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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6M_SbE5N3U

Unfortunately, I have yet to make a professional recording of this piano but this last iphone recording I did does give an OK representation of the sound and dynamics of my 1844 Pleyel with the original felts.

Sorry for the video's technical problems and the occasional audio cutting-out.. it was due to my using a new app for my iphone that doesn't have a compressor on the microphone but it didn't work so well..

But the astonishing thing to me is just how mellow and sweet the sound is compared to modern pianos.

I think maybe some very old pianos, like the ones made in the 1920's may have had a similar tone, in a way.. I sometimes hear very old recordings that have that roundness to them, although the tone was much stronger by the early 1900's

Last edited by acortot; 03/30/15 09:41 AM.

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The tone was much stronger by the 1900s due to the larger instruments, but some makers did strive to use soft felts even by then. My own piano has been voiced by making the hammer heads so soft that the tone is woolly, then I played it in and now it's clear but still dark. When I use the una corda pedal it becomes like a veil over the tone again which is a beautiful contrast.

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Is it really the original felt? Wouldn't the felt be completely worn through by now?


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Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed hearing the difference in the sound! And your playing is lovely.


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Hi phantom5,

the felt between 1830 and 1850 used by Pleyel on their grands, and Erard on everything they built, probably..

It was the first felt ever used on pianos and it was invented by Henri Pape.

Before then, leather was used and it had to be carefully chosen and tensioned by hand.

This felt was a revelation for the piano industry because 'anyone could make a hammer-set'

The felt was applied like a stamp, with no tension and a mild gelatin for glue.. but it wore-out after a few years of playing...

Pape also made a hammer shaped like a wheel, so that when the felt wore-out on the striking-point you could turn the hammer and expose a new surface..

this is possible because the last outer layer, which is the only felt layer, the others being leather, was applied without tension..

so I did a similar thing... I took what was left on the side of the hammer, which was unused and new (you could tell it had never been shaved-down because it has the external burn marks made by a hot sheet of metal applied at the final stages of the felt-making process) and I applied it on the tip with gum arabic.. the felt is very light and not dense at all.. then I glued some similar rabbit-felt on the sides..

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ir5pRFmLWCw/VJCAHJBAIzI/AAAAAAAAAaY/-OgPhMeOZDw/s1600/IMG_4578.jpg


the outer grey layer is roughly equivalent to the 'pianissimo' layer techs make today by needling the striking point, but it is a discrete layer.

you can't usually do that with hammer felt or leather because most felt is tensioned before it's glued on the old style of hammers.. they left the tip unglued and the felt was more resistant to tension.. this particular felt is quite loose and flimsy by comparison and it was glued-on everywhere including the tip..


P.S. that's not me playing smile

Last edited by acortot; 03/30/15 05:27 PM.

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It sounds absolutely lovely.

However, while some 1920s pianos have an attractive mellow tone, I do not think they sound quite like this. This has a slight "antique-piano" edge to the sound (I find it difficult to define quite what that means) which I like very much.

And I am impressed by the sound quality. Can you tell us the name of the app that you used?

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thanks,

the app is called filmic pro.. the essential thing being that the app can turn off the internal high-pass-filter and Automatic Gain Control



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perhaps the 'antique piano' edge you talk about is due to the composite wood frame and parallel stringing, as well as the much lower tension

the piano is actually quiet enough that it probably wouldn't disturb the neighbours too much


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I appreciate all the detailed work you went through to understand and replace the felt on the hammers. It's that kind of thoughtfulness that makes this piano sound special, IMO. Thanks for sharing.


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smile thanks!


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Originally Posted by acortot
perhaps the 'antique piano' edge you talk about is due to the composite wood frame and parallel stringing, as well as the much lower tension

Very likely it is due to the wood frame and the lower tension in the strings. My Bluthner is straight-stung in the bass, and it does not have the "antique-piano" quality that I was referring to.

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I don't think there's any antique piano edge. I certainly think the sound of my Mason BB is superior. I found the tome of Chopin's piano very wooden sounding on the attack.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think there's any antique piano edge. I certainly think the sound of my Mason BB is superior. I found the tome of Chopin's piano very wooden sounding on the attack.


Sounds like you do hear a difference then. Low string tension, soft felts, and other aspects of a piano's construction will make a difference to all aspects of a pianos sound. Whether you prefer your modern Mason BB is a totally separate question.

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There is no question that Henry Pape was an important innovator in modern piano design. He may have been the most important innovator - period.

Hammer design, cross stringing, action advances - he effected all of it for the better, IMHO.

Here is a recording of Chopin's own Pleyel grand piano. It resides in a museum today, but this is a nice recording of it.

http://www.cobbecollection.co.uk/collection/33-chopins-own-grand-piano/



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Here are a few good photos that show historic hammers and how they looked different from today's hammers.

1820s Streicher:
[Linked Image]

A variety of Pleyel hammers from the mid 19th century. Notice the gray felted hammers. These were made using rabbit fur:
[Linked Image]

Of course, Larry Fine offers these pictures to trace the evolution of the hammer:
[Linked Image]


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Here is a picture of an 1840's Erard as well. This is from a square piano:

[Linked Image]


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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Here is a recording of Chopin's own Pleyel grand piano. It resides in a museum today, but this is a nice recording of it.

http://www.cobbecollection.co.uk/collection/33-chopins-own-grand-piano/
Thanks so much for that link. That collection is, by far, the most beautiful collection of historic instruments I have ever seen. I'm surprised the Cobbe Collection has never been previously discussed, at least to my knowledge, at PW.

I thought the sound of Chopin's Pleyel was rather terrible, but I don't don't know if part of that is due to the way it was recorded.


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Chopin's piano unfortunately has had the felt replaced with a wool felt which is too high in density so it sounds a lot more bright and, in a way, modern than it did when Chopin played it.. the felts on hammers are very important..

with the original felts the attack is more mellow and slightly muffled.

usually, the better grand pianos made between 1830-1850 in france had this pape felt, Erard also put it on their vertical pianos and squares..

when the felt wore-out another layer of felt was glued-on and this would be done every 30-40 years or so, whenever the piano got sold again on the used market.

The Erard square action I see above could have the original grey Pape-style felt UNDERNEATH the white layer, which looks to be a replacement done in the 1800's from the fibres, although it's just a guess..


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I certainly didn't think the tone of the piano in your OP was superior to good modern pianos. In fact, I thought it was definitely inferior and quite unpleasant.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/08/15 08:32 PM.
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Most people agree with you. Piano manufacture evolved towards the sound most people preferred.


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