More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack'

Posted by: PNO40

More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 12:46 PM

Once more I find myself canvassing the collective wisdom of PW to help diagnose a problem with my piano. For the previous case, complete with details on the piano and its history, see here.

The piano was tuned last Friday and the tuner-tech did some surface filing of the hammers to take the edge off a very harsh upper tenor and treble section when played at mezzoforte or above. Today I discovered one of the notes giving off what I can only describe as a 'smacking' sound, a bit like the sound of stiff paper if you flick it or hit it with a pencil.

Here is the link to a YouTube recording of the offending hammer, the third into the treble section. I play the surrounding notes so that the contrast is clear, though the sound is so odd and distinctive that this was probably overkill.

Recording was using a Zoom Q2HD (in stereo) and though the sound is clear over weak laptop speakers, it is striking on headphones or proper amplification.

Does anyone have any ideas what this might be? A crack in the head or shaft? Or just the result of bad filing of the felt?

With thanks in advance,

P.
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 01:28 PM

Just listening on my iPhone, it sounds like a loose hammer to hammer shank glue joint or a loose centerpin.
Things like this can present themselves at any time and are a common enough occurrence.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 01:33 PM

Technicians should be able to identify the problem better than I can - as rxd did while I was listening.

I can hear the difference but more than one note sounds a bit inconsistent to me on my laptop's speakers.

Voicing may well be the answer but I'd still check to make sure the hammers are aligned to the strings, the flange screws are tight / pins not loose, and the strings are well seated at the v-bar and bridge pins. Presumably the technician who is coming to voice the piano will attend to all that.

What does the tuner who came on Friday say?
Posted by: Rickster

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 02:48 PM

I’m no piano tech, but it sounds like a hammer to string alignment problem to me... like the hammer is not hitting all the strings at the same time or they are not level/aligned/mated.

Tone building/management and voicing are very important skills that not every tuner has…

Good luck with it.

Rick
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 03:26 PM

Yes. There are tonal problems on all the notes played. The OP is talking about the 'smacking' sound. You will hear it immediately as a difference in the starting transient of the note in question.
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 03:27 PM

Originally Posted By: rxd
Just listening on my iPhone, it sounds like a loose hammer to hammer shank glue joint or a loose centerpin.
Things like this can present themselves at any time and are a common enough occurrence.


Thanks rxd. I'll pull out the action tomorrow and have a look to see if I can identify either of these.

P.
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 03:34 PM

Originally Posted By: Withindale
Voicing may well be the answer but I'd still check to make sure the hammers are aligned to the strings, the flange screws are tight / pins not loose, and the strings are well seated at the v-bar and bridge pins. Presumably the technician who is coming to voice the piano will attend to all that.

What does the tuner who came on Friday say?


Thanks Ian. I doubt whether this is a voicing issue as it is an entirely new sound which wasn't there last night and appeared today. Having again compared the recording with the real thing, I realise the recording doesn't bring out the sound of 'smacking paper' clearly enough, even if it does show the difference between the problem note and the others. It's also only an impact sound, independent of the strings resonating, though I admit this is not so clear on the recording (so much for the Zoom Q2HD Stereo!!). I'm still waiting for the tuner to get back to me, but he may well have to come an hear for himself unless I can engineer a better recording.

P.
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 03:43 PM

Originally Posted By: rxd
The OP is talking about the 'smacking' sound. You will hear it as a difference in the starting transient of the note in question


That's precisely it, rxd. And that's probably why it is not as clear on the recording as it could be, given the difficulties of recording transients on digital recorders. That's an impressive set of ears you have, sir!
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 04:04 PM

Thank you.
No need to remove the action. The hammer will probably have some play in the glue joint and can often be pulled apart with just the fingers. If it doesn't come apart easily, special tools may be needed.

If it is the pinning, (the sounds are remarkably similar) there may be no other symptoms but the hammer assembly may have some play side to side. If the centre pin is actually coming out, you will see the pin shining between the flanges.

The pinning is really a job for an expert. The glue joint, of it comes apart easily, is readily apparent to fix but a professional would align the rest of the nearby hammers at least and tighten the flange screws before glueing in order to get the alignment correct first time.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 05:05 PM

I was wondering about the sound of stiff paper! Now I can just hear it with my headphones on, but only because I've been told what to listen for.

Rick and I can be excused. Experienced tuners acquire enhanced powers to distinguish sounds, a fact establised by recent research at University College London. It caused quite a stir at the end of August.
Posted by: Dave B

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/11/12 08:28 PM



Its hard to tell much from the video. A good look at the strike point usually tells the story. And, how the hammer bounces off the string when played at different dynamics usually confirms the condition of the strike point. From what I can pickup from the video:

First; the unison is out.
Second; before you do anything, re-glue the hammer head to the shank. It can be tight on the shank and still click. This slight movement throws off the hammer head alignment.
Third; check that the strings are level and then that the hammer is mated to the to the leveled strings.

These steps should solve the problem. The hammer travel looks ok, so I doubt it's a travel or alignment problem caused by poor flange centers. It helps sometimes to re-seat the hammer flanges by loosening and then re-tightening the screws.

And always check for loose back check catchers.
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/12/12 03:36 AM

PNO40,

To add another perspective to what's already been written: if this were my situation, I'd consider changing to another tuner. In my opinion, given that the tuning is only a few days old, the quality of all those unisons (with the possible exception of the fourth one, A5) leaves something to be desired, especially G#5 and A#5.

By the way, I also hear a little click on A5, but this one happens just before the hammer strikes the string, i.e. when the action starts moving. One can hear it both on the upwards (0:14) and the downwards run (0:18). I doubt that it's your fingernail on the keytop, because it's not evident on any of the other notes.
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/12/12 10:25 AM

Just to clear up a few red herrings on here.

This Is mechanical noise, traveling faults or faulty hammer /string mating does not make a mechanical ('smacking') noise on the attack.

An owner is unlikely to be equipped to remove a hammerhead If it is on tight but clicking.

A loose flange screw has a deeper, more complex click, a loose Catcher clicks almost the same but after the attack.

Nor were we asked to critique the tuning since we don't know the entire story.

What's that wonderful Abraham Maslow quote somebody uses on here? 'if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail'.
Posted by: Dave B

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/12/12 09:56 PM

rxd, what your saying is true. But as your siggy sayz, "in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not.".

Which might explain why I have experienced 'smacking' sounds similar to the ones on the video from an out of tune unison with unlevel strings and poor hammer to string mating.

After a few seasons of humidity fluctuations, the flange contact to the Hammer rail may not be flush. Hence the suggestion to loosen and then re-tighten the butt flange screw. It is clearly not a diagnosis to the clicking problem, but is something that could contribute to the click sensation.

Both the flange and the butt catchers, although usually a lower pitch and more complex, do come in different pitches and complexities.

I know we were not 'asked' to critique the tuning but, the tuning effects many things in a piano. Often sensations perceived as buzzes and zings, are produced by poorly tuned unisons on strings with uneven travel tensions.

Noises and uneven attack can be a symptom of a combination of 2 or 3 different causes. There is a strong possibility that this is happen on this piano. I'm also hearing a slight metallic rattling as all the notes on the video are played. This could also be adding to the 'smack', especially if the problem note vibrates the rattle stronger than the other notes.

I'm putting my hammer back into my tool case as I await your diagnosis.
Posted by: Cy Shuster, RPT

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/12/12 10:44 PM

Loose hammerhead, or loose hammer flange screw. Very characteristic sound.

--Cy--
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 04:18 AM

Originally Posted By: rxd
Nor were we asked to critique the tuning since we don't know the entire story.

What's that wonderful Abraham Maslow quote somebody uses on here? 'if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail'.


Well, I was hoping that on a forum such as this, there would be an opportunity to comment on the quality (or possible shortage thereof) of a tuning that is only a few days old - in the interest of striving for the best possible service to the OP. But if I offended anyone or confused the issue by commenting on something that was not asked for by the OP, I apologise for my part in any "red herring".
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 05:28 AM

I have already given my diagnosis and others have spoken on these issues far more eloquently than I. The sounds are easily distinguishable to an experienced tech.

What I really take issue with is our right, as respondents to go so far as to recommend the OP to get another tuner when we don't know the entire circumstances. For example, what is the state of the pinblock? What were the time constraints? How much pitch raise was involved? And that's just for starters. None of us, none of us, repetition intentional, know the circumstances.

Judgements of this nature, made from a point of view of ignorance of the circumstances, say more about the person making the judgement (and their upbringing and education, because they have never been taught this elementary principle) than they do about the OP's tuner. I have a lot more to say on this if anyone is interested.

Lecture over.

Quiz time.

Somebody heard a slight tick sound on a key in this video like the click of a fingernail on a key but it was not that.

Question, What else is it likely to be?

Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 07:13 AM

Loose nut on the keystop stick or a loose damper wire adjustment screw on the damper flange
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 08:04 AM

Originally Posted By: CC2 and Chopin lover
Loose nut on the keystop stick or a loose damper wire adjustment screw on the damper flange


Possible, but I'm looking for a sound even more similar to a fingernail hitting a key and with the same timing.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 08:39 AM

Loose keytop.
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 08:46 AM

Originally Posted By: CC2 and Chopin lover
Loose keytop.


That's exactly what I had in mind. I would concede that a loose key top is a slightly deeper sound than a fingernail but they are remarkably similar, arent they?
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 08:51 AM

Yes, especially ivory. You will definitely get a similar "ticking" sound when the nuts are loose on the keystop stick, although it would have slightly different timing, being more prominent on the "upstroke" of the key.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 09:11 AM

Shouldn't "technical theory and pop-quiz" questions be in the Tuner/Tech Forum? There is plenty of bickering over there and we don't need it in Piano Forum.
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 09:13 AM

Exactly. It's all about tone quality and timing.

It has been said earlier in a very interesting article that piano tuners develop unusual skills. I equate this skill as not much different than an expert pest exterminator identifying different types of droppings. Very important skill but nobody does studies on that.
Posted by: Seeker

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 09:14 AM

One of the things I learned about when I worked in software development and maintenance was a methodology for assisting in "problem determination". We were cautioned NOT to jump to any conclusions until we'd fully described the problem. Our initial conclusions were often wrong.

In any case, two of the most important questions we asked were: 1) WHEN did the problem start? and 2) "what has changed" recently?

PNO40 has provided some interesting answers to those questions.
Originally Posted By: PNO40
====SNIP====
The piano was tuned last Friday and the tuner-tech did some surface filing of the hammers to take the edge off a very harsh upper tenor and treble section when played at mezzoforte or above. Today I discovered one of the notes giving off what I can only describe as a 'smacking' sound, a bit like the sound of stiff paper if you flick it or hit it with a pencil.
========SNIP============

The new symptom is a 'smacking" sound.
It started AFTER his tuner-tech "...did some surface filing of the hammers...".

Of course I can't state with certainty that this is the case, but there might well be a link between that recent hammer filing and the new noises.

I, as several others have written, think that the problem is a matter of (probably newly loosened) hammer heads and/or pinning. Even a highly skilled technician could have loosened hammer heads and/or pins in the process of doing that "surface filing". It's also possible this job was done by a technician not all that skilled. Again - we can't say for sure, because we don't know how well the hammer heads were glued, nor do we know the condition of the pinning at the start of the filing job. What we DO know, at least from PNO40's description, is that this latest problem started AFTER the filing.

Regarding the wobbly unisons -- they wobbled after this latest tuning; they wobbled on the original recordings posted by PNO40. In both cases (as I recall, and I'm sure somebody will correct me if I'm wrong), the recordings were made within a few days to a few weeks after the tuning. Unless the pins are loose on this piano, OR there were significant temperature and humidity swings, OR a lot of heavy playing done, I would expect the piano to be better in tune than it sounded in the recordings.

Not to offend, but, at this point, if it were my call, it would be to the local PTG chapter looking for another technician.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 09:48 AM

Quote:
Shouldn't "technical theory and pop-quiz" questions be in the Tuner/Tech Forum? There is plenty of bickering over there and we don't need it in Piano Forum.


I noticed from previous threads of yours Marty that you are not above giving advice of a technical nature on this forum, despite it being completely inaccurate. Here is an example of something you recently wrote in response to a Dampp Chaser question specific to sticky keys:

Quote:
The Kawai piano actions are known for being unaffected by humidity changes. "Sticky keys" generally are not a problem due to changes in RH with Kawai pianos.


So maybe, instead of chastising us for writing something of a technical nature, you should attempt to learn something from it!
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 10:06 AM

Andrew, no offence taken, i have no emptional attachment to what i wrote and a second opinion is always a good idea. What you say could well be true. We don't know the presenting condition of the piano and now, not only passing judgement on the tuning, we are putting ourselves in the position of judge and jury by deciding to apportion blame because the OP noticed some things after the piano had some attention from a tuner. As we all know, many things are noticed only after a piano has been tuned. It does not necessarily follow that the problems are iatrogenic, as you so right point out.

Both you and I know a lot but if we put all we know together, we still don't know enough about pre-existing conditions. Sure, we can have an educated guess but it would not hold up before an intelligent judge.

Any intelligent judges put there?
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 10:22 AM

rxd,

Could I clear something up, please?

You say that no-one can know the circumstances. I disagree. If we take the time to read, we actually know quite a lot about the circumstances.

In the opening post of this thread, there's a link to a previous thread. The OP specifically put it there for us. In short, that previous thread says that the OP bought the piano from a rebuilder in June. Original pinblock, but new strings and re-felted hammers. From the one picture that shows tuning pins, they look new too. (I might be wrong, but from all of this I would infer that the torque of the pinblock is good enough to hold a tuning.)

It was then tuned four times in the three months leading up to the previous thread. In fact, he actually lists the specifics of each tuning there. 3 of the 4 were pitch raises, the third was left at 441 Hz, and the last tuning (mid October) he described as being "quite stable overall" after a month.

There was also a video link, which showed that the piano was tuned very close to 440 Hz. To me it sounded slightly above 440.

So the tuning I was referring to earlier in this thread, was the fifth tuning in about 5 months, and given the history, I doubt that there was a significant pitch raise involved.

The unisons we heard in this thread were less than a week old.

Based on all this information I wrote that if this were my situation, I would consider to change tuners. I do not see that as a "judgement made from a point of ignorance".

(In fact, I have been brought up not to judge from an ignorant position, and I hope to live up to that standard even on an internet forum.)
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 10:26 AM

Sometimes threads morph away from the original subject Marty.

I believe we are still dealing with the original post and suggestions arising from it. We just used a slightly more intriguing way of bringing things to light.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 11:04 AM

CC2,

The original posting was about the use of the Dampp Chaser system and asked for replies from people who had experience with them.

Here is my full reply, and not your edited version.

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Hi lori822,

Though I am a supporter of the use of the D-C systems to increase stability in pianos, having them installed on all three of my pianos, there is another consideration in your situation. Your Kawai RX has a composite action. The Kawai piano actions are known for being unaffected by humidity changes. "Sticky keys" generally are not a problem due to changes in RH with Kawai pianos. Is your piano tuner also a piano technician? It may be time for a full action regulation for your piano.

That being said, a D-C system would be most beneficial in maintaining tuning stability across the seasons. You mentioned living in a condo and it would be important to consider the type of HVAC system you have in your environment. That would be the starting point in determining the need for a full or partial D-C system.

I hope that there is some response from piano technicians in your area to offer additional insight. You might also pose the question in the 'tuner/technician' forum.


Inaccurate?

Is the Kawai composite action not another consideration?

Do you dispute that the Kawai action is known for being more trouble free in concern with swings in RH?

Would it be important to know if the tuner was also a technician?

On a three year old piano, might it not be time for a full regulation?

I offered no technical advice at all. I addressed how to approach the problem, as stated by the OP, in reference to my own experience.

I am not a piano technician. However, two of my skills are being able to read and comprehend the written word, and to play the piano at a very high level.

If anyone is interested, here is the link to the original thread.

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1994488/1.html
Posted by: Rickster

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 11:26 AM

On my former grand I had a loose lead weight in a key that made a "clicking/clunking" sound. Plus, you could feel it in the key.

One thing is for sure, there is no substitute for real-world experience when it comes to piano tech stuff...

Rick
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 11:47 AM

OK Marty, let's go over this one more time, because you always insist on replying with the same defense of your original comments. The specific comment that you made, which is TOTALLY inaccurate, is:

Quote:
Your Kawai RX has a composite action. The Kawai piano actions are known for being unaffected by humidity changes. "Sticky keys" generally are not a problem due to changes in RH with Kawai pianos


Now, from a technical standpoint, let's analyze why I have a problem with this SPECIFIC part of your response. You state that the Kawai RX has a composite action. True enough, BUT, they still use felt bushings in the composite wippens, AND they still use wooden hammer shanks with felt bushings, all of which are just as susceptible to RH changes as traditional action parts. Secondly, Kawai actions DO NOT have composite keys.....they are WOOD, with felt balance rail and front rail bushings, which are most often the source of STICKY KEYS....which was what was being addressed in the original thread. So, I did not take you "out of context", I simply focused on the specific inaccuracies and faulty information you were conveying to the original poster. Lastly, no where on the Kawai website page where they describe the benefits of the Millenium action do they claim anything about the parts being "unaffected by humidity changes", as YOU claim. Do you know something Kawai doesn't about their product?
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 11:49 AM

Originally Posted By: rxd
The hammer will probably have some play in the glue joint and can often be pulled apart with just the fingers. If it doesn't come apart easily, special tools may be needed.

If it is the pinning, (the sounds are remarkably similar) there may be no other symptoms but the hammer assembly may have some play side to side. If the centre pin is actually coming out, you will see the pin shining between the flanges.


Thanks rxd. I pulled back the action (without taking it out of the piano) and could gain access to the hammer butt and flange easily enough. The flange screw is tight, as are the others around it. The hammer shank doesn't appear loose either (at either end), or at least there is no more 'play' in it than in those around it. As for the centre pin, I couldn't get near enough to it even see if it might be loose. The tech is scheduled to visit Friday evening, so perhaps he will see something I can't.
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 11:58 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave B
From what I can pickup from the video:

First; the unison is out.
Second; before you do anything, re-glue the hammer head to the shank. It can be tight on the shank and still click. This slight movement throws off the hammer head alignment.
Third; check that the strings are level and then that the hammer is mated to the to the leveled strings.


Thanks Dave B. There are limits to what I am prepared (=able competently and with confidence) to do to the piano, and re-glueing a hammer head is one of these. (See also above regarding the centre-pin.) I have a concert and recording tech booked in for January and I'll leave these kind of things to him. Given that he has been specifically identified for doing a full toning, I'd be surprised if he doesn't pay attention to such matters. Of course, if you are right, I'll be stuck with the 'smacking' until then, or until the head does become very loose from additional playing.

Many thanks,

P.
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 12:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark R.
PNO40,

To add another perspective to what's already been written: if this were my situation, I'd consider changing to another tuner. In my opinion, given that the tuning is only a few days old, the quality of all those unisons (with the possible exception of the fourth one, A5) leaves something to be desired, especially G#5 and A#5.


Thanks Mark. Unfortunately I have become used to the piano going out of tune rapidly, hence 5 tunings in 5 months--('new strings' and all that ...)-- so I'm not inclined to criticise the tuner, at least for now. Yes, the recording is a mere 72 hours after the tuning was finished, and the original post on the 'metallic' resonance was taken perhaps 5 days (max) after its previous tuning. A different tuner was involved in each case, and there was very little playing done in the intervening period, perhaps a couple of hours in total at most. In each case the humidity levels have been very constant (fluctuating between 39 and 44%RH over the period in question), so I am stuck with the (seemingly forever) 'stretching strings' hypothesis for now ... :-(
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 12:21 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Shouldn't "technical theory and pop-quiz" questions be in the Tuner/Tech Forum? There is plenty of bickering over there and we don't need it in Piano Forum.


You're right Marty. There is ample bickering already in the Piano Forum, to which you yourself are not an insignificant contributor. Yet, threads have a life of their own, and I'm actually finding the ensuing discussion to be fascinating and enlightening. Certainly much more so than a dreary debate over who can say what (and how) in which forum. And to judge by Rick's contributions, even a PW moderator appears to be taking an interest in the topic, rather than taking a swipe at somebody.
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 12:35 PM

Originally Posted By: Seeker

The new symptom is a 'smacking" sound.
It started AFTER his tuner-tech "...did some surface filing of the hammers...".
Of course I can't state with certainty that this is the case, but there might well be a link between that recent hammer filing and the new noises.


Thanks Andrew. I think you may well be on to something here. My first suspicion was bad/mis filing, but your suggestion that the act of filing may have loosened the hammer sounds very plausible. It would certainly help explain the timing of the problem, even if there was a couple of hours of (smack-free) playing before the problem arose.

Originally Posted By: Seeker
Regarding the wobbly unisons -- they wobbled after this latest tuning; they wobbled on the original recordings posted by PNO40. In both cases (as I recall, and I'm sure somebody will correct me if I'm wrong), the recordings were made within a few days to a few weeks after the tuning. Unless the pins are loose on this piano, OR there were significant temperature and humidity swings, OR a lot of heavy playing done, I would expect the piano to be better in tune than it sounded in the recordings.

Not to offend, but, at this point, if it were my call, it would be to the local PTG chapter looking for another technician.


Thanks again Andrew. I noted above that the tuning stability is p155 poor, and that I am left clinging to the 'still stretching strings' explanation. The original recording was taken 3-5 days after tuning No.4, the second recording was take 73 hours after tuning No. 5. Each was by a different tuner. Temperature and humidity have been pretty constant, with RH swings of no more than 5% and temperature swings of 3-4 degrees in any 24 hour period and typically only 1 or 2 degrees different between what are my 'playing windows' on any give day. As for for frequent hard playing, since the arrival of my family of 'zings', the playing and practice repertoire has been kept to the extremely gentle end of the spectrum. Finally, as for the pins, the first tech's first visit involved him complimenting the torque on the pins: he was surprised to find them so snug given the age of the pin block.
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 12:47 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark R.
Well, I was hoping that on a forum such as this, there would be an opportunity to comment on the quality (or possible shortage thereof) of a tuning that is only a few days old - in the interest of striving for the best possible service to the OP. But if I offended anyone or confused the issue by commenting on something that was not asked for by the OP, I apologise for my part in any "red herring".


Mark,

Many thanks for your observations. To have somebody critique a tuning is, I think, always of benefit to the recipient (even if it can be somewhat disheartening). An extra set of ears is not to be sniffed at, and even if it doesn't imply switching tech-tuner, it can help the client to get the best out of him/her by enabling the client to give critical feedback. For what it is worth, I don't actually think this tuning was as thorough as the previous tunings--I noticed it myself in some lower tenor chords--but given the state of the piano before his work, I was thankful to have something playable once more, even if there was/is room for improvement.

As for rxd's 'preach at your peril' maxim, I think this is highly laudable, and would love for it to be observed more thoroughly on PW--not least for the fact that it might actually reduce the volume of sermons some contributors seem to have a weakness for giving ...
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 02:00 PM

Originally Posted By: PNO40
Originally Posted By: Seeker

The new symptom is a 'smacking" sound.
It started AFTER his tuner-tech "...did some surface filing of the hammers...".
Of course I can't state with certainty that this is the case, but there might well be a link between that recent hammer filing and the new noises.


Thanks Andrew. I think you may well be on to something here. My first suspicion was bad/mis filing, but your suggestion that the act of filing may have loosened the hammer sounds very plausible. It would certainly help explain the timing of the problem, even if there was a couple of hours of (smack-free) playing before the problem arose.


It's going from bad to worse, folks ... :-(

Soon after posting the above, I sat down to try to play the piano (as opposed to opening it up to diagnose another problem) and within a few minutes discovered another 'smacking' note, this time in the mid tenor range and amongst those notes that the tech-tuner worked on with some surface filing. (Fsharp above middle C) "Andrew may well be right", I thought, "the tech may well have loosened the hammers in the course of pulling the back and filing them. I'll mention this to him when I see him tomorrow".

Yet brave soul that I am, I nevertheless carried on playing regardless, trying to ignore my latest percussive accompaniment. After about 10 minutes, the bass section apparently felt left out and decided to join in the act, as Efalt20 began to join in with its own miniature snare drum effect. However, to my knowledge, the tuner did not go near the bass section when filing, which makes me think I am looking at a more systematic (and serious) problem. The words 'lemon', 'warranty' and 'refund' are now beginning to knock round my head. What fun!! (At this point, I can only laugh as it is hard to weep when things start getting this absurd.)

P.
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 02:38 PM

Originally Posted By: PNO40
A different tuner was involved in each case


To my best recollection, this is the first time you've mentioned this, and I think it is something that none of us (including rxd, with all due respect to an old hand) could have anticipated - given that you spoke of "the tuner" each time, and of having "him" come back. To me, this new bit of information certainly places your previous postings in a different light.

Be that as it may, I'm not putting my upbringing, education or (alleged lack of) principles up for a second public flogging, so I'll be bowing out of this thread while I still have legs to run with.

I wish you all the best with your Blüthner. (Have you spoken to the rebuilder about these things?)
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/13/12 02:59 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark R.
Originally Posted By: PNO40
A different tuner was involved in each case


To my best recollection, this is the first time you've mentioned this, and I think it is something that none of us (including rxd, with all due respect to an old hand) could have anticipated - given that you spoke of "the tuner" each time, and of having "him" come back. To me, this new bit of information certainly places your previous postings in a different light.


Hi Mark: The story of tuner no.1 and the arrival of the new tuner (no.2) was told in the original post, but for clarification in this post the situation is as follows: The first four tunings were all by the same tech-tuner, who proved unresponsive to my queries after the metallic 'zingy' sounds subsequent to his (fourth) tuning and began to intimate that it was all in my head when I eventually chased him down and solicited his opinion. This was what prompted the change of tech-tuner who undertook the 5th tuning which preceded the 'smacking' problem.

Originally Posted By: Mark R.
I wish you all the best with your Blüthner. (Have you spoken to the rebuilder about these things?)


The rebuilder has so far been trying to downplay the problems ("No piano is perfect. Can't hear anything wrong with the (metallic) sound. If you look for an imperfection, you will find it" etc, etc), but I have recently assembled the catalogue of problems that have surfaced in a mere 5 months to remind him that I am spending as much time trouble-shooting the piano as actually playing it. It's on the verge of becoming a less than pleasant relationship, though.

Either way, thanks for your contributions and good wishes. The latter I will need if this to have a half-way happy ending.

P.
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 04:49 AM

Sorry Mark. R,

I was responding to a few consecutive posts in general that seemed to me to be jumping to premature conclusions. Nothing Personal was intended. Thank you for pointing out the backstory. I had stopped reading that one for the same reasons I responded to this one. My apologies. I enjoy your well informed posts.
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 06:17 AM

Thank you, rxd. smile
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 07:24 AM

Marty,

Thank you for the link to your original statement about Kawai actions.

While not directly concerned with this thread, it is a matter arising.

The millennium 3 action, at least the recent ones I have seen have cloth bushings in all the same places as its wooden counterpart and is subject to all the same humidity caused problems.

I have recently been called to two of them that have action bushings that have slowed down enough to create both non playing notes (slow jack bushings) and sticking keys (tight key bushings). I recommended a whole house control system as a very cost effective option.

I am surprised at the number of people who casually accepted what you said as gospel. This is a testament to believable advertising.

There is a lot of confusion with the other currently produced action that is made from similar materials but has important differences. Ed Foote has started a recent excellent thread on this very subject that will help clear up some of the understandable uncertainty.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 08:09 AM

rxd,
To your same point, please see my response to Marty on page four of this thread. I notice Marty has been conspicuously absent since both you and I have responded to his last post.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 10:13 AM

rxd,

Thank you for your measured response.

I understand that there are many points of friction within a piano action which can cause sluggishness or even sticking of various keys. My answer was a general response to a member who was interested in using a Dampp Chaser, referenced by her tech, to solve the problem. When read in its entirety, my answer indicated that the D-C system was not necessarily the solution and the problem needed to be investigated further. My suggestion was to contact a qualified technician to carefully examine the action, after three years of use on a new instrument, and that it might be time for a full regulation. That way, all of the issues would be addressed.

As far as the composit action is concerned, I stand by my statement. With a wood action, all of the components are affected by humidity changes and this can put additional pressure on all of the bushings. This exacerbates the apparent problems. I never stated that the Kawai actions were immune to the problem, only that the chances of humidity being the sole source of the problem was lessened and further analysis was needed.

I live in a climate with four distinct seasons and wide differences in climatic dewpoint. In Nov-Dec, and then again in May-June, the effects of the climate have a great effect on pianos. Guess which pianos have the least ammount of problems with the action? Yep, the Kawais and Shigerus. This is not just my observation, but is also shared by other teachers in this area.

Of course those instruments are subject to the same mechanical problems as any other. I am well aware of it. Remember, this whole discussion occured in a different thread and the use of a Dampp Chaser is not even in consideration within the topic of this thread. It is important to read the question of the OP and then read my reply within the context of what was being asked. I was using very general terms to respond to someone who wanted to hear the experience of others. That is how I responded, with my own experience.

To suddenly incur the caustic and derogatory wrath from you, and others, concerning my opinion and experience is beyond my comprehension. Can you, or anyone, flatly state that I gave bad or injurious advice to the OP in that thread? Would a D-C system solve the problem that was expressed?

I commented on a specific situation, nothing more, nothing less.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 10:23 AM

CC2,

I have not been absent. I have nothing to add to this thread, though I have followed it with interest, and chose to not engage in any further bickering.

Please read my response to rxd. He posted in a civil manner and I replied in kind.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 10:25 AM

Quote:
I never stated that the Kawai actions were immune to the problem, only that the chances of humidity being the sole source of the problem was lessened and further analysis was needed


Really?

Quote:
The Kawai piano actions are known for being unaffected by humidity changes. "Sticky keys" generally are not a problem due to changes in RH with Kawai pianos


Again, please show us where on the Kawai website are any of these claims being made?

As far as "bickering", let's just say I have less tolerance for people who profess to know what they are talking about and offer advice that will only mislead others. You have no right to make claims that even the manufacturer is not comfortable with making. Finally, you had no basis for calling rxd and myself out with this snide retort:

Quote:
Shouldn't "technical theory and pop-quiz" questions be in the Tuner/Tech Forum? There is plenty of bickering over there and we don't need it in Piano Forum
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 10:30 AM

Dude - you have a big problem. As I have stated, I am not going to continue with your ill formed attacks.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 10:33 AM

Yeah "DUDE", I do have a big problem......I think I've stated what it is clearly and concisely
Posted by: Withindale

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 02:58 PM

I went north yesterday and so did this topic along with the piano. The traffic was awful and there were endless "Don't drink and drive" signs along the motorway in the hope everyone will have a happy Christmas. All of which made me think of a pink gin or two.

We digress.

In summary the OP wants his piano to sound like a Bluthner but after its restoration, five tunings, two tuners, umpteen posts and some red herrings is that goal any closer?

Stating the obvious, solutions become clear when problems are clearly identified. Sometimes a problem turns out to be something no one thought of, such as some loose pressure bar screws, the ones you should never touch.

Often the best way to find such a problem is have a good furkle around. The Bluthner expert appears to be the best person to do that when he comes next month to voice the piano.

Meanwhile the question at the back of my mind is what would cause a piano to go out of tune immediately after every tuning when the pins are OK and the plate bolts and screws are tight?
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/14/12 09:09 PM

A freshly restrung piano can be a monster to tune with any degree of finesse, particularly if the tuning pins are extremely tight and the coils, beckets, seating, etc are not dealt with effectively. This newness eventually settles down but, until that happens, the tuner not experienced with these particular circumstances will have a tough time of it.

It makes matters much easier if the piano is tuned higher than normal and allowed to lose some of its pitch with each tuning as all factories do. To keep on having to restore pitch with each tuning compounds all the problems. A tuner only experienced in older pianos, as the vast majority are, is not necessarily going to understand this. Sometimes the top 2 sections of a concert piano are restrung while it is on service. It takes a lot of skill to keep these pianos in tune even when it is done by a full time stringer, the results stabilise quickly.

It is a learning curve with each tuner. We will note that the last tuning we heard was done by another tuner and it wasn't as tight as the tuning on the video before it To bring in another tuner just when the piano is getting settled and the tuner is learning the ways of this particular restringing did not appear to help.

Years ago, pianos spent months in the factory in store rooms during this settling period before they were offered for sale. You could stand in the store room and hear them going out of tune. Very few tuners have much experience of absolutely freshly strung pianos unless they do a lot of rebuilding. Even then, it is not the same as the experience of a tuner who has spent time in a factory tuning hundreds of newly strung pianos.

Judging by what we eventually learned, the piano was not tuned higher than normal to start with and it was probably released to the customer prematurely. I'm not sure whether the first tuner is one and the same as the person who did the restringing.

I have a lot of experience with these old Blüthners as a staff tuner and later, technician. There was a way of regulating the tone that takes some skill but is very much misunderstood these days. It produces a roundness and tone colour that is very beautiful and long lasting but not fashionable today.

There were some anomalies in the narrative. First we were told the hammers were recovered then we were told they were replaced. This can be put down to misunderstanding of terminology but it helps destroy my faith in understanding exactly the situation here. There are examples of poor string spacing in the photographs but this might be to compensate for possible unequal split wedge dampers that couldn't be seen in the photo. Uneven split wedges are common, particularly when parts come by mail order and are not selected so it isn't possible to point to this as evidence of sloppy work. I have my suspicions but, as we all point out on this forum, it's impossible to know unless we are in the presence of the piano. We don't know the local economics and the local value of a used upright and whether it is worth putting much into them.

It is surprising to find many tuners at all on an island in the North Atlantic.
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Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/16/12 07:58 AM

UPDATE: Thanks to all those who diagnosed looseness in the hammer butt flange as the source of the 'smack' sound. My tech (No. 2) came two days ago and loosened and retightened the hammer butt flange screw on the problematic hammers and the problem was resolved.

However, the following day, similar sounds appeared on other hammers and following his lead (and the suggestion of Dave B if I remember correctly) I went to loosen and retighten the appropriate screw only to find many of the flanges themselves to be loose on the action rail. I don't have the tools to re-secure these, but am I right in thinking that if the hammer butt flanges are loose on the rail, and even if not quite loose enough to generate the 'smacking' sound, that they could be in part responsible for tonal problems, particularly at mezzoforte and above when the hammer travels faster and hits the strings harder, thus placing more strain on the flange and allowing the hammer to 'shift' and wobble both en route to the strings and upon contact with the strings?

As you might guess, I'm looking for the silver linings in the various clouds generated by my piano ... blush
Posted by: PNO40

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/16/12 08:05 AM

Originally Posted By: rxd
A freshly restrung piano can be a monster to tune with any degree of finesse, particularly if the tuning pins are extremely tight and the coils, beckets, seating, etc are not dealt with effectively. This newness eventually settles down but, until that happens, the tuner not experienced with these particular circumstances will have a tough time of it.


rxd: What do you recommend in these circumstances?

Originally Posted By: rxd
I have a lot of experience with these old Blüthners as a staff tuner and later, technician. There was a way of regulating the tone that takes some skill but is very much misunderstood these days. It produces a roundness and tone colour that is very beautiful and long lasting but not fashionable today.


Could you drop me a PM in connection with this, please?

Originally Posted By: rxd
It is surprising to find many tuners at all on an island in the North Atlantic.


I guess that depends on the island. I'll admit though, that there are more on yours than on mine ... grin
Posted by: rxd

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/18/12 03:16 PM

PNO40,
At this stage, I would take the piano up to 442 and have it tuned as often as it seems to need using the tuner who does the concert work who will most likely be familiar with tight pins. With these pianos there is good string 'follow' because there is no pressure bar so good pin setting is essential.

Many are afraid of 442 and some give 'artistic' reasons. All professional musicians know how to handle 442-3, particularly international musicians. By that reasoning, so should an amateur with any aspirations. I say thi in case the instrument is to be used in ensemble. I have not known one of these Blüthner frames that have been unable to take the tension. Anybody out there has??

The advanced voicing techniques I only teach hands on to people whose skills I know. Your Blüthner expert, depending on when their Blüthner training was, will b familiar with what I'm talking about.

I never think of my country as an island in the Norh Atlantic but, of course, you are right, it is. The notion of lonely and windswept is mostly a poetic one.
Posted by: Grotriman

Re: More Sound Problems: Hammer 'Smack' - 12/18/12 06:26 PM

Sorry for chiming in late, it seems like some have correctly diagnosed your problem. My pianos have suffered similar problems, due to continual dry/humid/dry/humid transitions. The hammer head comes loose from the shank. It doesn't feel this way, but you have to remove the assembly and really work to get the hammer off of the shank (there are specific tools a good technician will have for this) and then reglue the hammer to the shank. It won't seem obviously loose but you will find you can work the hammer to and from the 90 degree position back and forth a bit to verify. This is what is causing the click sound. Has happened on my old upright, my newly restored Ibach and my almost 10 year old Grotrian.