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Looking for something else came across this video yesterday.

It shows Colin Stone playing some Debussy before and after Peter Salisbury changed the hammers on his 45 year old Steinway O. This involved regulation and increasing the downbearing to achieve a "3D sound".

How do you increase downbearing?


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Change the location of the plate or the bridge cap height, I reckon.


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WOW, this is *so* beautiful! The new regulation/hammers are a large improvement, but I am even more moved by his playing.

Last edited by pianogabe; 04/17/21 07:04 AM.

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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
Change the location of the plate or the bridge cap height, I reckon.

Yep. Lowering the plate is the most popular way to increase (or create) downbearing where there is none because of age and wear.

It is not the ideal solution, but it can improve a failing soundboard.


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The only way that Peter could have increased the downbearing without removing the plate would be by turning down the nose bolts, of which there are 4 in a Steinway O. Two are located on the first bass plate strut and the other two are located behind the hitch pin field near the second bass strut and the first treble strut.

This is something that is done in the factory with regularity to further dial in the downbearing after stringing and tuning to pitch.

If one listens carefully to how the player addresses the instrument before and after the work, one can hear and see that the piano was at a point where he could trust what it would do for him only so much. There was tension and contraction in his playing that disappeared after the work was done, and the music was the great beneficiary of that.


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As a practical matter, for those of us un-tutored in the guts of a piano, is there normally a difference between setups for a concert D and a domestic O? And what sort of fussing does it take to make an O (or other medium-sized model) behave like a D?

Certainly, the new version has a lovely variety of tone.

Last edited by Maestro Lennie; 04/17/21 12:08 PM.
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Wow, you can actually hear the sound blooming up into the air after the work was done! 3 dimensional was a good description.


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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
As a practical matter, for those of us un-tutored in the guts of a piano, is there normally a difference between setups for a concert D and a domestic O? And what sort of fussing does it take to make an O (or other medium-sized model) behave like a D?

My tech said that a "concert prep" involves iterating on regulation to get a very high level of refinement. I think he'd estimated a week of work.


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Maestro Lennie, the answer to your question is PGH - that's piano growth hormones. That may be illegal, so you may have to settle for a threatening tone of voice alternating with desperate begging.

The D is 4 feet longer than the O. That means the bass strings are considerably longer, as are the tenor strings. Top 2 sections close to the same. The soundboard is larger.

I think that the better answer to your question would be to say that you would have greater success with an O by recognizing what it is and trying to optimize it within its limitations. There are areas where it can be improved.

Listening to the O prior to the restoration efforts, I felt that I could hear a good piano underneath the wear and tear of 45 years of playing. Hearing the results, it is clear that this piano was in the hands of a technician with highly developed skills and the desire to bring the piano to a new standard. And you could hear his passion for his work when he talked about the piano.


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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
As a practical matter, for those of us un-tutored in the guts of a piano, is there normally a difference between setups for a concert D and a domestic O? And what sort of fussing does it take to make an O (or other medium-sized model) behave like a D?

Certainly, the new version has a lovely variety of tone.
How can on O sound like a D?

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
How can on O sound like a D?

I don't think they meant sound, but responsiveness of touch. Obviously an O is never going to sound like a D.


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Yes, they definitely seemed to be aiming for the feel of the action. Is the Steinway normal setup that different between the two sizes, and can one change one to feel like the other? (Assuming this is a good idea!)

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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
Yes, they definitely seemed to be aiming for the feel of the action. Is the Steinway normal setup that different between the two sizes, and can one change one to feel like the other? (Assuming this is a good idea!)

How I interpreted it is that the owner of the O is a concert pianist and used to performing on very well-prepped D's in concert halls, so that's why his tech was using a well-prepped D as a reference point. Concert instruments can get lots of tech hours put into them while home instruments usually don't.


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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
Yes, they definitely seemed to be aiming for the feel of the action. Is the Steinway normal setup that different between the two sizes, and can one change one to feel like the other? (Assuming this is a good idea!)
I don't think you should want to make an O feel like a D nor do I think this is possible. What you can aim for is a very good regulation. But beyond a certain level I think this is only relevant for the most advanced pianists. I think spending a week regulating a piano, as I think was suggested somewhere, is not a good idea for 99% of pianists. Most people would benefit far more by working on their technique which is a far more limiting factor than the piano's regulation.

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So, quality more than character (or specific specs) is what they were saying?

I wonder what the other non-starter piano in his room was, and why they trashed it.

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You can get everything checked out to many decimal places for a lot of money, or to within 90% of that level for 10% of that cost. The extra 90% buys you the 10% that 10% of pianists might notice 10% of the time, and which will last 10% of what the other 90% will last.

Most of the really good pianists I have worked with started out with mediocre or worse pianos in mediocre or worse shape. Putting the pianos in better shape improves the results of their playing, but they had talent that did not depend on the instruments they played.


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Hard to tell on my phone of course but there definitely seemed a wider dynamic range afterwards


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Originally Posted by LarryShone
Hard to tell on my phone of course but there definitely seemed a wider dynamic range afterwards
The piece he played has limited dynamic range so I don't think one can hear a wider dynamic range from a piece like that.

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Whether a D or an O, I think this pianist (and many others) would want as wide a dynamic range as possible. They would also want the same levels of regulation refinement and voicing from each, although they will have differing needs within their individuality.

Wide dynamics in a piano are a combination of many things, some great, many small. The soundboard should be optimized to be able to the largest possible range of dynamics. Mr. Salisbury tweaked the downbearing to gain more responsiveness. Really good voicing of the hammers builds a ladder with many steps on it - the hammers don't arrive that way. The pianist should be able to step up and down the ladder in volume predictably and evenly And the action should be regulated to a degree that the softest pianissimos are physically possible.

As piano actions age and go out of regulation, soft playing becomes more difficult and unreliable. Likewise for playing deep inside the keys. Friction in the action increases and becomes an obstacle to sensitive playing.

It is a credit to the pianist's skills that he played as well as he did on the old action. It is also clear that his ability to play as well has he did on the new action was enhanced by the changes made.

As for the answer to "How can an O sound like a D?" Lots of wine.


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Needing to replace hammers at between 5 to 10 years is a poor ownership value. I have pianos I rebuilt 30 years ago that pianists play and teach on nearly every day that haven't even needed to have the hammers shaped yet much less replaced. And in fact the tone of the piano is better than it was 30 years ago and it was excellent then.

The difference is my hammers are not too heavy.


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