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#2770860 10/09/18 04:46 PM
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Hi everyone,

I've come across several instances recently of pianos that have been left sharp from the summer humidity. If I have some history with the piano, this is an opportune time to recommend a dampp-chaser instead of just tuning the piano.

I just posted a couple of before and after audio files on my website showing what a basic Dampp-chaser can do to improve the tuning.

If you listen to the clips it almost sounds like the piano has been tuned in the second clip. The change in sound is only from installing a D/C system and letting it run for 2 weeks. I did not touch any of the tuning pins or voice any hammers.

Check it out and let me know what you think! In a future recording I will have to be more careful to play the intervals in the same order and pattern to make the comparison easier.

https://pianova.net/humidity-control-before-and-after/


Ryan Sowers,
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Ryan,
This is helpful.
I have advocated/installed DC systems for decades but I was really surprised by a recent experience with a Baldwin SD-10 at a local 2-year university.

It had been tuned to pitch April/May of this year. Then when I was asked to tune it this September it was horrendously sharp and wildly uneven. Turns out the DC had not been plugged in over the summer (change of university organization in addition to regular summer chaos). But in addition it turns out the entire HVAC had failed in early July and repairs/replacement was not effected until the end of summer.

Anyway, I plugged the DC system in and told them they would save money if I did a tuning in a couple of weeks because it was going to drop with the heat coming on in OCT. When I came back I almost wondered if someone had been in to do a tuning. It wasn't "fresh tuning perfect" but at least playable. I was amazed at the change effected by the DC alone because it was still a couple of weeks before outside temps were below indoor temps.

The action was another matter... All centers had to be treated with CLP. The shanks/flanges -- by way of example -- were making barely 1/2 swing and the jacks were not returning. (Well.... some of them were!) ;-)


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During factory tours I have asked experts at Bösendorfer three years in a row about Damp Chasers. Each time they have told me absolutely don't install one. Why would that be?

Thank you / Steve


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I have heard of soundboards being damaged by improperly installed systems - the specific case I heard cited was a humidifier tank that did not have the diffuser in place so the moisture was accumulating at one spot under the soundboard.

Like any tool, it has to be used properly and maintained. People do tend to neglect the humidifier tanks and the pads can get very crusty and funky.

In my part of the country I'm installing mostly just basic systems. For an upright that is a 50 watt dehumidifier rod and the humidistat. For mid-size grands a 50 watt rod plus a 38 watt short rod under the tail section and the humidistat.

The rods don't seem to get super hot - maybe around 90-100 degrees I'm guessing. That's not nearly hot enough to cause damage, although I I could imagine a scenario where the humidistat doesn't turn the rods off and the soundboard gets over-dried. I haven't actually heard of a case, however.

The tuning will usually tell you if the system has a problem. I was going to tune a client's piano on Monday morning and when I heard the piano I was immediately suspicious that the system wasn't working. Sure enough it had become unplugged and the pitch was at about 443.5. I took a recording, and plugged it in. I'll make another recording when I go back in 3 weeks. I'll post the sound clips so you can hear the before and after.


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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
During factory tours I have asked experts at Bösendorfer three years in a row about Damp Chasers. Each time they have told me absolutely don't install one. Why would that be?

Thank you / Steve


If you have "asked the experts", why didn't you ask them to justify their statement? The people working at factories may not even be "experts" in that all they know is what happens in the factory. People out in the field actually see what happens to pianos and what they are like after 20, 50, 100 years.

What I'm saying is that factory people may have a basis for making particular statements but they should be nailed down as to what that basis is. And further, that basis has to be rooted in some objective reality other than that they are "factory specialists" or whatever.


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I think in the after soundtrack the octaves were still a bit narrow but better and the unisons seemed to clear up.
On the before recording I would be curious what strings of the unisons were out?
Like was it possible that most were on the left or right?
I call it bridge roll but others have told me that bridge roll cant happen.
If the bridge tends to move up and down perfectly vertical in response to wood moisture changes then one could assume that the unisons should not change much with a corresponding pitch change.
On the concert pianos I tune regular - no humidity control- I observe this phenomena, especially in the upper tenor and treble where if the pitch goes sharp overall, the left strings of the unisons move or the opposite if its dry and the pitch falls.


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I've never experienced that kind of change from adding a Dampchaser - I have one and just leave it on - but I've definitely noticed that if I give in to temptation for fresh air on a summer day - turning off the AC and opening the windows - and sending the RH waaay up and the piano waaay outta tune - and subsequently close the windows and turn the AC back on, in a few days its largely back to where it was.

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I know what you are talking about Gene - I've heard someone describe it once as "unison smear". Sometimes I find the middle string sharper than the left string and the right string sharper than the middle string throughout a section. Other times it seems to just affect one of the outside strings the most.

Another interesting way to check a piano is to use Tunelab's pitch raise measuring program. After you measure each string prior to the pitch raise, there is a chart that shows how sharp or flat each note is. I don't know if there is a way to save that information into a file - I'll have to ask Robert Scott about it. Then after installation you could take another pre-measurement of the tuning and compare the numbers and see exactly how much each note moved.


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tend to rush,
It partly depends on the time of year you install the system. If you install it in February it probably won't affect the piano much because if the humidity is 40% RH or lower the unit may never come on.

The most dramatic change will be at the end of summer (at least in my climate) where the piano has picked up some extra humidity and the pitch is sharp.

What system do you have installed in your piano and what type of piano?


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Originally Posted by kpembrook
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
During factory tours I have asked experts at Bösendorfer three years in a row about Damp Chasers. Each time they have told me absolutely don't install one. Why would that be?

Thank you / Steve


If you have "asked the experts", why didn't you ask them to justify their statement? The people working at factories may not even be "experts" in that all they know is what happens in the factory. People out in the field actually see what happens to pianos and what they are like after 20, 50, 100 years.

What I'm saying is that factory people may have a basis for making particular statements but they should be nailed down as to what that basis is. And further, that basis has to be rooted in some objective reality other than that they are "factory specialists" or whatever.

Originally Posted by kpembrook
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
During factory tours I have asked experts at Bösendorfer three years in a row about Damp Chasers. Each time they have told me absolutely don't install one. Why would that be?

Thank you / Steve


If you have "asked the experts", why didn't you ask them to justify their statement? The people working at factories may not even be "experts" in that all they know is what happens in the factory. People out in the field actually see what happens to pianos and what they are like after 20, 50, 100 years.

What I'm saying is that factory people may have a basis for making particular statements but they should be nailed down as to what that basis is. And further, that basis has to be rooted in some objective reality other than that they are "factory specialists" or whatever.


The people giving the tours are experts and are part of their management team. People working at Bösendofer aren't factory people. They are technicians. Their management team are experts. Thank you for your reply but I didn't get comfortable with your side at all from it. Steve

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 10/10/18 05:06 PM.

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Sometimes it just comes down to inexperience with the systems. Also manufactures may not want to endorse a product that assumes that the piano's tuning is essentially unstable. This is just speculation. Would a manufacturer want to tell you that you should to buy an add-on product to improve their very expensive product?


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Quote
The people giving the tours are experts and are part of their management team. People working at Bösendofer aren't factory people. They are technicians. Their management team are experts. Thank you for your reply but I didn't get comfortable with your side at all from it. Steve


Actually they are not experts in terms of actually having decades of service experience on their pianos in the field. All they know is what is inside the factory walls. They may be experts at assembling pianos into high quality instruments but their knowledge -- while extensive in some areas -- is limited in others.

The longer one works on pianos, the more opportunity there is to see weirdness emerging from factories -- some of it at the execution level but also some at the design level.

I'm not against factory people -- they are good folk doing -- for the most part -- good work. But I'm actively opposed to the long-standing attitude that we should fall down and worship at every word that comes from the mouth of a factory employee. In many cases they don't know what they don't know.

In any event the mark of an expert is to be able to provide a clear and credible defense of any assertion such a person would make. This is true of doctors, auto machanics and piano technicians. We don't just accept a doctor's statement that we should get surgery but rather they provide detailed explanations of how we got into our particular situation and what the consequences will be if we get surgery and what they will be if we don't. Same with auto mechanics -- they can provide excruciating detail of exactly why we will need to replace that brake system or have the valves ground. But in the piano world, many people who interact with factory people don't requre the same level of genuine expertise that we expect of experts in other fields--I'm not quite sure why...

Last edited by kpembrook; 10/11/18 06:03 PM.

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Great post Keith, and so true!

It would be great to follow up on this. I plan on contacting Bosendorfer and some of the other factories and inquire about their positions and arguments for and against Dampp-Chaser systems. I'll post the answers I get on this forum.

I continue to believe that Dampp-chaser systems are the best value around for maintaining good piano tone. I'm regularly surprised at people's resistance to them.



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Hi I have recently bought a 130 Sauter piano .The main technician from the dealer told me 70% even 80% humidity is fine for the piano .Considering in the winter the indoor humidity has gone down to 43 %or slighlty lower this answer bothers me to say the least .He is a well respected technician who knows his work .The piano is under warranty with the manufactures and extended an extra 5 years wit the dealer . During the early Fall the indoor temperature rose to 70% even 74 % .When I asked the technician about getting a Damp Chaser he said I did not need one in Vancouver B.C. This no doubt will make everyone on this forums head spin ! The piano maintains its tuning well ,but after the beginning of fall has gone out of tune of course ! The piano has not yet experienced it's first winter ? Any help would be appreciated.

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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
The main technician from the dealer told me 70% even 80% humidity is fine for the piano


It has been my experience, being around institutional pianos in tough environments on a daily basis for more than half my life, that action problems start happening when the relative humidity rises much above 70%. Hanging dampers, etc. 80% is insanity, and I have never in my life heard a tech or manufacturer suggest that was remotely okay.


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Thank you I appreciate your experience and honesty.Being a retired music teacher, the piano is not all that played .But I do about an hour a day practicing . Being a high end expensive instrument I need to take good care of it .So why such advice from a highly qualified experienced technician who charges an enormous amount to tune the instrument is as you say insanity !


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