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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Jethro #3050394 11/28/20 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Jethro
Yes Emery. I think some here are trying to answer your question from a musical perspective rather than a technical perspective. I thought your question was a technical question. I think a long sustain and more accurately a consistent one says something about the workmanship and design of a piano. A good long consistent sustain is ONE characteristic that may signify that the piano is well built and prepped.
If by sustain you simply mean the total time until the sound is inaudible, then the length of the sustain says nothing about the workmanship and design of the piano. If the tone drops precipitously and then "sustains" for a long time at a very low volume it's of no use and not an indication of anything positive. In fact, it's a negative.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
pianoloverus #3050431 11/28/20 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Jethro
Yes Emery. I think some here are trying to answer your question from a musical perspective rather than a technical perspective. I thought your question was a technical question. I think a long sustain and more accurately a consistent one says something about the workmanship and design of a piano. A good long consistent sustain is ONE characteristic that may signify that the piano is well built and prepped.
If by sustain you simply mean the total time until the sound is inaudible, then the length of the sustain says nothing about the workmanship and design of the piano. If the tone drops precipitously and then "sustains" for a long time at a very low volume it's of no use and not an indication of anything positive. In fact, it's a negative.
Well then if it doesn’t drop precipitously and maintains a pleasant tone throughout the sustain then I would think it is a good indication of a well designed and performing piano.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


Shigeru Kawai SK2
Kawai VPC-1
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Lady Bird #3050484 11/28/20 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Withindale
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
Tut ,tut, tut .....

Dammit, my piano was not sustaining like a Sauter. Now, thanks to Lady Bird's engaging tuts, it does.

This morning I took a lolly stick and a toothbrush to it. The stick worked wonders with a just couple of sweeps across the strings under the capo. Yes, really, to my surprise.

The Ibach guys who built the instrument in 1905 would surely agree with Jethro, sustain is a sign of a well designed piano.


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3050558 11/28/20 04:18 PM
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Pianos with long sustain or rate of decay are much more malleable in voicing. The short sustain pianos have to be brighter because they have no tone. The piano with the long sustain have a much larger tonal palette. You can voice them to have power without the impact sound of a very hard hammer. You can bring them up to have a bright sound without the harsh overtones you get with a short sustain. You can round out the sound by low shoulder needling without losing the power.


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
S. Phillips #3050654 11/28/20 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by S. Phillips
Pianos with long sustain or rate of decay

Why would you even mention those two parameters in the same sentence?

They are fundamentally different and the one doesn't say anything about the other.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
OE1FEU #3050718 11/29/20 12:58 AM
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I would imagine she mentioned them because people talk about "sustain" when the proper term is "rate of decay."


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
BDB #3050721 11/29/20 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
I would imagine she mentioned them because people talk about "sustain" when the proper term is "rate of decay."
I think you are a realist BDB 🌻 🌻 🌻

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
BDB #3050722 11/29/20 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
I would imagine she mentioned them because people talk about "sustain" when the proper term is "rate of decay."

thumb thumb thumb

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3050726 11/29/20 01:38 AM
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My dog's coat shines like glass. Does that matter? Probably not but it shows that she is in good condition. Long sustain on a piano is a good sign that things are working well.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
WilliamTruitt #3050758 11/29/20 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
Withindale, the Steinway O with the Pau Ferro has Ronsen Weikert Felt hammers, which are the same felt made by the same company for Steinway and others a century or more ago. That, along with Stephen Paulello's hybrid piano wire and bass strings, are two more things that step up my game, and they are well suited together in this piano.

Greenheart is a bear to work with, given its hardness. Pau Ferro, on the other hand, is well behaved and not that much more difficult to work with than maple. It is very fine grained, and chisels, saws, and planes kindly. You must take great care in gluing if you do not want to the joints to fail, as it is an oily tropical hardwood. I like the tone of both woods, but the color and presence of the Pau Ferro is what steals my heart.

Compared to the guitar world, there has been little exploration of other tonewoods by piano makers. There is no reason why interested rebuilders cannot pursue this. As to the why of the wood behavior, Tom is the encyclopedia to ask. I throw in a good ear and an aesthetic nature. I love Rubenstein's playing.

William, I PM'd you.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
SMA55 #3050776 11/29/20 08:03 AM
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SMA's quote prompts this reply.

William, I guessed Greenheart would not be much "fun" to work with. I changed the word to "joy" but "a bear" is so much more expressive.

Wondering what Ibach used to cap its bridges, I came across this suggestion: to go really extreme, try Delignit Panzerholz, but to notch that by hand you'd need tungsten carbide chisels and the strength of an ox!

In that post John Delacour wrote about tonewoods: I recently worked on the rather dreadful 'Simplex' action of a German 4'9" baby grand by a firm called Emil Pauer. The power and brilliance of the tone of the piano was rather surprising, and I noticed that the long bridge was capped with rosewood for all its length, which I had never seen before. Many of the best European makers capped the top section with boxwood, as you must know. It's unlikely that they did not also experiment with rosewood, ebony and African blackwood and unlikely, I think, that they chose boxwood only for its easy colour blending with the beech or maple.

The Wood Database says Pau Ferro is closely related to rosewood.


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
BDB #3050799 11/29/20 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
I would imagine she mentioned them because people talk about "sustain" when the proper term is "rate of decay."
What's the difference? Isn't a long sustain the same as a shorter rate of decay?

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
PhilipInChina #3050805 11/29/20 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
My dog's coat shines like glass. Does that matter? Probably not but it shows that she is in good condition. Long sustain on a piano is a good sign that things are working well.
It's a good sign that a some things are working well. A piano could have a good sustain and still be disastrous in other areas. But, a good sustain is important and matters in and of itself, not just because it indicates some things are working well or designed well or are in good condition.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
pianoloverus #3050814 11/29/20 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by BDB
I would imagine she mentioned them because people talk about "sustain" when the proper term is "rate of decay."
What's the difference? Isn't a long sustain the same as a shorter rate of decay?

No it isn't. When you speak about the sound of a single note on a piano, its creation, development and end, ADSR is used as a scientific term that enables quantification of a piano's tone. Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release are the terms for this and they are pretty much self-explanatory. When you have a fast decay rate such as the one I provided in the 30 seconds sample earlier on, then the sustain length itself becomes less relevant, because in a musical context a note should be heard with a decay rate s slow as possible. Otherwise it's impossible to form really singing lines in the treble section.

Sustain is just the note slowly petering out, but it's mostly irrelevant in a musical context, because when a note is in a sustain phase of the ADSR definition, it is already at such a low volume that it's barely audible and certainly rarely contributes to tonal beauty or the singing characteristics of a melodic line.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
OE1FEU #3050859 11/29/20 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
ADSR is used as a scientific term that enables quantification of a piano's tone.

The term ADSR is used to describe the envelope of a synthesised sound. Can you explain how it enables quantification of an acoustic piano's tone?


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3050864 11/29/20 11:17 AM
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Ian Russell
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Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Withindale #3050869 11/29/20 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Withindale
Originally Posted by OE1FEU
ADSR is used as a scientific term that enables quantification of a piano's tone.

The term ADSR is used to describe the envelope of a synthesised sound. Can you explain how it enables quantification of an acoustic piano's tone?

A synthesizer is only part the equation. Different from a sine generator, a synthesizer tries to mimic instrumental capabilities and adjust parameters to create new sound.

Basically any digital audio workstation allows you to quantify the decay rate after the attack. The envelope form of the decay phase can be quantified by the values on the y-axis in dB (amplitude) and down to single samples on the x-axis (timeline).

I asked the question a couple of weeks ago in the technicians' forum and found that a piece of software like 'audacity' lets you do just that with its graphical display of the full envelope form of ADSR on any piano and any section of the keyboard.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Withindale #3050879 11/29/20 12:13 PM
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Following this ADSR definition, there would be no such thing as sustain in acoustic pianos.

After the attack the vibrations constantly loose energy, so sustain and decay are absolutely related.


-Rhodes74

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3050882 11/29/20 12:25 PM
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Thirty years ago Gabriel Weinrich gave an explanation of why a piano note decays as it does. His concluded this depended on the coupled motion of strings at the bridge and fine "mis-tuning".

In the introduction he says, In connection with the piano, it turns out that our ear - or, more correctly, our ear plus brain - has a way of judging both loudness and sustaining power in a way that might not have been predicted. Specifically, a sound is perceived as loud if it starts out loud, even if it then decays quickly; and it is perceived as sustained if some part of it is sustained, even if that part is rather weak. Thus a sound which starts out with a high but quickly decaying amplitude, and which then, having reached a rather low level, switches to a much smaller rate of decay - so that there is a sustained but subdued "tail" or "aftersound" - is perceived as being both loud and sustained. And that is precisely the miracle of the piano tone.


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
OE1FEU #3050889 11/29/20 01:09 PM
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Because the two had already been identified incorrectly in this thread.


Sally Phillips
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Steinway & Sons Pianos
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New Steinway, Boston and Essex pianos
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