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Topic Options
#909616 - 06/09/03 12:36 AM Voicing hammers - Techs
kenny Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 7051
Which is closer to the truth?
1. Voicing hammers is perpetually challenging and interesting, and is at times almost an intellectual pursuit.
2. Voicing hammers is pretty much mundane and automatic once you get the hang of it.

Is it hard to communicate with customers to figure out what sound they want?
Does it really matter what they say, because you pretty much have to do the same thing regardless what the owner says?

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#909617 - 06/09/03 01:49 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
I think voicing ends up being both 1 and 2 depending on what tech you talk to.

For me, it's a chance to practice problem solving skills. The same trick rarely works in all circumstances, so it becomes a way to learn new "tools", and figure out their best application.

There are two parts that can be very tricky for me anyway.
One is the customer. Many times customers either A) don't know what they're hearing, or B) don't know how to describe it.
Many times everything is either tuning, or voicing. "This note is out of tune", when really, the note needs to be voiced down. or, "this note is too flat" when really they mean it's too mellow.
Fortunately, I have a pretty good repoir with most of my customers, and they're pretty much willing to let me voice their piano. This typically consists of me voicing the piano "even" across all registers, paying particular attention to breaks, then asking them what they think. If they want a section to be one way or another, I can accomidate them.
Many times, a piano gets brighter gradually, and they don't notice it. They just don't like the piano the way they used to, but they insist that you not voice it down, as they have a notion this will end up in the destruction of the tone. But given the freedom to do so, I can typically give the piano back the life it's lost in their ears, through a combination of reshaping/resurfacing hammers, and/or voicing (usually needling).

While communication with the customer can sometimes be hard, it is vitally important. It is important both for me to educate the customer so they know what they're hearing. But it is equally important for me to know what they're hearing, so I can get it where they want it. Ultimately, they're signing the check, and if they aren't happy with it, what's the point?

KlavierBauer
_________________________
Outlive Yourself - Become an Organ Donor

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#909618 - 06/09/03 02:20 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
I played a Steinway D yesterday that sounded like it was voiced down a good deal. It is mostly used for chamber music in a small auditorium, so its bass was soft and not powerful, although the mid to high register had one of the most warm and colorful tone I have ever heard.

Personally, the voicing on this instrument was suitable for its purpose, but I would of given it a bit more power in the bass while still retaining its wonderful, calm sound.

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#909619 - 06/09/03 09:55 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
What KB says goes for me, too. Communication and terminology can be very confusing sometimes. I remember one customer asked me if I could make the tone more "orange". Now what was I supposed to say-- yes I've got a little yellow right here in my toolbox??

Also, there is a challenge these days because there are different types of hammers requiring different voicing approaches, and with some of them "overvoicing" can be a real problem. I guess that's a challenging and interesting thing. It's not like the old days where they all took lacquer and if you overvoiced you could fix it with more lacquer. Today you need to keep up with the requirments of the different makers or risk ruining the hammers. An additional challenge can be getting the information from a piano manufacturer as to what their hammer requires and what deep voicing they may have already done to it. Often the lines of sales communication are open, but not the lines of tech communication. Sometimes they don't know at all since the "piano company" is totally a sales/marketing org and are not actually involved in manufacture.

Mostly I follow a client's cue. The fact is, often with the harshest and most tastelessly voiced pianos the customer will say things like "I just *love* the sound of my piano, don't you?" So what am I going to do-- tell them it needs to be voiced down and "ruin the sound" for them?

Other times if the client says nothing, I will bring the voicing to their attention if it needs work. I'll ask them what they think of the tone and would they like it better if I did this or that to it. Some of those people like the idea of altering the tone, others don't.

Like KB says, most of it is really touching up rather than a complete voicing. A client who understands the total picture of voicing from a dynamics standpoint is extremely rare. Most are just listening to surface characteristics.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#909620 - 06/09/03 09:58 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Crash Test,

It's equally likely it was never voiced, period. The SWay hammers come from the factory soft and unlacquered. The dealer is suppose to lacquer them up in the prep process.

So if they did nothing to the hammer at all, it would sound pretty much as you describe.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#909621 - 06/09/03 10:45 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
NorthAmerican Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/03
Posts: 340
Loc: Chicago, Illinois
 Quote:
Originally posted by KlavierBauer:
Many times customers either A) don't know what they're hearing, or B) don't know how to describe it.[/b]
You just described me perfectly!

A year ago, when I started looking for a new piano, I tried some whose sound I didn't like; I wanted to say that they sounded too "sharp" to my ear, but of course that word has a different meaning in music. Harsh? Shrill? It turned out that it was a "bright" sound.

Those pianos were just too bright for my ear.

As to Rick Clark's customer who wanted a sound that was more "orange": that is a phenomenon known as synesthesia, which was the subject of an article in the New York Times some time ago. The dictionary describes it as "A phenomenon in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as the hearing of a sound resulting in the sensation of the visualization of a color."

And I thought that describing "brightness" was difficult!!!

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#909622 - 06/09/03 03:51 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
just speaking as a voicing customer, it is very difficult to put into words what you are hearing, and developing a common vocabulary with your voicer is an ongoing process.

last time my voicer was here, we spent an hour or more just taking turns playing the piano and listening to each other's playing and describing for each other what we heard.

finally, i told him to just voice it to his own taste (he already loved the same parts of the scale that i love). this was not as risky as it sounds, as the main thing the piano needed was to be made more even.

he did a spectacular job, and i've never been happier.

it took three of his visits and lots of discussion and each of us trying to use language the best we could before i was confident that i could give this guy carte blanche.

but when you think about it, what choice do you really have? after all he can't use my ears to do his voicing. he has to use his own.

i'd say once you are confident of both your tech's taste and his capacity to hear tonal subtleties, just let him do his job.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#909623 - 06/10/03 02:35 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
pique:

I agree completely \:\)

Once that repoir is reached with a customer, we have the liberty to do what needs to be done. Hopefully at this point, the tech has a clue, and doesn't end up ruining the piano.

KlavierBauer
_________________________
Outlive Yourself - Become an Organ Donor

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#909624 - 06/10/03 07:16 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
HammerHead Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 354
Loc: Metro Atlanta
KB,
Thanks, that post is a real confidence builder!
_________________________
HH
Completely and forever out of the music business (but still full of opinions)

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#909625 - 06/10/03 08:12 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
Manitou Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/08/02
Posts: 1044
Loc: Colorado
I'll go with Klavier on this one too.

(p.s, i'ts Raport) *grin*

Manitou
_________________________
Manitou - Pianist - Technician

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#909626 - 06/10/03 08:25 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Are there shortcuts in the voicing process that should NOT be done?

I remember a grand where it looked like someone had simply taken a razor blade, and chopped off the top of the hammers at the strike point.

Now, even I could guess this is not a voicing procedure practiced by a qualified tech (this piano was at a piano store, by the way).

How long does a voicing "session" last, on average? Can one method of voicing result in short-term gains, while another approach is a more long-term solution?

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#909627 - 06/11/03 03:53 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
Manitou and I have both witnessed the same piano which had the hammers reshaped with a Dremmel tool (?!)
Thanks for the spelling correction btw Manitou. Sometimes I get too lazy to copy/paste and spellcheck!

Rvaga:
The dremmel tool incident is certainly a shortcut NOT to be taken.
In general, there are a lot of "tricks" for voicing. Not all are appropriate for all situations. Steaming the hammers for instance, might be beneficial in some bright pianos, but certainly not in all.
Voicing longevity really depends on A) what type of voicing is done, and B) how much/hard the piano is played thereafter.
Someone doing some light needling into the strike point can't expect it to last long. On the other hand, deep needling in the shoulder might last a very long time. It really comes down to the performer though. Someone who practices 7 hours a day is going to need a lot more voicing done every 6 months than someone practicing twice a week.
Really, anyone playing their piano regurlary, needs voicing regularly. I typically recommend people do at least some voicing (evening out) at each tuning.

KlavierBauer
_________________________
Outlive Yourself - Become an Organ Donor

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#909628 - 06/11/03 08:30 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
NorthAmerican Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/03
Posts: 340
Loc: Chicago, Illinois
Tinker, tinker, tinker...

It's not repoir, not even raport (but we're getting closer); it's...

rapport!!!

I'm grinning, too, because I don't need spell-check to see my own errors; I see them just as I click on "post reply," "send," or whatever else makes it too late to correct tehm.

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#909629 - 06/11/03 10:38 AM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
 Quote:
makes it too late to correct tehm.
was that a real typo or a joke?
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#909630 - 06/11/03 12:34 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
NorthAmerican Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/03
Posts: 340
Loc: Chicago, Illinois
It was a real typo and a joke. I was just about to click on "Add Reply" when I noticed it, then decided to leave it in because it was a perfect example of what I was describing.

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#909631 - 06/11/03 12:37 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Flat-filed hammers: I've seen similar myself. The only explanation is incompetence. It doesn't matter what the tool was. The problem was in the knowledge and skill of the person doing it. I suppose it was someone who knew you are supposed to file the string grooves out of the hammers, but didn't know anything else.

Dremel tools: I've experimented with them using a special hammer filing accessory. A couple techs use them all the time supposedly.

My experience was that with an old fashioned cold-pressed lacquered American hammer of just the right width I got a pretty good job. I still had to go back and hand file with fine grit paper to get a finished job, but the Dremel with the jig was great for getting the bulk of the old felt off. With other types of hammers the Dremel felt kind of uncontrollable so I put the thing down and did it all by hand.

Over time I have come to prefer just doing it by hand regardless of hammer type. When one finally arrives at the right grit and style of paper needed for gross filing, the time advantage of the Dremel becomes less and less. And I can *always* file successfully by hand, whereas with the Dremel I am always wondering how it will work on a particular set.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#909632 - 06/12/03 05:13 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Voicing techniques make for interesting reading.

To add to this talk (without a whole lot of walk), I understand Dremmels can be used for both needling and filing. The tip for filing is, of course, something that grinds/tears off wool. An article appearing in the PTG journal some years ago (don't have date with me at work) featured their use with a needle in the tip. As best I can remember, the specific model was not the corded electric 25,000 RPM one many may be familiar with. It was a specific model that, I believe, is battery powered and probably operates at much slower (safer?) RPM. Its use in the article was regarded as a legitimate way to deep needle the shoulders of harder hammers. Some techs would probably admit doing this with more than a single needle in a handheld tool is physically demanding (esp w/Renners).

David Stanwood either wrote, or at least contributed to, this article, a major facet of which was an explanation of how abrasion was a desirable element in the wools response to different techniques. There were microscopic pictures of felt strands and what appeared to be plates, or flaps (?), along them which seemed to rise when voiced to add elasticity to the hammer (soft play). The techniques discussed were steam, lacquer, needling, fabric softeners and probably others. I dont think any one technique was necessarily being endorsed.

He described the effects of rubbing two pieces of felt together and how this exercise generally leaves two more fluffy pieces of felt. This principal was used to explain how plier voicing can have an effect on tone, as it supposedly creates friction, or abrasion, as the felt inside the hammer moves.

I dont remember if I read it, or simply made an inference, but a rotating needle (ie Dremmel) would seem to produce more abrassion than one going straight in and out.

Apart from the article, there doesnt seem to me to be any subject of piano technology practiced in ways that offer greater variety:

-There are needlers that go along the hammers surface, carefully working the shoulders.

-There was a story related to me about a tech from the Steinway factory coming to Boston with a hammer set that had the shoulders cut out completely, yet fooled many techs into thinking they were normal (moral was to prove the importance of properly working on the crown).

-There are those who needle the sides of hammers.

-There are those who tooth brush the crown. Abrassion?

-There are those who file with a padle and +- 120 grit paper.

-There are those who shoe shine the crown with the same paper.

-There are those who follow the www.rennerusa.com model for where to stick the needle.

-There are those who use the model reproduced in Reblitz's book.

-From one place I hear that key platic that is literally disolved in acetone does not produce optimal results.

-From another I hear it is used almost interchangeably in the training at Steinway.

Again, this is all from what Ive read, or heard, in more places than the forum. The technique I misstrust most is fabric softener, because there doesnt seem to be a central source for it and it is often explained as a cocktail of fragrance and other junk that cant be controled for. To me, its another place where you sample the pudding before making a choice. I guess Im lucky I didnt end up preferring the fabric softener (never even sampled it).

Chris
_________________________
Amateur At Large

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#909633 - 06/12/03 05:47 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18292
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by NorthAmerican:
It was a real typo and a joke. I was just about to click on "Add Reply" when I noticed it, then decided to leave it in because it was a perfect example of what I was describing.[/b]
You can always go back and correct your posts by using the edit feature.
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#909634 - 06/12/03 05:52 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
NorthAmerican Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/03
Posts: 340
Loc: Chicago, Illinois
 Quote:
Originally posted by BruceD:
 Quote:
Originally posted by NorthAmerican:
It was a real typo and a joke. I was just about to click on "Add Reply" when I noticed it, then decided to leave it in because it was a perfect example of what I was describing.[/b]
You can always go back and correct your posts by using the edit feature.[/b]
Thanks, I didn't know that. Too bad I can't fix some of the e-mails I've sent out....

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#909635 - 06/12/03 05:59 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18292
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by NorthAmerican:
 Quote:
Originally posted by BruceD:
 Quote:
Originally posted by NorthAmerican:
It was a real typo and a joke. I was just about to click on "Add Reply" when I noticed it, then decided to leave it in because it was a perfect example of what I was describing.[/b]
You can always go back and correct your posts by using the edit feature.[/b]
Thanks, I didn't know that. Too bad I can't fix some of the e-mails I've sent out....[/b]
NorthAmerican:

In the line that lists the time of your post is an icon showing a piece of paper and a pencil. That's the edit feature. Click on that and you - you alone (plus the administrator) can edit and/or delete any post you have made. Then scroll down and click on "Edit post" and your correction has been made.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#909636 - 06/12/03 06:03 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9404
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
 Quote:

My experience was that with an old fashioned cold-pressed lacquered American hammer of just the right width I got a pretty good job. I still had to go back and hand file with fine grit paper to get a finished job, but the Dremel with the jig was great for getting the bulk of the old felt off.
Rick,

Does the Dremmel tool actually save you time?? I mean you have to go back and do "fine filing", right? And how much total felt are you taking off?

Inquiring minds want to know,
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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#909637 - 06/12/03 09:51 PM Re: Voicing hammers - Techs
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Rich,

My best results were on really old American hammers that were severely worn. It definitely saved time over taking off all that excess felt manually. There are different depths of cut available on the accessory tool. I remember an old Weber where I got a good finished filing job done in about 1-1.5 hour. I mowed the felt right off with the dremel and it was automatically well shaped, then it just needed some smoothing. But that was highly unusual. Usually it doesn't feel right and I put the Dremel away.

For more normal jobs where you are just keeping up with routine filing the time advantage is a lot less.

But the thing is that on many kinds of hammers you just can't get a good controlled 'feel' anyway and you have to go to hand files or risk getting the shape wrong. But when the hammer and the Dremel seem to be good mates, it's sweet.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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