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#1301572 - 11/08/09 11:54 AM How can a Piano have a "bad scale"?
V10BlackBox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 23
Loc: San Diego
So I am looking at a few older pianos and searching through the site for reviews. I keep coming across a term or idea that I cannot wrap my head around. People keep saying the "scale of that model is bad". Or the new models have a "more accurate scale".

What is this in reference to? Bad design, string length is it tuned to something other then 440.

The reason that I ask is have been looking at some upright 40-52' pianos 1880-1940 that I like. They don't sound like a grand, and well they don't even sound like a good modern upright but I like them for some reason. All have been current players.

Just so you know I have only played digitals at the house up to this point. These older ones sound almost a little mushy and subdued I kind of like it. Price points between say 2000-3000$.
1920 Steinway Style S

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#1301579 - 11/08/09 12:11 PM Re: How can a Piano have a "bad scale"? [Re: V10BlackBox]
Gene Nelson Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/04
Posts: 1824
Loc: Old Hangtown California
If you are looking at old upright, scale is not really an issue.
In either case, the scale that technicians refer to is associated with the layout of the bridge, length and diameter of wires, number and location of wound strings, type of windings and the resulting measurable perameters such as wire frequency, tension, inharmonisity, impedence etc. If it is designed in an educated thoughtful way and tries to match the design of the soundboard assembly the piano will sound better, be easier to tune and more stable.
Bad designs are when manufacturers do not pay much attention to these things.
PTG Member

#1301589 - 11/08/09 12:25 PM Re: How can a Piano have a "bad scale"? [Re: Gene Nelson]
V10BlackBox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 23
Loc: San Diego
Great that explains it perfectly. So its a function of the total design and not a failure in a singular feature. One can assumes that a upright has less of these issues just due to the reduced complexity and string length due to the size of the soundboard. I could see how in a grand this could be a rather complex problem, but it begs the question how the heck do you rebuild something like that when there are so many variables.

For me it means that I might have found a piano in my price range it is a ~1880 Steinway upright. I like the tone and the case is well not great but the internals have checked out and it was restrung ~10 years back its been stable for a long time and still being played.
1920 Steinway Style S

#1301629 - 11/08/09 02:06 PM Re: How can a Piano have a "bad scale"? [Re: V10BlackBox]
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4683
Loc: San Francisco
In the past, knowledge about scale design was not so highly developed. Manufacturers sometimes just tried to get something that was good enough to sell.

When auditoning a piano, it's tone, touch, and appearance - to your ears, your fingers, and your eyes. You've found a piano that you like. If the internals were checked by someone who's knowledgable, enjoy.

BTW I know what you mean about the "mushy." Digitals tend to have a less complex tone, which could also be characterized as "clean." The contrast between a DP's tone and that of an older acoustic can be startling. Glad you like the acoustic's tone and think that you'll like it even more as you continue play it.

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#1301631 - 11/08/09 02:08 PM Re: How can a Piano have a "bad scale"? [Re: V10BlackBox]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 23682
Loc: Oakland
Uprights have exactly the same issues. Most old scales and many new ones are pretty bad, with the tension varying wildly from register to register.
Semipro Tech

#1301681 - 11/08/09 03:58 PM Re: How can a Piano have a "bad scale"? [Re: BDB]
V10BlackBox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 23
Loc: San Diego
Thanks for all the heads up I found one that I like put a deposit going to have it delivered on Wednesday is a 1920 Steinway DuoArt 52. The case had been refinished, new hammers, new key tops, new casters, new felt, all original ebony. I think it was a player that was converted at some point. Guy who owns it had ~8 grand Steinway grands in his repair shop being restored this. Pulled the whole case its really nice.

Everything else is perfect. The soundboard is great no dents or dings, the rear supports are what look like 6 6x6 ceder posts. But most importantly it just sounds AMAZING like nothing I have ever heard. Its warm and soft and still has a upper end that hits hard. The bass is down a little from what I expected.

1920 Steinway Style S


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