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What are the signs of worn-out strings?
#3052648 12/03/20 09:23 PM
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While looking at the whirling Phase display on the PianoMeter, it struck me that a certain instrument could be improved by re-stringing it. What should I look for to indicate the strings need to be replaced? What would I hear? There's quite a bit of "whang". The PianoMeter needle jumps back and forth on certain notes. But this could just be my heavy, former framing-carpenter, touch bending the strings too far on this action.

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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3052667 12/03/20 10:39 PM
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Strings have reached the point of replacement when the wound go dead, or they all start to break, or they are so rusty they are corroding tuning and bridge pins.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
Ed McMorrow, RPT #3052685 12/03/20 11:14 PM
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So false harmonics, ones that go flat while others go sharp as the sound decays, are not usually caused by worn-out strings?

Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3052688 12/03/20 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by edferris
So false harmonics, ones that go flat while others go sharp as the sound decays, are not usually caused by worn-out strings?
As strings and a tuning on a piano ages, you will find what you describe. But, when you are confronted with that situation, you should drop the pitch a 5th, reset the coil, and bring the pitch back up to pitch. What you describe should then go away. False harmonics is essentially a tuning error in technique that gets compounded over time. Just reset the system.

An ageing string, has more to do with the wire getting work hardened where it goes around the tuning pin. When that happens, it effect how the wire moves. It changes how it feels. The movement is more jumpy.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3052837 12/04/20 01:11 PM
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I'm inclined to agree with Ed McMorrow. I do not think the plain wire strings "wear out" per-se, but can become so rusted and corroded they need replacing. Or, as piano411 says, the metal in the wire become "work hardened" from years of tuning and stretching, and start to break easily when tuning.

I remember years ago, visiting a local piano store that never had many pianos in stock at any given time. It was a small store, and they would order a piano on request, once it was paid for in advance. They did have some used pianos in stock at various times. I stopped by the store one day to see what they had, and there was a newer looking studio upright, a Chinese made Falcone (?), that interested me. I raised the top lid to look inside, and it had several strings, in the tenor section, that had been broken and tied/spliced together. Whoever tied the strings did a good job, but something was amiss to have so many strings tied for such a newish looking piano. A bad batch of music wire maybe?

As for the wound bass strings, they can get dirt, rust and corrosion between the windings causing a dull or muddy tone. I've tried different procedures on old upright pianos to try and reinvigorate the tone on the old bass strings, with minimal results. I've also tried the twisting method on old wound bass strings to gain a better tone, again with little results. However, I did twist one bass string the wrong way once, and made it worse. A learning experience for sure. smile

I've seen videos of a various procedures that is suppose to revitalize old wound bass strings, including removing the strings and soaking them in a vat of ammonia. Seems like a lot of trouble to me, when it wouldn't take much more effort to just replace the bass strings with new.

Rick


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3052965 12/04/20 06:01 PM
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Over the years individual strings in unisons develop certain individual quirks in their composition of harmonics and at that point you can only try to find a compromise in tuning those three strings into something that's acceptable to one's ear. This is not about rust or corrosion, it's the result of macromolecular changes in the material that makes up the speaking length of a string.

There is a point when too many unions like this become too annoying in their entirety - and that's when you replace the strings.

Did this on my old Steinway B last week and it went from highly annoying/impossible to tune to a pleasure of listening to harmonics in to strings just matching up beautifully.

The strings were 40 years old on a piano that was heavily used, like 6-12 hours per day and tuned on a regular basis.

Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053006 12/04/20 08:05 PM
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The industry standard is to replace strings every 40 years on a normal use piano, and every 10-20 years on a high use concert instrument. Why? Because everything degrades over time, and strings are under high stress 24/7/365. Metal fatigue, work hardening, occaisional abuse, etc all takes its toll.

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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053064 12/04/20 10:29 PM
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One of my long time customers has a 1920's 6'4" Steinway A that belonged to her grandmother and has lived in the Seattle area all it's life. The piano is tuned about every two years and is played regularly.

I reconditioned the action and shaped the V-bar about twenty years ago. All parts are original. The tuning pins are as tight a new. The piano is still clear and rich sounding. No problematic false beats. No cracks in the soundboard or bridges. Never broken a string. Finish looks old and hardware plating is dull but it sounds and plays wonderfully, and is a joy to service.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053070 12/04/20 10:43 PM
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Thanks for expert advice. The piano in question is difficult to tune because of the noise of the strings, particularly the baritone range (from the bass break to the tenor break). I don't see that the bridge is indented or has loose pins and the hammers are hard and smooth -- perhaps too hard. I wondered why I was having to tune "boings" and "whangs" across octaves until I got a tuning app and saw the changing harmonics.

I'll try to get the local expert to look at it -- he is very erratic and apparently doesn't think highly of me as a customer.

In short, I gather that you don't have to re-string regularly, but the strings can work-harden and become unusable.

Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053075 12/04/20 11:01 PM
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Ed,

It is also POSSIBLE that this is simply the way this piano is. Some are just plain weird. It might be instructive to find a really bad note and replace the wire on it and listen to the results over time. I know of cases where new wire was no better than the old...because the problem was not in the wire.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053146 12/05/20 05:38 AM
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Not to be ignored, too, is the condition of the hammers.

There seems to be a perception, at least here in the UK, among piano owners/public, that "re-stringing" is something that will bring a major improvement to a piano, and is a normal thing to be done. Replacing bad wound strings of course can indeed make a huge difference.

But there is no equivalent public perception, it seems to me, that hammers (which will really need attention LONG before strings) should need re-facing or replacing.

Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053175 12/05/20 07:45 AM
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David,

Absolutely! I remember many years ago this was clearly brought to my attention with a grand that I found VERY difficult to tune (lots of weird stuff going on that drove me nuts). The action needed work so I contracted to recondition it. Of course hammer reshaping was first on the list. Well, when I got it back in the piano I was SHOCKED at how much easier (and pleasant) it was to tune it. It was clear and "normal".

So Ed,

What do the hammers look like on this piano?

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053221 12/05/20 10:45 AM
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http://forum.pianoworld.com//ubbthr...mers-on-a-problem-piano.html#Post3053218

Here's a literal reply to your question, Peter. It looks like this antique piano got a new action and set of hammers at the last rebuild, and the hammers have not been reshaped since. The mid-range ones are slightly indented, but not past the 3/32nds limit. They are very hard, in my amateur opinion, and when (and if) I get a tech to inspect them, I will see if needling makes any improvement -- I don't have the equipment or knowledge, myself.

So far I've had to re-glue three jack toes on notes that were blocking. The bad notes sound sort of like they are being blocked -- the whole instrument lacks resonance -- but the hammers are clearing the strings. Perhaps they are too hard and are not rebounding fast enough on the initial strike?

Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053470 12/05/20 10:51 PM
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It would be easier if you could send a video of the sound. It is hard to tell from the pics what the piano sounds like.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053502 12/06/20 01:28 AM
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Both bass strings and plain treble strings change their tonal characteristics over time, but it happens more noticeably and quickly with bass strings. Bass strings tend to sound duller. Plain strings lose some of their vibrancy as they age and sound brighter but more pinched. After 50 years, it is probably best to change all the strings, rather than just the bass strings when they lose their tone.

I believe voicing can affect string longevity. Brighter hammers with hard edges seem to cause more fatigue than hammers which are voiced properly, with particular attention to hammer shape. Well regulated pianos with no more than minor string grooves do not break strings as often as those where this service is neglected.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
BDB #3053643 12/06/20 12:25 PM
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BDB, I believe what you are noticing in 50YO plain strings is a V-bar that is too round. Not round enough to outright buzz, but as the bends in the strings around the improper V-bar shape get steeper over time, it is blocking the pivot termination more and more over time and this causes the tone to become less vibrant.

That is why I shape V-bars to a true V-shape. And Kawai is now doing the same after their research confirmed what mine found back in the 1970's. Though Kawai is not likely to credit me.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
edferris #3053698 12/06/20 02:17 PM
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I recently came across a 5YO Kawai console 506N in which the treble counterbearing was shaped beautifully (according to Ed's protocol), the tenor section was horrible...rounded, uneven, scarred and flattened in several areas...looked like a child's first attempt with a file.

What prompted a close look was that one of the tenor wound strings broke during tuning and could not be spliced (no room) requiring replacement of both wires of the note. Of course client was not particularly happy that warranty did not cover it (Kawai service dept said "not usually covered"), but the string itself appeared to be somewhat mangled up and down the windings (lots of flat shiny spots indicating some form of abuse). At any rate (since there is always a reason) I started looking more closely, and that was when I really noticed how BAD the counterbearing area was in the middle section. When I mentioned this (and sent photos) to service dept I was told that although "it was not as pretty as it could be, it can not cause a string to break". Of course, while not a direct factor in its breakage, the overall quality of workmanship here was suspect. I mentioned that I didn't feel it was up to their normal standard of workmanship.

Not entirely relevant to this thread but Ed's comment made me recall it.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
Ed McMorrow, RPT #3053734 12/06/20 03:45 PM
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What I am hearing is the slight difference between a new plain wire string and an old one, whether or not anything has been done to the V-bar.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
BDB #3053857 12/06/20 10:42 PM
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Yes, but the reason the new one sounds different is it is not as deformed by the V-bar as the old string. If you kept the old string and V-shaped the V-bar, the old string would sound fresh and new.


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Re: What are the signs of worn-out strings?
Ed McMorrow, RPT #3053869 12/06/20 11:40 PM
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Since I cannot hear with your ears, and you cannot hear with mine, there is no telling whether we are talking about the same phenomenon or not. So we might as well leave it at that.


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