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#2282645 05/29/14 09:04 AM
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Friends:

MANY of us have spent hours in small practise rooms learning repertoire and working on technique. In those circumstances, good air circulation is more important than considerations of a precise action or a nice, round tone.

We know that the Canadian makes of Heintzman and also Bell, as well as some American makes like Bush & Lane and Knabe, among other vintage makes, built some fine SOUNDING pianos.

Except for the now defunct Fandrich upright, is there an upright action that offers anything like the precision of a grand action ? One hears raves about the Sauter action. Does anyone have extended experience with one of their premium uprights ? I've tried the Steingraeber whose action is quite good and has beautiful tone. The top Bechstein and Grotrian uprights have wonderful sound but, I believe, a conventional upright action. I'm told that the Hamburg Steinway uprights are gorgeous but nothing exceptional in the action dept.

Do forum members have any thoughts on this vexing issue ?

I mean, what if one were forced into an upright purchase, then what ?

Karl Watson,
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I did not know the Fandrich upright is no more. Sorry to hear that. The Sauter upright is the best I've come across other than Fandrich. I've also heard great things about the Steingraeber upright action but no personal experience.

Rich


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Originally Posted by Karl Watson
... is there an upright action that offers anything like the precision of a grand action ?

Karl,

Are you able to be more precise about what you mean by the precision of a grand action, beyond repetition?

I have a reason for asking.


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Compared to grands, upright actions have two distinguishing problems that limit their inherent performance.

The first is that the long distance of upward motion through the chain of action parts makes maintaining the hammer alignment to the strings across the dynamic range difficult. Anything that sets the hammer into a slight sideways motion or oscillation as it moves towards the strings will cause problems in how the hammer hits the strings. The hammers can wobble sideways somewhat and this keeps the hammer from always contacting all the strings in the same phase upon impact.

It truly is more difficult to get the action and strings in an upright piano into perfect alignment. grands are so much more compact in this regards. In most uprights I can find several notes that when hit really hard, FFF hard, will deflect sideways enough to almost hit the neighboring strings and sometimes miss one of the unison strings entirely, and even hit the neighboring strings.

The second is the center of gravity, (CG), of the hammer assembly. In almost all uprights, if you disable the hammer return spring and bridle strap and then push the hammer towards the strings it will begin to fall into the strings sometime before actual contact. The key return in uprights comes from the jack spring and the advantageous center of gravity of the whippen, and sometimes from back leaded keys. The bridle strap keeps the hammer assembly from spending too much time out of phase with the whippen/key assemblies.

Just after WW2, Woods and Brooks and Pratt-Read, the two US independent action makers of that era both made a "pusher jack" type of action. The jack motion was nearly perpendicular to the strings and "pushed" the hammer towards the strings instead of along the strings. The CG of the hammer butt was also "positive return" upon impact

They were expensive to make and required some "tricky" shapes regarding grain angle in some of the wood parts. And they put them in console/spinet pianos which are so limited by the poor scales. Nobody thought to fit them into 45" scales which might interest a serious pianist. (And we Yanks like to think we are such brilliant servants to the market. You can see in the pusher actions that at one time the US piano industry employed some very skilled engineers.)

I have done a couple of uprights where I had made for me, tapered, cross-ply carbon-fiber/epoxy hammer shanks. These shanks are very stiff even with the small dimension at the end where the hammer is glued. They are not much lighter than the wood.

However I took advantage of the fact that most upright pianos can have the unison strings spaced quite close together across the V-bar. THIS combined with the small diameter shank allowed me to have my hammer maker make me a set of hammer that are narrower and thus considerably lighter.

THEN because the mass of the hammer assemble was lower I could install a small counter-weight in the catcher. The catcher reaches maximum gravity return as the hammer strikes the string. Thus the CG of the upright hammer butt assembly becomes positive towards returning the hammer from the string. Plus the total inertia of the system does not rise anywhere close to troublesome tone and touch areas.

These shanks are expensive, about 10 times what a wood one costs.

Making a truly wonderful vertical piano seems just about as expensive as a grand from my perspective. There are also other engineering limits to the vertical plan that lessen my enthusiasm for them.

I do think using new materials for the structure of a grand and deriving better wound string making technology would allow making a small grand that performed very, very well and was much easier to move and house in tight quarters.

Too bad for pianist's that contemporary piano makers seem un-interested in Hybrid wire scales, my Fully Tempered Duplex Scale, low inertia actions, and except for Mason & Hamlin, composite actions. All these things properly engineered would make all pianos better sounding, way more durable, and stable.

This would give present day pianists a reason to replace their old pianos because the new ones are better.

As it is now, pianists have to hire one of the few independent piano rebuilders who are masters of the new technology to derive the benefits. The state of the art in pianos today is only available from a few skilled rebuilders. All the piano manufacturers are behind in the technology curve.


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Rich D. #2282738 05/29/14 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Rich D.
I did not know the Fandrich upright is no more. Sorry to hear that. The Sauter upright is the best I've come across other than Fandrich.

Rich


Fandrichs and Sons (Darrell & Heather Fandrich) is still around as is the availability of the action.
The Fandrich that was made in Wa. by (Del & Barbara) in the 90's is no longer in production.



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Originally Posted by Karl Watson
Friends:

MANY of us have spent hours in small practise rooms learning repertoire and working on technique. In those circumstances, good air circulation is more important than considerations of a precise action or a nice, round tone.

We know that the Canadian makes of Heintzman and also Bell, as well as some American makes like Bush & Lane and Knabe, among other vintage makes, built some fine SOUNDING pianos.

Except for the now defunct Fandrich upright, is there an upright action that offers anything like the precision of a grand action ? One hears raves about the Sauter action. Does anyone have extended experience with one of their premium uprights ? I've tried the Steingraeber whose action is quite good and has beautiful tone. The top Bechstein and Grotrian uprights have wonderful sound but, I believe, a conventional upright action. I'm told that the Hamburg Steinway uprights are gorgeous but nothing exceptional in the action dept.

Do forum members have any thoughts on this vexing issue ?

I mean, what if one were forced into an upright purchase, then what ?

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY

Fandrich still sells pianos with their action in them, you can see their inventory and price list here. It is a most marvelously balanced action.


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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Too bad for pianist's that contemporary piano makers seem un-interested in Hybrid wire scales, my Fully Tempered Duplex Scale, low inertia actions, and except for Mason & Hamlin, composite actions. All these things properly engineered would make all pianos better sounding, way more durable, and stable.
d rebuilders. All the piano manufacturers are behind in the technology curve.

Interesting, what is a hybrid wire scale?


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Steingraeber and Sauter verticals both have exceptional actions. They also speak with a glorious voice. They also have a price tag which may cause you to gasp!

I've played only one Fandrich & Sons vertical, about 50", and the action was very, very fine. It's as close to the response of a grand action as you can find. And, it comes without heart palpitations when you learn the price. Worth checking out if you are shopping.


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Originally Posted by Karl Watson
Friends:

One hears raves about the Sauter action. Does anyone have extended experience with one of their premium uprights ?

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY


Hi, Karl,

I've had my Sauter Masterclass 122 since 2009. What specific questions would you like answered?

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Originally Posted by Karl Watson
Friends:

MANY of us have spent hours in small practise rooms learning repertoire and working on technique. In those circumstances, good air circulation is more important than considerations of a precise action or a nice, round tone.

We know that the Canadian makes of Heintzman and also Bell, as well as some American makes like Bush & Lane and Knabe, among other vintage makes, built some fine SOUNDING pianos.

Except for the now defunct Fandrich upright, is there an upright action that offers anything like the precision of a grand action ? One hears raves about the Sauter action. Does anyone have extended experience with one of their premium uprights ? I've tried the Steingraeber whose action is quite good and has beautiful tone. The top Bechstein and Grotrian uprights have wonderful sound but, I believe, a conventional upright action. I'm told that the Hamburg Steinway uprights are gorgeous but nothing exceptional in the action dept.

Do forum members have any thoughts on this vexing issue ?

I mean, what if one were forced into an upright purchase, then what ?

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY


Hi Karl:

We have both the Steingraeber and Sauter uprights on the floor next to each other. Why not make a trip and experience them for yourself? I hear the last Sunday in June is a GREAT day to be in San Francisco blush


Russell I. Kassman
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FORMER/Semi-Retired: USA Rep.for C.Bechstein & Sauter; Founder/owner R. KASSMAN Piano; Consultant - GUANGZHOU Pearl River Piano Co.

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Hybrid Wire Scales are sets of strings that take advantage of the different tonal characteristics of Stainless steel alloy piano wire and differently tempered, (compared to modern piano wire), high-carbon steel wire.

These wires can be well employed in designing the scale breaks between the wound and plain strings and between the mono and bi-chords. Also they can be employed in the very lowest wound strings to improve clarity and warmth.

These different wire types produce less longitudinal mode.

There are now wound string wrapping materials made from stainless alloy and nickel plated iron that offer more choices in making a wound string scale.

These new wires and wrapping materials allow placing wound tri-chord unisons higher in the compass than was good practice in the past.

The Hybrid Wire scaling protocols being developed now make small pianos sound larger and warmer in tone. They also tune better.

There is much more that could be done if better wound string making methods and technology could be developed.

I am exploring some of these and that is all I can divulge at this time.


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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Hybrid Wire Scales are sets of strings that take advantage of the different tonal characteristics of Stainless steel alloy piano wire and differently tempered, (compared to modern piano wire), high-carbon steel wire.

These wires can be well employed in designing the scale breaks between the wound and plain strings and between the mono and bi-chords. Also they can be employed in the very lowest wound strings to improve clarity and warmth.

These different wire types produce less longitudinal mode.

There are now wound string wrapping materials made from stainless alloy and nickel plated iron that offer more choices in making a wound string scale.

These new wires and wrapping materials allow placing wound tri-chord unisons higher in the compass than was good practice in the past.

The Hybrid Wire scaling protocols being developed now make small pianos sound larger and warmer in tone. They also tune better.

There is much more that could be done if better wound string making methods and technology could be developed.

I am exploring some of these and that is all I can divulge at this time.

That is fascinating, thanks


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Ian:

Repetition is the major issue. Beyond that, I often feel that I can't control the tone as I can on a grand and when I say control, I mean avoiding the percussive and achieving a nice round, singing tone.

So often it seems to me that uprights simply do whatever THEY want or are able to do and don't respond to a pianist's wishes. Of course, I've been spoiled by having a Stanwood action on my recently sold Petrof 194cm.

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Originally Posted by Karl Watson
So often it seems to me that uprights simply do whatever THEY want or are able to do and don't respond to a pianist's wishes.

Karl:

Thank you for putting the point I was driving at into words.

I think the normal method of regulating an upright results in lack of repetition and loss of control. The remedy is to catch the hammers close to the strings and eliminate excessive aftertouch, as on a grand.

Standard uprights may not lend themselves to that but my Schiedmayer did. I believe it has Renner action parts. I haven't had an opportunity to compare it to a Fandrich, Sauter or Steingraeber with a repeating action.


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I've always wondered the difference it makes when the vertical action hammer strikes the string from from both the opposite side of the string and with an opposite hammer travel arc than the grand action?


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams

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