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Thanks for the article Keith! This is exceptionally well written - very clear what this is about and not about which I think makes everything less confusing. The diagrams are well thought our as well. I am a beginner (less than 6 months) but I tried out around 20 used pianos before I purchased and even I could found quite a variation in tone even among the same model of piano (price range $2-3K). While I think my piano has quite a nice tone, I will engage my local PTG (only 1 in my area) and see if this technique can bring even more. Thanks for sharing!


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Thanks for sending me the article, I've got a new piano that seems overly resonant in the C5-C6 area. The tuner called them "screamers" and was able to make quite an improvement at the first tuning. I'll share this article next time he comes.


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I'm hoping to read the article soon, just finishing up a retune on my 1980 Baldwin Hamilton studio upright-
the poor thing had it's early life sold originally in Daytona Beach and I guess the hot humid weather wasn't kind to the hammers- some of which have split and I've pressed most together again.

While not terribly creased from hard play, they are rather hard and I'm certain in need of some kind of voicing. I tried some crude voicing with some needles four or five years back, but didn't find much result and afraid of breaking a hammer

I came to the forum again- I haven't been here much in the last couple of year- wondering if there was any kind of product that could be applied to the ends of the hammers-glued I suppose, like caps for your teeth, only maybe fuzzy felty of some sort and if anyone has ever tried any soft material like layers of nylon stocking over hammers? Probably not and kinda dumb-

but I do recall looking at carbon fiber hammers a few years back, and interested after having ridden an early carbon fiber bicycle some 40 years ago- and wondering then why perhaps hammers on such strikers couldn't be threaded on the ends to make new hammer heads a possible constant replacement of ease? I think I was laughed off a bit, but I still don't see why. This is an age of uniformity and mass production in all kinds of mechanical endeavors- I'm surprised its not more advanced in pianos. I suppose the vast diversity has stood in the way.


Last edited by harpon; 11/21/18 02:51 AM.
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There are problems with the idea of hammer heads which are not glued: Clicking from looseness and maintaining alignment to name a couple. Most hammers last longer than most people will have pianos, so there is little advantage to making them any easier to replace.

I have not read the article, but my experience is that harsh tones come from either poor shaping, or being too hard beneath the surface of the hammer. The surface needs to be firm to give a solid definition to the tone.


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Well. there are OLD pianos that others use after the original owners. Maybe people might want to replace hammers in 10, 20 or 30 years- some players really whale on them leaving creases- if you've seen many older pianos the hammers aren't usually pristine-when I bought the Baldwin about 5 years back, 33 years old then- I replaced all the felt which restored greatly the action- too bad I can't replace the hammers without a whole new action- or trying to pop the glue apart- one WOULD have to have experience and the proper tools I guess.
I think a new action assembly can still be had- but not sure I could lift it out and get it back on again- I did ONCE.
- and I don't want to spend a lot of money- more worried the darn thing will fall through the floor! and the main reason I haven't bridged the "action gap" up to a baby grand of some sort.
There are also set screws- which could be nylon or even aluminum- weight negligible, to alleviate any problems of movement or alignment- no, NO EXCUSE- it's a corporate industry thing.

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Well, you have not done it and I have. Popping the old hammers off is not a problem. Putting new hammers on is much more difficult, and any sort of removable system is not likely to be any easier than gluing them, and then it would be a maintenance nightmare.


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I'm seeing splined shanks of carbon fiber- the ends of them resembling an iron cross with 4 or five splines wider on the outside- the new hammers could slide right on- and rather tightly and then be torqued down from on top-all very precise and accurate- more than wood could ever be. There could be different sets of hammers with different hardness- or mix and match different hammers at different locations to allow for more specific voicings.

Thanks for the article Keith- some really good material that's probably better utilized with hands on experience.

That's part of the fun of having an older piano that isn't worth thousands- I feel more free to experiment.
Just finished tightening up the tuning a little more, and then I took an emery board for nail filing and fluffed the ends of the hammers a bit - a light brushing with it took more crude off the tops and I continued to re-glue some exploded hammer heads back together- a process I began a couple of years back and hadn't quite finished. The emery board all around makes the alignment look better again as some had ridges and bumps I think were probably not there when they were new- The sound seems less harsh and yet fuller.

I didn't get to any needling yet- probably tomorrow.

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Wow- this is FANTASTIC! I tightened the tuning even more- and getting better at it as it's more dialed in and then I needled-ONCE- some of the harsher sounding hammers- this seemed to be mostly the C above Middle C range at first and then others- I can't even get the needle all the way through with my bare hands so I did some in roughly the same place on alternate sides- perhaps 3/16 to 1/4 inch

and IMMEDIATE sound improvement!

I wonder if this allegory has been discussed but to me it's like hearing a new tennis ball bouncing on a hard surface or in the sweet spot of a tennis racquet. There's an immediate certain hollow sounding tubular sound added to the strike- very pleasing and full- I'll probably detail it further and use more needle, but for now I've mostly just done the tip an 1/8" behind the strike point.

Thanks again Keith .

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Thanks Keith for the article. I tuned my BB today and then side needled my Ronsen bass hammers using the specific technique you outlined for bass. The harsh upper partials are now gone, the pitch clarity is much improved with a good solid bass structure, and I still have a large tonal range with dynamic changes.

Cheers and have a restful holiday break, (I hope).

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Great article! I highly recommend messaging Keith and asking for a copy. There is some non-traditional advice I found especially helpful. I've been a tech for only about 5 years so I am just scratching the surface (pun) of voicing so the article really hit the spot (pun again?). Thanks Keith!

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A shout-out to Keith from me as well!

It's nice to see someone providing more in depth info about voicing techniques than the average source on voicing (which often makes it seem like an art shrouded in mystery achievable only through years of practice).

With that said, I have seen several sources advising against side needling for the same reason Keith recommends it; it preserves/destroys the structure of the felt layers (depending on which technique the author favors). It would be great with some more input from anyone with experience on this contradiction.

A question for the article: Do the hammer voicing areas apply identically to both uprights and grands?

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I have removed each hammer from my 1945 upright and reshaped the strike points to be more "pointed" - used 40 grit sand-paper on the flat kitchen table. I did them one at a time; plainly the hammer was with it's shaft and the " first part of it's action". Next I cut strips of shamy(sp) leather about 12mm wide and long enough to pull round the hammer so that it could be glued to the wood. No glue (super glue) on the felt .
The strips had to be 12mm wide because they narrow as one stretches them
This made a much better tone.
Oh! - prior to fitting the shamy I refitted the hammers on the action to make certain that the hammer was striking all it's strings evenly; I did this by rubbing a soft pencil on the strings and gently bringing the hammer to touch it's strings.
Now this is a big job which I suppose could be done with the action in the piano but it would be "dicy/difficult/messy" to say the least ! I have watched a video of a grand action, out of the piano, having groups of hammers shaped looks much easier.
I have recently bought a meter of 14mm wide " Kevlar" braid ( will narrow to 10mm on pull), which I will try on a number of the wound bichords - some still have slightly "tubby" sound on the strike.
Also fitted new dampers at the same time .

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Keith,
Enjoyed the article. I was wondering if you could go into more detail regarding figure 2 (the areas of the hammer) and how they are manipulated.

For example what if the hammer has low volume, you certainly wouldn't do more needling? Would you at that point add lacquer from the sides?
Is just 2-3:00 o'clock the only area responsible for sustain or is 9-10 o'clock also for sustain? Do you also use lacquer from the sides?
Have you thought of posting a video of what you do on youtube to enhance the article?
Thanks Keith,
-chris


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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Keith,
Enjoyed the article. I was wondering if you could go into more detail regarding figure 2 (the areas of the hammer) and how they are manipulated.

For example what if the hammer has low volume, you certainly wouldn't do more needling? Would you at that point add lacquer from the sides?
Is just 2-3:00 o'clock the only area responsible for sustain or is 9-10 o'clock also for sustain? Do you also use lacquer from the sides?
Have you thought of posting a video of what you do on youtube to enhance the article?
Thanks Keith,
-chris


Excellent questions, Chris!
Briefly...
1) Yes, volume can indeed be increased by needling because hammers are springs and the more springy they can be made, it is possible to increase power.
That said, I'm not opposed to reinforcement, either. Appropriately used, reinforcement may be just the thing to do.
2) I think the areas blend into each other. They are a general guide that I did not develop but have been presented by people doing circumferential needling. The "conventional" diagrams illustrate a needle depth necessary to achieve the result. Part of my point is, "Why disturb the felt in the Zone of Uselessness in order to reach the Zone of Effectiveness?" Surgeons have responded, "Why, indeed?" by their usage of arthroscopic approaches. We can do the same.
3) I have done this in seminars -- both in the US and China. I'm reluctant to do a YouTube video because even good ones (of which there are very few about piano technology) are subject to misinterpretation.

General Message: Just getting back to this thread after being very busy. I believe all requests to date for the article have been fulfilled. Just to repeat how to receive the article:
1) Send me a PM on this website.
2) Include your email since it is not possible to make attachments to replies in the messaging area of this website.
3) Include your full name (it's only fair, you have mine)
4) Include your major city or general area. I don't need or want your specific address... I just like to have an idea of where on the planet you are located, so "Northern England" or "Atlanta Metro" or "Maine Northwoods" are examples of what I'm looking for.
5) (Anything else about yourself, like whether you are a DIY practitioner or full-time tuner/technician is interesting but not necessary. Basic concept: treat me like a person... not an article vending machine. smile )
6) I promise not to pass your information on to the Nigerian princess who is looking for help managing her fortune. cool laugh
7) I do appreciate comments and questions after you have received the article or tried the procedures.


Last edited by kpembrook; 05/21/19 01:04 PM.

Keith Akins, RPT
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Thanks for the article it was a good quick read! I'll post back with some reactions once I have implemented some of what was in the article.


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