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#1975293 - 10/18/12 04:32 PM Voicing or Piano's Real Sound
Grandman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Usa
I am in the midst of reading Grand Obssession which has been an eye opener with regards to the impact voicing has on a piano's sound. I would like to know (specifically from the dealers on this forum) how many new pianos are voiced vs. sold to the customer with its intrinsic sound? Do dealers typically leave voicing to the manufacturer? I'd like to know ho many dealers make this a routine when showing new pianos on the showroom floor?

In searching for a piano, I've been focused on the tonal quality of the different makes and models I have been playing. However, if voicing can change the tone of a piano drastically, how much of what I am hearing is really the magic of a technician's skill vs the actual piano as designed? Moreover, since voicing is fleeting, isn't the customer deceived into falling for a piano voiced by a dealer as opposed to finding a piano that has the intrinsic sound the customer is looking for?

I'd also like to know if voicing by dealers risks ruining the hammers as was Perri Knize's concern with the deep needling of her Grotrians' hammers in Grand Obsession? (She refers to "swelling" of the hammers noted by her tech examining the hammers. Keep in mind I have not finished reading the book and do not know if in fact her hammers were in fact damaged, as was alluded to in the chapter I am reading.)

Finally, would I be better off looking for a piano that has NOT been voiced before purchase? I'd like to hear from dealers and non-dealers alike.

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#1975352 - 10/18/12 06:40 PM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: Grandman]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Hi Grandman

There are levels of voicing, but all pianos have to have some voicing done because raw hammers generally sound terrible. The factory tries to do as little as possible and assumes the dealer will optimize the tone. The extent to which dealers actually do that depends on the dealer and the price of the piano.

I read Peri's book and have to say that voicing did become an obsession, but the principle is true. High quality pianos have a particular tone that is brought out by careful voicing, but that tone can also be destroyed by improper voicing.

Voicing is a tricky craft. Some brands of hammers require deep shoulder needling to bring out the best tone, others should only have careful strike point needling (really potentially dangerous, but a necessary technique).

What kind of piano are you looking for (brand, size etc). With that info some members might be able to give you an idea of the kind of voicing that might be beneficial...perhaps none beyond what the factory did.
_________________________
RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1975358 - 10/18/12 06:52 PM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: BoseEric]
Grandman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Usa
Thank you, Boseeric. So, it seems all new pianos will require some form of voicing. Perry mentions in her book that her hammers had swelling due to deep needling and chemical application. Is this usual for a new piano? Can a consumer tell if hammers have been overly voiced by checking for swelling? How does one know whether one is listening to a piano's intrinsic sound or a masked sound that is temporary? I would like to know if dealers sell pianos that they know will lose its tone in a year or so due to masked voicing. As you know, Perri's problem began when the voicing wore off in her home.


Edited by Grandman (10/18/12 06:54 PM)

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#1975388 - 10/18/12 07:47 PM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: Grandman]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3320
Originally Posted By: Grandman
Perry mentions in her book that her hammers had swelling due to deep needling and chemical application. Is this usual for a new piano? Can a consumer tell if hammers have been overly voiced by checking for swelling?


Hammers will puff out when deep needled. It is unavoidable. The hammers should then be filed to return their proper shape. In my experience, it really is extremely difficult to over needle hammers if you don't go into the crown. Your arm will probably fall off, first, because it is a very tiring process. If a technician manages to over voice a hammer, there are techniques to reverse it.

It should be noted, however, that not all hammers need deep needling.

Originally Posted By: Grandman
How does one know whether one is listening to a piano's intrinsic sound or a masked sound that is temporary? I would like to know if dealers sell pianos that they know will lose its tone in a year or so due to masked voicing. As you know, Perri's problem began when the voicing wore off in her home.


All voicing is temporary, especially fine-level voicing. Pianos require periodic voicing to maintain their sound, and the degree to which this is needed depends on the type of hammer and the amount and type of use the piano gets. If you have a technician who is competent with voicing, and communicating with their customers, you shouldn't have any problems in this regard.

Now, I can't comment on Perry's experience because I wasn't there, and haven't read the book, but my impression based off of what I've heard is that the technician was not a skilled voicer.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#1975403 - 10/18/12 08:49 PM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: Grandman]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19228
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Grandman
Thank you, Boseeric. So, it seems all new pianos will require some form of voicing. Perry mentions in her book that her hammers had swelling due to deep needling and chemical application. Is this usual for a new piano? Can a consumer tell if hammers have been overly voiced by checking for swelling? How does one know whether one is listening to a piano's intrinsic sound or a masked sound that is temporary? I would like to know if dealers sell pianos that they know will lose its tone in a year or so due to masked voicing. As you know, Perri's problem began when the voicing wore off in her home.
When you finish the book I think you will find that it turns out that voicing was not the problem. Also, if I remember correctly(not sure here) the problem appeared soon after she received her piano.

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#1975406 - 10/18/12 08:51 PM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: Grandman]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21286
Loc: Oakland
I did not need to finish reading the book to know that. Voicing was the less likely of the two possible solutions.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1975500 - 10/19/12 02:25 AM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: Grandman]
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
Originally Posted By: Grandman


I'd also like to know if voicing by dealers risks ruining the hammers as was Perri Knize's concern with the deep needling of her Grotrians' hammers in Grand Obsession? (She refers to "swelling" of the hammers noted by her tech examining the hammers. Keep in mind I have not finished reading the book and do not know if in fact her hammers were in fact damaged, as was alluded to in the chapter I am reading.)



i'll let others in the industry answer your other questions. but i can answer this one--you need to finish reading the book to get the answer. it's a detective story and you wouldn't want to spoil the suspense, would you?
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#1975502 - 10/19/12 02:26 AM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: beethoven986]
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
Quote:
my impression based off of what I've heard is that the technician was not a skilled voicer


not at all true! quite the opposite!
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#1975556 - 10/19/12 07:57 AM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: Grandman]
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
A few comments to your questions. First, let's start with the buyer. You must understand that whatever you hear in the dealer's showroom will be different than what you hear in your home or the piano's new location. The acoustics will almost always be different. If the piano was to be voiced for optimal sound at the dealer's location, that, in all likelihood, would not have relevance to where the piano ultimately winds up. Secondly, you are assuming, I believe wrongly, that the dealer spends the time and resources to optimize the piano via tuning, voicing and regulation. While there are certainly examples of dealers that do that, some of them being members of this forum, I can tell you that they are few and far between. Also, not all have access to highly skilled "voicers". Next, your assumption that a given piano has an inherent "sound" that is engineered into it. It doesn't quite work this way. Any given piano can be changed, in some instances quite radically, by certain aftermarket additions. The two that come to mind immediately are hammers and the addition of a Wapin bridge. Switching from a stock hammer like those commonly found on an older Yamaha, to one along the lines of an Abel Encore or Ronsen Weickert Felt can make a HUGE difference in the harmonics and warmth the piano becomes capable of producing. I have found that these hammers often do not need voicing, and are wonderful right out of the box. A Wapin bridge can add considerable clarity and sustain and eliminate many undesirable overtones. Tuning is another crucial component. A piano should NEVER be voiced until it is thoroughly and properly tuned. Addition of a more complex temperament, like Bill Bremmer's EBVT III that is often discussed here, can considerably alter the piano's "inherent" sound to add richness and complexity. So, if you find a piano with the "bones" you are seeking, a great tech can successfully take it to its optimal level, but should do so only after it is comfortably in your home and after having explained all these options to you and what you can expect from each.
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#1975592 - 10/19/12 09:27 AM Re: Voicing or Piano's Real Sound [Re: Grandman]
Steve Cohen Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10452
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
CC makes some excellent points. I would add that the process of optimizing the voicing of a quality piano in the home takes time - usually at least 3 visits over the first year.

One of the major difficulties comes from the fact that "language" is based on reason and the evaluation of tone quality on subjective experience. Simply said it is very difficult for a good player to give their voicer an accurate description of what they seek in tone quality.

It often comes down to trial and error, but eventually it usually all works out.
_________________________
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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