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Passable new string
#3040836 10/29/20 08:06 PM
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I need to replace a broken plain string on a customer's piano next week. It is a far drive and I never had luck getting the string to stay put. It always drops. No matter what I do. It drops a lot. Is there anything I can do to keep it passable for awhile?


I tune and repair pianos. Let's have fun!
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Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3040861 10/29/20 09:29 PM
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Hi Lemon,

Speaking as someone whose service area spans multiple states, I can understand your frustration with travel.

In reading your post, a number of issues come to mind. First, a point of clarification: by plain string, are you referring to steel treble wire, or copper-wound bass strings? Either way, bear in mind that piano strings are stretched almost to their breaking point to achieve their pitch, and it will take a few stretches to get it to sit properly. There is no easy solution for this issue, but I've had good luck installing the string and bringing it to pitch before a tuning, bringing it back up during the tuning, and then checking on it again at the end of the tuning. Stretching the string 3 times over the course of 90 minutes should guarantee it stays close for a couple weeks. It will drift, though, and you can't fix that unless you're there every day.

If the pitch drops more than a M3 each time it gets pulled up, then re-evaluate what kind of tension you have in the pin block. A torque wrench that reads inch pounds will give you the information you need, and anything lower than 40 you will definitely have consistent problems with even when the string is stretched. The only fixes for this are to drive the pin further into the block, or move up a size (or two, but no more than that). If you still have low tension after that, the pin block is the problem and you need to have a talk with the client about the longevity of the piano and the possibility of upgrading to an instrument that is less problematic.

I hope this is helpful to you. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have further questions: I'm always happy to help where I can.


John M.

I am a 12 year veteran in the piano tech industry, specializing in modern and historic piano rebuilds, custom part duplication, regulation, and aural tuning. I currently work for a service provider with over 3500 clients and am contracted as a CAUT.
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3040865 10/29/20 09:35 PM
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You can mute the string with a little piece of rolled up felt. Then it won't be a bother till you get back to pull it up.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3040879 10/29/20 11:23 PM
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Thanks Auraltuner for the lengthy reply! Welcome to the forum. I look forward to future posts. You seem like you have a lot to share. That is great.

Just a normal plain wire somewhere in the treble. I will do it first, touch it up as I tune and again before I leave. I will likely put felt in there as PWGrey says.

Is that it? What about the string stretcher tool? Pulling up on the strings? Tapping the string down at the contact points? Overpulling the string 50 cents sharp? What else? There has to be more that I can do. My strings don't fall the M3, but they do fall like a step.


I tune and repair pianos. Let's have fun!
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3040891 10/30/20 12:25 AM
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Thanks for the warm welcome, Lemon. I've been fortunate to have a lot of work available to me in the piano tech field, so I've gained plenty of experience in a relatively short amount of time. I take an open-source approach to the knowledge I have: very little of it is proprietary to the company I work for, and sharing it keeps me honest about why I do what I do and hopefully helps folks out along the way too.

In the piano tech industry, there seems to be a tool or gadget available to do just about anything to a piano, warranted or not. I remember the string stretcher tool from my days as an apprentice; the master technician I studied with had one that he let me use for restringing projects that came through the shop. I never felt that it was necessary there, and the master technician never used it except to show me how it worked. I don't carry one today on principle, as it's an easy way to introduce extra kinks and stress points to the wire, decreasing it's lifespan and introducing false beats. Using your hand to pull up on the string would be acceptable, but I doubt that it would stretch the string without leaving some serious marks behind. I don't recommend tapping the string down for the same reason I don't carry a string stretcher or puller. Overpulling is a good idea, but within reason, especially as you get higher in the treble. Keep in mind too that by it's nature overpulling can introduce stress points in the string. It's my experience down here in the south that humidity induced pin block tension will hold a string relatively close to tune during the course of a 90 minute tuning. Use your best judgement; it's the kind of thing you need to experiment with multiple times to understand your climate's relationship with pin block tension and how much to over-pull. I would answer differently for either side of the country, depending on your location relative to the coast.

I really don't have to do much with a new string post-installation: service procedure is to address the string right after installation (over-pulling is a possibility here), during the tuning (can over-pull again if it has fallen dramatically), and at the end of the tuning (can over-pull slightly here if necessary, otherwise set in tune). Following that, there's a two week follow-up, and from there if pin block tension is good we can guarantee the new string until the next tuning. Falling somewhere between a half step and whole step is normal, so don't worry about that. If you don't think 3 passes are enough to guarantee the pitch for a couple weeks, this service call might be a good one to address other issues with the instrument, like cleaning it out, minor spot regulations, etc. Those are good ways to make your time productive should you decide to add a 4th or 5th pass.

Again, I hope you find the information helpful. Keep us posted on how you fare!


John M.

I am a 12 year veteran in the piano tech industry, specializing in modern and historic piano rebuilds, custom part duplication, regulation, and aural tuning. I currently work for a service provider with over 3500 clients and am contracted as a CAUT.
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3040947 10/30/20 06:30 AM
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It's important to ensure that the loop (whether a single eye or a string looping back up to be the next string) is tapped right down to the base of the hitch pin. Also a nice tight becket at the tuning pin may help, and neat, together coils.

Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3041219 10/30/20 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by LemonColor
I need to replace a broken plain string on a customer's piano next week. It is a far drive and I never had luck getting the string to stay put. It always drops. No matter what I do. It drops a lot. Is there anything I can do to keep it passable for awhile?
hi, LemonColor
I do not see what happened there, I can assume that it is not a pinblock. If the fault was in the pinblock, then the other pins would be lost too, I'm think. one is lost here only one to drives off. Why did this string break? The pin was lost long ago. A tuner tried hard to establish the right tone, and as a result, it string was broken here.
Harden the wood hole of bush and hole of a pinblock initially using CA drop or cardboard.
good luck,

Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3041558 10/31/20 09:13 PM
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When a new string is installed correctly, a large drop in pitch does not occur. It is a misnomer to say that a string stretches, that’s not what’s going on. The vast majority of the instability happens with the inability to properly tension the three turns of the coil around the pin. The coil has to be tight and at a proper angle, but the main issue is the manner in which the string is brought to tension which effects how the three turns of the coil lock onto the pin. If you just bring the string straight to tension, the 2nd and 3rd turn won’t have enough tension on it. That is where the problems happens. You can’t muscle it on, you need to use traditional tuning techniques.

It’s a process. It can take a few resets to get a neat and evenly tensioned coil. If you want to know if the string will be stable, lower the pitch and see if you can cleanly resonate an octave below pitch with a snug coil. Usually this doesn’t happen until at least 1 reset. When you are really good, you can resonate a 12th below the pitch. When you can do that, the pitch is likely not to drop more than 5-10 cents after you leave. If you can't even get an octave to resonant cleanly, then you can expect it to drop by a much larger amount.

No special tools are required. No bending or seating of the strings. No leveling. No stretching tool. Just technique.


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Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3041561 10/31/20 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by LemonColor
I need to replace a broken plain string on a customer's piano next week. It is a far drive and I never had luck getting the string to stay put. It always drops. No matter what I do. It drops a lot. Is there anything I can do to keep it passable for awhile?

Tell the customer that it is 2 service calls. If the customer agrees leave it 10 to 15 cents cents high. This is taking for granted that you installed the new string properly, seated it.... coils. ... etcc....

Come back a week later. Look for more sophisticated regulation, cleaning, squeaks, pedals etc... Ask the customer if he heard the string go flat.

Customer is happy to have noticed how the string reacted EXACTLY like you said it would! And you adjust the pedals for the customer!!!!!

Customer pays you what you asked, and then lived forever after. Happy Halloween!

(customer also wants you to come back in 6 months to share your infinite wisdom)


Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

www.actionpiano.ca
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3041568 10/31/20 09:54 PM
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Or, we could all just learn how to install a string properly the first time around. Why make musicians needlessly suffer? There's no reason to do a second rate job just to prove a point. Besides, for those technicians that can't put a string on the right way to begin with, won't be able to leave after the second visit a week later and guarantee stability anyway. Some people think it takes 1-2 years for a new string to clam down. Not true if you know what you are doing.


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Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3041571 10/31/20 10:06 PM
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So give us all the benefit of your wisdom and experience and give us all a step by step explanation of the "right way" to install a string, clearly enough so we all can learn. That's what this forum is all about...learning. Please dispense with the "if you know what you are doing" routine as that does not teach anyone anything.

If I can learn a new technique that will improve the service I render to my clientele I'm all for it. You have my attention.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Passable new string
piano411 #3041968 11/01/20 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by piano411
When a new string is installed correctly, a large drop in pitch does not occur. It is a misnomer to say that a string stretches, that’s not what’s going on. The vast majority of the instability happens with the inability to properly tension the three turns of the coil around the pin. The coil has to be tight and at a proper angle, but the main issue is the manner in which the string is brought to tension which effects how the three turns of the coil lock onto the pin. If you just bring the string straight to tension, the 2nd and 3rd turn won’t have enough tension on it. That is where the problems happens. You can’t muscle it on, you need to use traditional tuning techniques.

It’s a process. It can take a few resets to get a neat and evenly tensioned coil. If you want to know if the string will be stable, lower the pitch and see if you can cleanly resonate an octave below pitch with a snug coil. Usually this doesn’t happen until at least 1 reset. When you are really good, you can resonate a 12th below the pitch. When you can do that, the pitch is likely not to drop more than 5-10 cents after you leave. If you can't even get an octave to resonant cleanly, then you can expect it to drop by a much larger amount.

No special tools are required. No bending or seating of the strings. No leveling. No stretching tool. Just technique.


I learned some time ago from Andy at Mapes that indeed the wire does not "stretch" once it's up to pitch. It is the bends and the coil gradually straightening and tightening that is responsible for the pitch drop.

I would be interested in knowing more about a technique to equalize the coil more efficiently. Please expand on this.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042060 11/02/20 11:08 AM
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There are a lot of details involved with putting on a string in such a way that it is stable from the beginning, and there is great control over the tone while tuning. Getting a resonant tone without falseness, and getting a stable string from the get-go are related functions. They both require a tight tuning coil all the way around to the becket leg.

The length of the becket bend (which includes the leg and 3 1/8 turns of the pin) is important. There are many reasons why this is the case, but for OP, as long as it is somewhat close, you can get a stable string. I wind my coils by hand on a dummy pin, but the Sciortino Hand Held Coil Maker produces excellent results.

Installing a string on a piano is a left handed tuning procedure. The tuning pin bends and flexes all the time. Using your right hand, vs. your left hand produces different results in how and in what direction the pin bends during the process. For right now, I’ll just say that it matters.

Never tap the strings down into the bridge, pull up to level the strings at the agraffe, push down around the duplexes, or pinch the hitch into the plate. Just leave the strings alone. Install them without any twists. Why? Because if you do any of the aforementioned, then the tuning technique required usually isn’t enough to overcome the damage produced.

Keep the 3+ turns of the coil tight, and the final turn needs to press down against the string that exits into the piano. The angle of the coil in relation to the straight portion of the string is important. This often opens up during the tuning process. Keep closing it down and readjusting. To maintain control over the tuning, the turns need to be touching and bearing down against the straight portion of the string.

There are different ways of doing this. Some are more effective than others. But, as long as you understand that it is difficult (probably impossible) to tighten the upper turns when the string is fully at pitch, then just do your coil tightening work somewhere under pitch and you’ll be more successful. The tightening happens (left handed) with a quick downward movement - there will be an audible click - followed by an imitate tightening. When the resonant tone turns to string sound, you’ve gone too far. Do one action to one side of the string, then go to the other side to keep the system in balance.

We can’t directly measure the tightness of the individual turns of the coil. Right? So, how do we know if the coil is getting tighter? Well, we have to indirectly observe how the string is responding. So, if we beat the strings in any way, it messes up the ability to make these observations.

The first time you pull both strings to pitch, we want to check where we are in the process. Pull one side of the string down a 5th. What happens to the other side? Does it stay there, or does it go flat? We want the other side to stay stable, even with a drop in 5th on the other side. Most of the time, it will go flat. The better you are with the coil tightening process, the better the pitch will stay put. If it doesn’t stay put, go back down and do more coil tightening at the 5th. Use the tuning technique and coil tightening (I use an impact coil tightener). Once you get the 5th working, you can go down to the octave and get that working, while the other side is down at the 5th. Why not just do the work at an octave below to begin with? Because usually the strings won’t resonate that slow because the coil is too lose. Once the coil is tight enough, you will be able to resonate an octave. You’ll be fine if you stop here. But, if you really want to do a great job, then get the 12th to resonate. That is not easy, but it is an amazing feeling result with the tuning and the pin.

Some other hints are that you should put the pedal down and resonate the 12th to help the tuning and tightening process. You should also use a smaller dummy pin to create your coil before you put it into the piano. Two pin size smaller seems to work for the higher end of the piano, one pin size smaller for the thicker wires in the middle of the piano.

That is a lot of info, I’m sure it’s confusing, so I’ll stop here. If you follow the concept above, the strings should stay within 5 cents of where you originally put it. I have no problem with overpulling slightly in the tuning process, as it seems to be necessary. Ultimately, I would leave the strings 2-3 cents sharp, and I usually find them 2-3 cents flat the next time I work with them.


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Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042065 11/02/20 11:54 AM
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*installing a string on a grand piano is a left handed tuning process. Installing on an upright is a right handed process.


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Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042071 11/02/20 12:09 PM
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I'm not in the "wires don't stretch" camp.
The tensions the wire is put under in each section along it's length are different with the highest tension around the pin. Even the tension between the pin and the agraffe is much higher than the speaking length.
I agree with 411 that most of the problems come from the pin.
But the wire does stretch, if by stretch we mean gets thinner and longer. It's easy to prove.
Just mic up the old strings as you remove them. You'll see that the diameter is different on each section of the string.
Thinnest around the pin, next thinnest to the agraffe.
Also 411 doesn't mention the work needed around the hitch pin which I find important for stability.

Just my findings, so I'm quite open to being disagreed with.
Nick


Nick, ageing piano technician
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042084 11/02/20 01:19 PM
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I haven’t measured the old wire difference in coil, front segment, speaking length, and rear segment to compared the diameters. That’s an interesting observation. I’ll start doing that when I replace a strings in the future. I wonder if there is a difference in each turn?

In any event, the drop in pitch that many people experience doesn’t come from the string stretching. The string may stretch, immediately or over the long term. I am comfortable assuming that strings will slowly stretch over the long term. The main thing that I want to say is that the large drop in pitch goes away when the coil is tighten.

I don’t do work around the hitch pin and advise against it. The reason for that is we lose the ability to transfer the tension from one side to the other. When the hitch gets pinched at the hitch pin, we can’t use “technique” to judge where we are in the process. Also, there are times where we need to adjust the rear segment from the opposite string to get more tone out of the piano.

Yes, if the wire gets tapped down and pinched at the hitch pin, it can appear to create better stability in one sense, because changes in tension on one side won’t effect the other side as much any more. But, by tapping behind the hitch we lose some functionality in what we can do with the tuning. I’m not sure if people understand this concept or not. But, think about why we have the wire wrap around a hitch and tune two different speaking segments. Some manufactures tie off individually. The vast majority don’t. Why is that? Is it a cheaper, inferior way of stringing a piano? I say no. I say there is an advantage to using one wire to tune two different speaking segments. That advantage is the ability to make an adjustment to the rear segment using tuning technique. If we seat the at the hitch pin, we lose that ability.


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Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042106 11/02/20 02:18 PM
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411,

This is all significantly interesting. I must try some of it out. Since a picture is worth about 1k words...and a video about 10k...would love to see and hear some of this in action (forgive the pun). Meanwhile I'm going to "lab".

BTW, are you also saying that a majority of false beats are generated essentially here atvtge coil?

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042183 11/02/20 08:22 PM
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Thanks for giving it a try. Nothing wrong with trying new things. Its not like a tighter coil could make things worse.

Yes, the majority of falseness comes indirectly from a coil not being set and tight. When the coil is set, you have control over the string, when it is not, you lose control over the movement and technique that can be applied. That lose of control leads to false beats. The majority of false beats come from a divergence from string tone and string sound. There are other things that can produce false beats (twisted wire, loose bridge pin (I’ve heard, but not experienced), etc.). But, the main issue is a lose of control over what can be done to the string via technique.


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Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042649 11/04/20 11:45 AM
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String went on well. I did a combo of Auraltuner and what 411 said to do. Plus I put the pedal down and pounded on the key for a awhile. It all seemed to help. I left the string 5cents high. Hope it stays put!


I tune and repair pianos. Let's have fun!
Re: Passable new string
LemonColor #3042897 11/05/20 08:40 AM
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👍

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8

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