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BDB is correct that Hamburg hammers are completely different than NY hammers - although things are changing so fast, it's hard to keep up with what is current.

Here's a quote from the "World-Wide Technical Reference Guide" from Steinway & Sons:

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"Steinway Hamburg uses considerably different hammer felts for the creation of the Steinway tone compared to Steinway New York. Whereas the latter felts are rather soft and require the building up of the tone by means of applying lacquer, the Hamburg hammers usually need extensive needling of the compressed felt in order to reduce hardness and achieve elasticity in the felt!"

So, at least when the above was published, New York and Hamburg had fairly opposite approaches to optimal tone.


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BDB, I do not find anything about your comments that is exceptional. Except for those which are exceptionally bad, there seems to be nothing to distinguish them from other trolling comments that you have made over the years. Indeed, you seem to have a standardized boilerplate on which you overlay all your snarky comments. This has been going on for a decade or more. Quite a legacy you will leave to the world to be remembered by. Originality, creativity, and generosity of spirit are not your strong points.

OE1FEU, he will never ever give you what you want from him. That's part of the game for him, and the only thing that matters. You are wrestling with the pig, and the pig likes it.


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I do not understand why you need to be so rude. I only said two things: that Hamburg hammers are different from New York hammers, and that the recording which you say is of your piano sounds like a recording of a piano. The former is evident from the Steinway parts list, and the latter is self-evident.


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There is nothing rude in pointing out that you are wrong, starting with the premise that we're talking modern Steinways. We're not. This is about OP talking about vintage B, which is why I pointed out the history of Steinway hammers and organic chemistry in general. Just let us all know when organic chemistry, AKA plastic in this specific case, was invented and used in an industry setting.

And I am still waiting for for your exceptional recording of a vintage Steinway B with original Steinway hammers and an explanation on how they were prepared. Just let us know how NY hammers were prepared in the pre-plastic/lacquer era, because that's what all this is about, just in case you've missed the point.

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I rarely have found (actually probably never) a recording of a piano (any piano) to accurately reflect what it sounds like in person. I believe the reason is that microphones pick up EVERYTHING that is going on without filtration, whereas our ears (and brain) have the capacity to be somewhat selective (or possibly even "deaf" to certain frequencies) in what we perceive. In addition, the quality of the playback equipment is hugely important.

This of course is why recording engineers often feel the need to "adjust" things before publication (quite possibly enhancing the sound by boosting certain ranges and reducing others). A home recording is pretty "all-inclusive".

I have heard this especially when examining recordings of tuning examples that I have heard in person and then heard on "tape". I have said: "now wait a minute...that's not exactly how I heard it when I was tuning it..."

Although he could have said it more tactfully, there is some merit to BDB's comment. This of course is just an opinion.

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I have to agree with the comments regarding the limitations of recordings.

There are way to many variables, and there is every chance that the piano could sound completely different than it does by the time it travels through microphones, recording equipment, processing, and the ultimately through speakers or headphones.

It's just too hard to judge, other than what BDB (somewhat undiplomatically although truthfully) said: "it sounds like a nice piano". Also keep in mind that people have been doing this many years on this forum, as if it is possible to make any sort of reasonable judgement on a piano by listening to recordings posted on this site.

People have even posted digital piano recordings - for the most part it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the digital and the acoustic.


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Listen to the Kreutzer with David Oistreich for what I think is great tone

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In the same vein as a picture is worth a thousand words, we tend to think a piano will speak for itself on a recording. It does to the those who make the recordings because they know how they sound.

Last week I went to see a piano maker. The evening before I listened to a few of the videos on their website, they were far from impressive. Quite the opposite from what I heard the next day.

One answer is to explain what to listen for and, where possible, provide comparisons. Marcus Roberts (Roberts Pianos) springs to mind.


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I want to make some comments on the original question, with the full knowledge that some of the people around here will dismiss them immediately, just because I am writing it. To those people, you do not need to believe anything I say, but maybe you could offer your own ideas, rather than just beiong critical of what I say.

I have said before that the problem of hammers hitting the string is that the frequency of the lowest note of an 88 key piano is about 27 Hz and the frequency of the highest note is about 4000 Hz. The mantra of some people is: "the hammer needs to get away from the string." To me, that is only part of the story. The hammer has to impart energy to the string by hitting it and displacing it in the first place, so it cannot just bounce off the string too fast. We all know from whipping a jump rope that if you whip it fast enough, the rope will go into a higher mode, and you will not get a vibration at the fundamental frequency of the rope. In order to aim for uniformity across the range of a piano, the amount of time that the hammer remains on the lowest A should be about 150 times longer than the amount of time that it remains on the highest C. That is a lot to ask of hammers, and is probably not attainable, but it is some sort of goal. That is one of my principles.

Another principle that I have comes from my graduate differential equations course where we studied the wave equation. I have to admit that by that time I was not a very good student and was more interested in working on pianos than studying mathematics. But there were two results of the wave equation that stuck. The first is that the waveform depends on the initial conditions, that is, that the shape of the wave will pretty much adhere to the shape that the string has when has been struck and released. The other is that the wave just goes by once in odd dimensions, like a string or space, while it repeats over and over in even dimensions, like the circles formed on water when you drop a pebble into it. It is a good thing that we live in three dimensions, because otherwise we would be stuck in a cacophony of all the sounds that were ever made repeating over and over. That latter effect is not important for this discussion, but remember it when you are talking about soundboards.

There is a third principle that struck me when playing bocce. Metal bocces come in two varieties. One variety is hollow. The other variety is filled with rubber bands with weights in the middle of them. The first variety bounces. The second barely bounces at all when you drop them. It is the same effect that you get with a dead blow hammer. The important thing to know about dead blow hammers is that the face of the hammer does not distort much when it hits something, and the bocce, even less. So remember what I said about the shape of the wave. A nice round hammer will give a nice, round tone. This is why removing the grooves from a worn hammer makes such a big difference. But the important thing for voicing is that a firm surface will impart a nice waveform to the string, while softness underneath the surface will allow it to impart more displacement energy to the string, by allowing the hammer to stay on the string longer with less of a bounce.

So now we get to the case of Steinway hammers. New York Steinway hammers are relatively soft. This is very good for the bass, but not so good for the treble, especially the highest treble. They tend to smush out (relatively speaking) and mute the strings. So my theory is that the treble needs to have its surface firmed up. So I use a fairly thick lacquer on the tip, so it does not soak it very far. This gives a hard shell over the tip, with a softer layer underneath. This can make a harsh sound, but I sand the outermost surface away until I get the sound I want. This may be desirable with other hammers, as well, because like I say, theoretically there should be 150 times difference between the lowest hammer and the topmost hammer.

I use keytops dissolved in acetone, but not just any keytops. I want some flexibility, so I use old celluloid keytops. After all, Steinway started using celluloid for key fronts over 100 years ago, so it was something they had around.

As I said earlier, Hamburg Steinway hammers are different. Someone posted a video of Hamburg technicians needling the hammers pretty violently. (I should mention that there are the Hamburg Steinway hammers made by Renner for Steinway, and also Renner sold sets of hammers that they said were made to fit Steinways, and I had heard that they are not the same. This may well have changed with Steinway's acquisition of Renner, but then again, hammers changed over the years even by the same manufacturer, enough so that I deal with them as I run across them, rather than assuming that I can always rely on the manufacturer to suit my or the piano's needs.) At any rate, a lot of hammers need more needling in the bass.

In any case, like Chopin said about pedalling, voicing is a study of a lifetime. I do not believe that I know all there is to know about it. All I have are these theories.


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Quote
In order to aim for uniformity across the range of a piano, the amount of time that the hammer remains on the lowest A should be about 150 times longer than the amount of time that it remains on the highest C.

What is the physical or mathematical justification for that?

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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Originally Posted by BDB
What hammers your piano had 135 years ago is irrelevant. I was talking about what it has now.

I listened to the recording. It sounds like a recording of a piano.

Really help- and insightful comment!
Actually, I believe BDB responded correctly to your situation. Piano techs reading the thread can correct me if necessary. Hamburg Steinway uses different hammers than NY Steinway, with different felt. I believe the hammers on a Hamburg Steinway are fabricated to be hard, and traditional voicing techniques are used to soften them to achieve a sonorous tone. NY Steinway hammers are fabricated to be soft, and a light lacquer treatment is applied to harden them, with fine tuning of the voicing from there.

Since Hamburg hammers were installed in your piano, you would want them prepped with the process for Hamburg hammers, not the process for NY hammers.

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Fantastic sounding piano.

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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
Quote
In order to aim for uniformity across the range of a piano, the amount of time that the hammer remains on the lowest A should be about 150 times longer than the amount of time that it remains on the highest C.

What is the physical or mathematical justification for that?

4000/27 is about 150.

Last edited by BDB; 09/01/21 03:06 AM.

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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Originally Posted by BDB
What hammers your piano had 135 years ago is irrelevant. I was talking about what it has now.

I listened to the recording. It sounds like a recording of a piano.

Really help- and insightful comment!
Actually, I believe BDB responded correctly to your situation. Piano techs reading the thread can correct me if necessary. Hamburg Steinway uses different hammers than NY Steinway, with different felt. I believe the hammers on a Hamburg Steinway are fabricated to be hard, and traditional voicing techniques are used to soften them to achieve a sonorous tone. NY Steinway hammers are fabricated to be soft, and a light lacquer treatment is applied to harden them, with fine tuning of the voicing from there.

Since Hamburg hammers were installed in your piano, you would want them prepped with the process for Hamburg hammers, not the process for NY hammers.

There are no new Hamburg hammers that match the design and geometry of a 19th century B

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A classic example of understatement, kids.....


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Makes me think of Hans and Franz, "I pick them up and I put them down. I pick them up and I put them down............"


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Greeting,s
Having read the thread, I think we might go a little deeper into what the "tone" thing is that we are trying to discuss via hammer construction. Piano tone is not a monolithic quality in that this or that hammer is "bright" or "mellow". What I aim for is a hammer that produces a wide variety of tone, depending on how hard it hits the string. I view it as a non-linear spring in the sense that the spectrum should be quite different at different volumes,(more on sub-sets later). The width of the tonal palette is determined by the piano's intended use. Palettes can be wide or narrow, to wit:

There are un-needled Renner hammers in Nashville recording pianos that have zero color range, they are ear-bleeding bright at all levels of play, and this is so that the engineers have only one variable to deal with,(loudness) and they are easy to mix into multi-instrumental tracks. The lack of lower fundamental keeps them from becoming muddy while sharing a rhythm track with bass guitar and the drums. These pianos are effectively playing guitar tracks with the occasional fill-in lick, and they don't need to be "expressive" in tonal variety. Easy to voice, just go until there is a ping on anything but the softness touch. There are other studios that want less aggressive tone, and are satisfied with pianos that are only "brilliant". For most of these venues, any hammer would do, and there is a reason that the Yamaha C7 basically took over the town some years ago for its consistency, simplicity of tone, and brilliance.

However, in a classical teaching studio, which seem to call for a wide palette, in trying to achieve a hammer that is mellow at ppp and crashingly brilliant at maximum effort, the various kinds of felt will need various preparations. I have lacquered soft Steinway hammers on the shoulders and with play, gotten a wide palette that lasted, I just had to convince the player that the tone they wanted was on its way and if I developed it right now, we would be fighting harshness and an ever narrowing palette for the rest of their hammers' life. I have touched the strike point of Bacon hammers with lacquer and gotten much the same result, but not as durable. I have broken needles off on Steinway factory hammers of the 1970's because they seemed to have been soaked with hardener from top to bottom, and judging from the tracks on the sides, were shallow needled across the crown to create some sort of tone.

The pianos in the accompaniment studios were voiced mellow, on request. A narrow palette, again, but on the soft side. This is the easy venue to voice for palette, but demanding in evenness.

The concert stage is the tricky place. Whatever I did had to be even. Over the years I had to deal with various artists wanting changes on "my" piano at a university setting. I came to believe that they wanted easy access to brilliance without too much work, but wanted velvet before they got there. It seemed common that the artists did not distinguish between loudness and volume, and I had to fight to keep the piano from becoming a tin-can,because loud sounded so rich to them on the stage and they didn't realize that things became thin and stringy at the back of the hall. Lots of shallow work on top of fairly stiff shoulders seemed to work best.

There is no perfect voicing for everyone, there is no ideal hammer for all uses. A successful tech will voice not only for evenness, but for an ideal palette for a given space and pianist. My ("name-dropping") clients like brilliant, narrow palettes for their work. My voice teacher clients like really mellow sounds. The jazz artists I work for seem to like the widest possible palette, though some like it to begin brighter than some others. I like a wide palette, and since I still have muscle to spare, I like my own piano to begin on the softer side but still be able to speak with clarity. This means I want some high partials in the softer note, for definition, but I don't want them to steer the tone into harshness before I get to the top of the hill! For this,(on a 1892 A) I use the Ronsen Weikert hammers with no lacquer and a full needling as described by A. Ooerbeck. A bit mushy to start, but after a month of play, that complex, malleable, tone appeared. Easy to keep voiced, as a needle or two in the upper shoulder creates immediate results.
Regards,

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Originally Posted by BDB
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
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In order to aim for uniformity across the range of a piano, the amount of time that the hammer remains on the lowest A should be about 150 times longer than the amount of time that it remains on the highest C.

What is the physical or mathematical justification for that?

4000/27 is about 150.

What is the math or physics that says that matters in any way?

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It is the proportion of the amount of time in the cycle that the hammer stays on the string. If the hammer stays on the lowest A string for less than 1/13 of a second, then the string will have more energy going into the second vibrational mode than the first. 1/9, then it is the third, and so on. (I am approximating, of course.)


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It seems like the amplitude of the string depression is what ultimately would matter, and the calculation you are doing would only apply directly if hammer mass and hammer velocity were constant.

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