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#2120938 - 07/21/13 10:45 AM String transition area on an upright
Sagetone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/13
Posts: 5
Hello,

I'm brand new to the PW forums, an adult in my 5th year of lessons, and decided to make the leap from digital (Casio PX-120) to a real acoustic about a year ago. Being still relatively new at this, I have not played a wide range of acoustics, and have a tech question about mine. It's a Pearl River EU122 (48").

My initial impression, after playing it at home for a couple months, was that it was quite bright and loud, so I had technician recently soften it a bit by sanding (?, that's what he did, but I forget the technical term) the felts to broaden the strike surface. Now it's much better, softer, mellower, more dynamic range. Except for a couple of keys that are still too bright, too harsh, and for which it is still difficult for me to play p or pp. The keys/notes are E and F below Middle C, and the couple of notes at F and above and then a few notes at E and below. This is also the transition point between the bass and treble strings.

So my question is this - is there any way to soften this area of the keyboard, to bring it more into balance with the rest? Or, is this just the nature of an upright, this "transition" area?

Thank you for your help,

Todd


Edited by Sagetone (07/21/13 10:48 AM)

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#2120942 - 07/21/13 10:59 AM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: Sagetone]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21674
Loc: Oakland
It usually takes a while to voice a piano so it stays even. What one does to hammers often springs back, and it may take several sessions before the piano stabilizes. If you can live with it, a good technician will touch things up the next time the piano is tuned, or it else might require additional visits.
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#2121450 - 07/22/13 10:14 AM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: BDB]
Sagetone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/13
Posts: 5
Thank you BDB. When you say it takes a while, do you mean a longer than usual tuning session/visit, or just multiple visits?

What is your thought on this transition area on an upright? Is it more prone to harshness, compared to the other keys?

Other than this, I'm really enjoying my Pearl River.

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#2121500 - 07/22/13 12:39 PM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: Sagetone]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21674
Loc: Oakland
It usually takes multiple visits. Just consider, if it gets 90% done each time, then it is 90%, 99%, 99.9% done after three visits.

It can be difficult to even the sound of those strings in that range of the piano, which are short in length relative to their pitch. Plus you tend to listen to those notes more.
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#2121505 - 07/22/13 12:47 PM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: BDB]
Sagetone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/13
Posts: 5
Thanks BDB

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#2121626 - 07/22/13 06:51 PM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: Sagetone]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 357
Loc: UK
A good tec will be able to needle those hammers to mellow their sound. I'm only an amature experimenter and I've found it works treat.
I use four sewing needles embeded in epoxy putty and needle the hammer from the side.
Following advice on this site I avoid an area which is contained by an angle of, about, 20 degrees from the point of the wood on which the felt is secured.
I stab into the felt at right angle to the side but I believe it is more usual to work from top and bottom.

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#2122236 - 07/24/13 09:56 AM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: Goof]
Sagetone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/13
Posts: 5
Thanks Goof. I will ask about this at the next tuning. This is definitely not something I am ready to do myself.

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#2122268 - 07/24/13 11:28 AM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: Sagetone]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
I think you are talking about two different, but possibly related, tone problems. First, it appears that the overall sound of the whole piano—or most of it, anyway—was overly bright and hard (loud). This has been partially solved by generally voicing the hammers.

I am puzzled, though, by your recounting that the technician, “softened [the tone] a bit by sanding...the felts to broaden the strike surface.” This sounds like he (or she) changed the shape of the hammers giving them a broader, more blunt striking surface. I can't imagine this doing the voice of the piano much good. Sanding the hammers is generally something that is done after the piano has been played extensively—usually for months or years—and they have become grooved and worn. Sanding is done to restore the shape of the striking surface to something resembling the original shape.

Sanding them to broaden the strike surface—if, indeed, that is what was done—will be a short term solution at best. It may well leave the hammers with a fuzzy, softer surface that will temporally soften the tone of the piano but it also has the potential of leaving the hammers sounding worse than they did to begin with after just a short time.

A more common voicing technique that would be used on relatively new hammers that are sounding overly bright is a certain amount of judicious “needling;” i.e., carefully inserting needles into the body of hammer, to slightly loosen the wool fibers and make the hammers somewhat softer.

The other problem is traceable to the string scale and to the soundboard and bridge design. I'm not familiar with the design of your particular piano but the bass-to-tenor transition presents voicing challenges in many pianos; particularly small- to mid-sized pianos. There are several specific design and construction issues at work here but what you need to know is that it may be impossible to “voice” the hammers to achieve a truly smooth and unnoticeable tone transition through this part of the scale. You may have to be satisfied with just making the problem less bad. Aggressive needling—making the hammers overly soft—will probably make the tone problem worse.

You should, by all means, continue to have the hammers voiced until you are satisfied with the overall sound of the piano but be careful to neither demand nor expect too much too soon. And make sure your technician understands the basics of good, long-lasting voicing techniques.

ddf
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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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#2122280 - 07/24/13 11:55 AM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: Sagetone]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21674
Loc: Oakland
I always read what an owner says about any technician's work with a skeptical eye and assume that what is said is only an approximation of what was done.

Sanding hammers is an important part of voicing. On new hammers, it removes the topmost layer which has been hardened by the presses, as well as flattening the hammers across their width, which is usually concave, due to the release of tension at the edges when the hammers are cut apart. In old hammers, it restores the shape, as well as removing the hard edge at the transition between the groove and the natural curve of the hammer.

The waveform of a vibrating string is determined by the initial displacement of the string as the hammer bounces off of it. Voicing changes that waveform in complex ways, both through the shape of the hammer and the way that the hammer changes form as it ceases its contact with the string. I doubt anyone understands it fully, but one develops a feel for the results that can be expected from different techniques. That feel is the artistic aspect of voicing, beyond the purely scientific.
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#2122327 - 07/24/13 01:11 PM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: BDB]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: BDB
I always read what an owner says about any technician's work with a skeptical eye and assume that what is said is only an approximation of what was done.

Sanding hammers is an important part of voicing. On new hammers, it removes the topmost layer which has been hardened by the presses, as well as flattening the hammers across their width, which is usually concave, due to the release of tension at the edges when the hammers are cut apart.

And this is why hammer sanding is a normal part of hammer making in a factory. It is done after the hammers are cut apart and before they are installed on the piano. It is possible that the hammers were simply being squared to the strings. It is also possible they were being flattened. Which is why I think it might be wise for the OP to clarify just what was (and is) being done.

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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#2122342 - 07/24/13 01:33 PM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: Sagetone]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21674
Loc: Oakland
What should be normal and what actually happens often diverge, unfortunately.

I would not expect the average piano owner to understand the voicing processes well enough to clarify what was done. Most owners barely have an inkling of what can be done to their pianos, let alone how it is done. It does not help that many highly thought-of conservatories do not teach piano students as much about the maintenance of their instruments as they teach other instrumentalists.
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Semipro Tech

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#2122502 - 07/24/13 08:17 PM Re: String transition area on an upright [Re: BDB]
Sagetone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/13
Posts: 5
Hi Del and BDB,

Thank you for this dialog and for your feedback. My upright is about 10 months old, was first tuned after 6 weeks and then again, along with voicing, about a month ago. I am a first time piano owner and still a relatively new player, so suffice it to say I am a newbie. I think the tech that came out a month ago told me he could "sand" the hammers to soften the bright overall tone of the piano. To that extent, the voicing that he did worked. The tone is slightly softened, and dynamics are better. But there is still the harshness with the handful of keys right in that transition zone which you mentioned is problematic in smaller pianos and uprights.

Todd

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