. In Europe, there are so many buildings that have been around for hundreds of years. They would think no more of ripping down one of these structures as they would cutting off their own arm. This way of thinking may well have influenced their decisions in what and how to do restoration on a piano.

Anyway, my 2 cents,


Rich Galassini
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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2961034 Yesterday at 03:44 PM
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I think Steve Jellen in CT was one of the first to do soundboard replacement back in the late 50's and early 60's.

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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2961043 Yesterday at 04:37 PM
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So again please excuse my curiosity. What’s the cost difference between replacing a soundboard or an action vs rebuilding a soundboard or rebuilding an action?


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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: DreamPiano80] #2961252 12 hours ago
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Wally Brooks was doing soundboard replacement quite early as well.


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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: j&j] #2961266 10 hours ago
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Originally Posted by j&j
So again please excuse my curiosity. What’s the cost difference between replacing a soundboard or an action vs rebuilding a soundboard or rebuilding an action?


Let's talk about the action. To prep., hang a new action, regulate, voice, and get the piano humming to concert condition can take several weeks. IMHO, to work with the ORiGINAL parts and fully restore the action, Like I saw happening in Europe (se my earlier post) it HAS to take twice that time, and frankly, it requires additional skills than using a new action. SO as far as cost, I don't see it as being substantially less, in fact it could be more.

I need to add that because older parts are being used and reassembled, there is a greater chance that the position of each part within an assembly, like a wippen, might not be exactly the same position that they were. The possibility of getting as an exacting a final product as with new parts, while not impossible, is not as easily achieved.

My 2 cents,


Rich Galassini
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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: Rich Galassini] #2961291 9 hours ago
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Originally Posted by j&j
So again please excuse my curiosity. What’s the cost difference between replacing a soundboard or an action vs rebuilding a soundboard or rebuilding an action?


Let's talk about the action. To prep., hang a new action, regulate, voice, and get the piano humming to concert condition can take several weeks. IMHO, to work with the ORiGINAL parts and fully restore the action, Like I saw happening in Europe (se my earlier post) it HAS to take twice that time, and frankly, it requires additional skills than using a new action. SO as far as cost, I don't see it as being substantially less, in fact it could be more.

I need to add that because older parts are being used and reassembled, there is a greater chance that the position of each part within an assembly, like a wippen, might not be exactly the same position that they were. The possibility of getting as an exacting a final product as with new parts, while not impossible, is not as easily achieved.

My 2 cents,


So I guess in those shops in Europe that rebuilt the actions rather then hang and fit a new action would be they couldn’t import or buy a new action, they had to rebuild and refit the old action? Same with soundboards?


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Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: Rich Galassini] #2961342 6 hours ago
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
After that visit, and experiencing first hand appreciation for history and the richness of culture throughout Europe, it could be that something else was happening as well. In parts of the USA, a building 75 years old is OLD and there is no qualms about generally ripping it down and replacing it. In Europe, there are so many buildings that have been around for hundreds of years. They would think no more of ripping down one of these structures as they would cutting off their own arm. This way of thinking may well have influenced their decisions in what and how to do restoration on a piano.

I think Rich has made rather a profound point - it perhaps has something to do with differences between the American and the European character.

When my Bluthner (1881) was restored, the rebuilder kept the original soundboard, and the wrest plank. The hammers were kept but refelted. He was dead against regilding the frame, and I am now so glad that the original patina was kept.

Re: Would sound get affected because of cracked sound board? [Re: Rich Galassini] #2961354 5 hours ago
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Originally Posted by j&j
So again please excuse my curiosity. What’s the cost difference between replacing a soundboard or an action vs rebuilding a soundboard or rebuilding an action?


Let's talk about the action. To prep., hang a new action, regulate, voice, and get the piano humming to concert condition can take several weeks. IMHO, to work with the ORiGINAL parts and fully restore the action, Like I saw happening in Europe (se my earlier post) it HAS to take twice that time, and frankly, it requires additional skills than using a new action. SO as far as cost, I don't see it as being substantially less, in fact it could be more.

I need to add that because older parts are being used and reassembled, there is a greater chance that the position of each part within an assembly, like a wippen, might not be exactly the same position that they were. The possibility of getting as an exacting a final product as with new parts, while not impossible, is not as easily achieved.

My 2 cents,


You didn’t discuss the soundboard: replace or repair in a vintage piano? I have a vintage M&H grand, and my uneducated concern is that replacing the soundboard might change the tone. Is that hogwash?


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It’s ok to be a Work In Progress
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