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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2964554 04/07/20 10:01 PM
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I titled my book on tone regulation; The Educated Piano. It assume the reader is professional and schooled in the general principles of piano service. It assumes the reader can reason from first principles and has inculcated a certain level of the wisdom gifted to us by our ancestors regarding natural law. (Natural Law includes science and logic).

My book for all its omissions and limits is still the only text on the subject that treats developing the feel and tone of a piano simultaneously.

I have been at the task long enough that I can get feedback from customers who have experienced over forty years of playing one of my pianos. The durability and stability my LightHammer Tone Regulation creates both in tone and touch is simply unmatched by any other piano, The actions are nearly indestructible.

This is a truly significant value for owners of these pianos. Technicians who ignore these facts are derelict in professionalism in my opinion. If we technicians expect the piano to endure, we must use our skills to improve the value proposition of piano ownership. That will help improve the market for pianos and thus piano service.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
OE1FEU #2965018 04/09/20 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
I believe that you have misunderstood me. The premise that today's hammer felts do not (or only very little) contain lanolin simply is not correct. Since you were specific about the hammers used, I can specifically tell you that Renner's Blue Points do contain lanolin, just as Abel's natural felt hammers or Bechstein's hammers. In fact, the felt comes from the same factory for these producers. So when he says that (obviously speaking about processing the raw wool) "acid makes the felt shrink and also removes the lanolin", then I'd say that this is incorrect.

It's an objective to have a hammer that gives an experienced voicer the maximum of flexibility in shaping the tone. When a hammer, as you say, come only pre-shaped, not pre-voiced, from Renner, then it's clear that they are hard as a rock. Which is why Renner has a very good description of how to handle their hammers, specifically the blue points:

https://rennerusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Selecting-and-Voicing-the-Renner-Hammer.pdf

As described in this official Renner document, voicing is done in two stages: First the pre-voicing which is designed to give the hammer a certain resilience and finally a real voicing that is specifically directed towards a specific instrument in a hall and the desires of a pianist/customer. Renner clearly uses needles and files only to shape and voice the hammer.

I certainly understand that voicing itself is hard, time-consuming and puts strain on your hands and arms. Thus, finding a way to eliminate at least one stage of the voicing process is certainly desirable. Using fabric softeners is not new as a means of voicing hammers. if you look through the archives of this forum, you'll find articles about it dating back to the early 2000s. However, none of them actually describes in detail the exact chemistry and physics behind it and that's what I'd like to know. As an Open Source guy, I am not into secret black magic :-)

Next week I'll have the opportunity to talk about this to a German technician (not from Bechstein) who also uses fabric softeners in the pre-voicing stages, so any insight from your side is welcome to have a more technical discussion with this man, who is renowned to be really good at final voicings.

Can you shed some light on the ingredients used and their interaction with keratin and lanolin? I am really curious.


When I first read Renner's description of their preneedling and needling techniques, I decided that any hammer that needed that much stabbing would never be used on my piano. Sure, you can make them softer, but how much resilience will there be in the hammer? Will it have the nonlinear springiness to crate the tonal color difference between soft and hard playing? For those interested in fabric softener, this is quite a good article on the subject.

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965046 04/09/20 12:40 PM
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-Pump aerosol sprayer from Amazon? Check.
-ALL fabric softener? Check.
-Bottle of 190 proof Everclear? On my way to the liquor store this afternoon.

I plan to dose my hammers tonight, I'll let you guys know how it works out.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965081 04/09/20 01:50 PM
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Hi Ed,
In the video and during his visit Todd Scott, who is an exceptional pianist, put the Baldwin R through the works with arpeggios, scales and repeated notes. Basically for about 4 hours. Everything that a top notch pianist could do, the piano performed effortlessly. He loved the touch and feel. I didn't have to remove excessive weight from the hammers, nor remove all of the lead weights, nor taper the hammers tails down to a 1/4" width. Nor do any radical procedure of any kind. All i did in this case, was follow the regulation specs set by Baldwin after installing all new Renner parts and Hammers. Followed by precise regulating.

I don't see how that is derelict of professionalism. Also in the video, I recorded first reactions of other pianists as soon as they sat down to play it after Todd was finished voicing. The Utter surprise at the beauty of Tone expressed by them really says a lot towards improving our market.

-chris


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965132 04/09/20 03:27 PM
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I wonder if pure ethanol is needed. Denatured alcohol is available at pharmacies and hardware stores--it is mostly ethanol with a small amount of denaturing chemicals added, which are often methanol and/or isopropyl alcohol. For that matter, I wouldn't be surprised is isopropyl alcohol worked just a well.

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965134 04/09/20 03:35 PM
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As explained to me, isopropyl works but only if it's over 90% alcohol. Otherwise it has too much water which will puff out the hammer felt. Plus, isopropyl alcohol is as hard to find as toilet paper nowadays ;-)

As for denatured alcohol, I'm not sure what the water content is. However, since it contains toxic stuff to prevent you from drinking it, I'm not sure I'd want to spray it out in a mist.

Nice thing about the Everclear: if this doesn't work, or even if it does, you can always stir up a nice cocktail.

Last edited by Emery Wang; 04/09/20 03:35 PM.

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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Emery Wang #2965164 04/09/20 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
As explained to me, isopropyl works but only if it's over 90% alcohol. Otherwise it has too much water which will puff out the hammer felt. Plus, isopropyl alcohol is as hard to find as toilet paper nowadays ;-)

As for denatured alcohol, I'm not sure what the water content is. However, since it contains toxic stuff to prevent you from drinking it, I'm not sure I'd want to spray it out in a mist.

Nice thing about the Everclear: if this doesn't work, or even if it does, you can always stir up a nice cocktail.

Isopropyl alcohol can't be ingested, but it's sold as rubbing alcohol, and people have been using it on their skin for a long time. It's considered a respiratory irritant, which doesn't sound horrendous. However, as you say, ethyl alcohol is not poisonous, though long-term exposure has killed many a person.

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965192 04/09/20 05:09 PM
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My thoughts regarding the different types of alcohol are basically that it doesn't matter when it comes to hammer felt absorption. What does matter is the water content of the alcohol. Everclear is pretty pure, but it's downside is its price. Everclear is 190 proof and I did a google search regarding the proof of Denatured alcohol, and it was also 190. I'm sure some brands of denatured alcohol contain more water than others. I wouldn't be too concerned about the contaminant they put in the denatured alcohol to make it unusable for human consumption.

I use a small spray gun to spray the two solutions. I found 40 psi mimics the can of hairspray. Since the spraying process takes about 5 seconds, your not really putting too much into the air. So i feel its very safe to do. Also much more safe and enjoyable than breathing acetone or lacquer thinner.

-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965194 04/09/20 05:12 PM
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Roy123,
Thanks for the fabric softener link. I enjoyed the article.
-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
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Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
www.chernobieffpiano.com
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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965247 04/09/20 09:12 PM
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No doubt one can make a successful piano with the methods you describe. But how long will it stay that way when you play it like you love it? Longevity of quality should also be a goal of any tone regulation protocol. The industry has avoided considering this. I have not.

It is absurd to pay good money for hammers and need to shred them or swell them up to get the felt into a musical condition. That was not normal 100 years ago.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965250 04/09/20 09:33 PM
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Ed, is there truth to the idea that 100 years ago hammers had a lot of lanolin in them so needed less voicing? If so, maybe now the harsher hammer making process reduces the lanolin in the hammer felt so much that you either need to 1) needle them, 2) make them very light, or 3) inject a lanolin substitute to get the proper tone.

What do you think?


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Emery Wang #2965257 04/09/20 10:22 PM
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Thanks for asking Emery. I have never found much utility in thinking about lanolin in hammer felt. I find a model that prioritizes controlling mass, the non-linear spring rate of the felt placed within the musical parameters of the keyboard compass, and the control rate of the hammer as experienced when playing, provides a far more productive paradigm. It is all about escapement in a certain sense.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965266 04/09/20 11:20 PM
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As far as I can tell, there are four techniques for voicing hammers: Filing (includes brushing), needling, ironing, and chemicals (includes steaming).

Filing and needling are the easiest for fine control. They are the fastest. They are necessary skills which are used to correct deficiencies in other techniques, so you have to know them.

Ironing has not given me results that have suited me, but then, I have not spent too much time with it. Chemicals are the riskiest. They are hard to control, and they usually are slower than other methods, so I use them sparingly.

The effects of voicing are described by the wave equation, which says that the waveform (the most important factor of musical sound, even though people these days seem to avoid talking about it) depends on the way that the wave is initiated. I believe that what most people want is a good amount of displacement imparted to the string in such a manner that the waveform is a nice round shape. The displacement is created by the hammer being soft enough to keep the hammer from bouncing off the string before its energy can be transferred to the string. The shape of the waveform is due to the way that the hammer hits and then leaves the string. A hammer that is worn has sharpish corners where it hits the string, which is more angular than the roundish waveform that we want, and has a harsher sound. This is why filing old hammers can have such a satisfying effect on the way that a piano sounds.

Needling the hammers can have a variety of effects. It can keep the body of hammer soft enough to stay on the string so that more power can be imparted to it. It can keep the tip of the hammer soft enough that it does not act like a sharp point, so that the waveform will be more round. It depends on where and how one needles.

One cannot learn the techniques without really good listening skills. Excellent aural tuning skills are the best way to learn them. For me, they are a prerequisite.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
BDB #2965271 04/09/20 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
Originally Posted by Cinnamonbear
Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
[...] In general, the faster a pianists can "know" how much force a hammer is carrying, the sooner they can move on the the next note they plan to play. I have found one can use their hands to "measure" the inertia of an action and "know" what sound control it will produce even with the action out of the piano.

I have a tone model I call Musically Intelligible Sound. I use consonants to describe the sound during the dwell time of the hammer on the string. And vowel sounds to describe the quality of tone after hammer impact. Vowel tone is frequency bracketed, in the treble the ear only recognizes two vowels E and not E.

In the most basic terms one can describe a piano hammer as a type of damper. The greater the inertia of the hammer, the greater the contact, (damping) time with the string.


The spring rate of the felt is almost always much slower than the period of the string a hammer strikes. And the felt spring rate slows when compressed by a greater force.

This ^^^ is *genius*! Ed's whole post is excellent in its scope and definition (sorry about the ellipsis)! The bolded part is what really captured my imagination. Ed's whole post speaks volumes.

Thanks for that gem, Ed!
--Andy

Would you be kind enough to explain what Ed's post means to you? Is there any useful information to be derived from it?

Sure, BDB! Glad to!

A couple of years ago, I was doing a fluff and buff of a neglected 1950s vintage Steinway L. At one point in the project, I noticed that the hammers were shaped like upside-down figs, and that the strike points had been destroyed by a previous tech's over-needling (following what appeared to be the previous to that tech's over-lacquering. There was evidence of both). I surmised that this caused the hammers to spread into fig shapes by successive playing. The memory of those upside-down figs prompted me to understand Ed's point about hammers acting like dampers, as those hammers were wrapping around the strings like an under-inflated red playground kick ball.

Also, when reading Ed's post, above, I recalled a post a few years ago by RxD, in which he said something about "taking the 'meow' out of the unison." That illustration really helped me learn to set solid unisons, expecially after someone else posted clarification about the "meow" sound coming from mis-matched highest partials. When I read Ed's post, and considered the vowel sound of "meow" (which is not just a vowel sound, but a dipthong...), and then considered the strike of those figs on the Steinway L, (it was kind of a hard "G' sound, like, "Guh"), (plus, when I considered other strike sounds that I often hear, like, "Cuh" and "Paugh" and "Tik,") I had an epiphany of understanding about what Ed was saying. The clarity of the epiphany excited me, and I wanted to express my appreciation and validate his post. You are right, BDB. I should have explained my excitement.

Oh, and I can add that I filed those figs on that "L" into nice slender eggs. The birds got lots of nice felt for their nests, that day. Weight came off of the hammers. I have had several compliments about how nice that piano is to play. The "L" is in a struggling concert venue. One pianist who played it was from New York, and she said, "That is a *sweet* piano." The other pianist is a well known local artist who remarked, "That is the first Steinway I've ever played where I did not have to work so hard to play it." (I am not in it for the compliments--I just want to leave behind me a wake of pianos that sound good and are fun to play.)

I try to listen and learn here on Piano World, and I've learned a lot from all of you! (Including things like using Elmer's Blue School Glue for gluing new damper felt to old blocks! grin )

Hope that helps.

--Andy


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.
Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Ed McMorrow, RPT #2965349 04/10/20 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Thanks for asking Emery. I have never found much utility in thinking about lanolin in hammer felt. I find a model that prioritizes controlling mass, the non-linear spring rate of the felt placed within the musical parameters of the keyboard compass, and the control rate of the hammer as experienced when playing, provides a far more productive paradigm. It is all about escapement in a certain sense.

A big yes to the statement above that I bolded. I believe that implies very light, somewhat hard hammers at the treble end, and softer and heavier hammers at the bass end.

Last edited by Roy123; 04/10/20 08:25 AM.
Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Roy123 #2965354 04/10/20 09:02 AM
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ROY123, My experience confirms your suspicions.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #2965370 04/10/20 10:21 AM
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I have no idea what non-linear spring rate is. Springs obey Hook's Law, and that is not linear. To imply that a spring does not obey Hook's Law does not explain what it does. It just opens it up to an infinite number of possibilities.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
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Originally Posted by BDB
I have no idea what non-linear spring rate is. Springs obey Hook's Law, and that is not linear. To imply that a spring does not obey Hook's Law does not explain what it does. It just opens it up to an infinite number of possibilities.

I think Hook's law for springs is a linear response, quoting from wikipaedia: "Hooke's law is a law of physics that states that the force (F) needed to extend or compress a spring by some distance (x) scales linearly with respect to that distance"

However HL comes with caveats that it is only an approximation if there is any deformation of the metal/material and it is a law for simple helical wound springs. Complex wound springs can be engineered to non-linear rates, an example of this might be a typical car suspension spring. Likewise other elastic materials do not necessarily obey Hook's ;law at all.

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
BDB #2965452 04/10/20 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
I have no idea what non-linear spring rate is. Springs obey Hook's Law, and that is not linear. To imply that a spring does not obey Hook's Law does not explain what it does. It just opens it up to an infinite number of possibilities.

Hooke's Law may be expressed as F = kd, where F is force, k is the spring constant, and d is the displacement of the spring. By inspection we see that F is linear with respect to d. Springs absolutely follow this law, though, at some point, with excessive stretching or compression, they may divert from it. Many weigh scales use springs because of the linearity springs display.

Ideally, piano hammers have a nonlinear force curve. One could express such a nonlinear spring constant as F = kd^exp, where exp is some exponent that expresses the degree of nonlinearity. If exp = 1, then the spring is linear. Some may prefer to express the nonlinearity using the the form, F = ke^(ad). e is Euler's constant (inverse of the natural log), and a is some constant expressing the degree of nonlinearity. Of course, piano hammers may not follow a simple exponential. Their response may more closely conform to the sum of 2 or more exponentials, or perhaps a power series.

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Roy123 #2965453 04/10/20 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Roy123
Ideally, piano hammers have a nonlinear force curve.

Why?


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