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Soft pedal sizzle
#2980941 05/19/20 12:00 AM
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I have a problem with a Steinway grand when using the soft pedal in combination with the sustain pedal. The problem is sometimes when the sustain pedal is gradually released while the soft pedal is maintained, there is an annoying sizzle sound on some of the notes.mad I asked a technician to look at the problem some time ago and maybe it was slightly better for a while but now it's bad again. Because of this, for recording purposes, una corda is almost unusable. Is this a well known problem? Is this caused by wear on the dampers? Any suggestions? smile

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Re: Soft pedal sizzle
julianz #2980950 05/19/20 12:19 AM
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Are you getting a metallic sound? That could be that the una corda has moved the keys so that the underlevers are moved slightly when they contact the key end felt. If the key end felt is worn, that could move the wires so that they contact the strings. Seems unlikely, but replacing or flattening the key end felt might fix that.

Otherwise, sizzle when the damper pedal is released is usually due to the string hitting the damper felt. This is most likely on wedge felt, which is only used on the lower notes. This could be exacerbated by wear on the key end felt.

So much is predicated on things like which notes are giving you problems, and how much wear there is on the piano, at the very least. I hope you are getting the idea that trying to diagnose problems like this without hearing or playing the piano is extremely difficult.


Semipro Tech
Re: Soft pedal sizzle
BDB #2980956 05/19/20 12:36 AM
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It's not a metallic sound and seems to be most prominent in the middle area of the keyboard. It sounds like the vibrating strings are being grazed unevenly by the damper felt as the dampers drop back into place. But why would this noise be much worse only when using una corda? The hammers move with respect to the strings but not the dampers. I will try to post a sample of the sound when I get chance.

Re: Soft pedal sizzle
julianz #2981100 05/19/20 11:19 AM
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When the hammer strikes only 2 of the 3 strings because the una-corda pedal is in use this causes the 3 strings to vibrate very in different planes or shapes of vibration. This is a big part of the tonal change from using this pedal. As the trichord wedge felts come down they will make more noise because the strings are not all vibrating in sync - especially, the unplayed string tends to move more horizontally than the other 2 strings.

The noise becomes more audible with the age of the felts, and also is affected some by how long the felts are passing between the strings. They can be trimmed and adjusted to reduce the sound, but it will always be there somewhat.

Also, how hard you are playing with the una-corda pedal down has a big impact on this noise! If you are only using it in very soft passages, the string noise is much more subtle. If you are playing mf or louder using the una corda - well, maybe this indicates your piano really needs other service!

Another solution is to change the una-corda pedal adjustment so that it doesn't clear the left string, but merely moves the hammers off of the normal string marks. With this setting the hammers can be specially voiced in the una-corda spots on the hammers to give a softer tone. However many pianists feel that this reduces the possible range of tone using the pedal. With the normal adjustment you can press the pedal slightly to get the shifted string position, and press it all the way for the full una-corda effect.

Lastly, the location of microphones and the acoustics of the recording environment can really affect how much this sound comes through in a recording. Pianos generally record better with the microphones farther away from the strings to get the entire tonal output of the instrument.

So consider these things - mic location, whether you are using the una-corda pedal more than it should be (with stronger playing), whether your piano needs a good touch-up of its hammer shape / string contact and overall voicing, and whether you could live with the reduced shift adjustment.


Don Mannino, MPA
Kawai America
Re: Soft pedal sizzle
julianz #2981204 05/19/20 03:31 PM
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Is the "Sustain" Pedal to which you refer, the middle one?
If yes, then... I think the problem is in how that middle pedal, also known as the sostenuto pedal, is adjusted. The design is different in Steinways.

I found a PTG paper on it here
...from which I quote here: https://my.ptg.org/HigherLogic/Syst...e180-3b26-fd0e34034b5d&forceDialog=0
Originally Posted by From PTG.org, URL Given Above
Five tests for the sostenuto system.
1.Slowly depress and release the damper pedal. No damper tabs should touch the sostenuto rod or hang up on the rod.
2.Slowly depress and release the sostenuto pedal. The sostenuto rod should not touch or activate any dampers.
3.Fully depress and hold the damper pedal. Depress the sostenuto pedal and release the damper pedal. The sostenuto pedal should lift the dampers the same height or slightly higher than the damper pedal. The dampers should remain lifted when the damper pedal is released. Tap lightly on the damper heads being held by the sostenuto. They should not fall to the strings.
4.Play each key that has a damper with an average blow, hold the key down, depress the sostenuto, then release the key. The damper should remain lifted off the string.
5.Hold down just the sostenuto pedal, strike a hard blow to each key with a damper. Each damper should rise and fall normally. If there is failure with any of the tests, the sostenuto needs to be regulated.

It would be interesting to test your piano with the soft pedal and without.
I have also found that the speed at which I release the pedal can change how much of that sizzle sound is audible. You could experiment.

Hope this is helpful.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
Educated Amateur Tuner/Technician
Rockville, MD USA
www.AndrewKraus.com
www.YouTube.com/RockvillePianoGuy
Twitter at @IAmAPianist

1929 Steinert 6'10" (Close copy of New York S&S "B")
Re: Soft pedal sizzle
Seeker #2981412 05/20/20 01:19 AM
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Originally Posted by KawaiDon
When the hammer strikes only 2 of the 3 strings because the una-corda pedal is in use this causes the 3 strings to vibrate very in different planes or shapes of vibration. This is a big part of the tonal change from using this pedal. As the trichord wedge felts come down they will make more noise because the strings are not all vibrating in sync - especially, the unplayed string tends to move more horizontally than the other 2 strings.

... whether you could live with the reduced shift adjustment.

Thanks for your reply. The noises are occurring in quiet passages and are clearly audible acoustically so moving the mics further away would only help slightly in this case I think. The noises can be controlled to a certain extent by careful pedalling but it makes it harder to play passages without some unnatural changes. Regarding changing the horizontal movement of the soft pedal, I'm not crazy about reducing the effect of the change in timbre. The hammers are in pretty good shape and have been revoiced. I suspect the damper felts must be largely to blame. Guess it might be time to consider new felts?

Originally Posted by Seeker
Is the "Sustain" Pedal to which you refer, the middle one?

No. I mean the right most pedal - i.e. sustain or damper pedal.


Originally Posted by Seeker
It would be interesting to test your piano with the soft pedal and without.
I have also found that the speed at which I release the pedal can change how much of that sizzle sound is audible. You could experiment.

The speed of release of the damper pedal is certainly a factor. But it's super annoying to have to worry about engineering rather than musical issues when you are playing a passage! Appreciate your thoughts.

Re: Soft pedal sizzle
julianz #2981532 05/20/20 10:03 AM
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Well, if it's the damper pedal, you could have your technician trim the felts.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOxGTU9b0dY


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
Educated Amateur Tuner/Technician
Rockville, MD USA
www.AndrewKraus.com
www.YouTube.com/RockvillePianoGuy
Twitter at @IAmAPianist

1929 Steinert 6'10" (Close copy of New York S&S "B")
Re: Soft pedal sizzle
julianz #2981575 05/20/20 11:05 AM
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You didn't indicate how old your piano is. In general, the older Steinway's had slightly softer damper felts. The softer felts reduce this problem somewhat.

Changing to softer felts will require a skilled piano technician. Most "good" techs are not very good at damper work.

But I suggest not using a "fade out" damper pedal release when employing the shift pedal. It is really not a proper use of the pedals in this situation. Since you are recording, why not fade out with the gain knob?


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