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Topic Options
#2075883 - 05/02/13 12:39 PM soft pedal
vulpesvulpes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/09
Posts: 8
Hi,
I recently purchased a new Kawai K3 which I am delighted with. However, My music room has virtually no soft furnishing or carpet and the instrument sounds a little brighter than I'd prefer. As it is some weeks before I'll get it tuned/revoiced, would it be a problem if I consistently used the soft pedal to remove some of the brighter overtones? I realise that it is not great from a technique point of view, but I never normally use the soft pedal at all. I'm mainly concerned that it might be a mechanical problem if it is permanently depressed.

Thanks,
Richard

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#2075890 - 05/02/13 12:53 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
Zeno Wood Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/07
Posts: 447
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Congrats on the new Kawai! I can't see that you would do any harm to the instrument by using the soft pedal a lot, but the soft pedal doesn't actually make it a whole lot softer. Voicing it down is one possible solution, but I think that you'd get the best results from treating the room. A carpet and some curtains or something will make a big difference.
_________________________
Zeno Wood, Piano Technician
Brooklyn College

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#2075946 - 05/02/13 02:45 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: Zeno Wood]
ando Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3581
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Zeno Wood
I can't see that you would do any harm to the instrument by using the soft pedal a lot, but the soft pedal doesn't actually make it a whole lot softer.


I hear this a lot, and surprisingly from a lot of techs, but in my experience it comes down to how the soft pedal is adjusted on an upright. I tend to adjust the pedal nut so that there hammers are brought considerably closer to the strings. The effect is significant, much easier to play very softly and the tone is much mellower. When adjusted that way it is like the half-blow pedal found on sound grand pianos. I only have it adjusted this way so that I can play softly in the small hours of the night without disturbing the neighbours. Aside from that, I try not to use the soft pedal and try to accomplish my dynamics with touch alone.

The reason for the lower volume is obvious, but I suspect the reason for the mellower tone is that the hammer is able to reach the strings at a lower velocity and as a result doesn't rebound as quickly - by not rebounding as quickly it's in contact with the string slightly longer and some of the higher partials are damped. Note that I'm more talking about the softer dynamics for this phenomenon. Once you started hitting the keys harder and approaching normal dynamics with no soft pedal, the effect is reduced.

I haven't noticed any deleterious effect from my "extreme soft" pedal on the action of my piano.

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#2076125 - 05/02/13 07:45 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
It won't have a detrimental effect on the piano to use the soft pedal all the time, save for some slightly different wear patterns on the hammer butt, but it will certainly have a massive effect on your technique. The level of control you achieve playing with the soft pedal engaged is greatly reduced, and if you adapt to it there will be a knock-on effect when you play on other pianos and stop using the pedal.

I'd recommend either getting it voiced down, which will probably be quite effective if you have a technician competent in voicing techniques, or treat the room with soft materials. Or of course a combination of the two.
_________________________
Phil Dickson
The Cycling Piano Tuner

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#2076128 - 05/02/13 07:55 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7431
Loc: Rochester MN
While you are waiting for your tuner/tech, an easy solution is hanging a quilt behind the piano. The puffier the better.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2076174 - 05/02/13 09:01 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: Zeno Wood]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2099
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Zeno Wood
Congrats on the new Kawai! I can't see that you would do any harm to the instrument by using the soft pedal a lot, but the soft pedal doesn't actually make it a whole lot softer. Voicing it down is one possible solution, but I think that you'd get the best results from treating the room. A carpet and some curtains or something will make a big difference.
+1 What Mr. Wood said.
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2076358 - 05/03/13 12:22 AM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
vulpesvulpes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/09
Posts: 8
Thanks for all of your advice.

I'll start off with the quilt at the back and speak to the shop about having a tuner/voicer come over.

Cheers,
Richard

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#2076376 - 05/03/13 01:20 AM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1708
Loc: London, England
To answer your question.

I have seen older uprights with worn leathers caused by the piano being played heavily while in a poor state of regulation. The jack continually hits the leather instead of pushing it. The action will become worn enough that proper regulation becomes impossible.

There are many pianists who don't have the finer motor skills to play with much dynamic range who use the left pedal on an upright to make their banging less objectionable. This will cause the same type of unnecessary wear.

While playing reasonably with the left pedal permanently down as a temporary measure for a few weeks will not do much harm, consider this, if merely creating a gap in the upright action to create a softer sound works for you, why not practice creating that same softer sound without the left pedal? Yes, it takes much concentration and practice but will give you a skill that will serve you well in all your playing and an advantage in your playing that the vast majority of pianists lack.

Opening the lid just by the amount that the short stick provided in the K3 allows will give you more depth of tone that will make it easier to take the edge off the tone with your playing.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#2076636 - 05/03/13 12:44 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
TunerJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 469
Loc: Oregon Coast
I agree with RXD that playing the piano with the soft-pedal always depressed can cause excessive wear on the parts. And PhilD also makes an excellent point on the poor technique this can cause. It essentially will play like a badly regulated piano; poor control and a diminshed range of power and dynamics is not what a pianist really wants.

Treat the room! Break up the flat reflective surfaces on the floor and walls with carpet and fabric hangings. If needed; hang a quilt down the back of the piano, too.

Voicing can certainly take the 'edge' off a truly harsh piano, but the Kawai you have is not generally an 'over-bright' instrument, and I'd be looking at the acoustics of the room before asking the technician to work those hammers into puffballs.

Lots of good advice in those answers,
I think,
therefore...I TUNE!
_________________________
Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com

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#2076650 - 05/03/13 01:06 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
vulpesvulpes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/09
Posts: 8
Thanks,

I value everybodys input and can keenly see the point raised about technique. I'll speak to my teacher, and no doubt he will agree (him being a bit of a task master!) I suspect a period of slow and soft exercises and scales are on the cards.
Treating the room is more difficult. I can easily damp the back of the piano with a quilt, and the floor is about 60% covered with dense rugs. However, the 13' high walls and large windows (nearly 100 square feet,)are more difficult I suspect.

Richard

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#2076687 - 05/03/13 02:19 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
Zeno Wood Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/07
Posts: 447
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
I'm not usually one to call Gotcha!, but didn't you say that you had virtually no carpet? 60% is more than virtually none!
_________________________
Zeno Wood, Piano Technician
Brooklyn College

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#2076749 - 05/03/13 04:30 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
vulpesvulpes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/09
Posts: 8
Sorry, I was writing too casually.

I was trying to illustrate the fact that there is very little fabric in relation to the amount of reflective surfaces.

The room is 20'x 20'x 13' high. One side is a full-width sash bay 20' wide which increases the overall wall surface area, so even 60% (possibly less) of scattered rugs still leaves a lot of reflective surfaces. The windows are deep, wood framed and 8'x4' each. Other than the scattered rugs and thin curtains, which I don't want to close in the day, the only other fabric is two small leather chairs and a small two-seater settee which has tall cabriole legs and about two square yards max of thin upholstery. The wall behind the piano is a hollow stud partition, so its kinda resonant.
The room is definitely lively.

Presently the piano sits directly on the wood floor. Would it make much difference if it were placed on some kind of sound insulating material, and if so what would be best?

Richard


Edited by vulpesvulpes (05/03/13 04:50 PM)

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#2076843 - 05/03/13 08:29 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
nagrom Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/13
Posts: 6
Loc: Western CT, USA
My upright is on a small piece or carpet for that very reason. It made some difference, but not as much as putting something on the wall will.
_________________________
Morgan Kelsey
http://www.morgankelsey.com/music/
PTG Associate Member

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#2076849 - 05/03/13 08:38 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
I love playing with the soft pedal and seldom play without it. smile Seriously. I'm a very mellow and light player, and always play with the soft pedal down. To me, it's not so much the volume that changes as is is the tamber. It's just got a softer, less pronounced attack.

I don't think playing with the soft pedal down is any harder on a piano than playing it without it down. The act of playing the piano at all causes wear on its parts; it's unavoidable.

-Loren
_________________________
DiGiorgi Piano Service (1984-2013)
http://www.digiorgipiano.com

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#2076867 - 05/03/13 08:58 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: vulpesvulpes]
accordeur Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1197
Loc: Québec, Canada
I don't know but I dislike lost motion, I feel that I do not have control over the velocity of the hammer.

It feels like I am playing a percussion instrument. Just tapping softly away as opposed to choosing the exact amount of force I want to apply.

Older high end Canadian (and some european and american brands I guess) uprights had "lost motion compensators". And they do work very well. Better than the unacorda on a grand if you ask me.

But they are not on any new uprights that I know of.

So to me, I would rather get my technique to play soft so good, that if I happen to play on a piano that has this system, bonus.

I can play softer when there is no lost motion because there is resistance, I know how to "squeeze" the key.

Lost motion is like going downhill on a unicycle, you have to hold back or crash.

My few cents.
_________________________
Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

www.actionpiano.ca

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#2076910 - 05/03/13 11:35 PM Re: soft pedal [Re: Loren D]
ando Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3581
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Loren D
I love playing with the soft pedal and seldom play without it. smile Seriously. I'm a very mellow and light player, and always play with the soft pedal down. To me, it's not so much the volume that changes as is is the tamber. It's just got a softer, less pronounced attack.

I don't think playing with the soft pedal down is any harder on a piano than playing it without it down. The act of playing the piano at all causes wear on its parts; it's unavoidable.

-Loren


At last - somebody who actually acknowledges the timbral change of the upright soft-pedal! Thanks Loren. I've been saying that for years and had nobody agree with me that it's really different. I always get the argument that if you have a fine enough technique to play very softly, it will sound the same. But it doesn't. I use the soft pedal a lot - especially at night. It puts a soft velvety blanket over the sound of my piano.

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#2076933 - 05/04/13 12:21 AM Re: soft pedal [Re: Loren D]
TunerJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 469
Loc: Oregon Coast
Originally Posted By: Loren D
I don't think playing with the soft pedal down is any harder on a piano than playing it without it down. The act of playing the piano at all causes wear on its parts; it's unavoidable. -Loren


Dear Loren,

With lost motion, or the pedal always depressed, the jack does not simply start moving the hammer when you touch the key. It arrives already in motion and will more quickly dent and compress the leather. It does cause quicker wear on the parts than would happen on a properly adjusted action. It could be argued that the keybushings also get more wear with excessive lost motion, as the sudden bump of the weight of the hammer is reached part-way through the stroke, and not at the start of the key's motion. All around...I believe it does cause more problems than not.

Sloppy, badly maintained pianos get worse more quickly than properly maintained pianos. That's my experience...over the last 30+ years...but hey! ...I just offer my opinion in here, man.

Grabbing a slice,
of pizza,
Coke with lime tonite,
Ah!
_________________________
Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com

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