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Does anyone know of a piece of software that visualizes the curve of decay of piano strings after attack? Ideally as an app for Android or for a PC with external microphones.

I am interesting in getting more quantifiable information on what I can hear anyway.

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Maybe Blue Lab's Wav3s plugin? I don't know how quantifiable it is, though.

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Unisono by Bernhard Stopper works well for visualizing noises on piano tone. I've been using it for a couple years.

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None of these do what I am looking for, but I believe that a digital audio workstation does. I just want to look at the envelope after the attack and software like audacity or wavelab lets me do just that. They have both a linear dynamic and time line at least quantify decay rate of a note and compare it to another close one that has an audible difference.

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So Audacity is already the solution to your problem? Or do you still need something else?
In general Matlab is good for visualizing and post-processing all sorts of signals, but is costs a lot. A free alternative to Matlab would be Python or Octave but those are a bit less user-friendly.


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Audacity is fine and on Android I can use Wavelab. Matlab and Octave are total overkill for my purpose. Octave is user-friendly, it's just a little picky about its friends.

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OE1FEU - I would be interested in what you finally land on. I too have been looking for a tool that quantifies and analyzes the sustain curve. I have Audition and am familiar with Audacity, but I am looking for a less clunky way to assign and evaluate each key's curve, both to compare to itself over time and to compare to other keys over time. Essentially, I am looking for an efficient way to quickly capture, assign, and save the curve to each key so that I can analyze and compare it to itself later.

Curious, I am assuming that you have come up with a way for consistent keypress control for both velocity and force. I am thinking of using a solenoid fixed to a hammer. Then by adjusting the current, I could vary the velocity and force with predictability. That way key velocity and force can stay consistent and then the sustain curve analysis would be more precise. If you or anyone else have already solved this problem with an other, more simple method, I am all ears.

Last edited by reMARKable; 11/10/20 10:11 AM.
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Technology can be remarkable, but it also can be an unneeded complication. I think what is more important is to develop your ear as a technician similar to what a fine pianist has. That way you can provide what they want. Sustain is very simple to hear, it either decays fast, decays slowly, or it seems to take on a momentary life of its own before it decays. The latter is the most desirable.

-chris


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Chris, I agree that our developed ear is the most important resource that we have as technicians and as rebuilders, and a high level of skill is the product of years of dedicated listening. If we are going to be any good, we have to use our analytic skills and also listen to the tone critically to determine what it is giving to the music and what it is not. Certainly we do targeted listening in our efforts to meet the needs.
of a discriminating pianist. Hopefully, we are aestheticians also.

Just like tuning software can be a useful adjunct to tuners with very developed aural skills, I think that Audacity and the others can complement and inform what we are hearing in specific ways that broaden our understanding. But they are not a substitute

In the past couple of years I have experimented with four different types of bridge pin terminations in conjunction with two partners in crime. We have done extended listening to our candidates, and I can tell that there is a lot more going on than just what you describe about sustain in a note from the attack to the point where it vanishes. We have guided a number of people through listening tests along the way.
Doing all that has really opened my ears.


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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Technology can be remarkable, but it also can be an unneeded complication. I think what is more important is to develop your ear as a technician similar to what a fine pianist has. That way you can provide what they want. Sustain is very simple to hear, it either decays fast, decays slowly, or it seems to take on a momentary life of its own before it decays. The latter is the most desirable.

This will surprise you, but very few pianists actually have really good ears for the stuff that is of relevance to a piano technician. Their ears have been trained to listen to the stuff that actually makes up their piano playing: Dynamics, phrasing, articulation, wrong notes, feeling of weight distribution in an action. However, you'll most likely draw a blank when it comes to talking to them about stuff like attack, delay, sustain, unison tuning, harmonics in tuning unisons, temperament, voicing, una corda gradations and other stuff. I have known many professional pianists whose private practice instruments were complete train wrecks.

What makes a professional pianist what he/she is is the ability to dissociate from the practice instrument and introduce a level of abstraction between their everyday practice situation and an actual concert grand on stage. That's something we mere mortals can't do.

In this specific case, however, my request was about visualizing and quantifying differences in decay rate and sustain that I have encountered in a specific piano that other piano technicians have already gone through and were very happy with what they heard. It's not helpful to tell those technicians that they were either too tired or unfocused to hear what I was hearing. So I needed a way to actually show the enormous (to my ears) difference in decay rate between two adjacent notes.

Here is an example which I believe is self-explanatory:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/DVjoAYTEdN4M8ZNr5

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Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
In the past couple of years I have experimented with four different types of bridge pin terminations in conjunction with two partners in crime. We have done extended listening to our candidates, and I can tell that there is a lot more going on than just what you describe about sustain in a note from the attack to the point where it vanishes. We have guided a number of people through listening tests along the way.
Doing all that has really opened my ears.

I have already elaborated in my reply to Chris, but let me dive into your line of thinking, because that's where the fun part starts.

When you have a concert grand with two adjacent notes that are completely different in regard to their ADSR, then this is a huge opportunity to look into what's actually going on, how to find a remedy - and in an ideal case even find the actual culprit that then can be fed back into production.

I am not at liberty to go into details of construction, but suffice to say that it may be fun for some of you compare my findings to yours and vice versa. One of the things that I have discovered is that the harsh drop in decay (there were other notes as well) always can be pinned (sorry the pun) to the pair of strings that goes over the hitch pin. The isolated string in a three string unison had way more sustain and a decidedly "better/normal" rate of decay.

The first and obvious remedy was to change the tension distribution between the two strings i.e. letting down the left most string by more than a semi tone, doing the same with the middle string and then over pulling the left string and unison tuning the middle string and finally doing the same with the left string. This worked, but it doesn't give you a clean explanation for the source of the problem.

You are already on right track, William, because the bridge pins play a crucial role, as well as the bridge itself. And let's not forget the other components involved i.e. rear duplex scale termination, hitch pin position in relation to the wound string, front duplex termination, felt quality, material and status of the capo bar ridge, string material. I've probably forgotten some more relevant elements and components and their interaction.

The jury is still out there, but since we have a vivid R&D, this is something they'll definitely dive into - and my layman's method with wavelab or audacity may help.

In any case, since a close friend has just this week called me a person suffering from piano autism, I see this as a challenge to my ears and making others understand my findings.

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Interesting stuff - but what is "ADSR"?

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Originally Posted by David-G
Interesting stuff - but what is "ADSR"?

Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release

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OE1FEU, thank you for your comments. And I find them very interesting. Sounds like your work for a manufacturer. Cool.


When you talk about what the pianist is experiencing and describing to the technician in terms that may be experienced by the technician as vague and amorphous, the technician's task (if he or she is up to it) is find a common language that leads to solutions for the problem. It can take take work to get there, even when the fix is often simple. If the technician is willing to keep working towards a solution even when there is struggle, that engenders trust from the pianist. At a certain point that can become a collaboration that nourishes both the pianist and the technician.

As for the why's of the differing ADSR's between the adjacent notes, there can be a multitude of potential causes. Certainly one of the first places to look would be voicing, as those varying ADSRs can be affected by it. Interestingly enough, the strike weights of the hammers and shanks can vary from one note to the next by half a gram or more. For me, the first time I tapered by strike weights by increments of .1 gram, that single act greatly smoothed the ADSR behavior to my surprise. And you point to other possible causes for variations

I think you will find this suggestion useful, as part of your exploration. Plucking the strings with your fingernail or a guitar pick was a huge part of our listening tests, along with the hammer strikes. Pluck the string and listen to how quickly the very beginning of the attack comes up, it's development into the saturation burst of inharmonics, then the settling into an organized harmonic structure, increases in volume, places where volume may diminish and then rise again, pitch stability and the places where it will vary, whether or not there is a palpable sense of energy pulse over time, and finally how quickly the note diminishes to nothing. Give some time to doing this, so that your ears can really open up to more and more of what is there. You will find the variations that lie within the 3 strings of a note, as well as neighboring notes.

One of the interesting things about listening to 4 termination types (one of which was the reference ubiquitous staggered 2 pin variation) was that they all sounded different, they had their own patterns of organization that were consistent. The most successful candidate seemed to do more to conserve energy at every step along the way. It had a smaller and shorter saturation burst in the attack, then organized into a more coherent and lasting harmonic structure, very little pitch variation and good pitch stability throughout the duration (on the order of .1 cent). It had a steady pulse of energy, and had the best sustain. It wasn't the generic two pinner.

We too have given considerable attention to the distribution of tension within the spacing of bridge pins fore and aft and laterally, and the effect of the back scale as a source of energy loss. Making certain that the string tension renders around the pin into the back scale is important. We have explored the use of capping tonewoods other than maple or beech, and different metals for bridge pins. Plate resonances in the hitch pin/rear aliquot areas are lively, especially around plate struts. It's a bigger world than we thought it was.

I have had people screaming at me and lecturing me on how dare I explore such things, so don't pay attention to them. Otherwise, there would be nothing new under the sun.

How can we go about comparing findings in a more deliberate way?


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