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#623760 - 12/17/01 12:19 AM voicing techniques
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1298
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
I am wonder if the professional techs/rebuilders out there had a perferred way of voicing hammers. For example, Ari Issac recommends voicing down a hammer by inserting a needle into the flat side of the hammer rather than into the shoulder. He makes a tool specifically for this purpose. How does this compare to the more "traditional" method? I have also heard of sqeezing the hammer with pliers in order to break up the felt slightly resulting in a softer sound. Any opinions? Voicing up a hammer, as far as I know, is usually done with "juice" ( keytops dissolved in acetone; lacquer in yesteryear). Will pure acetone voice down a hammer that has been juiced in this way? It seems to me that it will. In fact I tried it as an experiment on my piano and it seemed to work. Don't worry, my piano is going to be rebuilt and I'm getting new hammers. I won't be playing around with them anymore after that. There seems to be a real art to voice properly. I think it takes time to develope a feel for it. The one thing I found out is that you need to take your time and allow the new voicing to settle in before making any further adjustments. However, I would be interested to hear from the people who know what they are doing.
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#623761 - 12/17/01 08:15 AM Re: voicing techniques
PNO2NER Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/26/01
Posts: 128
Loc: Traverse City, MI
Hi Ralph: Voicing a piano can be compared to brain surgery in medicine. It takes skill, experience, patience and a good ear. However there are many ways to perform voicing and every technician will have his or her favorite methods. They range from needling, sanding, chemical applications, squeezing, etc, etc, and combinations not even mentioned. Voicing is a personal thing, often dictated by what the player or technician prefers in tonal quality, but also related to ease of application, lasting qualities, types and brands of hammers, cost and time factors, age and quality of instrument, who is playing and what type of music played, etc. In response to your question on squeezing hammers from the sides, it is a quick and effective method of softening the tone, however I suspect this is a result of upsetting the face of the hammer to create an uneven surface so that string contact is less than before resulting in a softer tone. The problem may be lasting qualities as the hammer eventually will conform to the level of the strings and the harshness may return. Voicing is a very subjective topic, and I recall a seminar given at one of the recent Piano Technician Guild conventions by Randy Potter, a highly experienced and respected piano technician who said in effect,"Voice away, do anything you care to, you won't hurt the hammer, and whatever you do can be reversed." But for how many times? (My comment.) Hope this helps.....

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#623762 - 12/17/01 12:45 PM Re: voicing techniques
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
One interesting technique I learned in a class years ago given by a technician from the Schimmel Piano factory involves single needling beginning from the hammer closest to the hammershank hole and working up from there on both of the hammers' shoulders. This seems to help with the tonal sustain but would not be done to reduce overly bright sounding tone in hammers. That would instead involve the direct contact of the voicing needles with the hammers' crown. But even that has to be done correctly lest the tone will come out sounding mushy.

I've experimented with the standard "tenderizing" technique and another approach that involves jabbing the needles in a tangential fashion to the shoulders. The latter is certainly more effortless than the former and the sort of approach I use with extra loud sounding hammers(it's certainly less hard on the forearm and arm as well).

Mark Mandell www.pianosource.com

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#623763 - 12/17/01 07:58 PM Re: voicing techniques
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
I would only like to add that there is but one place and one place only [/b] either in or on a piano where keytops should ever [/b] be used.

On top of keys.
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#623764 - 12/18/01 12:43 AM Re: voicing techniques
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1298
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
Thanks everyone for your comments.
Larry, if you believe keytops belong only on keytops, how do you bring up the sound in "soft" hammers? Aside from ironing, is there any substance you use that gives you good results? And then how to reverse it if you go too far.
I'm also wondering it there are certain techniques that work better on specific hammers; ie, Renner, Abel, Issac, S&S etc. Or do all hammers respond in a similar way to any given voicing technique. My quess is different hammers respond a little differently. I'm sure some of you have a trade secret you have discovered or developed over the years.
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#623765 - 12/18/01 03:21 AM Re: voicing techniques
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
I use 1 part lacquer to 5 parts thinner. Keytops ruin hammers in my opinion.
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#623766 - 12/18/01 08:00 PM Re: voicing techniques
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1298
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
Thank you Larry. I didn't think laquer was used anymore. Probably because acetone drys faster so it takes less time. I have played pianos with lacqered hammers and they can sound good.
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#623767 - 12/18/01 08:27 PM Re: voicing techniques
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3855
Not all voicing can be reversed, so I would hesitate to "voice away". I usually like to test the results on a note or two before voicing the whole set. The method of voicing depends on what you have to start with, and what you want to end up with. I hesitate to condone the "vice grip" method. I do like to voice from the sides, because this method lets me make the center of the hammer harder and the tip softer to create dynamic range of tone. Needling and hardening can both be done from the side of the hammer.
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#623768 - 12/19/01 12:26 AM Re: voicing techniques
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1298
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
This is all very interesting and helpful information. I have a piano which will be rebuilt soon. In the meantime, I'd like to experiment with voicing techniques and see what happens.
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#623769 - 12/19/01 10:41 AM Re: voicing techniques
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bob:
I hesitate to condone the "vice grip" method. [/b]


Bob,

I agree with you on this point, with the exception of Samicks. I find their hammers to be so hard that this is about the only way you *can* voice the things. If you aren't careful though you'll "cup" the crown of the hammer. If I use vise grips (chosen tool because you can "dial in" the amount of pressure and keep it even from one hammer to the next without oversqueezing them) I only do it enough to soften the hammer some, then I file the crown as needed to get the nose shaped correctly (most of the Samicks aren't shaped right anyway) and then needle from there. I only use one needle - just can't understand how anyone can get much control using three.
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#623770 - 12/20/01 10:00 AM Re: voicing techniques
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Ari Isaac and a guy named Steve VanNatten (splg?) are the only two folks I've heard of using the from-the-side technique for hammers that have become overly compacted. I've tried it and find that it seemed to be a good temporary solution when done within a milimeter, or two, of the crown. Otherwise, the www.rennerusa.com site has a nice technical area describing what they recomend for the voice points on specifically their hammers.

Two weeks ago I put together the filing board with 100 grit and went after my 14 year old hammers, as is described in Reblitz. I have some digital images before/after of a hammer that I may try and post. There have naturally been threads on the PTG list about voicing and one thing I remember is reading is how futile many techniques are if the shape isn't near correct to begin with. A flat face hammer, with a contact point of more than a centimeter, will invariably take on shrilly overtones, no matter what is done IMO. I suppose this doesn't apply to new hammers. Since filing, they are finally brightening back up to a much sweeter sound as the new tip surface has begun to settle in.

I had been reluctant to file, as its a permanent reduction in felt, but all indications were that it was needed and I thought, even if something were ruined, taking the shanks and hammers out and spending $250-450 on a new set wouldn't be the worst thing. Heck, that's less than a set of tires for the car...

Chris W
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#623771 - 12/20/01 11:22 PM Re: voicing techniques
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1298
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
The rennerusa web site was very good. I had forgotten it existed. I looked at it about a year ago. The book by Reblitz is also very good. I've used it for several different things. I filed my hammers (very lightly) the other day and it brought them right back down to where they were before I started voicing. I was suprised how well it worked. Now I need to bring them up again, but slowly and controlled. This voicing business can be like a see-saw, you just keep going back and forth. The main problem is, I think I can get it just a little better, and before I know it, I've gone too far and need to bring them back a bit. I still have 3 months to go before the piano goes to be rebuilt, so I want to be careful and not completely ruin the hammers. It is fun to have a chance to play around with voicing just to see how different things affect the sound. Do you know if there is a way to increase the power of the sound without making it brighter? I wonder if it depends where on the hammer the juice is applied. Avoiding the crown seems like it should stiffen the hammer without making to strike point harder. What role does ironing the hammers have in voicing? I really appreciate everyone who has answered back. I don't know why, but I like this topic.
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#623772 - 12/20/01 11:42 PM Re: voicing techniques
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1298
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
Chris, I forgot to mention Steve Van Nattan has a web site. It's .www.balaams-ass.com[/b]. He discribes how he voices from the side of the hammer.
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