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As many of you know, I am the proud owner of both a new Mason & Hamlin 7' BB and a sentimental owner of a 1980 Yamaha 6'1" C3 that is in excellent physical condition.

My 'New' Old Yamaha C3 w/ WNG Carbon-Fiber Shanks & Abel Natural Hammers
[Linked Image]

I've been working with a very skilled concert technician, Boaz Kirschenbaum, whose expertise is in tone regulation and voicing, in fact, he is the new Chief Voicer at M&H. He has spent the last two days working on both my older Yamaha C3 and new Mason & Hamlin BB, and I can tell you, I now have two beautiful sounding instruments that exhibit both beautiful tone and color!

Boaz Kirschenbaum performing Yamaha C3 tone regulation, final voicing, addressing excessive friction & lubricating dampers:
[Linked Image] [Linked Image]

One would expect that a new 7' Mason & Hamlin BB could achieve excellence, and so it is, a true joy to play! But the surprise of the weekend is my older 6'1" Yamaha C3. Wow, what a difference!

My 'New' Old Yamaha C3 w/ WNG Carbon-Fiber Shanks & Abel Natural Hammers:
[Linked Image]

Now Boaz had previously determined that my C3 soundboard still exhibited good crown and sustain, and the bridge, when measured, produced good down bearing force and the strings still rang true. The OEM wood wippens, repetitions and back checks were all in good shape. Unfortunately, after 36 years, my C3 hammers (which were hard to begin with) had literally become rocks and the knuckles were pretty worn. No amount of hammer needling would bring them back again, and just replacing hammer heads or trying to manually replace the knuckles would have been labor intensive, be equally expensive and most likely have a less successful result.

36 Year-Old 'Rock-Hard' Yamaha C3 OEM Hammers:
[Linked Image]

For around $6K, a skilled tech can replace, tone-regulate and concert voice the original 88 shanks, flanges, knuckles with an advanced carbon-fiber / composite Wessell, Nickel, Gross (WNG) action and use softer hammers - such as Abel Natural (or on vintage Golden-Age instruments Ronsen cold-pressed) Hammers. Upon completion of the work, you would have an excellent renewed piano, with good bones, great hardware, lyrical sound (not too harsh), that outplays any mid-teens (or mid-twenties) $$$ piano out there.

New Updated Yamaha C3 w/ WNG action (original wipes, repetitions, back-checks) & Abel Natural Hammers:
[Linked Image]

I'm very pleased that we were able to transform my old C3 into something much better. BTW the new WNG action hardware we used is what comes standard on all M&H's and is an even more advanced design that what is used on the current CX or even the CF series Yamaha's... so it's now more like a better version of a late 80's era Yamaha S3! I'm getting a kick out of it too, since it is actually the inverse of Kawai's Millennium III action. The dependable OEM Yamaha action, enhanced by the benefits of WNG! Definitely have better consistency and more control over tone and color.

I am in the process of compiling pictures and recording sound for both pianos over the next few weeks. Here's a quick link to the PianoWorld Photo Gallery that shows some pictures of the new updated Yamaha C3 with WNG action (original wipes, repetitions & back-checks) & Abel Natural Hammers, sample rock-hard OEM hammers, RPT addressing excessive friction, lubricating the dampers & doing final tone regulation and voicing.

Yamaha C3 w/ WNG Carbon Fiber Shanks & Abel Natural Hammers
Glad you are so happy with Boaz's work. I am a great fan of the W,N&G hammer shank/flange. They are so even and consistent that they have made wood hammer shanks obsolete technology.
Any sound clips of the C3? I'm very curious as I would probably need to get my hammers/shanks/etc replaced on my C3 in the future as they're being worn quite a lot these days.

I really prefer a much softer/warmer sound than Yamaha's original hammers, and have had mine needled extensively. Your new hammers sound like something I might be interested in so I'm very curious about the sound after the replacement.
I have replaced Yamaha hammers on many different grand models. On all of them I used a Ronsen hammer that was significantly lighter and softer than the Yamaha originals. The improvement in warmth, pianissimo control, dynamic range, playing ease and repetition, and durability is significant.

However, there is still a slight element of metallic tone signature to the two top treble sections of strings that is due to the hard metal Yamaha plates are made from. Some Steinway's and other makes can have hard treble string terminations that cause the same problem.

This also leads to less durable strings and even affects the smoothness of which it tunes.
Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
I have replaced Yamaha hammers on many different grand models. On all of them I used a Ronsen hammer that was significantly lighter and softer than the Yamaha originals. The improvement in warmth, pianissimo control, dynamic range, playing ease and repetition, and durability is significant.

However, there is still a slight element of metallic tone signature to the two top treble sections of strings that is due to the hard metal Yamaha plates are made from. Some Steinway's and other makes can have hard treble string terminations that cause the same problem.

This also leads to less durable strings and even affects the smoothness of which it tunes.


Ed,

Just out of curiosity, have you ever modified a too-hard plate by grinding off the tip of the capo bar and then having a welder put on a bead of brass, which could then be shaped according to your practice?
Ed - Thanks! Boaz is a fantastic tech; knowledgeable, personable, quite down to earth and pretty funny. After enjoying the benefits of the WNG hammer shank / flange / knuckle (with 'highly needled' Abel Select hammers) for the past year on my new M&H BB, for me there was no question this was the way to go for the renovation of my older Yamaha C3, which after 36 years exhibited a very metallic and glassy tone signature not suited for Classical Music. The two questions were: 1) How much to invest to overcome the majority of this (i.e. the 80%/20% rule) and 2) What type of hammers to use?

Relative to 1) 80% of the benefit for a moderate investment - the answer was simple; change over to the WNG hammer shank / flange / knuckle due to it's consistency benefits (and integrated knuckle) and not get into modifications to either the capo d'astro, restringing, or lightening the damper system.
Relative to 2) What type of hammers to use? We actually hung a number of sample hammers, from Renner Blue Points (way too hard!) to Cold-Pressed Ronsen (very soft and subtle - would need to be lacquered up to achieve more presence on the C3) to Abel Natural (which seemed to be a good tonal starting point for the C3 from the sample hanging we did). We chose the latter for the C3 based on that sample hanging; new M&H's will be using this too. (P.S. I am also a big fan of the Ronsen hammers having seen them used on good older Steinway restorations and even on a beautiful new M&H CC-94) .

Michiyo-Fir - I'd be happy to! I've enjoyed listening and reading to some of your prior posts and thought about you and your C3. I'll try to post a before and after recording as soon as I can; which is sometimes hard for me with twin 4 1/2 year old daughters running around wink
Just curious, did your tech reweigh the keyboard after installing the new hammers / shanks & flanges?
Roy123,
Interesting solution I hadn't considered. Thanks! I have a Baldwin SF-7 awaiting replacement of the bolt-in, sintered metal, treble string terminators. I have not made a decision on how to proceed.

If I do have to repair one of the hard-capo Steinway's or someone wants to sink lots of money into a Yamaha grand my thinking was to install upside down agraffes with the tops cut off to leave open string holes ala Chickering.

I do find it absurd that even today almost all piano manufacturers do not understand how the string termination points should be configured. I have been trying to get PTG to publish a list of specifications for standard piano design features that a purchaser of a piano could hand to a salesperson and say, "I will not buy any piano that is not guaranteed to meet these specification".

I think this is the only way to get the manufacturers attention. They don't listen to me alone.
And well they should not.
Hi Ed,

I know for a fact that Boaz did. As part of his initial assessment last month, he took quite a few critical geometric measurements of how the Yamaha C3 OEM action was installed and how hammers lined up with the strings, and then removed the entire action to bring it back to the workshop. As a both a Licensed Stanwood Precision Touch Installer and a Wessell, Nickel & Gross Composite Action Installer, calculating the correct geometry and validating correct hammer weight are all part of his process. When changing from an OEM setup one needs to ensure that the replacement parts are optimized for that particular piano. The result on my piano is a very even, consistent and balanced action - with much better tonal control than before. Boaz mentioned to me that as part of his hammer replacement projects he calibrates the hammer weight to a tolerance of 0.2 gram. A link to his updated website confirms this:

Piano Voicing and Tone Regulation - Boaz Kirschenbaum, RPT
BDB, your comment is so cryptic that the meaning is not clear.

So what method(s) do you employ to guarantee to a customer that you can remove the string buzzes in the capo permanently? Are you even capable of determining the source of the problem?
Thanks for sharing, and wish you great moments playing both beauties!!
Thank you Piano_Brazil! It was fun to watch, learn, discuss and document the steps of a skilled artist & technician - achieving vast improvements to piano tone and color; for both the C3 which had lost it's voice and rediscovered it, to the BB which is now heaven to play! And now they are somewhat related with common carbon fiber/composite WNG hardware: from their flanges, via their knuckles, through their shafts, to their Abel hammers!
Originally Posted by wolfgangmeister
Ed - Thanks! Boaz is a fantastic tech; knowledgeable, personable, quite down to earth and pretty funny. After enjoying the benefits of the WNG hammer shank / flange / knuckle (with 'highly needled' Abel Select hammers) for the past year on my new M&H BB, for me there was no question this was the way to go for the renovation of my older Yamaha C3, which after 36 years exhibited a very metallic and glassy tone signature not suited for Classical Music. The two questions were: 1) How much to invest to overcome the majority of this (i.e. the 80%/20% rule) and 2) What type of hammers to use?

Relative to 1) 80% of the benefit for a moderate investment - the answer was simple; change over to the WNG hammer shank / flange / knuckle due to it's consistency benefits (and integrated knuckle) and not get into modifications to either the capo d'astro, restringing, or lightening the damper system.
Relative to 2) What type of hammers to use? We actually hung a number of sample hammers, from Renner Blue Points (way too hard!) to Cold-Pressed Ronsen (very soft and subtle - would need to be lacquered up to achieve more presence on the C3) to Abel Natural (which seemed to be a good tonal starting point for the C3 from the sample hanging we did). We chose the latter for the C3 based on that sample hanging; new M&H's will be using this too. (P.S. I am also a big fan of the Ronsen hammers having seen them used on good older Steinway restorations and even on a beautiful new M&H CC-94) .

Michiyo-Fir - I'd be happy to! I've enjoyed listening and reading to some of your prior posts and thought about you and your C3. I'll try to post a before and after recording as soon as I can; which is sometimes hard for me with twin 4 1/2 year old daughters running around wink


Jusing wondering--did your tests of the Ronsen hammers include testing the Wurzen-felt and Weikert-felt hammers?
Sorry, I'm not sure. I would have to ask Boaz. They were similar to the ones used on a new Satin Ebony & Rosewood Mason & Hamlin CC-94 that had been fitted with them at the factory as an evaluation - with excellent results. We went with the Abel Naturals because out of the box they seemed to best match where we needed to go with the Yamaha C3, while limiting the amount of needling or lacquering required - in other words they were a good baseline.

In the meantime, I'm sure there are other expert techs in the PianoWorld community who could comment on the successes they've had with either on older NY Steinway and M&H restorations. From my limited experience Ronsen hammers produce a classic wonderful tone on instruments with the traditional American scale design and sound.
By Request: Yamaha C3 Recording Comparison - 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring':

Yamaha C3 After WNG Carbon-Fiber Shank & Abel Natural Hammer Install/Voicing

Yamaha C3 With OEM Hammers - Before WNG Shank & Abel Installation/Voicing


Reference: Mason & Hamlin BB Recordings - 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring':

Mason & Hamlin BB After WNG & Abel Select Tone Regulation, Tuning & Voicing

Mason & Hamlin BB Before WNG & Abel Select Tone Regulation, Tuning & Voicing

Wow, thanks a lot for the recordings! The new hammers really bring a nice mellow warmth to the piano, although I do agree the metallic ping is still there. However, compared to the before video it sounds much much better! The strange super metallic tone is my biggest complaint with Yamahas, especially the medium to small sized ones.

I will keep what you have done to yours in mind. My C3 is not quite that old, currently 18 years old and has been needled beyond belief so that it actually sounds very dark and mellow (although it is brightening up), I asked my tech repeatedly to reduce the metallic tint of the sound, which is somewhat successful and so far it has kept alrigh. I have the original hammers, and it actually sounds even more mellow than yours right now, so I'm happy with it. Hopefully I can get another 10 years out of it before I need new hammers as my hammers have been filed and worked on so much, they probably won't be very good to work on a lot more in the future.

Don't mean to hijack your thread, but here's a sound clip if anyone is curious.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSDkCaNyrtQ
Hello Michiyo-Fir!

Thank you for listening and commenting! You are quite right, quite a big improvement in warmth, but still a hint of the metallic ring that was there before. I'm happy because the mellow hammers allow me to at least produce a lyrical line and softer sound again, without having to keep my soft pedal down all the time like before! I wanted to have it playable for two-piano works, accompaniment, testing my new pieces out on two different pianos, etc. At some point I know new strings might be in order too as it is approaching 37 years old, but we'll see. We're not done, just nice to pause and see how far we've come.

You play beautifully and lyrically. I very much enjoyed hearing your performance of Tchaikovsky's Seasons - October on your "younger" sibling C3... I like it's mellow tone... gives me a lyrical ideal for what might be achieved on my C3 in time.

Thanks again!
What a wonderful difference! I don't think anyone would have guessed that it was a C3. Thank you for sharing. The BB sounds heavenly too.
That is certainly a great improvement in your C3. You weren't joking about the metallic sound. The "before" recording almost sounds like there's a Tanpura (the drone instrument that accompanies a sitar) playing in the background!

Did you also have the piano tuned in between the recordings?
Thank you gnuboi!

I agree... I didn't realize that the C3's metallic sound was so prominent until I made that recording last July of 2015. It may have been part of the inspiration for me to 'informally' start looking at semi-concert grands soon thereafter and ultimately end up in Haverhill, MA for the factory tour and selection of my BB. After getting the BB, the comparison was so pronounced that I never practiced on the C3, after 35 years of reliable service. So I knew had to do something. And I am very pleased with how much warmer we were able to make the sound. Although it is not the BB, I am enjoying playing it once again and understand why I purchased it back in high school after winning my first competition (vs. a car). It was my first grand piano and has served me very well for many years.

Corvus,
As you can see from above C3 recording was actually made in July 2015. Both instruments were tuned last January. Since I hadn't played it, and C3 has a Dampp-Chaser in addition to controlling room humidity, tuning hadn't drifted too much, so we did the WNG installation and initial voicing the way it was; plan is to tune it again after change in New England seasons and heat comes on. Can also due some tone regulation and final voicing at that time... True work in progress!

BB needed to be tuned again due to all my practicing and only controlling room humidity. We are about to install a double tank Dampp-Chaser prior to this winter. Tuning and treble string massaging to remove false beats is also a necessary element before final voicing and this was done on the BB, but not yet on C3. C3 recordings are 1 year apart, recordings on BB are 2 weeks apart.

Thanks to both of you for your interest and kind comments!


Originally Posted by Corvus
That is certainly a great improvement in your C3. You weren't joking about the metallic sound. The "before" recording almost sounds like there's a Tanpura (the drone instrument that accompanies a sitar) playing in the background!


I'm not familiar with the Tanpura. To me it sounded like somebody was doubling your melody line on steel triangles.

The change is impressive. I hope I can remember hearing this when my Knabe action reaches end of life. I should put a note somewhere: WNG & Abel....

Jason,

Thanks for sharing the update on your C3 (and thanks for sharing your lovely recordings)!

As the proud owner of a new-to-me 1987 C3, it's especially useful to know that this particular rebuilding option exists and has proven successful.

Regards,
Kyle
Wow! What differences - especially with the change to WNG.
Hi. The change is obvious.
The "ping" noise is yet present in the trebles... and (in my opinión) come from the front dúplex área.
Hi wolfgangmeister,

Thanks for sharing your beautiful performance! Even on the OEM C3 your music was still awesome, but there is no doubt that the new action/hammer made a huge difference especially in your C3. And your BB is absolutely stunning!

I have a similar experience as yours: we always knew our GB1 is quite glassy bright, but we managed to practice/play on it for years as it was the only financial/space-feasible option. After we got our model A, the difference has been so huge that we barely touch the GB1. Sometimes when we play two-piano passages, the combination was how I described in another thread, that the GB1's bright attack sound would surface above for a fraction of a second, then is completely drowned by the A's sustain, not dissimilar to a drowning person (sorry for the macabre metaphor.)

Have you gotten a chance to play both of your pianos together and see how they work?
Thank you so much JazzyJamMan (Kyle), JohnSprung, Goof, Lluiscl and Davdoc, for your kind compliments on my performance, the improvements to my 1980 Yamaha C3 with WNG / Abel Natural (which are not done yet), your similar experiences / insight and kind comments regarding my recordings! Although I have not done any two piano work since the WNG renovation and BB final voicing, I actually have plans to do this with a very good pianist friend of mine in near future. I do know what you mean though Davdoc, had similar experience before WNG with two piano work; C3 would shrill though initially but BB has was more sustain power over time. Already can tell that this change will mitigate this problem to a large degree. I'll give an update when we get to try this.

Got so many positive comments on the Mason & Hamlin BB, that just wanted to place a link to a pretty detailed photo summary thread I also put together recently regarding the step-by-step process that is performed when a piano goes through tone regulation, tuning and final voicing. The Chief Voicing Technician for Mason & Hamlin that installed my C3 WNG renovation, also performed the all-day final voicing work on my BB. I think you will find it very interesting!

Mason & Hamlin BB: Tone Regulation & Concert Voicing

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