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#2055073 - 03/27/13 12:25 PM Increasing Sustain
pianokeys135 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Hey everyone -

I have a question!

How do you go about increasing the sustain on a piano. Is it just all in the soundboard and plate? How important are the hammers? (I'm not interested in digital options...)

Thanks!
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pianokeys135
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#2055075 - 03/27/13 12:27 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
BDB Online   content
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Hold the key or the pedal down longer.
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#2055079 - 03/27/13 12:37 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7164
Loc: France
Less energy loss at bridge is the first option
a friend used to believe he aadded downbearing, by hardly tapping the wire in the bridge surface, because the wood harden under the wire the sustain increase (the bridge top is shot , after some time)

On the hammer side a lot can be said , the lowest partials are providing more energy, hence the impression of longer sustain when pre needling is done well (or re done at some point)

On the tuning side, if the coupling is well done within the whole spectra, between 3 strings that have most generally different pitched partials, the sustain is enghanced, while if we try to learn the note to tone all immediately, there is a sort of fight between partials that use too much energy.
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#2055233 - 03/27/13 05:32 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Supply Offline
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Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Some pianos simply have more and better sustain. Although hammer exchange or voicing can make a difference on a good piano, the limitations are in what the acoustic body of the instrument will allow.

To remove the hammer as a factor you can pluck a string with a guitar pick. If the hammer produces a shorter sustain, then improvement is possible by working on the hammers. This could lead to a fairly costly hammer replacement.

If the hammer produced tone has the same sustain, then the soundboard/bridge/string assembly in its present state is not capable of more. Changing that is fairly invasive and also costly.

Are you not happy with your W. Hoffman piano? Was it made in Germany and how old is it now?
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Piano Forte Supply
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#2055263 - 03/27/13 06:35 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Bosendorff Offline
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Registered: 08/11/12
Posts: 255
If you are still looking for a new piano, usually a lower-tension scale design can offer better sustain (see here).

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#2055295 - 03/27/13 07:32 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
pianokeys135 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Supply - you wrote

Quote:
Are you not happy with your W. Hoffman piano? Was it made in Germany and how old is it now?


I am pretty happy with the tone of my Hoffmann. It's a T128 model, made in the Czech Republic I believe, although I'm not sure where all the parts are from. It's about 3 years old.

It's just I'm looking to upgrade to a grand for a number of reasons. I'm being confronted with the hard reality that I want a $60k piano, but I'm looking more in the $15-30K range, so I'm trying to get as good of an instrument as possible. Seemingly many of the lower cost grands are lacking in sustain, and I'm trying to find something I can afford that I'm going to be happy with.
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#2055299 - 03/27/13 07:38 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
pianokeys135 Offline
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Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Quote:
usually a lower-tension scale design can offer better sustain (see here).


Thanks for that info Bosendorff. That's helpful - I didn't know that.
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pianokeys135
amateur piano player

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#2055307 - 03/27/13 07:54 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7164
Loc: France
Well if the hammers are left too hard to give the impression of tonal color, you may miss sustain.

The trick Jurgen gaves you is the best to choose a piano, hammers can be old or need some work, if you take the habit to pluck the strings and listen to the tone quality (not only sustain unless you mean thickness of tone) you will detect easily a piano that have a poor soundboard.

Try to make some comparaisons whenever you have the opportunity, and compare the tone of always the same note, for instance C64 on differnt instruments;

Listen how is the tone alimentation...
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#2055308 - 03/27/13 07:58 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
pianokeys135 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Wow - Thanks - I hadn't thought of plucking the strings to try to take the hammers out of the equation. Great idea! How do dealers feel about plucking the strings with a guitar pick, though?

And what kind of pick?? I guess a medium soft pick would be sort of neutral. Maybe a bass pick for the lower notes. I may be going a bit far on this one...
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pianokeys135
amateur piano player

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#2055309 - 03/27/13 07:58 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1863
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
The hammer mass becomes ever more critical to sustain as you move up the compass. When the fundamental frequency of the notes nears 1K HZ-a relatively small reduction in the mass of almost all piano hammers will increase the sustain. It does this because the hammer string contact time in this portion of the piano compass is long enough that several fundamental vibrations occur before the hammer leaves the string. A lighter hammer here will damp the string less thus leaving more energy in the string.

Consult with a piano technician who understands this and has experience reducing hammer mass as part of the tone regulation process.
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#2055312 - 03/27/13 08:00 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
pianokeys135 Offline
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Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Thanks Ed. When you say "up the compass" I assume you mean - from the lower notes to the higher ones?
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pianokeys135
amateur piano player

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#2055410 - 03/28/13 12:21 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: Bosendorff]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: Bosendorff
If you are still looking for a new piano, usually a lower-tension scale design can offer better sustain (see here).
Wow, the anonymous author of that site comes up with some crass generalizations!
I think many real experts would dispute that a higher tension scale means or results in a shorter sustain. All or most concert grands have what you could consider a high tension scale. Is there anything inherently wrong with or short about the sustain of Steinway D? Ignore that "helpful information".

Originally Posted By: pianokeys135
How do dealers feel about plucking the strings with a guitar pick, though?

And what kind of pick?? I guess a medium soft pick would be sort of neutral. Maybe a bass pick for the lower notes. I may be going a bit far on this one...
YMMV from one dealer to the next. Perhaps ask them to do it for you so you can stand back and listen. I specified a guitar pick because you never want to pluck a string with your bare finger, especially not in a showroom. You don't need to obsess about what kind of pick, or worry about plucking the bass strings - it is in the treble where sustain is an issue.
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Piano Forte Supply
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#2055439 - 03/28/13 01:41 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Withindale Offline
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Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1918
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
The hammer mass becomes ever more critical to sustain as you move up the compass. When the fundamental frequency of the notes nears 1K HZ-a relatively small reduction in the mass of almost all piano hammers will increase the sustain. It does this because the hammer string contact time in this portion of the piano compass is long enough that several fundamental vibrations occur before the hammer leaves the string. A lighter hammer here will damp the string less thus leaving more energy in the string.


Would you please clarify the trade-offs here, Ed?

You appear to be saying that most pianos have hammers that are too heavy to maximise energy transfer to the string and sustain. Presumably there is a reason for this.
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Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
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#2055445 - 03/28/13 01:57 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: Withindale]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1863
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Withindale,
Well I can't speak for any specific manufacturer. But I will tell you that the first class I ever took on tone regulation was taught by Fred Drasche who was chief tone regulator at NY Steinway then. The first words out of his mouth were "the hammer has got to get away from the string",and "the voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape". I struggled with understanding that at the time. Then a couple of years later I was visiting my brother who was finishing his electrical engineering degree and he said "Ed, the inertia of the hammer has to be very significant to the tone of the piano".

I went on from there to eventually launch a systematic investigation into hammer mass/tone/touch issues. The simplest model is to think of the hammer as a kind of exciting "damper". An engineer would say "It is the mass of the hammer in proportion to the periodicity of the string that is most significant to the transfer of hammer momentum into string momentum".
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#2055446 - 03/28/13 01:59 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1863
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Yes. 1K Hz is the second B flat above mid C.
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#2055449 - 03/28/13 02:08 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1294
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Withindale,
Well I can't speak for any specific manufacturer. But I will tell you that the first class I ever took on tone regulation was taught by Fred Drasche who was chief tone regulator at NY Steinway then. The first words out of his mouth were "the hammer has got to get away from the string",and "the voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape". I struggled with understanding that at the time. Then a couple of years later I was visiting my brother who was finishing his electrical engineering degree and he said "Ed, the inertia of the hammer has to be very significant to the tone of the piano".

I went on from there to eventually launch a systematic investigation into hammer mass/tone/touch issues. The simplest model is to think of the hammer as a kind of exciting "damper". An engineer would say "It is the mass of the hammer in proportion to the periodicity of the string that is most significant to the transfer of hammer momentum into string momentum".


Mass is one factor. Perhaps not the most significant. There are tradeoffs.

The energy imparted to the string is mass times the square of the velocity of the impact PLUS the square of the velocity of the rebound.

So, velocity is exponentially more significant than the mass.

Elasticity (springiness) affects the rebound velocity. Reducing mass for any given level of elasticity makes the hammer function as though it were less elastic. (picture a truck with heavy springs carrying a heavy load or a light load)

Light hammers (other things being equal) will result in a slower key return. (Only source for powering the key return is hammer mass plus maybe rep spring tension).

This is not to say make hammers light, heavy, elastic or otherwise -- just that these are factors. We tend to get in trouble when we absolutize one factor at the expense of others.

_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2055496 - 03/28/13 06:23 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7164
Loc: France
YEs I amalways a little reluctant with too much pushed generalisations.

The way the hammers are voiced, their style of pressing, the shanks sorting and adjusting, (the jead orientation and move in the vertical "horizontal" plane at moment of impact ,all that will also influence the way the energy is transferred.
(I forget the unison coupling, but you may be bored with that)

So from something I am basically agreeing with (no need to have too massive hammers to have a nice treble, light hammers produce an opened tone) generalisation may tend to give apelicular piano tone systematically.

We have her an expert voicer that consider all pianos may have "the French tone" he use all the hammer ressources, cut the power of FFF, and cut the base of the sghank so it is extremely flexible. that seem to provide a variety of tone colors at lower levels of playing but no possibility to play strong (and it is not reversible as you can imagine)

He may get that direction with extra light hammers, possibly.

greetings
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#2055613 - 03/28/13 11:16 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1863
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Keith and Isaak,
The primary physics of the hammer/string contact time are most definitely a function of the hammer mass in relation to the frequency of the string. The non-linear elastic hammer felt/string contact time interactions have no impact on contact time.

Compare the elastic return rate of a string that you displace by pushing on it with your finger to the return of hammer felt from the same finger push-you can watch the felt spring back and you cannot remove your finger from any at pitch piano string as quickly as the T-modes move.

Force equals Mass times Acceleration to calculate impact speed does not tell you the resultant energy transfer into a taut piano string-you must have a factor for the speed of the string as well.

When shaping a hammer to reduce mass you shape on all the surfaces but the wearing one to reduce mass. This reduces the damping function which will increase sustain and brighten the tone. Many heavy, dense hammers will sound way too bright when you reduce the mass enough to improve sustain. For the OP-the need to have a tone regulator who can asses this important.

The "LightHammer Tone Regulation" protocols I developed some 30 years ago and continue to employ also include removing nearly all of the front key-leads. Repetition and ability to sense the speed imparted into the hammer at the key are evident in the greatest amount possible for a piano this way. I have done hundreds of pianos this way and the artists acceptance is well established. I have done tests where pianists choose from several pianos with varying hammer weights. Almost universally the performers choose the piano with the lightest hammers-even when the have been told by naysayers that what I do is radical!

The OP wants more sustain-lighter hammers is the only significant way to get that in the treble.
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#2055917 - 03/28/13 10:40 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
pianokeys135 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Wow - thanks for the input - this all seems very complicated...I'm too tired to try to digest this right now - this reminds me of high school physics class. F=MA. Maybe I should just get a piano that already has good sustain!!

The context of my question is that I'm piano shopping, and sometimes I find a piano that sounds ok, but doesn't have a great sustain. I'm wondering if it makes sense to try to increase the sustain on a piano like this, or just look for a different piano. This process of trying to find a piano I like for a decent price seems like it will continue forever.... cry
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pianokeys135
amateur piano player

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#2055931 - 03/28/13 11:16 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
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Pianos do not have sustain. They may have slower or faster decay.

Most of what you are getting here are methods of making the piano louder. The louder you play, the longer you can hear the decay.

To slow the decay, what is necessary is to lessen the loss of sound energy. The only way you can do that is with changes in design.

However, it is possible that with proper excitation of the string (the way the hammer hits the string), there might be more components of the sound that retain their energy longer, or fewer components that drain the energy faster. This could be affected by adjusting the characteristics of the hammer.

But the only way that the lay person can slow the decay is by holding the key or using the pedal to hold the damper up. That delays the release of the tone, which is the end of the decay.
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#2055941 - 03/28/13 11:38 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
pianokeys135 Offline
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Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Yeah - I guess what I'm talking about is slowing the decay, slowing down the speed at which the volume fades away. Some pianos have a strong attack, and then the volume of the notes fades quickly. Others have more of a "singing" tone such that the notes last much longer. I've found that I like a tone that lasts quite a while before it dies off.

I'm not talking about how I can slow the decay of the notes by playing differently, I'm wondering how a technician might go about making changes in the piano that make the decay slower, and how hard (or costly) that is to do. laugh

It does seem to me like a good deal of it is the scale design and interaction of all the different piano components, but I'm curious about how much is downbearing, soundboard, hammers, etc.

Thanks
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pianokeys135
amateur piano player

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#2055947 - 03/28/13 11:54 PM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1863
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Part of a tone regulation process that also increases sustain, (OK BDB-delays decay) is to have the unison strings struck in phase by aligning and fitting the strings and hammers together. This increases unison coupling which makes it seem like the tone decays slower for the first few seconds (when in fact it may shorten the entire possible sustain time of a unison over a 10 or so second time frame). Unison coupling keeps more of the transverse mode energy in the fundamental.
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#2055961 - 03/29/13 12:17 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
kpembrook Offline
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Registered: 04/06/10
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Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Keith and Isaak,

The OP wants more sustain-lighter hammers is the only significant way to get that in the treble.


No, it isn't. It is one approach-- which has its advantages and trade-offs. A more dynamic hammer will also produce increased sustain. So will the Wapin bridge modification.
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Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2056064 - 03/29/13 07:34 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7164
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Part of a tone regulation process that also increases sustain, (OK BDB-delays decay) is to have the unison strings struck in phase by aligning and fitting the strings and hammers together. This increases unison coupling which makes it seem like the tone decays slower for the first few seconds (when in fact it may shorten the entire possible sustain time of a unison over a 10 or so second time frame). Unison coupling keeps more of the transverse mode energy in the fundamental.


One more is to make decent unisons and not try to have that concentration of tone that robs energy.

just by tuning you can get the thickness of the tone modified.

Ed you state very well explained and demonstrated things , I agree that above a certain weight in the treble you mostly will have a bit more dynamic assuming the hammer felt is well worked, but the way the string energy is alimented/dissipated play a role also . tuned duplexes for instance may rob some thickness to the sustain, in my opinion.

A firmer pin setting will add sustain in an audible way, all the tuners that understand what is meant there can hear that difference, it is just a firmer string termination so it make sense.

Of course the hammer weight is a good part of it, but you don't need to be so extreme wink

If the strings are tense enough to accept to have the hammer rebound , if the shank participates enough etc ... See Bluethners for instance.

I certainly dont mean "massive" hammers in the treble, nor too thick felt.
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#2056066 - 03/29/13 07:40 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7164
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Unison coupling keeps more of the transverse mode energy in the fundamental.


If you focus it not on the fundamental but on the second partial and above, you lengthen the tone as well...

The fundamental absorb more energy than partials if they are not lining well they will be "driven" by the fundamental, if the line well by themselves, the fundamental will be more free.

Apparently very often the spectra is non consistent (due to differences in wire elasticity depending of the place, in fact possible defects of the tensed wire.)

Coupling only on fundamental leave the partials going their way, robbing energy more until they are 'ruled' by the fundamental.

It can be noticed then that higher levels of dynamics are less possible

Cleaning the spectra first allow a fine regulation of the mix.


Edited by Olek (03/29/13 07:41 AM)
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#2056114 - 03/29/13 09:42 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7164
Loc: France
double post ...

a moment musical as an apology


Edited by Olek (03/29/13 09:46 AM)
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#2056115 - 03/29/13 09:44 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7164
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: pianokeys135
Yeah - I guess what I'm talking about is slowing the decay, slowing down the speed at which the volume fades away. Some pianos have a strong attack, and then the volume of the notes fades quickly. Others have more of a "singing" tone such that the notes last much longer. I've found that I like a tone that lasts quite a while before it dies off.

I'm not talking about how I can slow the decay of the notes by playing differently, I'm wondering how a technician might go about making changes in the piano that make the decay slower, and how hard (or costly) that is to do. laugh

It does seem to me like a good deal of it is the scale design and interaction of all the different piano components, but I'm curious about how much is downbearing, soundboard, hammers, etc.

Thanks

If you can hear that coupling job, on a small but not too hard vertical :

Not edited, I did that for demonstration

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6GjQDkF_AMQeExXUDRFNGJjY3M/edit?usp=sharing

Wav file, it is a bit large

Once coupled the delay between fundamental and partials can be reduced.

Tuners hear the effect so a pianist with sensitive ears should


possibly you could try to listen to the tuning done by different tuners and see if there is a solution there for you

I also have a sample of bad utilization of the energy immediately, that shorten the tone, but I may ask autorisation
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#2059764 - 04/05/13 11:03 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
pianokeys135 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/08
Posts: 184
Loc: Greater NYC Area
Thanks for the info. I've been really busy lately looking at pianos, but I'm very interested in this discussion.

It seems that there are a lot of factors that can change the amount of sustain - tuning, hammer weight, pin setting, voicing, soundboard, overall piano construction, etc.

I'm trying to separate them in my head between things that can be changed after purchase in the home, and things that would require a full rebuild or sending a piano out of the home (or studio or school) to a workshop / factory environment for work.

Maybe there are three levels - The first being full rebuild, changing soundboard, bridge, and everything but the plate and the case. The second being a middle range that would cost more than about $500 - $1,000 -- maybe replacing the entire action or putting high quality Renner or Abel hammers on and then having them voiced, perhaps adding some regulation work. The third level being something that a technician can do in the home after purchase and a dealer might do for free after the purchase of a $30,000 or more piano, like tuning, voicing, and regulation work - to fit the piano to the space after it has had time to settle.

Here's a question - How much can the sustain be increased by things in the third group? Let's say a piano can have a treble sustain of 1-100, with 1 being the lowest and 100 the highest. How much could you increase it from a starting point of about 30 using methods in the third group, assuming that the piano has a good overall construction?

Thanks!

Olek - I was able to download your file - thanks - I'm going to listen to it now.
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pianokeys135
amateur piano player

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#2059777 - 04/05/13 11:26 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1863
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
By following the protocols of my LightHammer Tone Regulation Procedure which I published in my text titled "The Educated Piano"-The sustain at note 88 can be doubled or tripled. The effect is reduced exponentially as you move towards the bass. Hammers mass in the bass of a piano affects touch response much more than tone.
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#2059780 - 04/05/13 11:29 AM Re: Increasing Sustain [Re: pianokeys135]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21251
Loc: Oakland
For every $100 you send me, I will increase your pianos sustain by 5%. No limit!
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