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#255806 12/01/04 10:58 PM
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Here is a question to tuner/technicians, possibly dealers,and anyone else who might know: I did post this in the tuner/technician thread, but I was afraid some of you that might know the answer wouldn't see it there, as I don't usually check that forum myself.

I asked for my piano to be voiced mellow (it had been brighter than I preferred), but then it was voiced to an extreme, the hammers were needled to the point of making the piano extremely muted and muffled. I couldn't get much sound or power out of it. So, I have asked for it to get the power back, kind of get it more normal. I almost wish I hadn't asked for it to be mellow in the first place. It had just been too bright before, I didn't realize it would be so muted and muffled. So, my question is, could the going back and forth in the voicing hurt my piano, the hammers, strings, action, etc., especially the hammers? Is it possible to go back to the original sound after the hammers have been needled to make it super-mellow?

#255807 12/01/04 11:19 PM
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tl91pink,

I think the hammers can be brought back up to a firmer condition. They use a bit of lacquer, or some other hardener.

The hammers will get a bit firmer all by themselves with playing. So maybe wait a bit before getting a tech out to redo the voicing.

Start practicing your scales, but through all the octaves of the piano...and see if you notice a difference after a couple of weeks.

Do you have any pianist friends that need to do some serious practicing? I have a concert player friend that comes and practices here sometimes and the piano is always better after he has played it.

Doesn't say much for MY playing, however that's another point.

I am in the same predicament with my piano. The hammers are too harsh...and the sound is getting uglier and uglier. Not a nice thing to say about a Steinway B. But it's the truth.

Good luck and perhaps find a tech who can do a more subtle adjustment to the hammes. Sounds like your guy went way to far. A little needling goes a long way!!!

skyblanche

#255808 12/01/04 11:22 PM
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They say that voicing takes a long time to learn. It could be that your tech still has some learning to do. If he overdid it with the needle then it might take lacquer to make those hammers hard enough to suit you.

If the result of the voicing is way off, and not just a little bit off, you may have to find a real voicing expert to evaluate the condition of the hammers and recommend a course of action.

#255809 12/01/04 11:49 PM
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the make of piano you have (i.e. the make of the hammers) and how old the hammers are is all-important.

some makes of hammers should not, as a rule, have lacquer or other chemicals put on them. some hammers are brought back up with fine sanding and shaping.

if the hammers are very old or heavily used, they may no longer have enough life in them to bring them back up. they may be too compacted and then the needling to mellow them would have broken up the felt too much.

voicing is an art. don't let just any tech voice your piano.

if the piano is relatively new, and the hammers are abels or renners or similar, then the voice could be brought back up with removing a bit of felt. adding lacquer or other chemicals to these types of hammers is generally avoided, though there are exceptions to every rule.

but in most cases, no matter what the make of hammers, playing the piano will harden the hammers up and make the voice brighter again in time. in other words, if you can stand it, do nothing at all for a while and play the piano as much as you can and see if it doesn't improve on its own.


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#255810 12/01/04 11:56 PM
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Most likely chemical hardening will bring them back up in brightness, but whether or not it will be the same kind of tone as before is an open question.

First I would try hammer ironing though, just to see what improvement that brings.

Voicing can be tricky, and you may hear contradicting advice about it. To me, ideally a soft blow should produce "mellow" tone, a medium blow should give you medium brightness, and a hard blow should give you a lot of brightness, but short of distortion. The brightness and power go hand in hand, in a way.

The way to achieve this requires judgement as to just how much needling is needed at deeper and shallower depths. It's not the kind of work where you want to be some novice tech's guinea pig or 'learning experience'. The tone you hear on soft blows is the easiest to deal with and is produced at only shallow depths of hammer felt near the strike point. If you over needle at the deeper layers you will lose power and the ability to get much brightness on hard blows. If that happens, the only thing you can do is try chemical hardeners or plan on a new set of hammers.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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#255811 12/02/04 01:51 AM
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They are Renner hammers

#255812 12/02/04 02:56 AM
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Good Morning,

Somethings to consider;

There are many ways to voice a hammer up and down, and degrees of applying these techniques.

All achieve a variety of results.

Someone skilled at voicing also might have skills in communicating with you as to how you hear the piano now and how you would like to hear the piano change.


Your tech might consider having you find the "best" and "worst" sounds and begin making gradations of change, getting your input along the way.

This process of getting to know you and your piano can help avoid mistakes.

A word of caution to you. This requires interaction, communiating and patience.

Voicing a piano "up", usually leaves the piano brighter than you might like and will need to be voiced down slightly. This is normal.

Hammer shape is critical to tone in several ways, and may have been the culprit in the harsh tone from the beginning.

Some one once said; "Voicing is the application of simple techniques. Knowing how and where requires years of experience"

For any of us here, it would be critical to see and play the piano in order for us to be more specific in our recommendations.

I agree with people here, proceed slowly, ask a lot of questions, be patient and persistant. Stay positive.


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#255813 12/02/04 04:37 AM
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Voicing takes lots of practice and training to get right. It sounds like the hammers where over needled and need to be hardened up. You may never get it back to where it was and once it is there it may not last long. Ricks idea to iron the hammers is a good first step and one I would recommend. Needling opens up space in the felt but the heat from ironing will help harden things. You should be present when the work is done so that you can convey what sound you are happy with. Voicing is a destructive process since it alters the original hammers. It is not a bad thing but must be done with extreme care and by someone experienced with the proper techniques and procedures. For more info consult The Piano Book by Larry Fine and visit the Piano Technicians web site at www.ptg.org and read the tech bulletin on voicing


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#255814 12/02/04 05:09 AM
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Here's a question that sort of piggy-backs the original (I also invite folks to read my recent thread about my kawai bs-40 52"):

The top end of my new piano (16 years old) was driven out of tune by the long trip here and perhaps the location/atmosphere change. But I think that the eventual tuning won't help with one aspect of the sound that I don't like. I, personally, like a dry thudding/percussive top register. I don't like the notes ringing on and on. Is it difficult to have the tuner/tech do something to the top end to get this result?

Finally, my hammers look new. Is there anyway to tell if they have been replaced by the dealer (big used grey market dealer with super reputation) by looking at them. Nothing on the inside of the piano looks 16 years old (or outside either, for that matter). Thanks in advance.

#255815 12/02/04 05:16 AM
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Here's yet another question that I don't think anyone ever addressed here that could really help me: When I use the 'practice' pedal I see that a rather thick felt pad is lowered into place. On my particular piano, the change is so drastic that it's almost useless. I do realize that many or most pianos have an extreme change when using the practice pedal (but not all because I've heard them).

What I'd like to know is if anyone has experience switching out the thick piece of felt for something thinner so the piano is softer but not nearly to the extent of the original felt. I'd like to have the option of bringing down the volume of my piano just a little, rather than almost silent playing. Thanks in advance.

#255816 12/02/04 08:15 AM
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Pink,

I knew they might be Renner hammers, and I also know that just about everyone will tell you 'you can't lacquer (or otherwise chemically harden) Renner hammers'.

But you *can* lacquer them, they *will* get harder, and you *will* get some power and brightness back. Sometime what 'everyone knows' is not so much what they know as it is what they heard or read.

The resulting tone may or may not please you. It's not quite the same thing as properly voiced Renners- but then again a lot of people complain about the tone of properly voiced Renners. Maybe you would even like the lacquered tone better.

Bottom line is, if the hammers are already ruined by over needling, you've got nothing to lose by trying lacquering, since the alternative is replacement. I think the gamble of trying to chemically harden them (which is low cost) has enough probability of success to be worth it. A new set of hammers is going to be expensive. And believe me, just as there are a lot of people out there who can screw up a voicing, there are just as many who can screw up the installation of a new set of hammers.

Your main challenge will be to find a tech who has the skill and confidence to voice these hammers up.

Personally, if you were in my area, I would agree to not charge you if we could not salvage the hammer tone, that's how good a chance I think it has.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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#255817 12/02/04 03:58 PM
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rick,
what if the hammers haven't been over-needled? what if the piano owner is just not used to the mellower sound and it needs to be played in? if you go right to lacquer in a situation like that, you could be ruining the hammers and not giving them a chance to evolve into the desired tone.

and what about removing some felt first, to get down to the harder felt underneath? what about reshaping?

it's also possible that the strike point needs to be adjusted.

i would be very, very careful about going right to chemicals with renner hammers. yes, in the right hands, it can work, but first it should be determined that nothing else will work, because those chemicals make permanent changes.

also, if the hammers do need to be replaced, the best thing is to get them from the factory on the shanks, so they can just be swapped out. two benefits to doing it this way: 1. the hammers can be voiced at the factory in a piano, and less voicing will need to be done at your home. and 2. if you don't like the new hammers, you can swap them back out again easily.


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#255818 12/02/04 04:39 PM
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You go pay Pink a visit and work on that, Pique. Try all your favorite techniques.


Rick Clark

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#255819 12/02/04 04:46 PM
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why not answer the questions, rick, and bestow on us the benefits of your superior knowledge?


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#255820 12/02/04 05:26 PM
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I answered Pink's question, as asked, in a useful and practical manner.

Your question is just another of your games of intellectual oneupsmanship.

Sorry for the distraction, Pink. Pique seem to have a need to be viewed as the the expert on everything around here.


Rick Clark

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#255821 12/02/04 06:05 PM
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Thank you for all your advice and help. It has really helped me to make decisions about this. I appreciate you all so much.

#255822 12/02/04 07:04 PM
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"...pink": listen to Rick Clark, by all credible accounts a world-class technician. (the other one, giving him grief, has absolutely no clue...)


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#255823 12/02/04 08:26 PM
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Thanks HH but I want to be clear I am not advocating (and never did) lacquering as anything but a last resort for a set of Renners known to be ruined by overneedling. I thought I was pretty clear on that, but Pique attempted to spin it that I was advocating 'going straight for the lacquer' and I want to make sure that spin does not stand.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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