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In the past I have used one of the liquids the old timers used to use - flexible collodion. Collodion is a mixture of nitrocellulose , alcohol, and ether. Whereas nitrocellolose will dry hard, collodion remains flexible. It gives a warmer, creamy, and more rounded tone than our nitrocellulose concoctions. It is extremely flammable and volatile. And it has ether. Not so great to work around, which is why I rarely use it these days.

I have heard of Ethyl Acetate being used in voicing but have never tried it. What kind of sound are you getting?

Regarding downbearing, i know several rebuilders who have hundreds of soundboard installations under their belt who, over time, have moved towards thinner panels and lighter ribbing. They have also reduced the amount of downbearing they use. One thing that is really useful with downbearing are adjustable perimeter bolts. They give you more flexibility when globally setting downbearing for a new board (or an older one). If you do not like the bearing you have set initially, you can raise or lower the plate, or even cant it slightly if need be. You can make your own, but Wessell, Nickel, and Gross sells them for about $9 per bolt. Nickel plated, so they make the plate look like a million bucks.

Regarding clarity in the mid treble up, hammer weight becomes very important here. Most hammer sets would benefit from a diet in this area.


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In the past I have used one of the liquids the old timers used to use - flexible collodion. Collodion is a mixture of nitrocellulose , alcohol, and ether. Whereas nitrocellolose will dry hard, collodion remains flexible. It gives a warmer, creamy, and more rounded tone than our nitrocellulose concoctions. It is extremely flammable and volatile. And it has ether. Not so great to work around, which is why I rarely use it these days.

I have heard of Ethyl Acetate being used in voicing but have never tried it. What kind of sound are you getting?

Regarding downbearing, i know several rebuilders who have hundreds of soundboard installations under their belt who, over time, have moved towards thinner panels and lighter ribbing. They have also reduced the amount of downbearing they use. One thing that is really useful with downbearing are adjustable perimeter bolts. They give you more flexibility when globally setting downbearing for a new board (or an older one). If you do not like the bearing you have set initially, you can raise or lower the plate, or even cant it slightly if need be. You can make your own, but Wessell, Nickel, and Gross sells them for about $9 per bolt. Nickel plated, so they make the plate look like a million bucks.

Regarding clarity in the mid treble up, hammer weight becomes very important here. Most hammer sets would benefit from a diet in this area.


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Dropper, Riblets and a little Big Sexy!!!

So here is a very interesting voicing problem and how i fixed it. I share this because it required many solutions.

The problem: A very cheaply made circa 1929 4'10 Behning Baby grand piano. And the customer is very attached to it as it was her Grandmothers piano. I just rebuilt the whole thing - new hammers (Able), new soundboard, new pinblock, new action parts. Everything new. Got it to the voicing stage after much regulation. At this point its voice is not good.

Bass:
The bass was very low in volume, and too soft.

Break:
The break had a tremendous amount of energy, more so than the rest of the piano. Mostly because it had a little four note bridge in front of the long bridge.

The rest of the piano sounded very good except the top five notes.

To fix the bass I had to apply B-72 4 times to make it have the same volume as the rest of the piano. But how i applied it is the interesting part. I used an eye dropper. I use to use hypo oilers, but the problem with them is consistency. The eye dropper on the other hand, is very consistent, and you can put the exact same amount every time. I used the 4g to 8oz mixture and applied it directly on top (two droppers each. the dropper only fills half way). The two droppers was needed for the B-72 to soak to the volume section right above the moulding.

To fix the energy problem of the break required the use of riblets. I had to make 3 riblets about a foot long before it controlled the wild beast of the break.

To fix the very top notes required two applications of the 4g-4oz B-72. Once they started to ping, i just used the steel brush to remove the crust.

After one more listen, i determined that the break did not have the same brassy sound that the bass now had. Question: How would you add hardner to the top without raising the volume? I chose to use the Big Sexy Hairspray. Unlike the B-72 that doesn't ping too easily, The big sexy does ping easily. I used that to advantage and it worked like a charm. Once it started to ping, i again used the steel brush to tame it a little.

The treble on this piano hardly needed any voicing work due to lengthening the scale and the use of hickory bridge caps.

It sure will be fun when the customer comes on Friday to hear this little beast.

Cheers!

-Chris


"Where TONE is Key, and Mammoths are not extinct."

Youtube https://tinyurl.com/5aw83b73


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Nice work Chris. Is there a chance we can hear it too?


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I'm with WBLynch. I'm also interested in hearing how it sounds. I have a Begining grand as well an would like to hear what another sounds like with improvements.

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I have questions about the 2:1 fabric softener solution.

(1) For application, I am thinking of using an airbrush with a small portable compressor. Would an airbrush be overkill? It kind of makes sense to be able to have much finer control of the spread and amount of solution applied to the hammers.

(2) As for the fabric softener, I will use Seventh Generation Free & Clear (https://www.seventhgeneration.com/liquid-fabric-softener-free-clear). No fragrance and no dyes.

(3) I can get both 99.9% denatured alcohol and pure ethanol here in Singapore. There probably isn't any difference between using one or the other but I thought I'd ask anyway.

Quite a number of my clients have older pianos with hard clangy hammers. I thought I'd offer them chem hammer voicing as a quick and low-cost way to improve their pianos. Voicing is otherwise something that is done only for pianos in the main concert venues and the conservatorium.

--Benjamin

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Hi Benjamin,

I found that an airbrush is too small to be practical, but feel free to prove me wrong. The bottles that Emery gets from Amazon are good for in home use. In the shop, i use my small sprayer.

The advantage to using the All free and clear that we use is that Todd tried ever known fabric softener on the market. And the All Fabric softener stood out as the best. Todd uses it a lot, and i use it a lot, so its proven safe. Feel free to use the one you picked as "no dye" is a good start. Let us know if the product works well for you or not and hope that there is no bad side effect.

I also use both alcohols.

look forward to hearing from you,
all the best.
-chris


"Where TONE is Key, and Mammoths are not extinct."

Youtube https://tinyurl.com/5aw83b73


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Chris,

Thanks for the quick reply.

Can’t get All here in Singapore. I might as well give the Free & Clear a try. If it doesn’t work I could look for a fabric softener with the same active ingredient in All. All publishes the contents of their products on their web site.

Your point about an airbrush being too small is noted. I might be able to find locally something equivalent to Emery’s sprayers.

Can you give me some guidance about the sprayer you use in your workshop? Say brand and model?

— Benjamin

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Chris,

Thank you for the tone diagram. It gives me the means to ask the following question: One of my clients has a year-old Hamburg Steinway Spirio B, that does not sound right. It has a breathy attack and sustain decay that is a mix of the two lower red curves. What might be causing this uncharacteristic voice across the entire keyboard? I can think of two: Inaccurately set strike point, and hammers (which are Abel Purple) that are too hard. Hard to believe that this piano passed factory QC.

I might suggest chem voicing to him for consideration, after I’ve gotten enough experience with it.

— Benjamin

Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Here is a new diagram i came up with today that i believe is very helpful. I studied a book last night about Enrico Caruso's singing technique. In the book it discussing tone production. I found it very useful comparing the piano tone and the human voice.

ATTACK:
There are three types of attack Metallic, pure, and breathy. Metallic (harsh)tone is caused by faulty technique called coup de glotte. We call it bright or pingy. Breathy is when a singer breathes out before starting the tone. We call it soft or mellow. Finally a pure tone is obtained when the singer breathes out and produces the tone at the same time. Something like that anyway.

SUSTAIN:
There are three types of sustain. LIVELY, which we call bloom, but singers call it messa di voce. The sustain will seem to rise in volume in the piano. This is really the goal of voicing. The other sustains are a gradual boring decay or a quick immediate decay.

I highlighted the appropriate areas in the hammer for manipulating. Hope this is useful to someone out there.
-chris
[Linked Image]
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Here is a new diagram i came up with today that i believe is very helpful. I studied a book last night about Enrico Caruso's singing technique. In the book it discussing tone production. I found it very useful comparing the piano tone and the human voice.

ATTACK:
There are three types of attack Metallic, pure, and breathy. Metallic (harsh)tone is caused by faulty technique called coup de glotte. We call it bright or pingy. Breathy is when a singer breathes out before starting the tone. We call it soft or mellow. Finally a pure tone is obtained when the singer breathes out and produces the tone at the same time. Something like that anyway.

SUSTAIN:
There are three types of sustain. LIVELY, which we call bloom, but singers call it messa di voce. The sustain will seem to rise in volume in the piano. This is really the goal of voicing. The other sustains are a gradual boring decay or a quick immediate decay.

I highlighted the appropriate areas in the hammer for manipulating. Hope this is useful to someone out there.
-chris
[Linked Image]
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Here is a new diagram i came up with today that i believe is very helpful. I studied a book last night about Enrico Caruso's singing technique. In the book it discussing tone production. I found it very useful comparing the piano tone and the human voice.

ATTACK:
There are three types of attack Metallic, pure, and breathy. Metallic (harsh)tone is caused by faulty technique called coup de glotte. We call it bright or pingy. Breathy is when a singer breathes out before starting the tone. We call it soft or mellow. Finally a pure tone is obtained when the singer breathes out and produces the tone at the same time. Something like that anyway.

SUSTAIN:
There are three types of sustain. LIVELY, which we call bloom, but singers call it messa di voce. The sustain will seem to rise in volume in the piano. This is really the goal of voicing. The other sustains are a gradual boring decay or a quick immediate decay.

I highlighted the appropriate areas in the hammer for manipulating. Hope this is useful to someone out there.
-chris
[Linked Image]
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Here is a new diagram i came up with today that i believe is very helpful. I studied a book last night about Enrico Caruso's singing technique. In the book it discussing tone production. I found it very useful comparing the piano tone and the human voice.

ATTACK:
There are three types of attack Metallic, pure, and breathy. Metallic (harsh)tone is caused by faulty technique called coup de glotte. We call it bright or pingy. Breathy is when a singer breathes out before starting the tone. We call it soft or mellow. Finally a pure tone is obtained when the singer breathes out and produces the tone at the same time. Something like that anyway.

SUSTAIN:
There are three types of sustain. LIVELY, which we call bloom, but singers call it messa di voce. The sustain will seem to rise in volume in the piano. This is really the goal of voicing. The other sustains are a gradual boring decay or a quick immediate decay.

I highlighted the appropriate areas in the hammer for manipulating. Hope this is useful to someone out there.
-chris
[Linked Image]

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Originally Posted by Digitus
(1) For application, I am thinking of using an airbrush with a small portable compressor. Would an airbrush be overkill? It kind of makes sense to be able to have much finer control of the spread and amount of solution applied to the hammers.

Hi Digitus. I used to have an airbrush like this in college and as I recall, its spray volume was similar to the pump sprayer I used in the video. The airbrush would also give finer control than the pump sprayer. If your airbrush is siphon feed and has a container underneath, it should work. The smaller gravity-feed airbrushes with the small cups on top that are designed for fine work might be too small, however. They would probably still work, but would take longer and have to be refilled a lot.

Last edited by Emery Wang; 01/12/21 02:32 PM.

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Thanks Emery! Much appreciated. 👍

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I have an update regarding the Amazon sprayers. I had one clog up on me while using one with the All Fabric Softener 1:2, and i was unsuccessful at unclogging it. Fortunately, they come in a bundle of 3. What worked very well was to run the All Softener through a 120 mesh strainer (Harbor Freight has them) and i have had no clogging problems.

I also have an update regarding Todd. He currently is in the Ukraine and just got married there. While there, he got a bad case of pneumonia and has lost 30lbs. Doctors told his wife that they are very worried. So keep him in your thoughts.

-chris


"Where TONE is Key, and Mammoths are not extinct."

Youtube https://tinyurl.com/5aw83b73


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Here is another technique worth knowing that i just successfully used. I recently bought some eye droppers. I like these because you can go from hammer to hammer and apply the exact amount unlike a hypo-oiler or pipette. I had a hammer right next to the strut that had tremendous energy compared to the rest. I removed the hammer and applied 1:2 right above the moulding from the side. Two applications brought it down to match the rest.

Works great!!

-chris


"Where TONE is Key, and Mammoths are not extinct."

Youtube https://tinyurl.com/5aw83b73


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I recently got some empty oblong plastic bottles from Hobby Lobby that are about the same size and shape as the bottles that we usually get CA glue in. It has a twist cap that connects to the bottle, and a second smaller twist cap that goes over the nozzle, with a thin needle that goes into the nozzle. that both serves to keep the nozzle clean and to keep the liquid from escaping. The nozzle comes in two diameters, so you can have the control you want in dispersal. I have my Paraloid B-72 in thick, medium, thin bottles. Very controlled, works like a charm.


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Originally Posted by Emery Wang

Hi Emery,

Thanks a lot for making the video.
Due to covid, now I do the needling of my piano hammers all by myself.
It is really a tedious process and make my hands and fingers very very sore.

comparing to your voicing by fabric softener, it is like night and day.

I think I am going to try yours, since it is much simpler.
One question: how long do you need to dry the hammers after spraying the fabric softener?

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Hi Tirta. I usually let them try overnight before heavy play, but after a couple hours I'm comfortable testing out a few notes to judge the effects. I think the only issue is having wet hammers hit the strings and causing discoloration.

I found this voicing method made a pretty big change to my 2018 Kawai, but less to my 1999 Petrof. Maybe it's the different hammer material and age of the hammers. I did it twice on both pianos. The Kawai probably didn't need the second go-round, but the Petrof did. The Petrof hammers brightened up more after a few weeks than the Kawai ones did, but the harshness did not come back. I like the tone overall, I think my remaining issue is hammer mating, which I hope to work on this weekend.

Good luck, let me know how it turns out.


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thanks for the reply.

I will try this method soon.
one big problem, I can not find ALL softener here.
I am thinking about ordering it via ebay,
but the shipping cost is very high,
so I will try it first with local brand which has similar ingredients to ALL.

what do you do with the grooves on the crown of the hammer?
usually I do "sugar coating" needling on them.
I really like this sugar coating method, it really makes my yamaha sounds a lot mellower.

do you need to spray specifically on the grooves?

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I would sand any deep grooves so you have a flat surface hitting the strings. Sand them away until the grooves are barely visible, but maintain the proper hammer shape. Spraying the shoulders will cause the solution to soak quite far into the hammers, so probably the crowns are wet as well. I don't spray specifically on the grooves, but others in this thread have applied it directly to the grooves in lieu of sugar coating, and reported good results.


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thanks Emery.

I have just done spraying the hammers.
I did it like in your video.

I used Badger airbrush with small bottle under it.
I filled the bottle with fabric softener and alcohol to around 75% capacity.

However, after doing 4 passes on each side, I realized that its spray pattern is too small.
the softener and alcohol inside the bottle is hardly used.
So I changed it to another airbrush with much bigger spray pattern.

It's all done now.
I am going to let it dry overnight and try the result tomorrow.

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the result is very good.
better that I expected.

it is far more mellower than the usual needling that I have done so far.
and it takes so little time to do.
I really like it very much.
now the sound is not twangy at all, all the harshness is gone.

And I have not sanded the grooves at all (it is not deep).
I guess the crown get sprayed too when I spray the sides.

Thanks to Emery, Chris Chernobieff and Todd Scott for sharing this wonderful voicing method.

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