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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036258 10/16/20 10:39 AM
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Here is a new diagram i came up with today that i believe is very helpful. I studied a book last night about Enrico Caruso's singing technique. In the book it discussing tone production. I found it very useful comparing the piano tone and the human voice.

ATTACK:
There are three types of attack Metallic, pure, and breathy. Metallic (harsh)tone is caused by faulty technique called coup de glotte. We call it bright or pingy. Breathy is when a singer breathes out before starting the tone. We call it soft or mellow. Finally a pure tone is obtained when the singer breathes out and produces the tone at the same time. Something like that anyway.

SUSTAIN:
There are three types of sustain. LIVELY, which we call bloom, but singers call it messa di voce. The sustain will seem to rise in volume in the piano. This is really the goal of voicing. The other sustains are a gradual boring decay or a quick immediate decay.

I highlighted the appropriate areas in the hammer for manipulating. Hope this is useful to someone out there.
-chris
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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036349 10/16/20 02:12 PM
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I'm sorry, Chris. I can't resist. Where should I needle if I want a gradual boring decay? :-)


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036351 10/16/20 02:16 PM
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It comes to most of us naturally, without needling....

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036358 10/16/20 02:45 PM
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I think I was needling....

So the tone of the piano sounds like Eeyore when you are done?

Last edited by WilliamTruitt; 10/16/20 02:51 PM.

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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036365 10/16/20 03:12 PM
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This may help explain why, when I'm spraying hammers in a vertical (like I did today), trying to hit the strike point, I also end up getting it on the upper shoulder which has been giving me an effect of "bloom" (or something like that) that I did not expect. It is very nice...I massage it in and everyone is happy. It seems to work better on hammers with less wear (for obvious reasons).

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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036372 10/16/20 03:31 PM
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So you sprayed it on the hammers without taking out the whole action first?


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036392 10/16/20 04:21 PM
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I curve my fingers around the hammers to shield the innards from the pump sprayer. Then I massage the entire surface working whats on my hand into the crown and opposite shoulder.

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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
WilliamTruitt #3036404 10/16/20 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
I'm sorry, Chris. I can't resist. Where should I needle if I want a gradual boring decay? :-)

Actually, you'll want to harden 9 and 3 0'clock.


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
P W Grey #3036409 10/16/20 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
This may help explain why, when I'm spraying hammers in a vertical (like I did today), trying to hit the strike point, I also end up getting it on the upper shoulder which has been giving me an effect of "bloom" (or something like that) that I did not expect. It is very nice...I massage it in and everyone is happy. It seems to work better on hammers with less wear (for obvious reasons).

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Peter, I hope you are hearing when the sustain has an energy pulse to it, as that will take your voicing skills to a whole new level. I'm currently working on a set of Ronsens at the moment. And they have horrible dynamics. So far i have had to apply juice (B-72, 4-16) at FF as the primary procedure. A couple notes had hard shoulders otherwise most have a slow decay and no bloom. Hence, the reason for studying Caruso's book.

-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
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Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036474 10/16/20 11:23 PM
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Chris, concerning Ronsens and other "voice up" hammers: I have used Todd's method to soften and add sustain to the shoulders of hard hammers. On Ronsens, where the hammers are soft to begin with, I've heard that voicers usually juice the shoulders to harden them, which seems the opposite of what the fabric softener would do. Would you mind sharing the differences in how you treat the two different types of hammers using Todd's methods?

Thanks!


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3036676 10/17/20 01:04 PM
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I'm working on a set right now.

Using the diagram above, what i am hearing is:

The attack is very breathy.
The dynamics does not go to FF on individual notes
The sustain decays slowly. However i am fortunate that a couple notes are very good and they give me targets to match too.
There were a couple notes that had a quick decay of the sustain and i applied a couple drops of softener right above the staple and that fixed it.
With these characteristics, i'm really thinking i either got a bad set, or these are not the right hammers for the piano. I certainly have heard better Ronsens. So i'll see what manipulation can do on this set.

The instrument sounds very nice at the keyboard, but it makes me use more pedal than i usually do on the familiar pieces. Also, when listening across the room the piano sound weak.

One octave(beginning of the capo) i suspect the strike point is off. which i will be fixing. I suspect this because of a slight woody sound that is not a hammer sound.

My current approach is to address the dynamics first with this piano. So i have been pulling the action out, leaning it on its side, and using B-72 I am applying about 8 drops on the FF point. I make sure it doesn't affect the attack. That's were i'm at on this piano. My goal is to get the sustain on each note to bloom. So i'll see how it sounds after the dynamics are were i want it to be to decide how to proceed.

To answer your question. At this stage it seems using a hypo-oiler and applying hardner from the side at ff is the best technique for Ronsens as a first step.

I still plan on finishing off with light spraying to create evenness across the keyboard.

Thanks for the question Emery.

-chris

Last edited by Chernobieff Piano; 10/17/20 01:09 PM.

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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3037054 10/18/20 02:57 PM
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Chris, I am honestly trying to understand what you are experiencing with the piano. I am not finding the vocal descriptions particularly useful as a descriptor of what you are hearing. So I will take it to mean that you are saying that the attack is too soft or mellow. Do you also mean that the attack sounds unfocused and lacks clarity? The next thing you say is that the dynamics do not go to ff. And you also say that you find yourself using more pedal than usual. The piano sounds weak across the room.

My sense is that there may be more than one thing going on here, related to the hammers. I suspect that the felt on the top of the hammer may be too soft. I make no judgment on your approach with various chemicals (I certainly use them where called for) but there are certain things I typically would do first. Before I reached for hardeners, I would do a test filing on a few notes to see if that starts to bring the tone into better focus. LIkely, it will do that, you will have to see how far that takes you. If you dope hammers where the felt is considerably too soft, it will brighten the hammer, but it won't sound as good as it would had you removed enough top felt by filing, and then doped the hammer as needed. it will be brighter, it will also sound vague and distant, and certainly not exciting.

As counterintuitive as it might seem with what is probably a pretty soft set of hammers, I would take a few test notes and do some test shoulder needling. If no needles have touched these hammers, the likelihood of overdoing is quite small. Starting at 9:30, deep needling 3 sets of 3 up towards the crown. Slide the action in and listen. You may want to add another 2 or 3 sets of 3 towards the crown. If there is what I call available compression in the felt, then the tone will increase in volume, gain a sense of bloom after the attack, and sustain longer. It appears that the big sexy hairspray has value in our world as voicers, but it may not always be the best tool for a particular problem.

Another thing that I would do is to pluck strings. That takes the hammer out of the picture. I find it a very useful analytic tool. It can tell us a lot about what the board is giving to the tone or conversely, not giving. It can tell you a lot about the attack phase, the transition into the sustaining period, the character of that sustain over time, pitch stability, and the gradual decay to nothing. A good board will give a sense of push in the sustain. If the board has it, you will get the exciting swell in volume after the attack. If the board does not give that to you, the hammers won't either.

I am making no judgment on the quality of the new soundboard in this piano.

I use the Ronsen Weikert felt hammers quite a bit, and I find them to be one of the best hammers out there. Most people do little needling to them, but I have found that they get even better when I do that.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3038063 10/21/20 02:16 PM
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I need to bring up a Grotrian upright that someone voiced down too much. I juiced the dynamic section under the strike point, but it didn’t seem to improve power. I also sprayed the shoulders with no success.
Any other suggestions? Thanks very much!

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3038097 10/21/20 04:32 PM
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Toni, Do you know how a hammer should feel? Almost like squeezing a tennis ball. Some springiness should be present. If they needled the "Blank" out of them, then there is not much you can do past a certain point

-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 #3038104 10/21/20 05:05 PM
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I would try an iron.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3038115 10/21/20 06:16 PM
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Would sanding off the top layer of felt help? And if not, then B-72 to the tips?


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3038223 10/22/20 07:32 AM
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I would reshape the hammers, and try the iron.

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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3039514 10/26/20 12:18 PM
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Thanks for all your advice. I try to file the hammers before using b72.

Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3039803 10/27/20 07:21 AM
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Chris:

We have not heard back from you on where your voicing has ended up after your further efforts. Since a number of people are following this discussion, it may be of value to fill us in.

The hammer shown in your illustration looks to be Weikert felt. I have used this felt quite a bit, and early on I found that the amount of the felt over the crown area could vary a fair amount. It was my experience that I often had to do a fair amount of filing to get down to felt I considered hard enough to begin my voicing protocols. Typically, I would pre-file and shape the hammers in a jig prior to boring and hanging them. David Love worked with Ray Negron over a period of time by having Ray do the pre-filing and shaping and arrived at a system whereby the hammers out of the box were very close to where they needed to be in terms of hardness. I do some filing as needed to dial it in some areas of the scale. Ray and David call it the David Love low profile hammer. This iteration is used by a number of top technicians and sounds very good on Steinways. i have always find that these hammers really shine with a moderate amount of needling that brings them to best voice. For those of you interested in hammers of lighter weight, this is a good choice, as the shaping and filing reduces the weight while optimizing the tonal start point.

One thing that has not been discussed is just how variable felt density can be within a set of hammers, and even from neighbor to neighbor. These are things that one can experience in needling a set of hammers and match the variability that we can hear in a set or the isolated note that seems so much brighter than its neighbors. It is surprising just how much a skilled voicer can sense in hammers just by how the needles go into the felt.

Where one chooses to voice hammers by way of chemicals, whether it be lacquer, keytop solution, B-72, or other means; felt density still remains a factor. Lower density hammers have a lower threshold before brilliance becomes shrill and thin, and higher density hammers will be less responsive to brightening. Chemically hardened hammers will respond differently to needling than hammers that have not been exposed to adulterants.

All techniques we use in voicing have consequences, whether they be good or bad. As we progress through voicing, the choices we make along the way dictate the range and direction of the choices that will follow. No technique is completely reversible in the sense that it cannot be taken all the way back to an exact starting point. This means making wise choices along the way and making only small mistakes.


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Re: Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers
Chernobieff Piano #3039869 10/27/20 10:12 AM
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All good points William. There are quite a bit of experiments going on in my shop at the moment, all of which focus on bringing out the pianos full potential. I'm fortunate that I have stayed busy and that i have several pianos to play with.

So for me, the voicing starts all the way back in the links of the acoustic chain. So first the soundboard- I have a new rib design for my compression soundboards. They are asymmetrically shaped which became necessary to adjust the acoustic driving point under the bridge. The driving points on the panel are also adjusted after its installed. All of this means that the bridge becomes the acoustic center of amplitude in the piano. No one else does this that i know of, but its very important for developing a full round tone.

Next is the string scale. I have focused on bringing more clarity to the treble section. I have what i call the Chernoplex scale. I remove the duplex, specifically the front string rest. Then i lengthen the scale and segments, use a harder wood on the cap on the bridge.

Interestingly enough, downbearing setting methods have come into the discussion in my shop. It looks like its very easy to set too much and that the Wolfenden model of 1.5 degrees is way too much. I have been pretty much setting bearing following the Gravagne guidelines from his articles, but again too much. I have a method now that guarantees not to set too much bearing and choke the tone in any way, worthy an article in itself. This may be the main cause of why it can be difficult to achieve a messa di voce sustain which is my goal and why all the modifications.

Next is the hammers. Todd and I are both independently working on using Silicone oil. He is experimenting with 99% Rubbing Alcohol. I am working with various other chemicals. So far the best solvent was Xylene with complete swelling. But i don't like the smell. So i am currently trying Ethyl Acetate. The swell is fair and could be a good choice as the smell isn't terrible. There are are couple of further chemicals to try that swell better but other factors determine their use. Todd seems to like the use of rubbing alcohol with the silicone oil, but its not on any swelling chart. So i am waiting to hear his results. Dispersing and diluting are two different things. All fabric softener is fine, but it has several unknown ingredients and so making a softener that just has the working ingredient is desirable to Todd and I.

I am stringing another Mason and Hamlin today and can't wait to get to the voicing stage.

After i put all of these elements together, i want to make some good videos. My future plans are to rebuild my Mason and Hamlin BB and use it as a demo to take around to the various chapters. Hopefully, that will become a thing to do again.

-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
"Where Tone is Key"
Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
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