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#3185182 01/14/22 01:32 PM
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How hard of a task is this?

Can any competent tuner voice a piano?

Asking because my piano could use voicing but to me it sounds like it only needs it in the highest 3 octaves.

Is it common to only voice the treble section of a piano.

Thank you for your time and have a nice weekend


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Learux #3185189 01/14/22 01:47 PM
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There are widely varying levels of knowledge in this area among people who can service pianos.

For example, I would consider myself a lower-level technician when it comes to voicing. I have a limited number of tools and a limited amount of training in fairly conservative voicing techniques that are effective, up to a point. Most of the changes I know how to make aren't permanent, since most of the voicing techniques I've observed were by a concert technician, making small refinements to high-end concert pianos.

It is not unusual to voice a particular area of a piano, or even specific notes that are bothersome or not well-matched to their neighbors. Voicing things to be quieter or less bright is generally easier (and takes less skill) than voicing things to be louder or more bright.

It definitely helps if the technician understands what you like or don't like about the sound of your piano, and has the skills to reach the same end-goal.
At the highest levels of doing this work, I find that technicians who do a lot of concert service for high-level players/pianos, and who also listen to a lot of live piano concerts and recordings, and thirdly actually listen and translate what the client is requesting into a plan of action, tend to be the best at this work. On the flip side, sometimes to gain this level of experience, the technicians are also of an advanced age, where hearing certain frequencies can become problematic...

I have seen careless technicians ruin the tone of a piano (or more specifically, a set of hammers) with their voicing work. My biggest suggestion is to be present when this portion of the service is occurring, so you can hear what's happening in real time.


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I do some voicing on my own piano hammers. The first thing I learned was that, before starting any manipulation of hammers, assuming the hammer travel and mating to the strings is good, I have to evenly regulate the action to my own requirements, then I have to achieve the very best possible tuning, especially dead-on unisons, and then I can listen carefully to each note and try to even out the tone of individual notes.

Most of the time, tuning solves the issues of uneven tone.

Humidity changes cause a large change in upper partial intensity as well and can been deceiving.

Any voicing changes I make are intentionally temporary. Any major changes (reshaping hammers, major filing, deep needle penetration) I leave to my technician.

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Greetings,
Changing the density of a piece of compacted felt, how hard can that be???

Creating tone to meet a specific goal is an art that never stops being refined, from the beginner sticking a needle into a tin-can of a spinet to a veteran spending an hour on the bench doing shoulder work on a set of hammers before installing, there is a continual education there for any of us. There is no substitute for experience, since ultimately, the voicer is paying attention to not only the sound that results from their efforts, but also, to the tactile feel of the hammer as the needles are going in. The hands have to learn what they are feeling and correlate that to what their ears are telling them about what they are hearing. At the same time, becoming sensitized to not only how "bright" is bright, but how the tone changes with increasing force of play.

The normal goal is for the hammers to evenly respond to increasing force with increasing brilliance,(recording studios here in Nashville don't put as much emphasis on that as they do for all hammers to sound alike). In moving towards the goal, things like overall balance, starting and ending levels of brilliance, sustain, and volume are all competing for the tech's attention. Experience will relegate some of these to macros in the awareness, while the concentration may be on evening out the overall sound.

I believe the road is easy to begin, i.e. even the beginning tuner can usually find the worst sounding note on a piano and improve it with a needle stuck anywhere but into the crown. The single needle chopstick voicing tool should be right there beside the tuning fork, (does anyone use a fork anymore?). This will be a good beginning step to start acquiring the familiarity needed to be a "good" voicer. Reading, and study, of Andre Ooerebeek's
book, "The Voice of the Piano" is possibly the best foundation upon which to begin voicing. One doesn't have to immediately start doing foundation work or refining the pad to gain experience, but knowing what is going on in the hammer certainly helps provide an armature for experience to accumulate in a profitable way.
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Greetings,
Changing the density of a piece of compacted felt, how hard can that be???

Creating tone to meet a specific goal is an art that never stops being refined, from the beginner sticking a needle into a tin-can of a spinet to a veteran spending an hour on the bench doing shoulder work on a set of hammers before installing, there is a continual education there for any of us. There is no substitute for experience, since ultimately, the voicer is paying attention to not only the sound that results from their efforts, but also, to the tactile feel of the hammer as the needles are going in. The hands have to learn what they are feeling and correlate that to what their ears are telling them about what they are hearing. At the same time, becoming sensitized to not only how "bright" is bright, but how the tone changes with increasing force of play.

The normal goal is for the hammers to evenly respond to increasing force with increasing brilliance,(recording studios here in Nashville don't put as much emphasis on that as they do for all hammers to sound alike). In moving towards the goal, things like overall balance, starting and ending levels of brilliance, sustain, and volume are all competing for the tech's attention. Experience will relegate some of these to macros in the awareness, while the concentration may be on evening out the overall sound.

I believe the road is easy to begin, i.e. even the beginning tuner can usually find the worst sounding note on a piano and improve it with a needle stuck anywhere but into the crown. The single needle chopstick voicing tool should be right there beside the tuning fork, (does anyone use a fork anymore?). This will be a good beginning step to start acquiring the familiarity needed to be a "good" voicer. Reading, and study, of Andre Ooerebeek's
book, "The Voice of the Piano" is possibly the best foundation upon which to begin voicing. One doesn't have to immediately start doing foundation work or refining the pad to gain experience, but knowing what is going on in the hammer certainly helps provide an armature for experience to accumulate in a profitable way.
Regards,


This entire post is pure gold.

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Have you read the "Dissecting the Tone of Piano Hammers" thread in this forum? It discusses using chemical voicing rather than needles, which is an option if you have the hard, "voice down" hammers rather than the softer "voice up" hammer type used in NY Steinways. Most pianos have the former.

The chemical voicing discussed in that thread uses fabric softener diluted in alcohol. I have used it on my Kawai and Petrof. It's easy and really mellows and warms up the tone, and knocks out any harshness. I have less experience using chemical solutions to brighten up the tone, but the thread also explains how to do that.

Depending on what you're trying to achieve, I like this type of voicing as it seems pretty non-destructive and is much faster and easier to do compared to traditional needle voicing. If you're a DIYer, this is a safer option than needling in my opinion.

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Learux #3185233 01/14/22 04:23 PM
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Thank you all for the replies.

I just would like him to take some brightness away from the higher octaves.


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Learux #3185234 01/14/22 04:27 PM
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When it comes to voicing a concert grand, "experience" usually translates to 70% of one's time wasted on "Trial and Error".

Most of this can be eliminated by hands on tuition by masters, constant supervision and immediate correction of errors before they become bad habits. That, and well trained ears with a love for a truly outrageously beautiful piano.

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Originally Posted by Learux
Thank you all for the replies.

I just would like him to take some brightness away from the higher octaves.

I would answer your original question in this way: "Yes, any competent tuner can voice a piano. However, not many can do it well".

This is not a knock against professional tuners and the tuning profession. As with many other things, it takes practice, what we used to call OJT, and some training, to build the skill to do any job well. I would say, of the things I can do which include most tuning and regulation tasks, string replacement, minor repairs and adjustment to the pedal trapworks, that voicing is the most difficult, because it is at some point, an art that goes beyond measurements. With needling it's not as simple as saying: insert 3 size whatever needles 3.625mm into the hammer, at a 42.5 degree angle, approximately .625 of the distance from the center of the crown to the middle of the shoulder, with a force of 3.725694 foot pounds. Think about it: this would require absolute uniformity in the resilience of the felt, the shape, etc. I suppose one could program a robot to do this work, at least on new pianos, but for a piano that's no longer at original spec due to wear, fuhgettaboutit.

Voicing, whether with needles, or chemicals, is NOT easy.

Yes, it should be possible for your technician, provided s/he has experience in voicing, to take some brightness away from the higher 8ves. Do ask about your tech's experience. It is, in my opinion, a fair question. Have they voiced a piano like yours? Etc.

Good luck.


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If we were discussing ability to speak another language, the everyday tuner would be "conversant" in the language, whereas the true voicer would be one who understands all the nuances of the language and can speak it so well that you cannot tell he is not a native of the land. (Understanding and application of details).

Be careful who you ask to do this work. Things can go south quickly. Best to stick with procedures that are reversible (if necessary).

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Originally Posted by P W Grey
If we were discussing ability to speak another language, the everyday tuner would be "conversant" in the language, whereas the true voicer would be one who understands all the nuances of the language and can speak it so well that you cannot tell he is not a native of the land. (Understanding and application of details).

Be careful who you ask to do this work. Things can go south quickly. Best to stick with procedures that are reversible (if necessary).

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Ha, good description! I resemble the former more than the latter.
On scary stuff at stake jobs I always referred it to a colleague.
But most lesser everyday voicing gigs did myself perfectly confident.
Only time I couldn't avoid voicing but wanted to, was voicing an SD10 for Earl Wild minutes before the concert started.
He was a native speaker in the sense you mean, I wasn't, and he saw that, but I was who he had on hand, and I hadn't screwed up the tuning, so he trusted I wouldn't screw up the voicing either.
No praise but no complaints either, so I guessed I passed?

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Is needling considered reversable? Not immediately but over time with regular playing?


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Learux #3185280 01/14/22 06:54 PM
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Yes, depending on where you do it, how deeply you do it, what sort of needle you use, and how much you do it (poking the hammer once or twice, or a dozen times?).


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Originally Posted by Learux
Is needling considered reversable? Not immediately but over time with regular playing?

If we're being very literal and technical about it, *nothing* done to a hammer is reversible.
Fibers broken by needles are broken forever.
Felt removed with sandpaper is gone forever.
Chemicals added to the felt are there forever.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that (within reason and within limits) the *results* of needling and juicing (as in what is heard) can be reversed, by doing even *MORE* irreversible stuff.
You see where this is going?
A highly expert voicer is going to generally do things that they know they have to skills tools and supplies to reverse if need be, and know that before they begin.
They'll check constantly to get reality checks comparing what they think they're doing, versus what they've actually done, and tweak and modify and pull back their approach and technique in real time as the job progresses.
A *SUPER* expert voicer can cut back on the reality checks, because they have enough experienced amassed to be confident that what they're doing, and going to do, is working, and will work.
An inexperienced voicer on the other hand, is going to be going too far, too fast, not catch on, and not have the knowledge or experience, and maybe even not have the tools etc, to reverse what they screwed up.
And with every too far one direction too far the other flounder, more of the felt is irreversibly changed, making the window of the ability of the felt to be changed at all, narrower and narrower, even to the point that the expert voicer may have challenges fixing it.
The less that is irreversibly done to the felt get the tone where desired, the better.
And as has been said, ALL regulation and tuning parameters HAVE TO BE OPTIMIZED FIRST.
(Unless it's a situation like an old upright or metallic spinet, where a few extra bucks voicing would be good for the client, then voicing on top of other problems is forgivable; the above comments are for good grands.)

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All makes a lot of sense, thank you all for your replies.

I learned some new things today.


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Quote
Only time I couldn't avoid voicing but wanted to, was voicing an SD10 for Earl Wild minutes before the concert started.
He was a native speaker in the sense you mean, I wasn't, and he saw that, but I was who he had on hand, and I hadn't screwed up the tuning, so he trusted I wouldn't screw up the voicing either.
No praise but no complaints either, so I guessed I passed?

I bought Earl Wild's memoir "A Walk On the Wild Side" when it came out, and I am glad I did. It's a fascinating and hilarious read, not now in print, and secondhand copies go for a lot of money.

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Originally Posted by David Boyce
Quote
Only time I couldn't avoid voicing but wanted to, was voicing an SD10 for Earl Wild minutes before the concert started.
He was a native speaker in the sense you mean, I wasn't, and he saw that, but I was who he had on hand, and I hadn't screwed up the tuning, so he trusted I wouldn't screw up the voicing either.
No praise but no complaints either, so I guessed I passed?

I bought Earl Wild's memoir "A Walk On the Wild Side" when it came out, and I am glad I did. It's a fascinating and hilarious read, not now in print, and secondhand copies go for a lot of money.

!!!!!!!!!

https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/Se...amp;sortby=1&tn=walk%20side%20memoir

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Wow!

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I would look at the condition of the hammers first. Are they grooved? How long has it been since they were filed? I’ve often found that filing them can solve many tonal issues.

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Yes, all that work has been done, about three months ago a very good tech worked on it for 14 hours.

Full regulation and filing have all been done.


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