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#3137018 07/13/21 11:10 AM
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My big old Steinway is getting to where the grooves in the hammers are affecting the tone. I could take the action out and sand the hammers myself, but Reblitz says that's not a job for amateurs, especially if needling is called for. The local techs are very unskilled, from what I've seen. So where do I find somebody who has done the work before, will not ruin the tone, and will take responsibility for his work? (Don't say PTG -- anybody can and does join it.)

This is in Richmond, Indiana. (Apparently one of those "uncivilized" places in America, according to Siegfried Hansing.)

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Ed,

Do it yourself. Retain basic original hammer shape, remove only side felt up to strike, feel the "grain" as you're filing, and keep everything SQUARE and uniform. It's not rocket science and everybody has to learn somewhere. There are some good videos out there. 80 grit garnet paper glued to a paddle. Learn to hold each hammer firmly but don't strain the pinning.

Go slowly...you can do it. Protect the action from felt filings with a cloth. Vacuum as you go. Examine your work from all sides constantly, make corrections as needed (a little here, a little there). Helpful to put down a board that holds the hammers at strike level but not absolutely necessary. I use a SS genuine hammer filing support stick (works great cuz it's genuine). Works on virtually all grands too.

Others have done it. You can too.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Seems odd there are no techs in Richmond, where pianos were manufactured for a long time!


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Brian Turano turanopianos@gmail.com is 50 miles from you , years ago while in his second year at North Bennet St piano tech. program he worked for me at Boston University, he currently is a college piano tech in your area.
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Do it yourself. Retain basic original hammer shape, remove only side felt up to strike, feel the "grain" as you're filing, and keep everything SQUARE and uniform. It's not rocket science and everybody has to learn somewhere. There are some good videos out there. 80 grit garnet paper glued to a paddle. Learn to hold each hammer firmly but don't strain the pinning.

Go slowly...you can do it. Protect the action from felt filings with a cloth. Vacuum as you go. Examine your work from all sides constantly, make corrections as needed (a little here, a little there). Helpful to put down a board that holds the hammers at strike level but not absolutely necessary. I use a SS genuine hammer filing support stick (works great cuz it's genuine). Works on virtually all grands too.

Others have done it. You can too.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Thank You!

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Although Peter gives you good advice... let's face it, information about a skilled task doesn't make it easy to achieve. In my opinion (and as Peter says, everyone has to learn somewhere) you are unlikely, as a learner, to make a good job of your first set of hammers. Would you let a learner loose on your Steinway? That's what you will be doing if you attempt it yourself. Get a professional, by hook or by crook.
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Quote
(Don't say PTG -- anybody can and does join it.)

Well, true. But to get the designation RPT (Registered Piano Technician) you have to pass rigorous exams.

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Originally Posted by David Boyce
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(Don't say PTG -- anybody can and does join it.)

Well, true. But to get the designation RPT (Registered Piano Technician) you have to pass rigorous exams.

True, but your ability to voice hammers is not tested (beyond demonstrating how to file a hammer).


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Mr. Turano is working at the Aspen Music Festival (so he must be pretty good, right?) but will take a look at my piano next week. Thanks for the reference.

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Originally Posted by N W
Although Peter gives you good advice... let's face it, information about a skilled task doesn't make it easy to achieve. In my opinion (and as Peter says, everyone has to learn somewhere) you are unlikely, as a learner, to make a good job of your first set of hammers. Would you let a learner loose on your Steinway? That's what you will be doing if you attempt it yourself. Get a professional, by hook or by crook.
Nick

Nick,

I rarely ("never") suggest something like this, however I was responding to what appeared to me to be a fairly confident attitude on the part of the OP. He seems to know what he wants and how to get it and "appears" to be the type of person capable of actually accomplishing it. But then again this would be entirely an assumption on my part. Additionally, within my few years contributing to this forum I have encountered a handful of people who have done remarkably competent work (with proper instruction) even though they had never attempted it before. Normally though I don't advise people to do it themselves unless they truly have no other options.

You get where I'm coming from, right?

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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I'm curious. Do many piano techs take the era of a piano into account when voicing. It seems like some RPTs receive training at factories of Yamaha, Steinway, Kawai, etc. This likely focuses on voicing the modern pianos from each respective company. If I'm hiring someone to voice the concert instrument used in a performance hall, I absolutely would value the person having had training at the factory of the piano manufacturer.

But a vintage instrument has a different style of tone. People who own them usually want them voiced for as even and non-percussive and sonorous a tone as possible, even at the expense of the power to fill as large of a space. It seems like some piano techs have a standard 1-size-fits-all voicing procedure that they apply to all pianos, or they just refuse to voice vintage instruments.

Thoughts?


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Here’s my experience: I got a contract for piano maintenance at a performance venue and the voicing on the instruments was very bright and uneven and artists were complaining.
I replaced a factory trained tech and I have no factory training.
And as for the voicing, I was then and not now an expert and believe me it was a learning experience but it takes a lot of time and effort to build the skill.
And once I think I’m getting good at it an artist comes in and wants it changed, or notices unevenness or some other irregularities that I can’t even hear.
Nothing I learned from PTG directly but I did learn much from experienced PTG members as well as so many different artists.
But in the end it’s about learning to listen as well as what to do with the hammers, and I didn’t mention regulation, friction, alignment etc.
So many things impact tone, power, color, sustain and dynamic range.
Book reading and classes is just a starting point. PTG has many classes at conventions and local chapter meetings.

Last edited by Gene Nelson; 07/14/21 05:41 PM.

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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
I'm curious. Do many piano techs take the era of a piano into account when voicing. It seems like some RPTs receive training at factories of Yamaha, Steinway, Kawai, etc. This likely focuses on voicing the modern pianos from each respective company. If I'm hiring someone to voice the concert instrument used in a performance hall, I absolutely would value the person having had training at the factory of the piano manufacturer.

But a vintage instrument has a different style of tone. People who own them usually want them voiced for as even and non-percussive and sonorous a tone as possible, even at the expense of the power to fill as large of a space. It seems like some piano techs have a standard 1-size-fits-all voicing procedure that they apply to all pianos, or they just refuse to voice vintage instruments.

Thoughts?

As in all fields, you have some who know just enough to get by, some who are blowhards, some who are nice but incompetent, some who are extremely competent but hard to get along with, some who think they know it all, some who listen well, have developed good skills and have learned to apply them, etc etc.

Getting a good tech that knows what they are doing and is good to get along with is like gold. Too many talk the talk but fail to walk the walk.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Originally Posted by adamp88
Originally Posted by David Boyce
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(Don't say PTG -- anybody can and does join it.)

Well, true. But to get the designation RPT (Registered Piano Technician) you have to pass rigorous exams.

True, but your ability to voice hammers is not tested (beyond demonstrating how to file a hammer).

Isn't that sort of like confirming that a surgeon knows how to use a scalpel but not confirming knowledge of how to use sutures?


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PTG is not (and never claims to be) the "be all and the end all" of piano technology. (At least I don't see it that way anyway). The examination needed to become an RPT simply establishes a minimum level of competence in piano service skills. It is impossible to objectively test for every facet of piano maintenance or repair/rebuilding. However a minimum standard can be tested for and required.

What a person does after qualifying as a RPT is up together own free will. Some will continue to progress and improve whereas some will stagnate. Imperfect humans working on pianos designed and built by imperfect humans...thats life.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
I'm curious. Do many piano techs take the era of a piano into account when voicing. It seems like some RPTs receive training at factories of Yamaha, Steinway, Kawai, etc. This likely focuses on voicing the modern pianos from each respective company. If I'm hiring someone to voice the concert instrument used in a performance hall, I absolutely would value the person having had training at the factory of the piano manufacturer.

But a vintage instrument has a different style of tone. People who own them usually want them voiced for as even and non-percussive and sonorous a tone as possible, even at the expense of the power to fill as large of a space. It seems like some piano techs have a standard 1-size-fits-all voicing procedure that they apply to all pianos, or they just refuse to voice vintage instruments.

Thoughts?

I have the privilege and pleasure to work with some really outstanding concert technicians in Europe. All of them are factory trained, most of them have attended factory training session with various manufacturers and none of them are only good at one specific brand. A real concert technician is able to play the piano in question, understands its intrinsic qualities and designs a concept of voicing for the specific venue and this piano before he picks up the needles.

Not sure what you consider vintage, but let's just assume that modern concert grand technology in terms of hammers starts roughly in the mid 1870s. It's safe to say that hammer manufacturing technology and action precision and geometry at this point in time have a strong resemblance to a modern concert grand. A good technician understands the tension distribution within a hammer and will achieve an evenness of sound across the whole range and will be able to do so with everything the piano can deliver and what the customer wants.

Case in point: The technician in charge of my 1886 Steinway B is a Kawai expert, one of the three European Shigeru MPAs - and he managed to add a whole new dimension of sound to the piano that wasn't there before his voicing. My beauty now has a whole new range of 'dark and mysterious'. For a friend of mine he has just fully voiced an 1893 Bösendorfer 280cm concert grand with spectacular results, just as he did with an 1874 Streicher concert grand. The same technician is also in charge of our concert grands in Vienna and so far every single pianist was more than just happy with a superbly prepared brand new concert grand.

So, yes, a really good concert technician is a) brand agnostic, b) obsessed with preparing the action and acoustic assembly as perfect as possible before voicing and c) agnostic about the age of a piano as long as it's in good shape and has a modern design.

First, here is the process and art of preparing a concert grand meticulously to perfection before voicing. It's in Korean but basically self explanatory:



And here is my 1886 beauty after the last voicing session:



HTH
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU


HTH
Peter

That sounds fantastic Peter.

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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
I have the privilege and pleasure to work with some really outstanding concert technicians in Europe. All of them are factory trained, most of them have attended factory training session with various manufacturers and none of them are only good at one specific brand. A real concert technician is able to play the piano in question, understands its intrinsic qualities and designs a concept of voicing for the specific venue and this piano before he picks up the needles.

Not sure what you consider vintage, but let's just assume that modern concert grand technology in terms of hammers starts roughly in the mid 1870s.

The piano in question is from 1914. The issues are not just with respect to the type of felt, but also the style of tone the instrument was designed to produce. The two techs who have serviced the piano well are no longer available, so I think perhaps it is just an issue of variability in skill level as suggested by Peter Grey above.


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I've tried some hammer voicing on my own pianos, with what I'd call good success. At lest the piano sounded better (less bright) after the voicing.

Thus far, my best success has been using the conventional needling with the three-needle voicing tool. But when the hammers get harder, it can be a challenge to insert the needles deep enough into the hammers. I have heard of using a dremel tool to get the needle into the hammer head felt, but that seems way too extreem to me.

I've tried the rubbing alcohol and the fabric softener mixtures with limited success, but it seems to me the liquid applications are much more difficult to reverse if over voiced, and the fabric softener keeps on softening well after the initial application.

I've tried the side needling with limited success, but I didn't have the proper tool to insert the needles deep enough into the sides of the hammers properly, without overstressing the flange pins.

I have actually tried the plier-squeeze method on an old upright piano, and was surprised at the difference it made, and how well the piano sounded afterward. But I'm still a little scared to try the plier-squeeze on my better pianos, but may get the courage to try it at some point. You don't hear much about the plier-squeeze method, but if the hammers are really hard, it could be a good method to use.

I also agree that in spite of my own lack of experience, I would be hesitant to let just anyone attempt to voice the hammers on my better pianos. I guess I know just enough about voicing to know that someone could ruin my hammers, and I'm not sure there is much of anything I could do about it. If I ruin my hammers, that's one thing, and likely a learning experience, but if I pay someone to ruin my hammers, I'd feel really bad about that...

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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Originally Posted by OE1FEU


HTH
Peter

That sounds fantastic Peter.

Yes, beautiful playing, and very sonorous tone on the piano.


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