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Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
#3027427 09/21/20 10:59 AM
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OSHA workplace regulation places limits at around 85db. That is already a very high number, which skews to keep industry happy, less so to protect workers.

Even measuring my small console upright, it's pushing 80-85db. Grands are even louder.

Looking at the literature, it seems musicians in general have a significantly higher rate of hearing-loss and disorders such as tinnitus. What to do, stick sound absorbing foam in the piano?

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027431 09/21/20 11:16 AM
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Answer to your question : yes.

Earlier versions of pianos don't sound as loud, especially non-concert ones. I personally modified the regulation on mine "as much as possible" for the piano to not be as loud. I also enjoy my digital for the fact that I can adjust the volume as I want. Different instrument of course, but with some advantages (as everyone knows).

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027454 09/21/20 11:47 AM
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Instruments for performance in concert halls are bound to be too loud in most modest homes, especially when it's in small spaces, with bare walls and low ceilings.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027460 09/21/20 11:59 AM
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Though I'm not even 30 yet, I do have some hearing damage from playing the piano (I have a lot of missing hearing around 8kHz, and my ears ring pretty often), mainly thanks to the old Kawai I played in high school which made my ears hurt everyday. Very bright Kawais and Yamahas will hammer your hearing much harder, while pianos with softer hammers are noticeably less painful.

It does make me wonder, could a piano be rescaled with thinner wire and lower tension to get a richer bass and lower volume? The action could also be lightened with lower mechanical advantage. At least on the Phoenix 212, the harshest sound I can produce with my fingers was really quite excessive before I voiced the hammers down.

Last edited by trigalg693; 09/21/20 11:59 AM.
Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027470 09/21/20 12:04 PM
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Here is the table from OSHA site:

Quote
TABLE G-16 - PERMISSIBLE NOISE EXPOSURES (1)
Duration per day, hours | Sound level dBA slow response

8...........................| 90
6...........................| 92
4...........................| 95
3...........................| 97
2...........................| 100
1 1/2 ......................| 102 1...........................| 105
1/2 ........................| 110
1/4 or less................| 115

Footnote(1)
When the daily noise exposure is composed of two or more periods of noise exposure of different levels, their combined effect should be considered, rather than the individual effect of each. If the sum of the following fractions: C(1)/T(1) + C(2)/T(2) C(n)/T(n) exceeds unity, then, the mixed exposure should be considered to exceed the limit value. Cn indicates the total time of exposure at a specified noise level, and Tn indicates the total time of exposure permitted at that level. Exposure to impulsive or impact noise should not exceed 140 dB peak sound pressure level.

If you don’t play 8 hours a day no need to worry.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027471 09/21/20 12:07 PM
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Pianos in homes depend very much on where they're placed, as well as their tonal characteristics.

I've been in tiny rooms where the small uprights (verticals) are so piercing in tone that my ears hurt even playing a short soft piece on them, and conversely, I've used studios where the seven-foot grand (with much rounder tone) sounded fine.

This chart shows why:

https://www.gcaudio.com/tips-tricks/decibel-loudness-comparison-chart

High frequency sounds of 2 - 4,000 Hz are the most damaging. Pianos with a lot of overtones and little fundamentals - regardless of their sizes - may cause hearing loss over a period of time if you habitually bang. (Note also that traffic noise in cars is as loud as ff on pianos - and subway trains are much worse.)

But if you look at the statistics, classical concert pianists rarely develop hearing problems, and most are able to keep performing into old age if they stay healthy. (I doubt jazz pianists are so fortunate, judging from the occasions when I'd visited a jazz club: the piano player was banging non-stop but was still drowned by his trumpeter and drummer......) Orchestral musicians are much more susceptible, especially those who are in front of the brass and percussion (i.e. woodwind players). Violinists may develop hearing problems in their left ears, for obvious reasons (also note how loud violins actually are: much louder than 'normal piano practice' which I take to mean playing between pp and f).

I was practicing between one to four hours a day for ten years as a piano student, and for the past ten years, have been practicing around three hours a day on my digital - which I set to a similar loudness level to the six-foot grand I perform on. Yet even in my old age, my hearing - especially in the high frequencies - is still better than many young people's. I attribute that to never ever attending discos, pop/rock concerts, nightclubs, jazz venues (except for two occasions), parties, etc - and never using portable music devices in noisy surroundings like traffic (until noise-canceling earphones appeared, when they became de rigeur for me wink )..........and playing the piano. Sensibly. Reserving my full might for grand occasions only.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027490 09/21/20 01:08 PM
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Has anyone attempted stuffing acoustic foam into pianos ?

I'm tempted to do this, but as I'm reading into acoustic foam, they can't produce a product with uniform absorption across frequencies, which means it will heavily color the sound of the piano.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027494 09/21/20 01:22 PM
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You might also consider using musician ear plugs. These don’t affect the frequency but only lower the sound pressure.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027496 09/21/20 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
Has anyone attempted stuffing acoustic foam into pianos ?

For the purposes of keeping the neighbors happy, I've stuffed blankets and blocked off the bottom with cardboard boxes, it dropped maybe like 6dB which was noticeable. The tone was affected a bit, but I could live with it.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027498 09/21/20 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
Has anyone attempted stuffing acoustic foam into pianos ?

I bought some pretty expensive foam before opting for modified regulation afterwards. For a decent reduction in volume, the foam must be a certain thickness and the main problem is that it kills the instrument's sustain (or, if you prefer, it causes a much shorter decay) because it prevents the soundboard from vibrating normally.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027504 09/21/20 02:00 PM
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I wonder if the issue is more people practicing too loud.

While I'm not sure if OSHA specifically specifies but I'm assuming that the workplace requirements are modeling workplace noise as white noise, which would be a good enough approximation.

Piano sounds are definitely not white noise, and bennevis mentioned above, hearing damage concerns would not be exactly the same. Different frequencies can cause different levels of damage at the same decibel level.

That said, I don't know if Piano is any more damaging than listening to music through headphones in general, which much more people are exposed to for longer periods.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027509 09/21/20 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
Even measuring my small console upright, it's pushing 80-85db. Grands are even louder.
For what dynamic level of playing?

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
pianoloverus #3027512 09/21/20 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
For what dynamic level of playing?

I measured while playing the pirates movie theme by j.radnich, it's alot of chords, but I wasn't banging them hard, just normal, non aggressive play. Don't judge, I know this is crass people music. shocked

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
Hakki #3027514 09/21/20 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Hakki
You might also consider using musician ear plugs. These don’t affect the frequency but only lower the sound pressure.

Hakki, I'm looking at them now, they all claim to be awesome/transparent/-20db. how different are these between brands, which one is actually scientifically rigorous.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027516 09/21/20 02:22 PM
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People practicing on digitals seem to prefer lower volumes. So I would say acoustics are louder than most people would like them to be.

I am quite happy with my practice pedal. It allows me to practice at lower volumes. However the effect is a bit strong and it colors the sound quite a bit. An intermediate setting would be welcome. That being said I have a children’s mattress behind my piano.

Last edited by Gretel; 09/21/20 02:23 PM. Reason: Grammar

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Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
Gretel #3027517 09/21/20 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Gretel
People practicing on digitals seem to prefer lower volumes. So I would say acoustics are louder than most people would like them to be.

I am quite happy with my practice pedal. It allows me to practice at lower volumes. However the effect is a bit strong and it colors the sound quite a bit. An intermediate setting would be welcome. That being said I have a children’s mattress behind my piano.

I've tried thus far stuffing a thick comforter between the wall and the piano. It does muffle ~2db, but it's still quite loud.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027521 09/21/20 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
I've tried thus far stuffing a thick comforter between the wall and the piano. It does muffle ~2db, but it's still quite loud.

Have you tried carpeting, and covering the walls with drapery? The popcorn ceilings from the 1980's was for acoustics. It makes shrieking kids sound less harsh :-)

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
Hakki #3027529 09/21/20 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Hakki
You might also consider using musician ear plugs. These don’t affect the frequency but only lower the sound pressure.

+1 !!!

Etymotic makes good-quality, reasonably-priced "high fidelity" (=flat frequency response) earplugs. I use model ER20XS:

https://www.amazon.ca/Etymotic-High-Fidelity-Earplugs-Universal-Protection/dp/B015IQ6HI4

(they're also on Amazon.com and in music stores).

You can also spend much more money, and get Westone musician's earplugs, which might be better. Some rock/jazz players, and drummers, constantly around high SPL's, use those.


. Charles
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PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027530 09/21/20 03:04 PM
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I measured playing loudly on my grand piano at 105dB (A), which is well above the level that one should wear hearing protection for. Because of this I think it is definitely a good idea to keep lid closed and wear (proper acoustic) ear plugs if doing prolonged loud playing. Treating the rooms acoustics with foam (or in other better ways) may help the subjective loudness but the level coming from the piano is unchanged.

Re: Are pianos fundmentally too loud ?
jeffcat #3027532 09/21/20 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
Originally Posted by Hakki
You might also consider using musician ear plugs. These don’t affect the frequency but only lower the sound pressure.

Hakki, I'm looking at them now, they all claim to be awesome/transparent/-20db. how different are these between brands, which one is actually scientifically rigorous.

Some information (but not a comparison of brands):

https://www.etymotic.com/consumer/hearing-protection/which-earplug

I've used Hear-o's "musicians earplugs" -- the Etymotics are much better than those, IMHO.


. Charles
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PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
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