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#2006152 - 12/29/12 05:58 PM Tuning Instability
PNO40 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 03/03/11
Posts: 233
Loc: A North Atlantic Island former...
This is a follow-up to a couple of previous posts (see Sound Problems) though the question is independent of this personal piano history.

The query/puzzle goes like this: What underlying problem could be responsible for both severe tuning instability AND the loosening of hammer butt flanges on an upright piano? Is there something that could explain/cause both, assuming environmental conditions have remained unchanged while both issues have developed?

I raise the question because the rebuilder from whom I purchased the piano and to whom I have brought my (expanding) list of problems, has responded by saying that he suspects he knows the underlying cause of both (though he was coy enough to withhold telling me what precisely that was, pending his consultations with others).

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, welcome.

With thanks,

P.

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#2006168 - 12/29/12 06:23 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
David Boyce Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 286
Loc: Scotland
I'd think that cyclical changes in humidity, as commented on in relation to your other posts, would be a good candidate.

Action makers Wessell Nickel & Gross have a beautifully illustrated description of the effect of humidity changes on flanges here:
http://consumer.wessellnickelandgross.com/wood-vs-composite-materials/

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#2006221 - 12/29/12 08:06 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3347
Always suspect humidity changes first. This can be easily proved or disqualified by purchasing a hygrometer. If the piano was restrung, that can be a source of tuning instability. The settling process can be accelerated by proper string seating.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
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#2006240 - 12/29/12 08:37 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: PNO40
... the rebuilder from whom I purchased the piano and to whom I have brought my (expanding) list of problems, has responded by saying that he suspects he knows the underlying cause of both (though he was coy enough to withhold telling me what precisely that was, pending his consultations with others).
From your many posts about the problems with your rebuilt Blüthner, I am starting to develop my own picture of the whole scenario, one underlying cause that would (or could) explain everything....
...a rebuild which was incomplete, not thorough enough or poorly carried out. Sorry to be so blunt, but there is it.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2006248 - 12/29/12 08:50 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: Supply]
accordeur Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1207
Loc: Québec, Canada
Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: PNO40
... the rebuilder from whom I purchased the piano and to whom I have brought my (expanding) list of problems, has responded by saying that he suspects he knows the underlying cause of both (though he was coy enough to withhold telling me what precisely that was, pending his consultations with others).
From your many posts about the problems with your rebuilt Blüthner, I am starting to develop my own picture of the whole scenario, one underlying cause that would (or could) explain everything....
...a rebuild which was incomplete, not thorough enough or poorly carried out. Sorry to be so blunt, but there is it.


I agree.
_________________________
Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

www.actionpiano.ca

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#2006253 - 12/29/12 09:12 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
I agree too.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2006257 - 12/29/12 09:25 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
I agreed too - over in the Piano Forum. The same scenario is playing out over there also.
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Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2006267 - 12/29/12 10:00 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21658
Loc: Oakland
Either that or PEBKAC.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2006276 - 12/29/12 11:04 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2137
Loc: Maine
'Had to google "pebkac". Doh!

Yea, either that or pebrhc. (problem exists because (of) relative humidity changes)
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2006279 - 12/29/12 11:10 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
I wasn't going to ask! Haha!
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2006285 - 12/29/12 11:23 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21658
Loc: Oakland
I only offer it as a possibility. It is really impossible to determine exactly what is going on without looking at and listening to the piano.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2006290 - 12/29/12 11:39 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
That's the hardest thing to get through to piano owners. How do we know what the problem is from a computer screen? How do we know what the thing is worth sight unseen? It gets old, answering those types of questions sometimes.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2006295 - 12/30/12 12:11 AM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2137
Loc: Maine
Yer gonna hevta do what I do, Jerry. Put your ear right up to the screen soz you can hear the squeeks, rattles and buzzez, and get out your magnifying glass to search the words for clues as to what's wrong. laugh
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2006386 - 12/30/12 06:39 AM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7877
Loc: France
The slack of new plain wire represent a M3 in the first plain wire to a m2 at note 88.

So yes methods to stabilise the tuning have to be used, and as over tense chipping and rough tunings, massaging the strings with pressure and a hard wood piece (producing heat) massaging coils, etc.

I know a few rare colleagues that only tune up to 445, but the wire accept way more before being in danger..

The settling of the soundboard take place also. What I am afraid of is exaggerated bridge roll, and if the bridge is tall this may be a real problem.

I heard some factories employed a setup to lock the bass bridge when basses are bring to tension.. May be a good idea. I tried that without noticeable difference.
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#2006388 - 12/30/12 06:41 AM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7877
Loc: France
The tone is better when tuning from above, the the bridge raise is noticed providing better downbearing for some time.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2009325 - 01/05/13 08:07 AM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: David Boyce]
PNO40 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 03/03/11
Posts: 233
Loc: A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted By: David Boyce
I'd think that cyclical changes in humidity, as commented on in relation to your other posts, would be a good candidate.


Regarding humidity fluctuations, I have two hygrometers, one of which records daily maxima and minima, and since I received the piano in July the all-time high recording (only once) was 71%RH and the absolute minimum (again only once) was 38%RH, the high being in early August and the low in late November. Daily fluctuations rarely vary by more than 3 or 4% in any 24 hour period, and the decline in RH from July-August has been steady: mid 60s in July and August, mid-50s in September and steady at the mid-40s through October, November and December. This seems to me a very modest and moderate fluctuation in RH (though I am open to correction on this) and safely within the 40-70% 'safety zone' displayed on the small analogue hygrometer provided by the rebuilder. So if this accounts for many of the problems, then either (as many of you have suggested) the rebuild quality is less than stellar, or this particular piano is extremely 'sensitive' [=delicate]. I suspect the former, though the rebuilder wants to blame the environment (predictably enough.) Either way, the proof of the pudding will be when piano no.2 arrives and copes (or doesn't) when in the same environment.

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#2009356 - 01/05/13 09:30 AM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Whether piano owners wish to admit it or not, many do not, is not relevant what piano owners wish for.. The fact is, that pianos DO and WILL change relatively quickly and very easily from humidity changes. Especially when they have been rebuilt or are new.

A change from 70 % in August to 38 % in November is a large change. It is 50 % less of what it was in July. Of course, the piano will be flat and out of tune with itself because of this. And yes, hammer flanges can come loose.

Of course, it is a gradual change. That is pretty typical. Here in Michigan, in August it can easily be 70% RH. In September, it will be in the 60 % range, continuing down as the cooler weather continues.

A piano is made primarily out of wood. I read once years ago, that during the average summer in Michigan, the wooden frame of a door in our home will swell by 1/4". During the winter time, that same door, shrinks by that much AFTER it looses the 1/4" that it gained by swelling in the summer. It is no wonder that our drawers, doors and windows will sometimes stick.

Just because they are painted doesn't mean they are no longer capable of absorbing humidity.

As a piano owner, if you want your piano to maintain its best, it is your responsibiltiy to do whatever you can to maintain a fairly constant relative humidity (RH) where there piano is located. By that, I don't mean between 70 % and 35 %. I mean, between 40 % and 50 %.

All technicians receive complaints constantly that my piano was just tuned but now it's out of tune. In looking up our records, we see that it's been 4, 5 or 6 months since its last tuning when the RH was double or triple of what it is now. The biggest argument I get from my clients is "well, that shouldn't happen!" Why not? "I don't know, but, it JUST SEEMS like it should stay in tune longer." It is a lack of understanding about what actually takes place with the wooden parts and the causes of why a piano goes out of tune and why piano manufacturers recommend tuning your piano between 2 and 4 times every single year as a minimum because they all know that the piano will indeed go out of tune often under these ever changing humidity circumstances.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2009401 - 01/05/13 11:30 AM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2137
Loc: Maine
As an addendum to Jerry's post, there is another little unpleasantry associated with relative humidity. I've noticed that the effectiveness of the popular in-piano humidity control system varies according to locality and even from house to house in the same general location. The results are uneven enough that I only suggest them now if the customer seems to understand that they are not a panacea, but only a help.
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2009453 - 01/05/13 01:08 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
PNO40 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 03/03/11
Posts: 233
Loc: A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
The fact is, that pianos DO and WILL change relatively quickly and very easily from humidity changes. Especially when they have been rebuilt or are new.

A change from 70 % in August to 38 % in November is a large change. It is 50 % less of what it was in July. Of course, the piano will be flat and out of tune with itself because of this. And yes, hammer flanges can come loose.


Jerry: These figures are the extreme 'spikes' in a daily-fluctuating long-term trend, not the the trend-line itself. While such figures may have been registered for a few hours in total over the course of 5 months, the decline from around 65% to 45% represents the more enduring state of affairs. Of course, that 20% shift may be sufficient to precipitate problems, but if so, then I'd expect that there are quite a lot of other new and rebuilt pianos 'settling-in/falling-apart' out there. Yet that doesn't appear to be the case to judge by others responses to experiences of 'settling in'.

Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
Of course, it is a gradual change. That is pretty typical. Here in Michigan, in August it can easily be 70% RH. In September, it will be in the 60 % range, continuing down as the cooler weather continues.

A piano is made primarily out of wood. I read once years ago, that during the average summer in Michigan, the wooden frame of a door in our home will swell by 1/4". During the winter time, that same door, shrinks by that much AFTER it looses the 1/4" that it gained by swelling in the summer. It is no wonder that our drawers, doors and windows will sometimes stick.

Just because they are painted doesn't mean they are no longer capable of absorbing humidity.

As a piano owner, if you want your piano to maintain its best, it is your responsibiltiy to do whatever you can to maintain a fairly constant relative humidity (RH) where there piano is located. By that, I don't mean between 70 % and 35 %. I mean, between 40 % and 50 %.

All technicians receive complaints constantly that my piano was just tuned but now it's out of tune. In looking up our records, we see that it's been 4, 5 or 6 months since its last tuning when the RH was double or triple of what it is now. The biggest argument I get from my clients is "well, that shouldn't happen!" Why not? "I don't know, but, it JUST SEEMS like it should stay in tune longer." It is a lack of understanding about what actually takes place with the wooden parts and the causes of why a piano goes out of tune and why piano manufacturers recommend tuning your piano between 2 and 4 times every single year as a minimum because they all know that the piano will indeed go out of tune often under these ever changing humidity circumstances.


Jerry: The piano was tuned on a monthly basis, during which time the RH would have reduced by around 5% per month on average if we flatten the trend line. In fact, however, on the the first and second, and fourth and fifth tunings, there was little change in RH, the main decline having taken place between the second and fourth tunings. Yet still it went south very quickly after all tunings, not to mention all the other problems.

In short, I find it hard to believe that 20% shift in RH over 5 months could effectively wreck a new piano. If that was the case, then I don't think there would be too many pianos in the world today.

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#2009468 - 01/05/13 01:42 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: PNO40]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Who said anything about wrecking a piano? None of us knows anything about the rebuilders capabilities or the tuners for that matters. If they did lousy work then anything is possible.

It does not take much RH flucuation to change a tuning. Open a window causing a draft to pass by the piano and it will change rather quickly.

That's why I said, piano owners, due to a lack of understanding it, argue with us about the true causes of why pianos go out of tune and that is exactly what you are doing now.

You need to follow some advice here and get another technicians opinion of your piano and it's situation. As has been said here, nobody can tell what is truly wrong with your piano without seeing it first hand. But, the RH factor's remain. It is changing and that change will cause a piano to go out of tune.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2009494 - 01/05/13 02:46 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
PNO40 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 03/03/11
Posts: 233
Loc: A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
Who said anything about wrecking a piano? None of us knows anything about the rebuilders capabilities or the tuners for that matters. If they did lousy work then anything is possible.

It does not take much RH flucuation to change a tuning. Open a window causing a draft to pass by the piano and it will change rather quickly.

That's why I said, piano owners, due to a lack of understanding it, argue with us about the true causes of why pianos go out of tune and that is exactly what you are doing now.

You need to follow some advice here and get another technicians opinion of your piano and it's situation. As has been said here, nobody can tell what is truly wrong with your piano without seeing it first hand. But, the RH factor's remain. It is changing and that change will cause a piano to go out of tune.


Jerry: I think there is some talking at cross purposes here, but no matter. Over on the Piano Forum (see here) the progressive 'settling-in/falling-apart' of my piano was discussed. This is the context for the 'wrecking' remark.

Regarding hands on visits, two technicians have tuned and serviced the piano in the past 5 months. Neither commented on unfavourable environmental conditions, though one one wondered if the piano might be too loud for the room. The rebuilder, who is 500 miles away, has never seen the piano in situ, yet has cited "the slow drying out of the piano in my room" as responsible for all its ills. This is the origin of my original query, viz. how such a "normal" RH fluctuation could be responsible for so much going wrong.

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#2009561 - 01/05/13 05:09 PM Re: Tuning Instability [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
DavidWB Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/05
Posts: 73
Loc: Grand Junction CO
Regarding humidity and tuning stability...

Humidity in the semi-arid desert area of Western Colorado where I work is low most of the year. However, around July we get "monsoon" rains from the southwest, through Arizona, that raise levels significantly. On top of this, many people here cool their homes with swamp/evaporative coolers. It's not unusual for me to measure humidity in the ±50% range. I'm a part-time tuner, so, in this situation, I have the flexibility to encourage routine tunings in the early summer (when the coolers are turned on) and again in the late fall or early winter after the pianos have had a reasonable time dry out.

I've decided that there's not much point in measuring humidity in the summer unless the cooler is on at the time and/or the house is open and humidity is high outside. If the cooler is off, the reading may very well be low, but this says nothing about the moisture content of the wood. Unless I've taken it out of context, this sentence from the following document supports my recommendation to customers:

"Wood absorbs moisture much quicker than it releases it during drying."

http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pdf2002/willi02b.pdf
[page 7, last paragraph]

So, after the humidity has been high for a relatively short time (a wee or so), I think it's a good time to tune. Coolers are usually off and monsoons over by around mid-September. But since drying is a longer, slower process, I advise waiting till around the new year or so. This assumes two routine tunings a year. If the customer want only an annual tuning I recommend doing it about the same time of the when the climate conditions are about the same.

I'm no expert on wood, so it might be that I'm making more out of the above quote than is applicable to tuning and stability—although my experience certainly seems to support it. I would be interested in the thoughts and experience that others of you have had in this regard.

David Bauguess

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