Piano size and sound

Posted by: telepiano

Piano size and sound - 08/12/09 06:41 PM

Hi all. I need advice on certain matters. First let me briefly explain my situation.

Soon I will be moving to my new apartment in a brand new building. And I am considering buying an upright piano. Never having had an actual (non-digital) piano in an apartment before, I am somewhat nervous about how things will turn up with the neighbors, especially considering the fact that one of my close friends had to move out of her apartment because the neighbors were complaining too much of her piano-playing.

My situation might be somewhat different because I am thinking (and hoping) that the sound insulation will be somewhat better in a brand new building, such as the one I am moving to. Secondly, I have no neighbors on the same floor, but of course I do have neighbors on the floor below and above. Thirdly, unlike my friend who had to move out, I do not plan to play the piano before 11 AM or after 9 PM. None of this is entirely comforting, though, especially since in the country where I live people tend to be a bit more picky about how much noise one hears from the neighbors.

My first question is this: Does the size of the piano matter (to a significant extent) when it comes to how much I will disturb the neighbors? For example, will a 45" upright be much less audible from above and below when compared to, say, a 48" upright (like U1)? If the answer is yes, then I will certainly be looking into buying a smaller piano, even though it is of course nicer in general to play on a bigger piano.

Assuming that the answer is yes, I am curious what (smaller) pianos you would recommend. My preference as regards the mellow-bright scale might be very slightly leaning towards the mellow side, as some of the very bright tones of certain pianos (of which I heard they were British pianos) my ears didn't quite like the very bright sound.

Thanks in advance for your consideration,
any advice will be greatly appreciated,

Hick
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/12/09 06:53 PM

If I were you, once I'd moved in I'd ask the neighbours about the current sound levels between floors. If it is a new building, with all tenants moving in at the same time you could always ask them about when the best time to play the piano would be and give them your phone number and contact info.

I've lived in woodframed apartments all of my adult life until recently, always with a 54"-57" piano, and now a grand, and I've never encountered a problem with neighbours complaining to me or to the management.

If they know to expect piano at a certain time, and like you as a neighbour you should have no problems.

As for the original question, the size of the piano won't matter much, but what it sits on will. If you could put it on vibration absorbing blocks the bass won't resonate through the floor.

I hope this helps.
Posted by: telepiano

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/12/09 07:15 PM

Thanks for your reply,

I have already investigated into the things I can do (e.g. getting plasters and putting a carpet below the piano) to eliminate the sound. But other than these sorts of things, you don't seem to think that stuff like piano size will have too much of an effect.

If everybody here is of the same opinion, then I do not need at all to look into buying a relatively smaller piano.
Posted by: Del

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/12/09 08:48 PM

Originally Posted By: telepiano
…. My first question is this: Does the size of the piano matter (to a significant extent) when it comes to how much I will disturb the neighbors? For example, will a 45" upright be much less audible from above and below when compared to, say, a 48" upright (like U1)? If the answer is yes, then I will certainly be looking into buying a smaller piano, even though it is of course nicer in general to play on a bigger piano.


Size, by itself, is not the determining factor in a piano’s sound volume or in carrying power—at least not within the scale sizes available in vertical pianos.

Scale type (i.e., high-tension/low-tension), system efficiency (how well matched the scale is to the soundboard assembly) and hammer type (dense and massive or resilient and light) will all have much more to do with tone quality and carrying power than will the overall height of the piano.

Even in the low bass the size of the piano will not make all that much difference in sound power. It will make some difference—sometimes a dramatic difference—in bass tone quality and clarity but not all that much in sound power.

As a piano buyer you really have no way of determining these things but you can judge their effect by playing and listening critically and/or analytically to the various pianos. Look for a piano with softer, warmer tone quality. Don’t be impressed when the dealer/salesperson tries to impress you with how loud some given piano might be. Rather, ask how well the piano performs at pianissimo levels. If you find a piano you think you might like but it is just a bit too bright, or loud, find out if it can be voiced down by a good, competent technician.

In fact, it would be a good idea to try this question out on a technician familiar with the various pianos available in your area. He or she should have some familiarity with the tonal characteristics of the available pianos and have some knowledge of how each will respond to the various voicing techniques. (Some hammers and some pianos respond to voicing better than do others.)

ddf
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/12/09 09:16 PM

Carpet with a good pad might help you with your downstairs neighbor, also possibly the caster cups that acoustically decouple the piano from the floor:

http://www.pianofortesupply.com/piattino1.html

Being a considerate neighbor does go a long way with these situations--- your future neighbors probably know it could be a lot worse. If it's possible, you might knock on their doors before you move and find out what they have to say about about noise problems. I've told all my neighbors that if the sound bothers them, I'd rather know. They say they can hear the piano faintly sometimes... but no complaints.

Frankly, their kids are louder than my piano.

If you're getting an upright, you might try looking at one that has a practice rail. Pressing the pedal drops a veil of felt between the hammers and the strings, and quiets the sound down quite a bit.

Your neighbors might love it... you never know.
Posted by: Roxy

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 01:44 AM

Aside from putting things like a carpet down and being careful that you are not playing piano concertos at 11:00 p.m. or boogie at 7:00 a.m. or chopsticks for one hour straight and things like that, that might have a tendency to irritate your neighbors I don't think you have to worry too much about the size of the piano affecting the sound or that your neighbors will object to your piano playing. As you said noisy kids can be far more irritating than beautiful piano music even if it is practicing and not the finished product. I'm with Jeff Clef, your neighbors might really love it.
Posted by: boxijie

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 02:02 AM

You could consider a silent piano like Yamaha and Kawai makes (sometimes called a midi piano). It is an acoustic piano, but you can pull a lever and practise with headphones and the piano is completely silent (except for the thumping sound on the keys). The headphones deliver a sampled midi piano sound.

You can also have this feature added as an after market option to any piano of your choosing, for example with "Quiet time" on the Piano Disc system.

Both of the above options give you the added benefit of having midi in and out so you can hook up to a computer and compose and have access to software instruments.

You may also want to keep a high end digital as an option. Some folks recommend a high quality digital over a low quality acoustic.

Roland has just released the V-piano and Yamaha has released the Avant Grand (there is an upright version N2), both have seemingly taken digital pianos to the next level in terms of touch and sound.

Good luck with your search.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 12:27 PM

The loudest piano I ever owned was also the smallest piano I ever owned--a Wurlitzer console. Even after voicing, its volume level would go through your head like a nail. Needless to say, I wasn't sorry to sell it.
Posted by: SeilerFan

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 02:33 PM

Avoid playing Liszt, Chopin, and Bartok. Play more Bach! (not to be taken seriously, obviously)
Posted by: Martin C. Doege

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 07:37 PM

Originally Posted By: SeilerFan
Avoid playing Liszt, Chopin, and Bartok. Play more Bach! (not to be taken seriously, obviously)


Yes, this must be a joke — because in reality you should avoid Liszt and Bartok and play more Bach and Chopin! smile
Posted by: Jonathan Baker

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 08:20 PM

Having lived in a NYC brownstone apartment (built in 1895) my entire adult life, the issue of neighbors & noise is up-front and personal. Buildings like mine were built with
wood flooring that provide little sonic barrier between floors.

In my experience, all of the responses above are on target - size of piano is not the issue and will not make much difference.

HOWEVER - you wrote that you are moving into a "brand new building" - so, if that building has concrete floors, you many be in luck. Here in NYC I have been in several modern buildings where no sound at all was heard between floors because of the concrete 'insulation' between floors.

Ask about the building material between floors in your new residence - it makes all the difference. Sometimes, in modern high-rise buildings, sound can travel through the air ducts of heating units that travel between floors, but an improvised solution is usually possible.

But if it is concrete flooring and there is no problem with the sound traveling through air-ducts between floors - then it's your lucky day. In that case, I recommend you go for broke and start hunting for a nice used grand piano. ;-)
Posted by: Little_Blue_Engine

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 08:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
The loudest piano I ever owned was also the smallest piano I ever owned--a Wurlitzer console. Even after voicing, its volume level would go through your head like a nail. Needless to say, I wasn't sorry to sell it.


I was visiting family recently and played their Wurlitzer spinet and was shocked by how loud it was. It had almost as much volume as my 57" upright with the front open. Unfortuneately it was so out of tune I couldn't even recognize what I was playing. eek
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/13/09 08:47 PM

"I was visiting family recently and played their Wurlitzer spinet and was shocked..."

"The loudest piano I ever owned was also the smallest piano I ever owned--a Wurlitzer console. Even after voicing, its volume level would go through your head like a nail. Needless to say, I wasn't sorry to sell it."


A piano shopper recently wrote that she was considering a Wurlitzer spinet. I was tempted to tell her that if Wurlitzers aren't the bottom-of-the-barrel, they are mighty close to it. Yet, I hesitated to say such a harsh thing, and luckily, she had some likelier options on her list.

If "...go through your head like a nail..." doesn't get the point through, then I give up.
Posted by: pr3lude

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/16/09 03:01 PM

I recently acquired a six foot wide upright Steinway with a great sound quality. It has been up against a plaster wall and sitting on a hardwood floor. From reading previous posts, it sounds like I should have a carpet under this piano.

It is incredibly loud compared to my previous Baldwin Hamilton piano.

Has anybody ever set a blanket over the back of the piano or carpet under it to suppress the volume?
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/16/09 08:12 PM

As previous posters notes, castors and carpet will help. Regardless of what steps you take to lower the volume, verticals usually sound better when placed 4"-6" away from a wall.

Posted by: telepiano

Re: Piano size and sound - 08/17/09 03:13 PM

Thanks for all the replies, people. I appreciate it a lot.
Posted by: pr3lude

Re: Piano size and sound - 05/10/10 01:19 AM

What is a 'practice rail' ? Is that something in addition to the standard softening pedal that comes with most pianos?

I do think half of my issue is the size of the room this piano sits in right now. It was tested in a huge warehouse and sounded great. It is now housed in a 20 foot by 15 foot area with plaster walls and bare floors. It does sound like I need more space for this instrument.

I did buy the cups that fit under the wheels, but need a great deal of assistance in placing the piano over those couplers. I may need a mini-ramp to roll the piano on so it can be placed on them.

I did buy a small carpet which is partially under the pedal area. It does help suppress some sound. It seems like the piano's felt tips are not closely in contact with the strings when the soft pedal is pressed. How hard is this to adjust?

At this point, the best technique to suppress the sound is to hit a chord without the sustaining pedal, THEN press the sustaining pedal down. The impact is brief when striking the strings, and the later sustaining pedal retains the same volume without making it extremely loud. This is the first piano that I had to use this technique to suppress some volume. Otherwise, I use ear protection. Silly, yes, but it does save my hearing.
Posted by: J_D

Re: Piano size and sound - 05/10/10 09:34 PM

You can also hang a piece of carpet or quit on the back of the upright. It's not a great way to reduce the sound as it will sound muffled. I used to occasionally play in a small church where thick decorative cloth was tacked to the back of the upright since it faced the congregation. It greatly reduced the sound (to my dismay). I wouldn't tack it, but you could hang a quilt over the back at times when you are most likely to disturb neighbors.

(This seems cruel to the piano.)