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#2042183 - 03/03/13 06:35 AM Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference?
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3137
Loc: Northern England.
Do they still make `em straight strung? I liked our old upright. It was LOUD! and clear. Little resonance. But Da told me to turn down . . . considering he bought it . . .!!?

Your thoughts?
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#2042558 - 03/03/13 08:57 PM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
beethoven986 Offline
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Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3297
99.999999% of pianos made today are cross strung. A very, very small number of builders (Klavins, Paulello, Fandrich) have designed and built, or plan to build, straight strung concert grands.
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#2042675 - 03/04/13 04:09 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: beethoven986]
peterws Online   content
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Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3137
Loc: Northern England.
That is interesting. Now then. Why do they plan to do this? Do they sound different? I`ll have to look into it a bit more . . .
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"I'm playing all the right notes — but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

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#2042734 - 03/04/13 08:18 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 6122
Loc: Rochester MN
Maybe that's why digitals sound so bad. Overstrung circuits might be an improvement. ;-)
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#2043141 - 03/05/13 01:29 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3137
Loc: Northern England.
Surely somebody here has had, and liked, a straight strung piano?
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#2043146 - 03/05/13 01:39 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
BDB Online   content
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Registered: 06/07/03
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I have tuned a few. There was a Lindner grand, which was an interesting piano that Rippen designed. An old Erard, which was lovely in some ways, but impossible to assess in important ways. An old cocked hat piano, again, difficult to assess.
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#2043164 - 03/05/13 02:56 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
chopin_r_us Offline
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Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 773
Loc: UK
I remember playing on a Bechstein upright straight strung. I was pleasantly surprised.

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#2043165 - 03/05/13 02:59 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5066
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: peterws
Surely somebody here has had, and liked, a straight strung piano?

Although the piano I'm actually building is over-strung—kind of—I do like the flat-strung concept in principle.

Flat-strung pianos lost the great power wars during the late 1800s when the large, powerful over-strung designs came along and took over. But during the transition there were some very nice flat-strung pianos built.

There are inherent advantages and disadvantages to both designs; much of it size-related. Most of the modern pianos—both grands and verticals—built and sold today are relatively short. And in short scales over-stringing does have the advantage of laying things out for longer strings in the low tenor and bass sections. The disadvantage that accompanies these longer scales is that by separating the bass and tenor bridges impedance matching between the two becomes more difficult.

But in longer pianos a modern flat-strung grand piano design could be made to work very nicely. (Just ask anyone who has spent some quality time with one of the large flat-strung Chickering grands that were built from the 1860s on.

I think it would be quite exciting to bring back the flat-strung concept in production pianos but applying modern piano design and construction technologies. At the very least it would offer a viable alternative to the large, powerful (too powerful, in the opinion of many) semi-concert and concert grand sizes.

ddf
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#2043169 - 03/05/13 03:03 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: BDB]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5066
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: BDB
I have tuned a few. There was a Lindner grand, which was an interesting piano that Rippen designed. An old Erard, which was lovely in some ways, but impossible to assess in important ways. An old cocked hat piano, again, difficult to assess.

Rippen also sold a very similar grand under the Rippen name with slightly upscale casework.

They also made flat-strung verticals well into the 1970s. Interesting pianos visually and mechanically, but they were rather poorly scaled.

ddf
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#2043183 - 03/05/13 03:46 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3137
Loc: Northern England.
It does seem to me that the longer the (grand) piano, the less benefit accrued by cross stringing. Some of `em go up to 10 feet or so. But the resonance and perhaps therefore the volume, may be advantageous if the bass strings were centrally mounted within the soundboard .. . Having said that, straight strung bass strings would lie along the LH wall of the piano, and would form a sound chamber of their own which could well compensate. And of course, cross resonances would be minimised. . . maybe.
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#2043372 - 03/05/13 01:24 PM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5066
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: peterws
It does seem to me that the longer the (grand) piano, the less benefit accrued by cross stringing. Some of `em go up to 10 feet or so. But the resonance and perhaps therefore the volume, may be advantageous if the bass strings were centrally mounted within the soundboard .. . Having said that, straight strung bass strings would lie along the LH wall of the piano, and would form a sound chamber of their own which could well compensate. And of course, cross resonances would be minimised. . . maybe.

What resonances? We like to talk about how the soundboard “resonates” but soundboard resonances are not necessarily a good thing.

The main drawback to the flat-strung configuration is the placement of the bass bridge. If the strings are laid out more-or-less parallel to each other—and assuming the bass side is perpendicular to the front of the keyboard—then the bass bridge ends up very close to the rim and its motion is restricted by the stiffness of the soundboard panel. Unless, of course, the soundboard panel floats along the side; a technique that was used by several builders to free up the motion of the soundboard system. Another technique was to angle the bass side out some to provide more space between the bass bridge and the rim. A combination of these two actually worked fairly well.

Others tried fanning the string layout making the side-to-side spacing of the strings tighter so that the bass bridge ended up closer to the center of the soundboard. While this worked acoustically it had the drawback of placing the bridge pins very close to each other often leading to early bridge failure.

I don’t understand what is meant by, “straight strung bass strings would lie along the LH wall of the piano, and would form a sound chamber of their own which could well compensate.” Strings do not form sound chambers.

Nor am I sure what is meant by, “cross resonances would be minimized….” Cross-coupling—the transfer of energy from one bridge to the other via common ribs—is certainly minimized (or eliminated). But I’m not sure if this is what you mean.

ddf
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ddfandrich@gmail.com
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2043388 - 03/05/13 01:50 PM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 316
Loc: UK
I'll add my " two and six pence" worth !
About Thirty years back in Durban S.Africa I bought an 1860 Carl Ecke upright, I'd been looking for one because those I'd heard had a fantastic sound.
Now I took this overdaped and I think stright strung piano inland to Zimbabwe - a place which can be as "dry as heck", there the pin-block dried out so I removed all the pins and had them copper plated.
I write "I think it was straight strung" because I had no trouble refitting the strings !! I can not remember for sure!
Well this piano is now in Perth Australia and I'm in Blighty. I "know" (please note the inverted commas") a great deal more about uprights and the fact that the positioning of the base bridge is a real problem when the instrument is overstrung.

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#2043478 - 03/05/13 05:00 PM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: Del]
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3137
Loc: Northern England.
"I don’t understand what is meant by, “straight strung bass strings would lie along the LH wall of the piano, and would form a sound chamber of their own which could well compensate.” Strings do not form sound chambers."

Just a thought of mine. Interaction between string and soundboard or soundchamber in the case of a guitar or violin is what gives it tone and volume. Now, if I place my Digital next to a wardrobe so the LH vertically facing speaker is in the corner, I find I get a far deeper volumous sound than if it was places, say, in the middle of the room . .. .
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#2043524 - 03/05/13 06:53 PM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5066
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: peterws
"I don’t understand what is meant by, “straight strung bass strings would lie along the LH wall of the piano, and would form a sound chamber of their own which could well compensate.” Strings do not form sound chambers."

Just a thought of mine. Interaction between string and soundboard or soundchamber in the case of a guitar or violin is what gives it tone and volume. Now, if I place my Digital next to a wardrobe so the LH vertically facing speaker is in the corner, I find I get a far deeper volumous sound than if it was places, say, in the middle of the room . .. .

This would be a function of room acoustics; not one of piano design or construction.

While early fortepianos may have had the bottom of the skeleton structure sealed off, modern pianos do not. They are open both top and bottom. There is no sound, or tone chamber.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2043714 - 03/06/13 01:59 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: Del]
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3137
Loc: Northern England.
Then what is it that gives it it`s tone and volume?
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes — but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

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#2043746 - 03/06/13 03:24 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20766
Loc: Oakland
The tone and volume of piano are due to a complex relationship of the design, workmanship, and materials, especially of the strings, soundboard, action and hammers, as well as the frame that holds them all together. It may further be modified by the room acoustics, and that relationship can be modified by careful voicing.
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#2043776 - 03/06/13 06:16 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: Del]
chopin_r_us Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 773
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: Del

While early fortepianos may have had the bottom of the skeleton structure sealed off, modern pianos do not. They are open both top and bottom. There is no sound, or tone chamber.
You know, it's never occurred to me that my square piano has a soundbox and uprights or grand pianos don't. My bad! Any histories of the soundbox out there?

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#2043863 - 03/06/13 10:40 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5066
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: peterws
Then what is it that gives it it`s tone and volume?

Do you mean generally or specifically? Generally, BDB’s post pretty well covers it.

Specifically, vibrating energy from the strings is coupled to the soundboard via the bridge(s) which causes the soundboard assembly to vibrate. The vibrating soundboard assembly creates sound energy in the surrounding air.

A flatstrung piano could be designed and built that produces essentially the same amount of acoustical power as its overstrung counterpart. There are not, as yet, any modern flatstrung piano—although this may change soon—but there are no fundamental design or technical reasons limiting the power output of flatstrung architecture that are not also found in overstrung architecture. (With the possible exception of the very low bass and I think the jury is still out on that.)

Since the only examples of flatstrung pianos extant are those built during the 1800s, and those generally represent the musical standards and desires of the day, we tend to view them as somehow limited in their acoustical performance. But anyone who has rebuilt a nice old flatstrung Chickering concert grand knows better.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2043875 - 03/06/13 11:20 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
check out this 1890s Erard piano and the story behind it...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q098PYwaZX0

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#2043886 - 03/06/13 11:38 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20766
Loc: Oakland
There are commercially made flat strung pianos extant that have been built since the 1800s: Rippen/Lindner and Malmsjo made them, to name a couple. They come and go.
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#2187127 - 11/23/13 12:12 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
SweetMusicLover Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/20/12
Posts: 11
Loc: Pennsylvania
Brace yourselves folks. I already am well into the first design fazes for producing a straight strung grand. The main purpose is focused on the production of a piano that suits me and is meant for personal use rather than mass production. But I certainly wouldn't turn down the proper price when it was done. I have to eat as well.

It will, as Del mentioned, have a float in the bass corner and the long side will be obtuse to the leading edge of the keyboard. It will continue to drift away from the bass bridge as it goes down the piano since the "straight" side will be given a conservative arc away from that area. Because of this arc, I am opting to use a plate design that carries a strong metallic member down that straight side instead of the usual method of leaving that out. A straight stringing will obviously create tension planes that require support but this has been done in other ways than using a full length strut.

Some straight strung Bechsteins had what I could describe as a "bubble" at the point where the bass bridge neared the last notes. This was created to put more board between the rastin and the bridge but it also afforded them a place to put a metal support that was short and terminated right into the rim (which took the load from there.)

However, my reason is also to compensate for the fact that the straight side isn't really straight and that means it will lose some of its force resistance and would be capable of creating a pressure into the sound board if not properly supported to prevent this. Some pressure into the board can be good but it also must be controlled and this certainly wouldn't be without these support structures. I will also be making the inner rim quite decidedly beefy and the substructure under the sound board will be reminiscent of the grid support set used by Bosendorfer.

We'll all get a chance to take a listen to what a piano would sound like if it were built with a bottom like the harpsichords and clavichords of old. Although old square grands also seem to have a sealed box under them, in fact, they don't. Square grands needed that bottom to help stabilize the stringing and the tuning and there may have been cursory tonal effects but the cavities under those boards were well vented via the hammer access points and action cavity.

A truly sealed box under a sound board is something to learn about from a harpsichord builder or a luthier as they deal with such contrivances every day. There was the occasional harpsichord maker in days of old that did not use a tone hole in their sound boards. I presume they did so to force the internal air to become a bigger player in the sound game. Being so sealed off, they had to serve as a sort of soft overall spring responding to the sound board. This is something such makers can play with since they have so much lighter contraptions to play with and sound boards as thin as 1/16". Amazing that a 1/16" thick sound board could not only support the pressure of the strings (on as many as four individual bridges) down onto it but also had the strings mounted to them like a flat top guitar. Amazing. But even they must make some form of venting system to maximize tone as the "F" hole, tone hole of a guitar and harpsichord/clavichord testify to. Obviously, this is a topic that is a debate in a vacuum as the results are all over the map and predicting outcomes is a touchy business for the very best of them.

Harpsichord builders are an odd lot and fairly closed mouthed about their art but there is knowledge out there for the finding. These "tone boxes" under the sound boards had definite effects that are difficult to quantify or describe. Yet no self respecting harpsichord builder would ever consider leaving it out. One maker who will remain nameless tried it and the entire community basically cast him from their midst.

I believe that careful management of such an air cavity under a piano sound board can provide beneficial and useful tonal variations of musical usefulness and especially with a straight strung configuration (why would it be better for a straight strung? - I don't know and I can't prove it so feel free to disagree.) But it should probably be something that can be removed if desired or even, possibly, be made to open itself on demand. However it comes off, in today's world, such a contrivance is not an unworthy study but should be produced to be reversible should it prove unlovely. Harpsichords and Clavichords would implode without their bottom boards. That is, most of them.

One point not mentioned in this discussion yet and I am a "Johnny Come Lately" to this discussion and may be venting my thoughts into an empty void is that the bass bridge on a straight strung piano is (unless a designer chooses otherwise - which would be unwise methinks) that the bass bridge's height is similar or equal to that of the treble bridge.

It is my belief that the bass bridge has been in need of special treatments from cross grained kerfing to weight reduction via cut voids to reduce weight for a very long time. Even lead weighting has been used to add inertia to bass bridges of more modern construction (insanity IMO as it doesn't solve the cause of a problem but puts a band aid over a problem that needs solved.)

Mostly you find this added flexibility and lightening of bass bridges done by the better makers: Bechstein is my pet example in this as they seem to have been doing it first and most diligently; compared to other makes. That's a personal observation that is easily mistaken. But Bechstein and other good makers did do this. Bad makers did it much less often. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a Steinway with any weight reduction holes or holes for tonal control added - as an example which probably reveals the degree of my love for that maker.

With a bridge that is the same height as the treble bridge, the bass bridge becomes more flexible on its own. The only danger I perceive is that any bad scaling that produces loud inharmonic quantities in the tonal column will have those mistakes telegraphed through the bridge and into the board since there isn't enough bridge height to help choke them out before they can do their worst.

So, if you plan to make a straight strung piano, be mindful of your scale. Very, very mindful. And keep in mind that the great master violin masters even had this issue to contend with. That is why instruments from the Violin to the Double Bass have bridges which prevent direct sound transfer from the string to the sound board. All vibrations must take a circuitous route to there sound board.

I believe that a lower bass bridge will be more flexible and perfectly suited to the straight strung piano (but a float - as Del said - is a must, IMO) but one must not forget that some of the virtues of the aproned bridge and the mountainously tall bridges of the largest pianos serve to prevent the transmission of high, unwanted partials. These could easily leak through on a shorter bridge so let the builder beware.


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#2187142 - 11/23/13 01:32 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3340
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Sweet Music Lover, this sounds like a fascinating project. I'll be interested to see how it goes. Who is going to be casting the plate for you? Will you be using CAD software to determine the strength and design of the plate? Where are you sourcing the action from?

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#2187214 - 11/23/13 08:40 AM Re: Overstrung or straight? Tonal difference? [Re: peterws]
wouter79 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3246
I play an old straight strung frequently on my lesson. Yes it sounds different, the bass is much less full and more clear. But the piano design is very different from today's. The dampers are different, the metal frame is much lighter it seems, so the string tension probably also is a lot lower, etc. So it is hard to tell what exactly is the contribution of the straight stringing.

As Del said above, the main reason for cross stringing I think is to locate the bass bridge more towards the center of the sound board to improve the sound transmission to the sound board.

So it does not matter where you put the STRINGS. What matters is where you put the bridge on the sound board. And how the sound board is mounted/ how it can vibrate.
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