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grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89257
12/09/03 01:03 PM
12/09/03 01:03 PM
Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 6
TX
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bryan_again_, Offline OP
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bryan_again_,  Offline OP
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Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 6
TX
I noticed pronounced string-grooves on the hammer faces in the old family piano we inherited, which you would expect in something with this many miles on it (plus neglect).

What impact does this "groovey" hammer condition have on the overall sound or tone of the piano? Would anyone besides a skilled piano technician or seasoned musician be able to tell the difference? Just wondering if reviving the hammer faces would produce a noticeable improvement to the voicing. Thanks for any insight.

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Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89258
12/09/03 04:48 PM
12/09/03 04:48 PM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 1,292
North Carolina
Ron Alexander Offline
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North Carolina
Piano hammers with grooves at the striking point are in need of voicing. Would not recommend you allow anyone but a tech with voicing experience handle the job.

Hammers with grooves of 1/16" or more are usually very bright and harsh in tone. If the hammers have never been sanded or have been sanded but still have enough felt, they can be sanded to remove the grooves, and needled to soften the felt to restore some of the original tone. You do not say how deep the grooves are, but voicing is not a job for the amateur or novice technician.
Improper sanding can destroy the shape to the hammer, and over needling can make the tone too soft or mellow.

I would give this job only to a technician that you know can do the job.

Regards,
Ron


-----------------
Ron Alexander
Piano Tuner-Technician
Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89259
12/09/03 05:46 PM
12/09/03 05:46 PM
Joined: Jul 2001
Posts: 15,406
Surrey, B.C.
Norbert Offline
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It's not just about "reviving the hammers" but also the integrity and condition of the whole action.

Based on a piano without serious flaws in the pinblock ,strings and/or bridges.

A good general 'reconditioning' [provided there is enough felt left on the hammers!] can be done by taking the action into a workshop and work on it a day or two.

In conjunction of a good tuning, voicing and regulation - this piano may yet outlive you!

Or me..... smile

norbert


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Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89260
12/09/03 06:10 PM
12/09/03 06:10 PM
Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 6
TX
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bryan_again_, Offline OP
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TX
Thanks for the info. Sounds like this might be the reason (or part of it) behind the "bright and harsh tone" that I noticed.

If I asked a piano tech to do this, how will I know if I'm getting ripped off - or reasonably charged? I'm in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area so it's not like I'm in the boonies...but I have no familiarity with this subject.

Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89261
12/09/03 07:02 PM
12/09/03 07:02 PM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 916
Jacksonville, Florida
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Jim Volk Offline
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Jacksonville, Florida
Bryan, there are techs here in north Florida who would do the job for $75, and some who would ask three times that amount. Normally it depends on the age and experience of the tech, but that doesn't mean an older technician will always do a better job than a younger one. Some well-trained, younger techs can be skilled enough to do the job right, but will take less due to their status.

Recommendations from satisfied customers are the best prerequisite, so I'd ask around for a referral rather than just hit the Yellow Pages.

BTW, another problem caused by deeply grooved hammers is that they no longer do the job of striking the string: deep grooves cause the hammer felt to briefly contact about half of the string's circumference before the striking surface makes contact, and then continue to briefly envelop much of the string as the hammer starts to make its rebound.

This unwanted contact--the hammer is actually grabbing the string, instead of merely striking it--serves to damp the string's vibration, thereby slightly reducing its volume and degrading its sonority.

Another good reason to get'em fixed! wink

-Jimbo


Jim Volk
PIANOVATION
Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89262
12/09/03 10:47 PM
12/09/03 10:47 PM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 26,694
Oakland
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BDB Offline
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You didn't say whether this was an upright or a grand. Either way, when the hammers are worn enough they need replacing, but there is more adjustment available on grands before the action is adversely affected.


Semipro Tech
Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89263
12/10/03 01:15 AM
12/10/03 01:15 AM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,343
Dallas, TX
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ChrisKeys Offline
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Dallas, TX
Quote
Originally posted by bryan_again_,:
If I asked a piano tech to do this, how will I know if I'm getting ripped off - or reasonably charged? I'm in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area so it's not like I'm in the boonies...but I have no familiarity with this subject.
Bryan, I'm in the Dallas/Fort Worth area myself. Email me (check out my profile) and I'll give you a tech to contact.

Chris

Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89264
12/10/03 11:59 AM
12/10/03 11:59 AM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,810
North County San Diego CA
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Rick Clark Offline
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North County San Diego CA
Bryan,

What happens is you will get an exagerration of certain harmonics and a dampening of other harmonics. If the grooves are bad, the difference in tone should be quite noticeable. A flattened off (grooved) hammer also creates more stress to the string and may exhaust them before their time, or contribute to string breakage.

Whether the piano ends up sounding overall brighter or duller depends a lot on the kind of piano (type of hammer) it is. Some get brighter, some duller.

Ideally, you would want the hammer contact point to be something like the pointy end of an egg. While needle-voicing can take down some overly bright harmonics in the short run, if the hammers are seriously grooved they really need to be reshaped (filed) to restore them. If the hammers are too far gone they may need replacing, as you can only file "so much".

Hammer reshaping is usually followed by some voicing, but the bulk of the work is in the filing.

Hammer reshaping is a job that should only be done by someone who does it a lot. There is a lot of technique involved in getting an even, effective, professional-looking job. Anything other than someone really good at it can botch the job more than you can imagine.

A good reshaping job by an experienced filer followed by voicing ought to take a few hours in a grand, but can be longer in an upright because of ergonomic issues. Also, I can easily do a grand right at the piano, but for an upright I usually prefer to take it back to my workbench where I can set it up the way I want. So you can guesstimate the typical price range for filing as approx 2X the price of tuning or more f it's an upright. More or less.

BUT, a good tech is also going to point out the need for some regulation. Even if your piano were perfectly regulated before the filing (99% chance it wasn't, though) once the hammers are filed the strike distance is changed and one needs to regulate some things to make up for it.

However more commonly the whole action has fallen behind on regulation to the same extent it has fallen behind on hammer maintenance. So you can add more hours to the workload if the regulation was bad, and you want it brought back. iI's usually a no-brainer to do in a grand, but in an upright the benefit is sometimes not so cut-and-dried.

Regards,

Rick Clark


Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician
Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89265
12/10/03 12:14 PM
12/10/03 12:14 PM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,044
Colorado
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Manitou Offline
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Colorado
Jimbo, Mr. Clark...

Well said.

Jimbo explains how deeply grooved hammers begin to act much like wedge dampers: the sides brushing against the strings before and after contact, actually dampening the sound some. Players will then typically play harder to affect more sound (catch-22) now you are wearing hammers faster.

Mr. Clark suggest correctly that worn, grooved hammers are most often a visible symptom of the larger issues (mainly, overall action needs). And yes, taking off a couple layers of felt will change let-off (although it was probably already out of adjustment)... plus if you don't change let-off, you won't be able to bring hammers to strings to check hammer squarring: which means other adjustments should follow...

(not adding the valid info given by others)

It does take much doing, and experience to do a good job. Takes me around 4 hours to do a grand: level strings, align hammers, reshape hammers, Iron hammers, square hammers to strings and voice...

Manitou - Pianist - Technician


Manitou - Pianist - Technician
Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89266
12/10/03 12:28 PM
12/10/03 12:28 PM
Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 6
TX
B
bryan_again_, Offline OP
Junior Member
bryan_again_,  Offline OP
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Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 6
TX
This is a baby grand, so it seems I'm slightly better off than an upright situation. Sounds like I'm in for a few hundred bucks to work over the hammers and regulation. Hope that does the trick.
Thanks again for the expertise.

(P.S. If you guys knew the manufacturer and condition of this piano, you might be insulted that I'm asking questions about it, much less the tech that ends up coming to see it. Appreciate the help nonetheless)

Re: grooves worn in hammers....impacts to the sound, tone? #89267
12/10/03 11:21 PM
12/10/03 11:21 PM
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 3,773
Boulder, Colorado
KlavierBauer Offline
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Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 3,773
Boulder, Colorado
Rick and Manitou have given excellent advice as always. And as always, due to my tardyness, I'm not sure there's much I can add.

I would like to touch on what Norbert said though. He brings up a good point, that in an older piano such as this one (assuming it's old since it's inherited), there are many times other issues.
As a tech, these issues may very well change the work I'd do on a piano, as my primary goal is to leave my customer with a good piano, rather than just to sell work (not implying this is the case with either your tech, or the other two who have spoken on this thread).
But many times with these older pianos, I find that the grooved hammers are the least of it's worries. Certainly as Rick and Manitou said, reshaping hammers can and should be done on grooved hammers, but I would also look at what else may be showing the same neglect, and whether or not it's worth it to do that kind of work, or if you should be looking at a new piano.

Also, to comment on younger technicians not charging as much because of their "status":
I am 26, and charge more than most in my area to do this job. Why? Because I've not only done more of them, but also do a job that I can be proud of. I find that most techs charge less than their experience allows, but make up for it with less than perfect work. I try to do a job that I can be proud of, and being young means I have to do an extra special job, because people are already more critical of my work than others.
sorry... that comment caught my eye, and I had to weigh in. smile


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