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#2085553 - 05/20/13 03:33 AM steinway unlacquered hammers
victor kam Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/02
Posts: 419
Loc: Malaysia
Is there a link where I can hear how unlacquered New York Steinway hammers sound like? Thanks.
_________________________
vk
NY Steinway D 423118 (restoration)
Yamaha CS (8ft 3in)#1198650, Ari Isaac Goldpoint hammers on WNG shanks and Profundo S bass strings.
Yamaha UX 2499771; Casio PX-3 keyboard

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#2085604 - 05/20/13 07:23 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Ed Foote Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1091
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: victor kam
Is there a link where I can hear how unlacquered New York Steinway hammers sound like? Thanks.


They are hard to find. The Steinway parts are lacquered at the factory, unless the tech specifically asks for untreated ones.

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#2085629 - 05/20/13 08:38 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Rich Galassini Offline
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Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9130
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Victor,

In addition to what Ed Foote said, the hammers are traditionally pretty inconsistent from one to the next, even within the same set of hammers. They really require hammer work before trying to demonstrate a piano. Some of this normal hammer work will include using lacquer or some other reinforcement material.

If you find a set of untreated NYC Steinway hammers on a piano, you are not likely to like the performance.

Just curious, why are you looking for this?
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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#2085658 - 05/20/13 09:52 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1856
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
The long standing tone-regulation tradition at Steinway has been. "The voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape" to quote the late great Fred Drasche in 1972. Un-lacquered, un-shaped New York new hammers will have a very progressively more so dead, wooly, soft tone starting around note #50 to #88.

If you taper the sides of the hammers with a sander more, (if you have a small electronic gram scale, weigh them before and while shaping to keep the weight evenly graduating), remove the compression wires if there are any, and use a knife to remove felt from the shoulders thus putting more of a pear shape on them; you will find they open up wonderfully and lacquer will only be needed from the high #60s to #88.
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#2085659 - 05/20/13 09:58 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Ed Foote Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1091
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
The long standing tone-regulation tradition at Steinway has been. "The voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape" to quote the late great Fred Drasche in 1972.


Greetings,
Fred is also the one that told us (Nashville PTG chapter, 1990) to leave the wires alone if a hammer is not mated to them, but, rather, use the edge of the sanding stick to cut a groove in the hammer under the lower wires. Fred also said that the only voicing technique needed on Steinway hammers was a needle straight down through the strike point into the center of the hammer.

Neither of these approaches will leave a piano in more than mediocre condition. So, I would suggest that there is a lot more, better information and techniques today than what we should be dragging out of fossilized memory.
Regards,

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#2085661 - 05/20/13 10:02 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed Foote]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1856
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Ed, But Fred is correct about the one I mentioned and they were the first words out of his mouth at the first Steinway tone regulation class I attended so very long ago.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2085701 - 05/20/13 11:26 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9130
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
The long standing tone-regulation tradition at Steinway has been. "The voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape".


I totally believe that Fred said this. I know Fred by reputation and I know Steve Drasche, who is still in the industry.

While I do not disagree with this statement Ed, the original question is about unreinforced hammers. My company installs between 30 and 60 sets of NYC Steinway hammers each year and it is a very rare set that does not need this help. Frankly, I would not want our Steinway pianos judged without the use of reinforcement.

My 2 cents,
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Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
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#2085708 - 05/20/13 11:39 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Ed Foote Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1091
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Ed, But Fred is correct about the one I mentioned and they were the first words out of his mouth at the first Steinway tone regulation class I attended so very long ago.


I agree that the shape of the hammer is a large factor in the "tone" of the piano. However, all the shaping in the world will not correct a lacquered rock or a marshmallow ball of felt, both of which I have seen come out of the factory.

I remember Laury Cody (sp?) speaking to us in 1976. He was doing a lot of the Steinway factory tuning and voicing in Boston. He described the pear shape of the Steinway hammer, (which I have to say has been a very variable quality in the last 20 years of production I have seen), as allowing a softer bit of felt at the strike point than what was underneath. His point was that with a hammer of the proper density, such as was seen on the pre 1945 instruments, the shaping left a hammer with a soft surface for mellow pianissimo playing, but with a firm foundation that would "bring in the bells" when the force was increased. This was also why new pianos were in need of playing-in to develop the full tone of a Steinway.
Maybe it is the modern expectation that the piano should sound perfect when brand new that caused the hammers to be so lacquered up to begin with. Maybe the buying public doesn't want to go through the breaking in process, but here at the school, I managed to convince the faculty to play their new M's and L's for a semester before I voiced them up, (the complaints were initially that the pianos were dead). Within a semester or two, those complaints disappeared and I was able to keep the voicing reasonable under industrial use. Now, 10 years later, I have just been told that the pianos just keep getting better and better. I don't think this would have happened if I had doped them to brilliance when they were new. I would have been sticking needles in sugar cubes for the last 5 years.
We recently purchased a used D, (1996 model from a private owner). The hammers were so hard that the dealer passed on it, saying it didn't sound like a Steinway! It was so brassy that only two members of the faculty would play it, the rest ran for cover. I have been trying to voice it down, but it won't stay down! The hammers have a strata under them that makes me think of geology class. According to the customer, it was bright to start with, and kept getting better!
I think the optimum tonal palette is arrived at by a hammer that is too soft to begin with, and is played enough to form a very slight hardening at the surface. I am wary of pianos that are brilliant at mf on the showroom floor.
Regards,

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#2085717 - 05/20/13 11:52 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8387
Loc: Georgia, USA
Very interesting read, Ed Foote... you too, Ed McMorrow, and you too, Rich. smile

Thanks to all the piano professionals who participate in the Piano World forums... whenever you speak, we listen. smile

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2085769 - 05/20/13 01:28 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
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If the best result for Steinway hammers now or in the past has to be achieved at least partially by a lot of playing in, I think that should be done at the factory. No one should have to buy a piano, especially an expensive one, hoping it will sound better at some time in the future.

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#2085788 - 05/20/13 02:16 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: pianoloverus]
Ed Foote Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1091
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
If the best result for Steinway hammers now or in the past has to be achieved at least partially by a lot of playing in, I think that should be done at the factory. No one should have to buy a piano, especially an expensive one, hoping it will sound better at some time in the future.


Greetings,
Most musical instruments of which I am aware improve with use. (I don't know how this could apply to brass instruments, but I am told it is so). No voicing stays the same under continuous play. If the piano's voicing is perfect on the show room floor, it can only be downhill from there.

This may be a question of how much maintenance a customer wants to buy. If paying for weekly voicing is acceptable, that's one thing, but hammers continually change with use, and allowing brilliance to develop with some use allows a nice voice to be had for longer periods of time. There is a cycle from mellow to brassy that hammers traverse. It is the nature of felt.

The narrower the range of tone that a customer wants, the more maintenance will be required.

Most "home" customers I have worked for ( as distinct from the recording studios or stages), understand that freshly voiced will be somewhat softer than ideal, and they call when notes are too brilliant. Different customers have different spans of time between the two extremes.
A Steinway piano that is "perfect" on the showroom floor will need to be voiced after say, 50 hours of play to keep it there. A hammer that is slightly softer than ideal will, in that 50 hours, come up to "perfect", and remain there longer than the one that was juiced. At least, that is how it has worked around here.
Regards,



Edited by Ed Foote (05/20/13 02:19 PM)

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#2085794 - 05/20/13 02:26 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed Foote]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9130
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
At least, that is how it has worked around here.


Lots of things that work in Nashville do not work up here in Yankee territory. wink

(Sorry for the OT musical humor - other than that last statement, I agree with your post)

Yours,
_________________________
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Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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#2085853 - 05/20/13 04:08 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7211
Loc: Rochester MN
I'm aghast! - I would have thought that Rich would be a Red Sox fan.

I weep.
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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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#2085870 - 05/20/13 04:30 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed Foote]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
double post


Edited by pianoloverus (05/20/13 04:42 PM)

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#2085882 - 05/20/13 04:38 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7211
Loc: Rochester MN
Any piano needs to be "played in." It usually takes a year or two to fully mature. Some things can't be rushed by a machine. That is only a beginning and a quality control check.

Initial voicing is also the beginning, not the end of the journey.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2085885 - 05/20/13 04:41 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed Foote]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19218
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
A Steinway piano that is "perfect" on the showroom floor will need to be voiced after say, 50 hours of play to keep it there. A hammer that is slightly softer than ideal will, in that 50 hours, come up to "perfect", and remain there longer than the one that was juiced. At least, that is how it has worked around here. Regards,
I think most or at least many customers would like to have the best idea of how a piano sounds at its best before purchasing it. Perhaps those very familiar with a particular make would be more amenable to buying a piano that would be closer to perfection after x hours playing in.

Why not just play the Steinway in(not juice it if one thinks that's bad)as long as in needed to reach "perfection" at the factory or dealer? If 50 more hours is typically needed why not do that at the factory?


Edited by pianoloverus (05/20/13 05:11 PM)

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#2085888 - 05/20/13 04:45 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7211
Loc: Rochester MN
The question remains:

Originally Posted By: victor kam
Is there a link where I can hear how unlacquered New York Steinway hammers sound like? Thanks.

It's something I'd like to hear too.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2085895 - 05/20/13 04:56 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
rysowers Offline
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Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2401
Loc: Olympia, WA
The factory does have a playing-in machine (in a somewhat soundproof room, thank goodness!) that does a lot of pounding, after which the piano is given another go-over with voicing and regulation.

This idea of letting a piano naturally build up its tone has some merit, but if the NY hammer doesn't have enough lacquer, you could play that thing for 10 years and still not be able to develop a strong fortissimo.

I have found one of the advantages of the NY approach is that the voicing seems to be quite stable. Needling has a much more focused effect giving more control over una-chorda voicing.
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Pianova Piano Service
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#2085984 - 05/20/13 08:38 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: pianoloverus]
Ed Foote Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1091
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

Why not just play the Steinway in(not juice it if one thinks that's bad)as long as in needed to reach "perfection" at the factory or dealer? If 50 more hours is typically needed why not do that at the factory?


For the same reason that they don't regulate their pianos before shipping them out, there aren't enough techs up there to do it. There is a rough regulation, but compared to what I consider performance level, it is, maybe, 50 %. The pinning changes so fast after assembly, that it is a waste of time to do a fine regulation. Steinway used to offer a regulation at the 6 month mark,(at least here,where Street's piano was in business) but now, it seems that is left up to the owners to keep up with.
There is no way to completely voice one of those pianos before the strings are mated to the hammers, and the stringing is so green when they are shipped that the string level is a moot point.
It all depends on the dealer's willingness to pay their tech to finish these pianos. I have seen some dealerships where the pianos were beautifully prepped, and I have seen some that sell them just like they get them.
Regards,


Edited by Ed Foote (05/20/13 08:40 PM)

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#2085992 - 05/20/13 08:56 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: Ed Foote]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

Why not just play the Steinway in(not juice it if one thinks that's bad)as long as in needed to reach "perfection" at the factory or dealer? If 50 more hours is typically needed why not do that at the factory?


For the same reason that they don't regulate their pianos before shipping them out, there aren't enough techs up there to do it. There is a rough regulation, but compared to what I consider performance level, it is, maybe, 50 %. The pinning changes so fast after assembly, that it is a waste of time to do a fine regulation. Steinway used to offer a regulation at the 6 month mark,(at least here,where Street's piano was in business) but now, it seems that is left up to the owners to keep up with.
There is no way to completely voice one of those pianos before the strings are mated to the hammers, and the stringing is so green when they are shipped that the string level is a moot point.
It all depends on the dealer's willingness to pay their tech to finish these pianos. I have seen some dealerships where the pianos were beautifully prepped, and I have seen some that sell them just like they get them.
Regards,
Whether it's techs to voice them or (what I was talking about)more machines to play them for an additional amount of time, it seems to be only a question of them being willing to spend the money. The way I think of it is that if their particular kind of hammers require more work to make them sound their best then it should be done before the piano is made available for sale.

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#2086047 - 05/20/13 10:52 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
BoseEric Offline
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Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Realize that the idea of "sound their best" is a very variable concept. It is amazing how, when faced with having to write a check, something begins to sound pretty good the way it is.

Personally I like the 2 Ed's ears.
_________________________
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#2086076 - 05/21/13 01:28 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: pianoloverus]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1856
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
The "best" hammer is one that will give great tone over the longest time, and that will do so with the least service.

That kind of hammer starts out too soft and too heavy. The tone regulator shapes the hammer and adjusts the response of the action into an integrated whole. There is more upfront cost with this approach but the hammers will last much longer and thus the piano owner will have less maintenance and downtime.

Also, the overall dynamic response is much better, and the sound has more color available.

In essence a hammer is worn out when it cannot be tone regulated into a beautiful , dynamic palette that is stable. Many new pianos have hammers that sound very brilliant from day one and they only get more so-quickly-and needling them has a very short half-life.

A softer, lighter, well shaped hammer fit to an action will last at least a couple of decades of daily use. The heavy, hard hammers voiced with regular heroic needling will become unworkable in maybe five years.
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In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2086106 - 05/21/13 03:36 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
victor kam Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/02
Posts: 419
Loc: Malaysia
Rich,
There has been much discussion about soft hammers from Ronsen, Isaac (as they are on my piano) and NY Steinway hammers. Just curious to hear what soft hammers from Steinway is like, without any lacquering. Even if they are soft, I wonder if they will satisfy people without any hardener particularly in a home setting. I am one that likes softer tones.
_________________________
vk
NY Steinway D 423118 (restoration)
Yamaha CS (8ft 3in)#1198650, Ari Isaac Goldpoint hammers on WNG shanks and Profundo S bass strings.
Yamaha UX 2499771; Casio PX-3 keyboard

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#2086181 - 05/21/13 09:28 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9130
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: victor kam
Rich,
There has been much discussion about soft hammers from Ronsen, Isaac (as they are on my piano) and NY Steinway hammers. Just curious to hear what soft hammers from Steinway is like, without any lacquering. Even if they are soft, I wonder if they will satisfy people without any hardener particularly in a home setting. I am one that likes softer tones.




I understand Victor. As further explanation, we are currently finishing up a long scale A for a professor at a college of music in Princeton, NJ.

She also enjoys a sweet tone with lots of colors in the ppp to p range. This requires almost as much work as building tone for a bigger sound. It also requires reinforcement to gain consistency note to note. It is as much about gaining consistency and beauty as amount of sound.

I hope that helps,
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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#2086186 - 05/21/13 09:54 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1091
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,
I have found that Steinway hammers must be doped, at least in the deep core area, or they will never "come up". Even a mellow sound has to have some solid, firm foundation somewhere down there in the felt. As to "sounding their best", I have this definition, and it isn't universal.

A hammer should produce a variable combination of partials, depending on the force of the blow. A ppp blow should produce a mellow sound, mostly the lower few partials with just enough high partials to give it some definition. As the hammer is driven harder, the balance of partials should begin changing, adding more and more highs. This allows the pianist to control the tone with the volume, and since we are more sensitive to high frequencies, the addition of them increases the perception of power. With a hammer like this, the melodic line can be brought out with a combination of increased volume and increased brilliance. The ear prefers this to the hammer that is a rock and requires the pianist to use sheer force to bring out contrasts.

Where this range begins depends on the pianist's desires. Some, with plenty of strength, are comfortable with a softer beginning point,as they can power up to brilliance with muscle. Others, perhaps with less strength, will prefer the beginning point to be somewhat firmer, so that the power is more accessible. The wider range takes more work.

This is not the "best" for all situation. In the country music recording studios around here, the piano's sound occupies the same spectrum that the bass guitar, rhythm guitar, and perhaps some of the drums live in. If the piano is not brighter than normal, it becomes muddy in combination with other instruments. If it has a wide range to its voice, it will be hard to control, and engineers and producers want a signal coming into the board that is consistent. Good session players, laying down rhythm tracks, are able to play their parts with virtually no dynamics, keeping that needle hitting the same value throughout the track. For this work, a hammer that plays the same tone makes everything easier. I personally think the pianos sound shallow and boring, but this is what work$ in the studios.

The concert stage calls for a different range. For that, we want more color available, but usually beginning a little brighter than what is comfortable in a home. Concerto piano, even more so, since a warm, round, sound will usually be lost with an orchestra busily working behind it.

For the piano owner to check their voicing, play a note softly then increase the force slowly. Listen for a change in the tone. Some hammers, either totally soft or hard as rocks, will not change,but simply get louder, with the former never really speaking and the latter beginning to clang. Others may be mellow for a portion of the increasing force and then, like a light switch, suddenly develop a brilliant edge to the sound. The optimum, imho, offers a gradient, steadily increasing in brilliance from mellow to bright.
Regards,

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#2086217 - 05/21/13 10:58 AM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1856
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
A piano hammer is essentially a kind of "damper". The two things that control the amount of damping a given hammer applies to a given string is: the ratio between the inertia of the hammer and the period, (frequency) of the string), and the rate of non-linear rebound of the felt from the compression of string impact, (spring rate of the felt).

The spring rate of hammer felt is always slower than the speed of the strings vibration. Thus the felt damps some of the energy the hammer carries to the string.

Like all parts of a hand-fit assembly-the parts are made a little to big, and then cut down to fit with each other to get the best result. Shaping hammers to reduce the inertia (damping) by removing some material from all surfaces except the wearing one,(the strike point), brings the tone out.

The best spring rate for the felt varies non-linearly up the compass. The same felt spring rate that makes great tone at hammer 10 will work well at hammer 25. A great hammer 65 will not work at all at 80. Hammer felt can not be made with a fully exponential felt spring rate across the entire compass. Thus applying stiffening solution in the top treble to a hammer set that lower in the compass produces great tone with shaping alone, has proven to make a piano with the best dynamic range and durability.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2086445 - 05/21/13 09:07 PM Re: steinway unlacquered hammers [Re: victor kam]
victor kam Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/02
Posts: 419
Loc: Malaysia
Thank you all for such wonderful feedbacks. Finally....anyone out there wants to record a sample piano without lacquers, particularly if you have a rebuiding workshop? Also be nice to have Ronsen hammers as well.
_________________________
vk
NY Steinway D 423118 (restoration)
Yamaha CS (8ft 3in)#1198650, Ari Isaac Goldpoint hammers on WNG shanks and Profundo S bass strings.
Yamaha UX 2499771; Casio PX-3 keyboard

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New Topics - Multiple Forums
Another Improvisation
by Polyphonist
Today at 02:55 AM
4/4 measure in 3/4 time?
by caters
Today at 01:10 AM
Mac mini for software pianos?
by Mta88
Today at 01:10 AM
Installed an LX system on my Baldwin C
by SpectrumMan
Today at 12:04 AM
Join the false-beat revolution: get your wires straight!!!
by A443
Yesterday at 11:15 PM
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