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#636288 - 05/06/02 09:34 PM What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
aznxk3vi17 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/02
Posts: 701
Loc: Johns Hopkins University
I am not a piano techie, nor have I ever done anything to my piano besides the regular tuning, but I read every now and then that people voice their pianos. What exactly is it? And does a piano tuner have the skils to do it, or do I need to find somebody who's a specialist?

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#636289 - 05/07/02 12:21 AM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
Mr. Gould Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/01
Posts: 1111
Hmmmmmm I believe its when they fool around with the hammers..

Just go to yahoo and type in Piano voicing, You would get millions of responses!

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#636290 - 05/07/02 10:25 AM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
If the hammers are too bright (aka trebly, brassy, brilliant), then you might want to soften them, making them less harsh. If they are too dull (aka muddy, mellow, or dead), then a person might want to harden them, making them brighter. That is accomplished by voicing. There are several ways to voice: inserting, then removing needles to break down the felt, or add alcohol, or use steam. These will all soften the hammer. Adding lacquer to the felt will harden it. Just ask your tech if he does this, or if he will recommend someone who does. But, if you are happy with the tone you now have, don't mess with it! Voicing is reversible to a degree, but can be very difficult ($$$$) to do so................Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#636291 - 05/07/02 12:07 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
I would only add to what Sam said by adding that voicing will(or at least should)result in a consistency in the volume throughout the scale so that you don't have some brighter and weaker sounding hammers in the same piano.

Mark@pianosource.com

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#636292 - 05/07/02 12:49 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
I tried voicing a hammer once. Actually, it was not even in a piano, so I was only trying to see what pushing a needle into the shoulder (I think that's what it's called) would do, visually. I have a voicing tool (1 to 3 needles on a tool with a handle), but I've grown wise over the year and would never touch my own piano hammers.

What I found daunting, is that pushing the needle into the hammer was like trying to push a needle into a rock. Those hammers are hard!! How does a professional tech do this, without it being such a pain? Or perhaps I'm assuming that the needle is pushed in almost to the core (wood) of the hammer when it only needs to go in a few layers?

A tuner that does not use hard test blows when setting a string can end up with an instrument that will go out of tune relatively quickly. Is the same true somehow with voicing? In other words, what should the owner/musician look for in what a tech does to voice a piano. If they get the sandpaper out first, is that the correct procedure for softening the tone, or should the piano owner ask that only needling be used, or is there a typical sequence of events that should occur? Is "major" voicing of hammers done over a couple of sessions, like pitch-raising (i.e., the hammer is allowed to "settle" during a few weeks of playing, and then minor voicing adjustments done in a few weeks), or does an experienced voicer get the maximum results possible in one sitting?

I would like to know more about the process, so I'd know if someone might be trying to take shortcuts when a more time-consuming way would be more appropriate.

Somewhat unrelated question: on my Steinway C, is it possible to tell what brand of hammers are on it, just by looking? To my untrained eye, a hammer is a hammer is a hammer. . . I don't think I've ever seen a name stamped on the hammers, but maybe I didn't look hard enough?

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#636293 - 05/07/02 12:57 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
A bit of follow-up to explain my paranoia. . .

Years ago at a piano store, I saw a tech quickly going through a piano, literally slicing the tops off the hammers. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was "voicing" the piano. From what I've learned, this was not a proper procedure, or perhaps this is a last resort?

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#636294 - 05/07/02 06:31 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
First of all, thanks to Mark for adding to my answer and making it more complete; he is right. To Rvaga- the needles are GENERALLY inserted very shallow at or near the striking point, and deeper as you move away from the striking point. Needles may also be inserted from the flat sides. I prefer to file the hammer prior to voicing, and many techs (me included) want the action properly regulated prior to voicing. As with many things piano, you will find differing opinions on the how-to and why, and there indeed are different ways of doing this job..............Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#636295 - 05/12/02 04:53 AM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
If the action is properly regulated before voicing, and you use sandpaper or file the hammers, doesn't this effect the regulation? Somehow this seems backwards.

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#636296 - 05/12/02 01:25 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
rvaga--

That's a good point. But regulation would only be necessary if the tech is filing off alot of the felt, the effect of which would be to increase the hammer striking distance and hence require moving the closers to the strings.

But some techs might beg to differ from the above and feel that removing any amount of felt is enough to require a subsequent regulation.

Mark@pianosource.com

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#636297 - 05/13/02 07:41 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
swb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/01
Posts: 68
Loc: Dallas, Texas
Can I add to the confusion? My tech, who is an RPT, mentioned a voicing techinique using a mixture of alcohol and sometimes some fabric softener. Said he'd learned about it at a PTG meeting, and from other techs. He said he liked it because it was potentially less destructive than needling. Any thoughts on this technique vs. needling?
_________________________
SWB

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#636298 - 05/13/02 07:44 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
swb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/01
Posts: 68
Loc: Dallas, Texas
One more question: What should voicing cost?
_________________________
SWB

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#636299 - 05/13/02 08:33 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
I agree with Mark. So little felt would be removed that it is unlikely to affect the regulation. But, this is a good time to bring up again that regulation is an ongoing process in a fine grand; once you are finished, it is time to start again because everything that you do affects what you have just done (it can get seemingly ridiculous, but at the high end of things you can literally never quite be finished). Yes, I use the alcohol and water mixture. Have not done the fabric softener but have heard of it being done. There is also steam voicing, and lacquer to harden them. Cost? Cant answer that one, because a simple needle stick on a few hammers would be very inexpensive, but if the whole set needed to be done, the cost would of course be much more. And until the owner is happy, the voicing would continue at whatever hourly rate the tech charges....Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#636300 - 05/16/02 01:26 AM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
It's rather "funny" how influential the environment around the piano is as regarding voicing. I bring this up because recently I voiced a large Bluthner grand at a local dealer's and on the showroom floor it sounded very pretty, a little subdued but that's rather characteristic of this piano anyway. Then I hear from the store owner that the piano was rented by a library for a one night concert and the pianist complained that it was rather weak or dull sounding. I also learned that there was carpeting and furniture in the room it was played in. So THAT had the effect of further "voicing" what I'd already done and also demonstrates that it may be a better policy to wait until a piano arrives in a customer's home to have it voiced(unless of course, it's SO bright in the dealer's store that it literally SCREAMS to be voiced).

Mark@pianosource.com

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#636301 - 05/16/02 05:30 AM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Curiosity on my part. . .

Has there been research or trials of possible synthetics for hammers? Of course when the piano was evolving in the 19th century, everything was tried (as I recall), but has there been much development in hammer "technology" since the early 20th century, or is it pretty much etched into tradition?

Teflon bushings (give it another shot, Steinway!), hammers that never wear or become compressed, synthetic action parts never need regulating, piano never needs voicing (just a hammer replacement out of a "voicing options" kit), tuning is maintained by a computer and individual micro-motors for each pin, humidity controlled by a wick and built-in heater in the case (instead of buckets and rods under the piano).

A dream piano? Nawwww, just some fun thoughts. Actually, the coolest thing on a grand would be an electric lid. Now, THAT would sell like hotcakes. . .

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#636302 - 05/16/02 08:44 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
Well, PianoMation from QRS just released the news that they have bought the patent for a self tuning piano. The system will be built into select PianoMation units, and will be available as a stand alone (portable)unit also. Should be on the market within 2 years. Supposedly, it works by heating/cooling the strings via electricity. Am I worried? Hell, no. If it works (this I have to see to believe), I'll buy one myself, if it can tune a piano in 30 minutes as promised (I take 1 to 1 1/2 hours now). My main concern is owners neglecting regulation and other maintenance because they never see a tuner any more. Should be interesting at any rate.........Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#636303 - 05/16/02 11:16 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3834
I could see a tuning program installed on player pianos that would play the keys for the piano tuner while he handled the mutes and tuning hammer, but tuning the strings with heat and cold?? hmmmmm.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#636304 - 05/17/02 11:36 AM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
I would think(unless I'm naive about the technological sophistication of high tech devices like the pianomation)that the results of any "tuning" would be pretty primitive at best.
Maybe after years of experimentation they could achieve results comparable to the best of us so-called tooners.

Mark@pianosource

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#636305 - 05/17/02 02:28 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Even if a sophisticated system/gizmo was offered on an instrument, I'd never buy it. Can you imagine spending a fortune on a self-tuning piano that would "pay for itself in savings over 100 years" -- and then find in a few years the technology went the way of your 8-track, and the manufacturer decided to focus on something different -- like self-shining shoes.

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#636306 - 05/17/02 02:28 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
Chris Aher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/31/01
Posts: 299
Loc: Brookfield CT
The device in question was invented by a very talented mechanical engineer by the name of Don Gilmore. It was debated at length on RMMP a few months ago. It works by applying a small current to each string and adjusting it to raise and lower it (slightly) changing the temp. of the string and thereby the tension using some sort of electronic feedback loop. This is a VERY novel engineering approach, completely unorthodox in the piano industry. IIRC Don's main engineering work is in another field.

It seems to me that in order for this to work properly, each string must be electrically isolated. That means that it must be single loop strung, (like a Bose) the hitch pin, insolated and an insulated agraffe. Don mentioned using delrin for this purpose. Delrin is a very durable material, much more so than teflon for instance. My harpsichord has delrin tongues and plectra that have taken quite a beating for 30 years.

The upshot is that for a piano to use this device, it would need to be specially engineered for it in the first place or would require a very significant investment in reengineering and retrofitting. This would only be economically feasable and practical under very special circumstances. I think that Don had heavy institutional use in mind. It will probably need to be recalibrated every few years by a master tuner along with the requisite action work usually needed in those circumstances. I don't think that we will see this device on normal pianos intended for home and normal professional use. It is a helluva piece of engineering though.
_________________________
regards,
Chris

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#636307 - 09/01/02 06:16 PM Re: What IS voicing? (not a piano technician)
John51 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/02
Posts: 295
Loc: England
rvaga, that dream piano sounds nice. How about separating the keyboard from the rest of the piano? Then the frame can be in a box shaped for best acoustics without having to worry about mechanical connections. For smaller homes the upright could be against a wall, with the keyboard elsewhere.
As to voicings, you could have two or three actions that changed with a foot switch.
_________________________
Whaddya mean I shouldn't be swinging it? Beethoven wrote some great rags.

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