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#2273037 - 05/08/14 11:29 PM Piano in remote location
IslandBill Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/08/14
Posts: 3
Loc: Ontario
Here's the scenario. A remote island in Lake Superior, a 50"s Acrosonic in decent shape (black "mod" cabinet), used by a resident composer who moved it out there by boat (replacing it with a better piano is not gonna happen any time soon). Aside from the obvious maintenance chores--voicing, regulating, etc., all of which have been done to a tee--can an Acrosonic be improved? No need for volume/power.... Much more interested in clarity and clean tuning... Would restringing with a redesigned/lighter scale improve things? Which hammers? Would the action be improved with some lead? Is there such a thing as geometry with regard to a spinet? Etc....

The case has already been re-worked for a composer--lid and key-cover removed and a more friendly desk (similar to an architect's drafting table) fitted.

Any help appreciated...

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#2273062 - 05/09/14 12:52 AM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21529
Loc: Oakland
I would say that the short answer is "No." Any modification is going to require that either the piano be moved to where it can be worked on, or the person doing the work and all the paraphernalia has to be moved to the island, and that is expensive. If replacing the piano is out of the question, then modification is even more so, and the results are far more dubious.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2273068 - 05/09/14 01:20 AM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1309
Loc: Michigan
Well, it depends . . .

I have done work on several Great Lakes islands and have a good bit of on-location experience. Not only on islands but in other venues where moving the instrument isn't convenient or within budget. I and my tools are more portable than some pianos. Some folk just aren't up for those kinds of "adventures" but I rather enjoy it.

New hammers, premium bass strings and Wapin could all be done on location. (It would be helpful to have electricity). Re-engineering the bass bridge might be more of a challenge.

In my experience, some of these remote locations have some amount of equipment and workspace because anything else that is done requires the same kind of equipment and work venue support.

Hey, if great grandaddy Steinway built his first pianos on the kitchen table . . .
laugh

Here's an island venue I have done extensive piano work at. I'll be working on some other islands this summer.
_________________________
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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#2273131 - 05/09/14 06:32 AM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
Jon Page Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/09
Posts: 274
Loc: Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massac...
About the only improvement you can make to this would be new bass strings and new damper felt. On every spinet/console that comes thru my shop I install back lead on the white keys to effect a -6 FW, A0 & C8 get two leads to make the FW equal to the others. This gets the touch more even between them and the sharps.


Edited by Jon Page (05/09/14 06:33 AM)
_________________________
Regards,

Jon Page
Piano technician/tuner
Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
http://www.pianocapecod.com

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#2273197 - 05/09/14 10:25 AM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2083
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
You could restring the piano with a hybrid plain and wound wire scale and reshape the V-bar to a narrow point at the same time.

The hybrid wire would warm up the tone, reduce uneven tuning, and improve bass clarity.

Mapes will wind on Paulello plain wire if you send the wire to them. I would probably use the stainless wrapping for all of the bi-chord wound also.

The hybrid wire scaling protocols improve the tone by reducing the strength of the longitudinal modes.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2273287 - 05/09/14 02:35 PM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
Ed A. Hall Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/01
Posts: 260
Here's a recording of an Acrosonic spinet that I did some work to help it sound more musical to my ears. I softened the hammers a great deal especially in the bass to soften down the strange sounding harmonics. I then got rid of the cantilever in the bass bridge. That made a rather noticeable effect in the bass.

For further improvement, I would rescale it so that at least the transition between the wound strings and plain strings is smoother.

http://soundcloud.com/edahall-1/songs-without-words-baldwin

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#2273322 - 05/09/14 04:04 PM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
IslandBill Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/08/14
Posts: 3
Loc: Ontario
Thanks guys, this is helpful. Especially interested in restringing with a redesigned/hybrid scale. Perhaps it could be lighter/lower tension (less inharmonicity?). Who would I look to for a redesign? And would love to hear more about eliminating the bass bridge apron. Rationale?
The Acrosonic is a little too raucous for my taste--so would cold-press hammers be advised?

I should clarify a bit from my first post. The resident composer who uses this piano is me... but I am also a tuner/tech, and at one time in the distant past an RPT (Madison, WI). Because I went in other directions vocationally, I stupidly let that go--which I regret.

The island is a TINY tiny private island--everything is moved by a small tin skiff--hence the need to live with this piano and make the best of it (no room in a small cabin, either, for a grand--even a bigger upright would be imposing. Besides, the reworked music desk arrangement is ideal for composing).
There is, however, some shop space and tools aplenty...

Thanks again,

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#2273333 - 05/09/14 04:38 PM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1309
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: IslandBill
Especially interested in restringing with a redesigned/hybrid scale.
Who would I look to for a redesign? And would love to hear more about eliminating the bass bridge apron. Rationale?

The Acrosonic is a little too raucous for my taste--so would cold-press hammers be advised?

I should clarify a bit from my first post. The resident composer who uses this piano is me...


I recently took off most of the apron from a S&S "M" which, together with premium bass strings, resulted in a dramatic improvement. In fact, people preferred that piano compared to an adjacent brand-new piano of the same model.

Are you considering this as a (at least partial) DIY project?

Given that I have rescaling/bridge-modification experience as well as experience working in island situations, I'd be happy to discuss further with you if you want to send me a PM.

_________________________
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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#2273364 - 05/09/14 05:54 PM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7438
Loc: Rochester MN
IslandBill,

The obvious thing to do is give Keith a call. He's one of the best around, will do good work, and does work with DIYers.

For all who are reading this, please keep in mind that this is not a coconut shell and grass skirt island. Gorgeous in the Summer and we won't even talk about Winter.

Bill, have you heard any of the recordings by Cinnamonbear? They can be found in the Pianist Corner. He has worked with Bill Bremmer to transform a Lester 'Betsy Ross.' The results are excellent. A spinet/console can be made to sing. With a Baldy Acro, you are starting with a well designed and well built instrument.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2273384 - 05/09/14 06:34 PM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: Minnesota Marty]
IslandBill Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/08/14
Posts: 3
Loc: Ontario
Thanks Marty,
I will check out Cinnamonbear. I knew Bill Bremmer well back in my Madison PTG days... have watched some of his tuning videos.
And I'll give Keith a holler too....

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#2275331 - 05/13/14 08:36 AM Re: Piano in remote location [Re: IslandBill]
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3226
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Bill,

Keith is your man! For as long as I have been a technician, I have seen and heard piano technicians badmouth Acrosonics but now that many of the earliest models are 50 and 60 years old, the cabinets of the earliest models look like gems of American craftsmanship.

Baldwin always retained the same scale design, even though they had to know it could have been improved. So, by all means, go with what those who know what can be done and do it. I have always thought that eventually, there would be a market for certain of these, refinished and improved scale, they would just have so much more character than anything new from Asia.

I have also consistently heard that a vertical action, particularly a spinet cannot be made to repeat as fast as a grand. That is probably true when taken to extremes but for all practical purposes, a spinet action can be made to repeat as fast as any human being can operate a key.

I learned this from the champion of spinets and other lowly pianos in which he always found the value that others scoffed at, Golden Hammer Award winner, Jack Wyatt. He is also the founder of the PTG Home Office museum. Faster repetition in a spinet action can be achieved with a longer blow distance, closer let-off, closer back checking and minimal after touch.

When you have those conditions, the jack will reset itself under the butt as soon as the finger begins to lift from the key. Really, just as fast as in nearly any grand. The vertical action does not have a repetition lever because it does not need one.

The key weighting that Jon Page mentioned will certainly help this small piano play and feel more like a larger instrument. The back weight will help the key fall and therefore, the jack to reset more quickly. I think the balance is more important than the mass but a little more resistance will give you something you can "dig" into.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the recording by Ed Hall while writing this. I would sure love to go up there and see and hear the little piano when it is finished.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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