Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright...

Posted by: Taking Requests

Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 12:40 AM

I'm starting to think about getting an acoustic (currently have a digital).

In a recent visit to the store, the salesman told me that the "brightness" of a piano can be made more mellow by adjusting the hammers (I belive he said the tech can "pin the hammers" to make them softer.)

He said it might have to be done once a year to maintain that sound and it wouldn't add more than about $100 to the cost of a yearly tuning.

Just wanted to check in to see if that sounds about right?

Thanks for your thoughts.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 01:00 AM

We usually refer to it as needling. And yes, that sounds about right.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 01:06 AM

The hard part is finding someone competent to do the work.
Posted by: itsfreakingmeout

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 03:59 AM

once a year? i though voicing was a once-in-a-while kinda thing. hm.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 04:08 AM

I would imagine at some point the hammers could not be needled year after year after year after year. Another solution would be to buy a whole new set of hammers that were softer to begin with.

I had my tech use a solution of fabric softener and isopropyl alcohol on the hammers of my C3. That softened the sound but the effect lasted only about six months.

I have long since gone another route - no tunings, no hammer work. wink
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 07:48 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
I had my tech use a solution of fabric softener and isopropyl alcohol on the hammers of my C3. That softened the sound but the effect lasted only about six months.

This is the problem with hammer voicing… it doesn’t usually last very long. If you got 6 months, I’d say that was pretty good.

I’ve developed a certain level of skill when it comes to hammer voicing on my own instruments, but I wouldn’t want to stab someone else’s hammers (especially while they were watching laugh ).

Also, I would not recommend purchasing a piano with a promise from a salesperson or dealer that they can voice the piano to suit you after the sale… not a good idea.

All the best,

Rick
Posted by: gnuboi

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 11:47 AM

Originally Posted By: Rickster
Also, I would not recommend purchasing a piano with a promise from a salesperson or dealer that they can voice the piano to suit you after the sale… not a good idea.


+1 Start off with the tone you like.
Posted by: Taking Requests

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 02:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Rickster
Also, I would not recommend purchasing a piano with a promise from a salesperson or dealer that they can voice the piano to suit you after the sale… not a good idea.


That makes sense.

A follow-up question then: If I'm not mistaken, two of the same models (i.e.: two Yamaha T118 pianos), even prepped in the same store, can sound different (i.e. some brighter than others). I ask because that's what my ears were telling me in the store (which got more complicated when visiting multiple stores due to diff't accoustics of the room).

True?
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 02:55 PM

Originally Posted By: TR
That makes sense.

A follow-up question then: If I'm not mistaken, two of the same models (i.e.: two Yamaha T118 pianos), even prepped in the same store, can sound different (i.e. some brighter than others). I ask because that's what my ears were telling me in the store (which got more complicated when visiting multiple stores due to diff't accoustics of the room).

True?

Yes, this is true.

I had a piano salesperson tell me once that they could voice a particular piano either up or down to suit me (after the sale, of course). I’ve learned a lot since then. Yes, a particular piano can be voice up or down (brighter or mellower) but the core/signature tone is what it is. A highly experienced voicer can probably make a bigger difference, but it will still not change the core tone to a great extent. If you want to change the core/signature tone of a given piano, you can change the hammers and perhaps the scale I suppose (if you can afford it).

With that being said, I doubt that core/signature tone on the Yamaha T118 will vary a lot. So, the different pianos you are looking at of the same make and model will differ to some degree, but not drastically. Even the more mellow voiced models will get brighter in time.

Also, when you voice the hammers to be more mellow, you also sacrifice some power… no matter how hard you hit the key, the volume is just not there; you can achieve pp just fine, but ff may be a little muted.

Keep us informed of your piano shopping experience.

Rick
Posted by: Mike Carr

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 02:56 PM

T118's voiced by dealers? Maybe. But these pianos are tuned, regulated, and voiced at the factory, some are warmer, some are cooler out of the box, both by plan and happenstance I suppose . . .

ps . . . I see I cross-posted with Rickster who's got it right . . . just to add that the more expensive the piano, the larger the profit, the more willing the dealer will be to "voice" to some unknown customer's whims, I guess, but, as others mentioned, the effects of "voicing" whether used as a cure-all or selling-point are often exagerated . . . and always fleeting . . .

I can make this XXXXXX sound just like a Steinway . . . even yer mudder wont know the differnce . . .


Mike
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 04:03 PM

Voicing a piano is most critical in its treble, the most important part of the keyboard.

This is the very section for melody often requiring a particularly important "singing" type role.

Some believe you can make an opera star out of a rock star just by pushing needles into felt, use irons, plyers or what have you.... wink

If a tech voices a piano, it would be useless unless he understands in more detail the musical ideal the piano is supposed to express in the end.

There's also a serious limitation of what the piano will allow him to do - and what *not*

Anybody working in this field knows there's much more to all of this. Fact is few if any sales staff seriously ever demonstrate the the possibilities of a piano's sound and balance across all the 88

Even fine sounding pianos - or those whose tone has been refined later - can sound quite different from each other, even if same make and model.

Talking about tone in general without being able to sample all 88 keys and then try different types of music, just doesn't make much sense to me.

It's a subject best done "hands on"

Find someone who *can* - or at least will give it a good shot....

Norbert smile
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 05:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Find someone who *can* - or at least will give it a good shot....

In all honesty, I’d be very, very selective in who I allow to “stab” my hammers with needles.

Do you poke or do you stab… do you inject the needles like a hypodermic needle? Where do you jab the needles in? How deep? How many jabs? How many needles in the tool? On the sides or on the shoulders? How close do you get to the strike point? Do you ever needle the strike point?

All these things can only be learned from experience. And, how do you get experience?

Find the most experienced piano tech money can buy
That is unless you are willing to give it try
Whether you succeed or whether you fail
Depends on how well you’ve followed the trail
Of others who’ve gone on before
Who had the guts to learn and to explore

But know the risks before you start
That is the beginning of being smart
We can learn any skill if we have the desire
And not let the forces of doubt quench the fire
If we do well or if we do poorly
It’s a good learning experience surely

I’d better stop here… laugh

Rick


Posted by: Scotty-Boy

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 06:11 PM

Do you really want to mess with hammers on your new piano? What if it makes the sound too muddy?

I would keep shopping until you find the piano that comes as close to your ideal sound as possible. Once in your home you can also help "massage" the sound with rugs, curtains, etc.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 06:59 PM

New hammers may be new but are never in ideal shape.

Hammer makers are only concerned *making* hammers, the shaping and fitting to string is often up to a tech later.

Every top maker either shapes or reshapes hammers to allow for even surface, this is especially important in grands.

Techs know that most pianos have great potential to bring their tone a good notch up but few are really good at that type work.

Even less people are willing to pay for such work. After all, most pianos works just "fine" without going the extra mile.

Just look at the edges of "new hammers" - they almost always are concave shaped making for uneven hammer impact.

Depending on playing in period and hammer type, most hammers I know benefit from further refinement after few months. This can include light sanding and expert voicing.

Those who are the best in this often are players themselves. They not only have the eperience and passion bringing out the best in tone but can "listen in" to hear the result of their work.

Ideally this is being discussed with the owner who should be present and try piano him/herself after.

Repeat: this is the *ideal* situation.

Most commonly, nothing besides tuning is done and owner is happy. Perhaps not knowing or *appeciating* the extra work.

Norbert
Posted by: BDB

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 08:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Mike Carr
T118's voiced by dealers? Maybe. But these pianos are tuned, regulated, and voiced at the factory, some are warmer, some are cooler out of the box, both by plan and happenstance I suppose . . .
Mike


The T118 I last tuned had some voicing problems even after delivery. I doubt the owners noticed, but I did.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 09:01 PM

Even on a sturdy make like Yamaha, a ham-handed voicer can attain a very unfortunate result. I'm trying to think of another word besides 'mutilated,' but...

You are better off to get a piano whose voice you like to begin with. Play it in your home for at least six months or a year, and several tunings, before you start messing around with the voicing, and then be very gingerly and cautious. It's best to try adjusting the acoustics in your music room, including changing the piano's position in the room, as your first resort.

It is hard enough to adjust the ear to allow for the difference between a piano showroom and your own home, let alone predicting the results of a hypothetical voicing performed in the future.
Posted by: Taking Requests

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/08/11 11:45 PM

First - thanks to everyone for all the advice above.

Second - since part of my goal is to get a piano not too bright (and since Yamaha has the rep of being on the brighter side) - was wondering what other brands (or models) are reputed to be either in the middle or on the mellow side?

Thanks!
Posted by: Rotom

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 12:23 AM

Kawai
Posted by: gnuboi

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 01:00 AM

I've only tried a very few compared to some people on this forum... but I can say that Walter and even the humble Pearl River both have "round" tone. Different, but no where like the "sharp" Yamaha.
Posted by: Rotom

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 01:10 AM

Hailun also, I think.
Posted by: Mike Carr

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 02:43 AM

Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: Mike Carr
T118's voiced by dealers? Maybe. But these pianos are tuned, regulated, and voiced at the factory, some are warmer, some are cooler out of the box, both by plan and happenstance I suppose . . .
Mike


The T118 I last tuned had some voicing problems even after delivery. I doubt the owners noticed, but I did.


Well, sure, but if the buyer doesn't notice, does it really matter? Besides, how many pianos bought are played regularly? How many sit for decades? Go from showroom to landfill with barely a tune? Or, at best,the obligatory handful of lessons from a yawning teacher, crowned with a diploma cut from the back of a book. The piano bench filled with music never played, never read . . .

And who listens? Does anyone really want to hear the annoying family member who thinks they have talent? Or has decided late in life to write a concerto? And, the most annoying (drum roll, please), the young "prodigy" . . .

It's depressing. Best if time’s not wasted with tuning or voicing in the hope these cretins will get on with their lives, go back to playing video games or stealing cars or soaking their teeth or whatever the heck else it was they did before discovering their "gifts" . . . .

er, present company excepted, of course . . .

Mike
Posted by: BDB

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 03:41 AM

My point was that you cannot expect a piano to be voiced at the factory no matter who made it. I have no idea what your point is.

Eventually the owners may develop an appreciation for the evenness of their piano. But that evenness will not have come from the factory. It will come from corrections I make a little at a time, the corrections I need to be certain that the tuning is good, better than what it ever got at the factory.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 08:29 AM

Bottom line… there is no substitute for the time spent on any piano by a highly qualified piano tech. That is where you get your premium sound. Sometimes you get this with a new piano off the show room floor and sometimes you don’t.

I’ve always heard that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but why not? laugh

Rick
Posted by: Aliwally

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 10:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Mike Carr
Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: Mike Carr
T118's voiced by dealers? Maybe. But these pianos are tuned, regulated, and voiced at the factory, some are warmer, some are cooler out of the box, both by plan and happenstance I suppose . . .
Mike


The T118 I last tuned had some voicing problems even after delivery. I doubt the owners noticed, but I did.


Well, sure, but if the buyer doesn't notice, does it really matter? Besides, how many pianos bought are played regularly? How many sit for decades? Go from showroom to landfill with barely a tune? Or, at best,the obligatory handful of lessons from a yawning teacher, crowned with a diploma cut from the back of a book. The piano bench filled with music never played, never read . . .

And who listens? Does anyone really want to hear the annoying family member who thinks they have talent? Or has decided late in life to write a concerto? And, the most annoying (drum roll, please), the young "prodigy" . . .

It's depressing. Best if time’s not wasted with tuning or voicing in the hope these cretins will get on with their lives, go back to playing video games or stealing cars or soaking their teeth or whatever the heck else it was they did before discovering their "gifts" . . . .

er, present company excepted, of course . . .

Mike


LOL!!!! especially "drum roll please", the young prodigy" ....man that is a funny post with some truth to it...LOL!!!
Posted by: A Rebours

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 12:12 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert


If a tech voices a piano, it would be useless unless he understands in more detail the musical ideal the piano is supposed to express in the end.


Norbert,

How does an otherwise fine/exceptional tech go about finding out the musical ideal intended by a manufacturer in their pianos if they have not worked on that brand/model of piano? Do they contact the manufacturer? Consult with techs that know the brand?

My apologies for "hijacking" the OP, but I've been thinking about what Norbert says in his reply to OP a lot lately.

AR
Posted by: Hop

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 03:27 PM

Originally Posted By: Taking Requests
First - thanks to everyone for all the advice above.

Second - since part of my goal is to get a piano not too bright (and since Yamaha has the rep of being on the brighter side) - was wondering what other brands (or models) are reputed to be either in the middle or on the mellow side?

Thanks!


I agree with the suggestion of a Kawaii (which is more mellow), but not of the Hailun (grand). The Hailun that I have (HG178) projects mightily, and while it has a delightful bell-like tone in the treble, it does need occasional needling to avoid crossing the threshold of harsh in the treble. I have heard Yamaha uprights that are overly bright and would not prefer them either. I haven't played a Hailun upright, but playing one for even a few minutes should tell you whether it is more mellow or more bright.

I have also played other lesser brands of uprights which are not overly bright, but then they don't project well either. For some rooms however, that might be perfect.

Hop
Posted by: master88er

Re: Adjusting Piano to make Less Bright... - 08/09/11 05:40 PM

Originally Posted By: Taking Requests
First - thanks to everyone for all the advice above.

Second - since part of my goal is to get a piano not too bright (and since Yamaha has the rep of being on the brighter side) - was wondering what other brands (or models) are reputed to be either in the middle or on the mellow side?

Thanks!


IMHO, if you are considering the Yamaha T118, you should consider the Ritmüller 118. It is a VERY mellow piano and not at all bright or thin sounding and I think you will find the action much more responsive.