Piano makes a hissing sound

Posted by: jesp1

Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 03:31 PM

have an 1888 Chickering grand that has had some rebuilding done back in the 1980's. I've owned the piano for about 8 years (winters) now with few mechanical incidents, but for the past 6 weeks or so I have been at wits end to determine what I will describe as a low "hissing", not buzzing, sound noticable when a note is struck. It is basically confined to the middle range of the piano, about a two octave span. I've had two experience technicians inspect the problem and they have not been able to determine the cause. It's not the damper felts, hammer felts, cracked soundboard, loose rib, sympathetic vibrations, loose keyboard cover or any hardward part, piano action, etc. I've inspected the soundboard for any articles or debris and have found nothing! I would sincerely appreciate any thoughts or observations to help identify what is causing this, because there's truly little enjoyment playing the piano under these conditions! My sense is that perhaps winter's low humidity (I live in Vermont) is somehow involved here, but I'm not sure exactly in what way it would factor into creating this vibration.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 03:49 PM

jesp1 - Welcome to piano world.

I would suggest that you find a qualified piano herpetologist.
Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 03:57 PM

What got added to, or changed in the room six weeks ago?
Posted by: ChatNoir

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 05:13 PM

Maybe your piano suffers from Mr. Fandrich's newest invention...
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 05:21 PM

It is quite possible that something outside of your piano is vibrating sympathetically. I've experienced that myself and it might take some time to narrow down what the culprit is.
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 05:33 PM

Does your neighbour have a cat that's gone missing recently? wink
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 05:33 PM

Having a technician verify
a buzz makes it go from a *minor* figment of
your imaginantion to a real-life issue.
Having 2 inspect and confirm the buzz is
there made it grow 2 times in strength and
will annoy you 4 times as much.

All your fussing and searching has only
entrenched it further, and now that you've
gone and posted about it about it on the
Internet, you have basically opened the
gates of h.e. double hockey sticks on your
poor piano.

Sell it to a School for the Deaf and
learn for next time:

Buzz??? I don't hear A THING!!! thumb
Posted by: Jean Claude

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 05:42 PM


I don't think it is snakes or cats. More likely the telegraph cables that sing down the highway or possibly the warbling of a meadowlark.

Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 07:14 PM

Yep - Just checked - It's still today.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 08:11 PM

Have you been playing this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzorssRJce4
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 08:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Plinky88
Having a technician verify
a buzz makes it go from a *minor* figment of
your imaginantion to a real-life issue.
Having 2 inspect and confirm the buzz is
there made it grow 2 times in strength and
will annoy you 4 times as much.

All your fussing and searching has only
entrenched it further, and now that you've
gone and posted about it about it on the
Internet, you have basically opened the
gates of h.e. double hockey sticks on your
poor piano.

Sell it to a School for the Deaf and
learn for next time:

Buzz??? I don't hear A THING!!! thumb
If this post is really meant to be serious I think it is beyond silly and lacking in empathy. The techs didn't say there was no buzz or that is was inaudible or insignificant. Any extraneous sound, especially on many notes, is not something that one should be told to just ignore.
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 08:31 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[quote=Plinky88] Any extraneous sound, especially on many notes, is not something that one should be told to just ignore.


The more we discuss, the more we will it.
Explore further at your own risk. Heed my
warning: what was once a subtle little buzz
soon becomes a cachophnpoy of HISSES and
RATTLES simply by THINKING OR TALKING
ABOUT IT... LOOKING FOR IT AND "TAKING"
ACTION????? NO, No, bad majic.

your piano is possesed....
call a priest not a tech.
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/01/13 08:32 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The techs didn't say there was no buzz or that is was inaudible or insignificant.



I know the techs heard it... but they couldn't
help him could they???/ DOOMED!!! DOOMED!!!
STOP TALKING ABOUT IT BEFORE HIS PIANO
EXPLODES!
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/02/13 12:34 AM

Most likely one of the cross beams has gone out askew on the treadle.

Rob
Posted by: pianosxxi

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/02/13 12:36 AM

I understand your problem. When you get attached to your piano and it becomes very sentimental and kind of like a close friend. You live with the piano and piano becomes a part of you.

I have over 40 years experience in piano business and dealt with many antique pianos. I was very successful in solving this kind of acoustical problems. Since I am in Los Angeles, I am not able to help you, but I am confident that there are technicians, who are members of PTG in your area who will be able to resolve this problem.

Go to www.ptg.org and find your local top techs in the industry and contact them directly. Don't give up. Maybe they cannot fix the problem, but they'll definitely find it and explain what caused the hissing.

Good luck!
Posted by: JohnSprung

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/02/13 05:38 AM

Start by having a friend play and hold some big chords in the affected range while you walk around the piano and around the room. Listen carefully for the source of the hissing. You may get lucky like I did, and it'll turn out to be a framed painting on the wall or some such ....

If it turns out to actually be from the piano, approach it from every possible direction, even crawl under it and listen. If you can narrow down what it's coming from, that'll help a lot. There are loads of things it could be, perhaps a failing glue joint....
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/02/13 10:23 AM

I think Sprung's suggestion is better than mine, which is to look for the snake which has made its winter home in the piano's back action.

"...I've had two experience[d] technicians inspect the problem and they have not been able to determine the cause..."

Good there, and just the right thing to do. It can be hard to find these viperish things, and it may not even be in the piano.

"...perhaps winter's low humidity (I live in Vermont) is somehow involved here, but I'm not sure exactly in what way it would factor in..."

You don't need to be exactly sure, if you correct the seasonal humidity problem. That would be good for your piano (and more comfortable for you) even if the problem turns out not to be related to humidity.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/02/13 10:33 AM

I'm still inclined to think this was an April Fools Day prank.

Clues: Date; new poster; nothing in profile.

Maybe 'jesp1' will return, or not. We shall see.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/02/13 01:25 PM

Or maybe the new poster was indeed serious but will stay away because of the unwelcoming responses like yours and others....

I see nothing in the OP which is indicative of a prank. Hundreds and hundreds of people join PW every year - it would be unusual if there was no one posting for the first time on April 01.
Posted by: Cy Shuster, RPT

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/02/13 01:39 PM

A mechanic's stethoscope may help, available at auto stores. It's often hard to accurately determine the direction a sound is coming from, in a piano as well as an engine.

Is the sound affected by the position of any pedal? What is the range of keys that create the sound? Does it sound different when different keys are struck?

--Cy--
Posted by: JohnSprung

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/03/13 08:18 PM

Indeed, the stethoscope is a good idea.

Another is to get a fairly new pencil, nice and long, with a full eraser on it. Go under the piano while someone else plays sustained chords, and firmly touch the eraser to various points along the ribs. Likewise up top on the bridges, and anywhere else that looks suspicious. If the noise stops, you've found the source.
Posted by: ChatNoir

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/04/13 01:33 PM

Whatever happened to Jesp1? (Did i just hear a hissing sound??)
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/05/13 03:35 PM

Funny, my snake makes a piano sound!!!!

Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/05/13 05:20 PM

Excellent!
Posted by: jesp1

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/07/13 11:56 AM

I want to thank everyone for their suggestions and insights! Loved the big snake! I realize locating the problem could require an ongoing exhaustive investigation. I've not entirely ruled out sympathetic vibrations outside the piano, but I've moved and repositioned a lot of objects within the room with no consequences. I've also ruled out any of the ribs or struts as suggested. I really liked the idea of using a mechanics stethescope and think I will purchase one soon, because right now I only gererally feel I know where the sound is originating. Neither the dampers nor loud pedal have any bearing on the sound that I'm able to determine. The loudness of the hiss is not consistent in all the keys within the range wherein the problem exists (about 2 1/2 octaves in the middle of the keyboard). Perhaps 4 or 5 keys are more pronounced that others, expecially c below middle c. No one cited the bridge as a possible explanation, as is flattens out with seasonal humidity drop? Just wondering. As much as I would be thrilled if change of season eliminates the problem it will also be a bit of disappointment if the cause remains unidentified.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/08/13 12:16 AM

Sometimes, all it takes is a tiny object such as a pin or a few grains of sand etc on the soundboard, beneath the plate somewhere, to vibrate sympathetically and produce a sound that can be described as a hiss.

In one case I remember with a client's piano, a hissing buzz turned out to be a bit of dirt laying in the sheet metal heating duct below the vent which was not so far away....
Posted by: jesp1

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/08/13 12:01 PM

When the sound first appeared I had a suspecion and was convinced about it being debris or something small on the soundboard, since I did have some work done on the treble bridge just a week or so earlier, which involved bridge notching and and sanding, but alas, I was never able find anything. I guess that would have been too easy.
Posted by: JohnSprung

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/08/13 08:34 PM

If it's something like that few grains of sand, perhaps blowing it out with compressed air would help. I have a big air compressor that really blasts the dust out from under the plate.
Posted by: Dale Fox

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/08/13 08:52 PM

I'm not sure you can rule out sympathetic vibration. Lots of things, both in and out of the piano can vibrate sympathetically. Could be a loose screw/washer on the sostenuto knife assembly. Could be strings touching each other or the plate casting somewhere in the backscale area. Loose hinges or hinge pins, fallboard locks, damper felts (Trichord variety) pulling out of the strings upon play. Does it make this sound only when a note is played? If it happens when the sustain pedal is depressed it is likely the trichord damper felts. They would be confined to about two octaves in the middle of the piano. I know you said you have eliminated the dampers as a source, but have you really? ;-}
Posted by: jesp1

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/09/13 12:39 PM

Yes, I hear the sound both when the sustain padal is depressed or left alone. As a test to eliminate the damper felts, I have mutted all the strings with wet towels in plastic bags and physically lifted the one damper felt on the one trichord being tested in the cited area, so as to have it completely clear the strings and still get the hiss/buzz.
Posted by: jesp1

Re: Piano makes a hissing sound - 04/12/13 08:57 AM

Dale, I think I'm about to reconsider my position on the dampers!!! I was striking G3, which has been one of the more offensive notes, while standing on the left side of the keyboard and I tried to listen where the hiss/buzz was coming from and I realized it was closer to the bottom end of the keyboard rather than near the note. I pushed down the bass dampers fairly hard with my left hand, holding that position for a couple of seconds, and proceeded to move up the range of dampers, doing the same thing until I got to G3. When I was done...NO MORE HISS/BUZZ!! Apparently when I had attempted to mute the dampers previously I wasn't applying enough downward force to the damper heads, which down begs the question...was it the felts or something else (downward pressure on the stings or loose damper heads)?