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I've noticed that some pianos have a beautiful high treble, while other pianos have a high treble that seems to have no sustain or roundness. Instead, just a "thunk" sound. For example, comparing an S6X to a C6X at a dealer, the C6X had only a "thunk" treble while the S6X had a nice treble.

Is this simply a matter of prep, relating perhaps to the way those notes have been tuned or the way the hammers have been voiced, or is it something irreparable about the piano?

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When you say "high treble", do you mean the highest notes of the piano? String length means a lot, but those look like 7' grands, so string length up there shouldn't be THAT much of an issue, say compared to a grand under 6', where very high strings are often shorter than tall uprights. When you are listening to notes THAT high, what were the rooms like for each one?


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The answer really is: It depends

There are multiple factors. Hammers, strike point, hardener, tuning, etc. Believe it or not, some dealers have been known to deliberately make a piano sound "less than stellar" in order to sell a different one (the comparison model).

A tuner can quickly and easily (without harm) cause the high treble to thunk instead of sing. Then when the other piano is sold and gone the tuner is instructed to make the first one sing again.

This is not made up. It is real. Whether it applies to your situation I cannot say.

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Last edited by P W Grey; 01/23/21 03:47 PM.

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Yes, the very highest notes. C8 being usually the worst of course. The rooms are just large piano showrooms. The same room for each piano. I don't think it's anything to do with the room.

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I’ll assume your talking about the top octave.
The more common issues can be missing the strike point - it’s a very narrow area on note 88 and can usually be discovered by slight adjustment of action position. Hammers are not hard enough (voicing) or hammers are too heavy up there. Hammer string alignment may need adjustment. On used pianos the hammers may need reshaping, deeply string grooved.
Use a guitar pic on the strings to get a hint of what’s available for tone and sustain.


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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson
I’ll assume your talking about the top octave.
The more common issues can be missing the strike point - it’s a very narrow area on note 88 and can usually be discovered by slight adjustment of action position. Hammers are not hard enough (voicing) or hammers are too heavy up there. Hammer string alignment may need adjustment. On used pianos the hammers may need reshaping, deeply string grooved.
Use a guitar pic on the strings to get a hint of what’s available for tone and sustain.

Looks like you got good info while I was writing, I’m repeating most of what was said
Good one about dealer prep.

Last edited by Gene Nelson; 01/23/21 04:01 PM.

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I would say the primary reason is the string scale is too short. It shows up in the top two sections. The sustain is killed because of the added stiffness in the speaking length and string segments. When this is fixed all the other issues are mostly mitigated or go away entirely. In some pianos note #88 is as short as 49mm. I aim for 53mm as that will push the breaking percent up to 70-75% which is still acceptable. I also increase the other string segments to as much as the piano will allow to further reduce stiffness. When these are done sustain is not a problem.

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what about reducing wire diameter

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Strike point is definitely the low hanging fruit here. It is easily checked by moving the action in and out at the treble end to see if one gains something by changing the strike point. If the check block has adjustable guides, it is an easy fix to gain possible improvement. The other things that are mentioned are part of the solution, and it may take more than one thing to get all that is possible.

The plain fact is that, as the strings get shorter and shorter in the top octave along with reduced diameters, smaller soundboard area, the bridge being located so close to the rim; the laws of physics are not on your side. There is simply no way that these notes can have as much volume and sustain as their longer counterparts lower in the scale. I don't know of a single rebuilder who doesn't wish for more than they get, and they try hard.

Increasing the speaking lengths is part of the solution, as Chris demonstrates. But, with traditional wire, Chris is starting to skate on thin ice regarding string breakage because the BP% is creeping so close to the breaking point. This is a place where less careful piano makers can get into trouble if they are less than perfect in execution (the string lengths end up too long).

This is a place where Paulello XM wire moves the goal posts because it is stronger than traditional Mapes or Roslau. It certainly sounds better at these higher BP%, and it allows you to make even longer speaking lengths. A rebuilder friend of mine recently rebuilt a Ronish concert grand. This included a new board, and he made new bridges for the piano, changing their shape and location. If memory serves me, note 88 was about 58 mm. and the top octave speaking lengths appreciably increased. He also increased back scale lengths. The improvement in sustain and volume was audible. This was only possible with the use of Paulello XM wire.

There are some caveats that go along with the use of super strong piano wire in general, whether it be Paulello or strong wires made over time historically. As the wire gets stronger, it also gets stiffer. One can feel the difference between XM and M Paulello wire in stringing. M is roughly the equivalent of Roslau and Mapes in strength. Even though the wire is stronger, it is more prone to breakage at areas of strong bending, such as coils and the looping and coiling of bass strings string wire at the hitch pin area. When the wire breaks in these areas, it is often a long fracture.

A few years ago, a small piano maker who builds very large concert grands wanted to use the XM wire in the making of bass strings because it sounded so good. But he had the problem of the bass strings breaking at the hitch pin in fairly short order, sufficient that it would not be practical to put it on a piano and sell it to a customer. He worked with Stephen Paulello to address this problem. My understanding is that Stephen reformulated the making of the wire, and it was sufficiently more malleable that it ended up being suitable for the task in the bass strings. I believe that it ended up being a bit weaker also.

The use of XM wire must be targeted towards areas in the piano where the stresses will be highest and traditional wires will not be sufficient to the task. For a given pitch, string diameter, and speaking length, the use of XM or other super strong wires will reduce the BP%. That's why we use them in areas of highest stress. But if we were to use them in areas where BP% is already low with traditional wire (the low tenor and low bass comes to mind for most pianos), the virtue becomes a tonal deficit because it further lowers the BP%.


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Originally Posted by Sonepica
I've noticed that some pianos have a beautiful high treble, while other pianos have a high treble that seems to have no sustain or roundness. Instead, just a "thunk" sound. For example, comparing an S6X to a C6X at a dealer, the C6X had only a "thunk" treble while the S6X had a nice treble.

Is this simply a matter of prep, relating perhaps to the way those notes have been tuned or the way the hammers have been voiced, or is it something irreparable about the piano?
You could have told us if these pianos you tried were new or used? Also are you referring to two or three notes up to C8 or lower than that?

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Interesting that string length keeps coming up. Of course that is true, but these are 7’ pianos. Even my Walter upright has a long singing tune in the C7-C8 octave, and it has the string length of “only” a 5’9”-6’0” grand.

I bet it’s in the prep: either on purpose or lack of attention because few people buy 7’ pianos for their homes, and recital halls and such would be sending their own techs in anyway.


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All pianos now being made have way too heavy hammers by far in the top two octaves. This makes the impact sound of the hammer louder and longer in duration.

I think Mapes International Gold wire is up to the longer lengths. It is the Roslau wire that cannot endure that tension.

I have been lengthening and smoothing speaking lengths in the high treble scales for a couple of decades. I kinda think you guys got this from me.


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I have zero experience with Paulello wire. Mostly Mapes gold.
I have got good enough sound from a note88 that is 49mm. Typically this is on a smaller piano with a low tension scale. When I do scaling it’s likely very traditional and usually I end up building a new bridge that corrects what the factory does especially across strut areas where dog legs are beneficial and the lo-tenor where wound bichords are beneficial. Simply use a ratio like 39/37 to determine speaking lengths starting at 88 and you’ll be surprised at the ideal scale that happens. Then on paper experiment with note 88 spl from 49 to 53mm and you find out very soon what will fit in the length that the piano allows. (Changing wire sizes assumed) generally, The larger the piano the longer that 88 can be and the higher tension the scale can be.
Always use verticle hitches so the backscale is increased. Many times the back scale of 88 is longer than the spl.


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Originally Posted by Beemer
Originally Posted by Sonepica
I've noticed that some pianos have a beautiful high treble, while other pianos have a high treble that seems to have no sustain or roundness. Instead, just a "thunk" sound. For example, comparing an S6X to a C6X at a dealer, the C6X had only a "thunk" treble while the S6X had a nice treble.

Is this simply a matter of prep, relating perhaps to the way those notes have been tuned or the way the hammers have been voiced, or is it something irreparable about the piano?
You could have told us if these pianos you tried were new or used? Also are you referring to two or three notes up to C8 or lower than that?

Ian

The S6X and C6X I referred to were both new. A C7X I played elsewhere which had probably been on the floor for a few years also had a poor treble. But my question isn't about one or two specific pianos, but something I've noticed in general. Some pianos have a beautiful treble, while other pianos have a dead, wooden "thunk" treble. Even brand new and very expensive pianos sometimes have this problem. It's affects more than the top three notes, but of course it gets worse the higher you go. I'd be surprised if others haven't also noticed this phenomenon.

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The question of whether stronger, which in this case means able to take more stress before breaking, steel wire causes the wire to be stiffer is an interesting one. In general, the ultimate tensile strength of steel is substantially unrelated to its Young's modulus. As such, it means that stiffness of steel wire should not be strongly affected by the ultimate tensile strength of the steel in question. See this link for example.

Many posters here have claimed that different grades of Paulello wire are more or less stiff than others. I'd be interested in trying to test that assertion. If anyone out there has some odd pieces of Paulello wire in different grades, but in the same diameter, I'd like to do some tests. If anyone would be willing to mail me a few short pieces, please PM me.

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Originally Posted by Roy123
Many posters here have claimed that different grades of Paulello wire are more or less stiff than others. I'd be interested in trying to test that assertion. If anyone out there has some odd pieces of Paulello wire in different grades, but in the same diameter, I'd like to do some tests. If anyone would be willing to mail me a few short pieces, please PM me.

https://www.stephenpaulello.com/sit...os-de-pages/stephenpaulellomusicwire.pdf
All paulello wires have the same stiffness because they have the same young modulus of 202GPa, low tensile strength wires "feels" less stiff because they need less force to enter plastic region, but piano strings doesn't work in plastic region, their "magic" (if exist) must come from somewhere else. I haven't used them yet, but I will make some tests (sound tests) probably next week

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Bad coils maybe? 😎

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Allow me to define the word stiffness and further comment: The dictionary defines stiffness as " the quality of being firm and difficult to move" and "the property of being inflexible and hard to bend". For engineers, "In structural engineering, stiffness is defined as applied force divided by the the resulting displacement." I have been using Paulello wire in my rebuilding exclusively since 2012. I typically use at least 3 of the 4 Paulello wire types suited for modern pianos, usually Type 1, Type O, and Type M. In terms of breaking point, 1 is the weakest, O in the middle, and M the strongest. Above these will come XM with the highest breaking point. In terms of how the wire handles, 1 is the most flexible, 0 a little stiffer. M more still, and XM the stiffest and most difficult to handle. I am talking about stiffness here as the how difficult the wire is to bend and manipulate. You don't need any lab tests to feel the difference to anyone who uses the wire.

As for wire breakage, the word brittle is more appropriate. Bass string makers who have used the XM wire find its stiffness a pain in the butt to work with, and the brittleness of the wire leading to early failure due to the wire's inability to tolerate the stresses of being made into loops at the hitch pin means that they will too often be blamed. Hence the reformulation and the design of a new loop that puts less stress on the wire by the piano maker.

Ambrozy, I have long considered it odd that the wire types all have the same Young's Modulus, yet feel so different in stiffness and have quantifiably different breaking points. They certainly sound different, and when the wire types are applied to a piano scale can have remarkable and predictable results. This is my ongoing experience from day 1 to the present.

When you talk about the wire needing less force to enter the plastic region, are you talking about plastic deformation? You need to define plastic region, and what you mean by "magic".


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Yes, I mean plastic deformation and when I say stiffness, I mean stiffness in linear elastic region, fact that low strength wire require less force to be deformed is not important because strings doesn't work in plastic region. Everything else what you said agrees with what I said. My point is that strings works in linear elastic region which is defined by young modulus (to be specific young modulus is usually calculated from stiffness measurement in linear elastic region), which is the same for all wire types, so they should sound exactly the same, yet everyone who uses it claims that the sound is different. We are living in the 21st century and no one seems to know why and how this works shocked

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To be clear, when you say plastic region, you are talking about the zone where wire is elastic and deforms in movement but returns to its original state, meaning that it does not plastically deform permanently?

What do you mean when you say strings doesn't work in plastic region? I struggle with your odd use of language.

It is a simple fact that the different wire types do sound different to anyone with good ears and the ability to listen without prior judgment. To a person, all of my rebuilding customers have liked the hybrid scaling and its effect on the tone of the piano. They do not understand it, but they hear it.

I strongly doubt that you are in a position to make a judgmental statement that "no one seems to know how and why this works." Feel free to challenge the limitations of my knowledge; beyond that is not fair to the rest of the world. Strictly speaking from a point of logic, the fact that person(s) don't understand WHY something works has no bearing on whether or not it DOES work.


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