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Topic Options
#610527 - 09/27/08 10:27 AM Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
I have a Bechstein A1, and recently, I've been noticing a stinging sensation after playing my piano. I concluded that this must be because the sound level coming from my piano is too high. Does anyone know, from playing a Bechstein, just how many decibels my A1 might be putting out?

I don't have a decibel meter.
Also, I've been using a pair of etymotic ER20 ear plugs, and my ears still seem to hurt, after playing piano.

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#610528 - 09/27/08 05:06 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
Erus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 386
Loc: Mexico
I have not seen an A1 in action, but I have measured about 80-85dB coming from some rather small pianos, played by beginners (forte without much effort in the midrange, in very simple music). I've also measured more advanced players close to 100dB in practice rooms.

A little information about the room where your piano is placed could be useful. Also, what kind of music do you play?

If you play in a very small room with a hard floor and walls covered with mirrors, you will be deaf in no time. A room with couches, rugs, carpets, etc. will reflect sound less aggressively and you will be less overwhelmed.

SPL meters are not very expensive ($60), and are nice toys to have.

Have you been exposed to other loud sounds? Have you been sick recently? It is neither normal nor good to feel a "stinging sensation".

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#610529 - 09/27/08 06:26 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
The room is relatively small, I don't know the exact square footage. There are rugs, couches, and two mirrors.

I play classical and jazz. If you've listened to Chopin's Ballade No. 1 Op. 23, it gets very loud, after playing that piece, that's often when I begin to feel the stinging sensation.

Do you know of where I can get my hands on a SPL meter?

The stinging sensation is new, it only occurs after playing piano.

Thanks,
Fnkyazn

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#610530 - 09/27/08 06:30 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1724
Loc: Massachusetts
Grands in small rooms can be very loud, indeed. Do something about your problem--you are likely causing slow, but irreversible ear damage.

Everyone seems to want a "powerful" piano, but power = volume. For the average home owner a not so powerful grand makes MUCH more sense.

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#610531 - 09/27/08 06:32 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
My piano is an upright. I'm sorry, I didn't make that clear. I realize that there are older models also dubbed as the "A1" model.

Mine is the Academy Series upright, 49".

Is it possible to have your hammers re-fitted, so the piano is not as loud?

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#610532 - 09/27/08 08:24 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
Erus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 386
Loc: Mexico
You can find different SPL meters at radio shack or amazon (non-expensive ones will usually only measure peaks, and not equivalent level). Those are not "serious" meters, but will give you an idea of how loud your piano can be. (Don't forget to post what you find out ;\) )

I think you should try to "redecorate" the room before doing anything more drastic. Relocating the rugs or getting more could give you some relief. Hanging rugs on a wall (if you are not into that, there are some acoustic panels that will not just "absorb" some sound but actually look very good, too.) You could move the piano to other part of the room...

I've heard of people using bedcovers behind their pianos to make them quiter. There are some acoustic panels that might help there, too.

If nothing works, you could ask a competent technician to voice down your piano. You might get a different tone, that you might not like.

I've read about people asking for tunings with less stretch for loud pianos in small rooms, getting some improvement (I don't know if that might work for your piano and your taste).

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#610533 - 09/27/08 10:09 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
Keith Roberts Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 1984
Loc: Murphys, Ca
It might need some regulation and voicing. Some pianos can't be played softly until regulated. The ability to play ppp is the first to disappear as a piano goes out of adjustment
_________________________
Keith Roberts
Associate, PTG
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca

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#610534 - 09/27/08 10:15 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
My piano is a brand new one, so I don't think it would've gone out of adjustment, already.

Thanks for the advice, I'll probably be heading to radio shack tomorrow to look for an SPL meter.

Thanks for all the advice,
Fnkyazn

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#610535 - 09/28/08 01:04 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
Okay, so I picked up a SPL meter.
My piano ranges from 78-100, roughly.

I did put blankets on top of my piano, and behind, this lowered the volume intensity by quite a bit. It would've been 100+DB, otherwise. Knowing this, I believe I have already inflicted damage on my ears, beyond repair (sadly).

Does anyone know how I can lower the volume of piano, aside from the blankets?

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#610536 - 09/28/08 02:05 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
Erus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 386
Loc: Mexico
Don't discard Keith Roberts' suggestion. New pianos need things to be adjusted too (apparently, that's not always done before delivering them).

If everything else fails, I understand hammers can be softened. Get a qualified technician to see what voicing options you have (and their effects). Perhaps a small regulation compromise could give a little relief?

Try "redecoration" first and leave aggressive voicing as your last alternative.

Sadly, we all are exposed to a lot of noise these days. Check the exposure time figures here:

http://brneurosci.org/noise.html

Normal playing is not always loud... You probably weren't always getting 100dB. However, if your ears are complaining, you are indeed abusing them.

Can I ask for how long have you been playing that piano in that room? For how long do you play each day? When did the stinging feeling started?

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#610537 - 09/28/08 02:45 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
I put several blankets over the piano, I don't know if adding more had much effect, though.

Yeah, it only reached 100 during Chopin's "Raindrop," and Ballade No. 1, if you can imagine that...

I play, on week days, about 2-3 hours, on weekends, 3-5.

This just started recently, after I bought my piano.

Are there any other forms of redecorating that could decrease the intensity of the piano's sound?

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#610538 - 10/02/08 01:48 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
crispin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/08
Posts: 80
Loc: france
Recently we bought a Bechstein Academy 124 - similar to the A1. We asked our tuner to visit - and I was amazed that when he tuned the highest octaves - the sound hurt my ears. Certainly I would suggest that you should start with a retune - since this should help the piano respond better when you want to play more softly.

Out of interest - can you tell me the colour of the wood of the hammer heads - is it brown (mahogany/walnut) or white (silver birch)?

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#610539 - 10/02/08 02:21 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
crispin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/08
Posts: 80
Loc: france
Thinking a bit more about your problem... you need to place something between you and the front of the piano. Thus the blanket should hang down in front towards the keyboard. Placing the blanket behind must help by cutting the reflected sound ... but the direct sound also needs to be reduced.

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#610540 - 10/02/08 07:20 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
Thank you, crispin.

However, putting a blanket in front of the piano was of no help.

I'm considering to put this piano in the room with the high-ceiling, this is my last resort. Technically, should this reduce the intensity of the sound (the decibels)?

Any tips would be helpful.

Thanks,
Fnkyazn

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#610541 - 10/03/08 01:41 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
crispin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/08
Posts: 80
Loc: france
Well to me this sounds a bit strange.... certainly playing in front of an upright one is exposed to more volume than in front of a grand piano... and if you sit there exposed to the full volume for many hours - certainly your ears are going to suffer. However you have tried earplugs, putting blankets over the piano etc etc ... and this must reduce the sound ... but the problem does not abate. Also your symptoms are 'stinging' - not buzzing in the ears or something...

However it seems correlated to your piano playing. Question: what were you doing before the Bechstein arrived... did you have a lower volume piano? Can it be that piano playing in general is having a bad effect on you (.. not sure how) .. how certain are you that it is the volume that is the problem?

Personally I would really hesitate about voicing the piano to make it less loud since the strong clear tone is part of the Bechstein sound.

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#610542 - 10/03/08 05:50 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
I am 100% certain it is the sound. My hearing is often very bad after playing piano, but eventually recovers (however this won't always be the case).

I haven't found an ear plug capable of lowering the volume, but not muffling the sound, that will fit my ear canal (which is unusually small).

At this point, voicing is what I'm interested in.
Is it possible to resize the hammers? If that is possible, then technically speaking, the sound will go down, and the clarity of tone will be preserved, yes?

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#610543 - 10/04/08 01:26 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
Erus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 386
Loc: Mexico
Custom made ear plugs work much better (and expensive) than generic ones (and would fit your ears perfectly). I think think it's not right for you to need ear plugs to be able to play your new piano.

Did you mean changing the hammers?

I'm not a technician (just a guy trying to learn about piano technology), however, I understand changing hammers is not "a small tweak". I don't know if it makes sense to change them in an upright (but that just sounds like an extreme measure to me).

It would not be cheap, and more things could need to be adjusted. I understand new hammers require more work than just putting them on your piano like you would replace the batteries on a remote. Lighter/heavier hammers can change the whole system, the action could need to be re-adjusted, not to mention that your piano would probably sound very different (might not be a good change).

Your piano was designed to use the parts it currently has, some very small adjustments can make a significant difference (hard to believe until you start changing things).

I suppose you liked the tone of your piano, trying to change it might result in a not so happy ending. You have a very nice new piano, don't have anything crazy done on the poor thing.

If you meant filing your hammers (not a big change in actual size, I hope), I suppose that would fit in the voicing category. I understand filing can remove some laquer/harder exterior felt, to get a less bright sound (maybe less power). I don't know if that could make a reasonable difference in your piano (different hammers, different results). You need to get a technician to evaluate your options *on-site*[/b].

Try moving your piano first (if the room with the higher ceiling is a bigger room, I suppose it could help... be careful!), install acoustic panels, get a technician and work together to find a combination of less radical adjustments to find the best settings. As Keith Roberts said, voicing and regulation...

Voicing the hammers could make it quiet, but I understand you should take it easy (going crazy might give you a not so pleasant tone). Maybe some compromises in the regulation could give you less power, but things could wear faster or just not feel right to you.

I understand pianos are meant to have some adjustments done to make them work as you want, just like many other machines. However, there are limits and you have to consider the (short and long-term) repercussions of the changes you make.

In a small room, "more sound" is reflected to you. In a bigger room with higher ceilings, you wouldn't be so overwhelmed (big spaces with high ceilings can cause problems, too, it depends). In a (normal) bigger room you could also have more options for carpets, rugs, couches, panels. etc. just because of the extra space (not to mention sound decay).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Are there any technicians still reading this? Any comments/corrections on the above?[/b]

It is usually a bad sign when you suddenly leave us non-techs alone in a discussion...

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#610544 - 10/04/08 08:50 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
fnkyazn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/08
Posts: 65
Loc: None
Thank you, Erus.

I actually did attempt to move the piano into the room with the high ceiling. It turns out the wheels on the piano have a tendency to get stuck, and because the piano is 700 lbs, it took a large toll on my wood floor.

So that is completely out of the question, right now. As for voicing, thanks for the advice, I emailed my tuner yesterday regarding possibilities or options, and just a general idea of what can and may be done.

For anyone else in the forum, in regards to what I can do now: I hear blankets can make the sound less extreme, is there any specific blanket that may do a better job of absorbing sound waves, than others?
...
Velvet, possibly?

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#610545 - 10/04/08 09:35 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
Erus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 386
Loc: Mexico
Heavier/thicker/softer materials will do better (thick comforters would be better than bed sheets).

Imagine bouncing a hard rubber ball on a concrete floor, now imagine trying to make it bounce on a really soft bed. Where would it bounce the least?

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#610546 - 10/04/08 09:58 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness
guest1013 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
I hope you'll have a technician in as Keith Roberts suggested regulation.

There was a similar discussion, perhaps some of the suggestions will be helpful.
loud upright
Moving your upright may require assistance and/or something to roll it upon to protect your floors.

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#2033298 - 02/14/13 08:44 PM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness [Re: fnkyazn]
Steven Y. A. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/13
Posts: 291
Loc: Toronto
Sorry to hijack this old thread.... But I am seriously considering the bechstein academy a1 as well...

Is it really that loud?
_________________________
PLEYEL P124

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#2035124 - 02/18/13 06:12 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness [Re: Steven Y. A.]
rocklandpiano Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/26/13
Posts: 19
I understand pianos are meant to have some adjustments done to make them work as you want, just like many other machines. However, there are limits and you have to consider the (short and long-term) repercussions of the changes you make.

Some common noise levels:

Whispering: below 35 dB
Talking with friends: 50-60 dB
Hair dryer low speed / 82 dBA
Flute playing lively folk tunes / 88 dBA
Underground train at 200 ft / 94 dBA
Output of bagpipes / 109 dBA
Music in a disco: 110-120 dB (amplified at 8 feet)
Symphonic music peak, some health clubs & aerobic studios : 120 dBA
Noise levels surpassing 140 dB will result in immediate and irreversible damage.
An EU directive has determined the legal limit for sound exposure is 85dB
_________________________
Piano players in Monsey, New York have relied on Charles Flaum since before 1990 for piano tuning, piano repairs and sage piano advice. Monsey, a family oriented village in Rockland County, is full of piano lovers with cherished pianos in their homes..

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#2035167 - 02/18/13 09:19 AM Re: Bechstein A1 Piano Loudness [Re: Steven Y. A.]
jim ialeggio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 732
Loc: shirley, MA
Originally Posted By: Steven Y. A.
Is it really that loud?

Pianos are powerful instruments. They all will produce some level of discomfort in some people, unless the sound is shaped to fit the room they are used in. They are in general designed to sound as if they are in Symphony Hall, even, mind-bogglingly, if they are simply humble home uprights.

In addition, all of us have different aural thresholds. One Db level for some might be comfortable, while the same Decibel level for another would be painful.

Those who experience discomfort will find the discomfort greatly reduced if the attack, ie the sound created in the first milliseconds after hammer/string impact, is kept as short as possible. The attack needs to contain as little chaotic impact noise as possible. For those experiencing pain, the impact is mostly the culprit...You want to sound to become tone as soon as possible.

This is accomplished by tone regulating. Tone regulation, epecially in a brand new instrument, will not be included in the purchase of the instrument. The piano must be "finished" by a tone regulator. Further the tone, after being shaped, must be maintained regularly to retain that preferred sound. Tuning is a big part of achieving a tone that doesn't bite the ear, but its not the whole story. Initially the tone regulator has to create the sound, and then he must maintain it regularly.

None of this happens unless you specifically purchase this service.

Interestingly, new instruments, even high value mass market instruments, never include this tone regulation. However, as a rebuilder, nothing leaves my shop without this full tone regulation. Further, all my rebuilds include a 6 month in service tone regulation. Why?? After spending a fair chunk of change on a new or rebuilt piano, new owners are not disposed to continue the outlay 6 months to a year down the road. By building the tone regulation into the price, customers experience really nice piano sound. When they then inevitably lose that sound as the piano wears a bit, they now understand just how much they have lost, and are more willing to see the cost of maintaining that sound as a the essential service that it is.

Jim Ialeggio


Edited by jim ialeggio (02/18/13 09:21 AM)
_________________________
Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA

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