Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy?

Posted by: Playhouse

Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/07/12 05:50 PM

I've just had my 1911 Steinway K rebuilt...tech refinished the soundboard, bridge cap, new strings, refurb-ed old action, and finished it off with a set of Rosen Hammers.

Trouble is I got the piano back and it sounds really muted and muddy -- with hammers making a little too much 'wood' sound in the 2nd treble octave. We put some lacquer on the trebles, which offered a little brightening. I know Ronsen hammers have to be played in order to form a brighter voice...and I've only been working them in for a week - but my fingers are killing me from trying to coax some tone out of the piano -- I'm not liking the muted sound. (sound board is good BTW...lots of string sustain). What I'm wondering is - should I be patient and give the hammers a chance to come up, or is it likely I got the wrong hammers on this piano - and how can I know?

Thanks for any and all feedback!
Posted by: Ed Foote

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/07/12 07:14 PM

Greetings,
It is hard to diagnose tone via vocabulary, so some wider questions might help. Is it possible to get a brilliant tone with your maximum force? If not, you may need firmer core felt. With the Ronsen's , that might mean applying a medium dilution of hardener on the side of the hammer, right at the tip of the core. It will wick upwards and outwards, perhaps giving enough foundation to support a more brilliant tone at FFF.

Another approach is to soak in the solution from the shoulders, perhaps an eyedropper( or two) on each shoulder, using something like a 6:1 dilution of lacquer. This was a traditional Steinway technique from some years past.

Or, the hammers can be soaked with a more dilute solution, then needled down. (current Steinway technique).

In any event, I think I would try the foregoing in that order. I think it is a poor situation to have an instrument that is no fun to play, right after spending the money on it. Don't be afraid to juice the hammers, just get someone that does a lot of it to do the voicing, it isn't the same as more compressed hammers.
Regards,
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/07/12 11:02 PM

I have a little experience with Ronson hammers on upright pianos - in every case they needed a significant amount of lacquer to get the tone in the "normal" range. Make sure your technician really knows what he/she is doing when it comes to lacquer. Most techs I know don't have much experience with it. If done correctly it can really make your instrument come alive! Ed Foote is right about Steinway - I've spent quite a bit of time at the Steinway factory the past few years and they literally soak the hammers. Of course it needs to be the right dilution - and this depends on the amount of solids in the lacquer. That's why your technician needs experience. Just beware - many technician don't like to admit what they don't know!
Posted by: BDB

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/07/12 11:24 PM

This is something that you should take up with your tech.

We have to decide how much to do on a piano. Over-doing things may be difficult to undo. It may need a bit more voicing, but your tech will not know unless you request some follow-up work.
Posted by: Loren D

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/08/12 06:10 AM

My experience with Ronsen hammers is that they are soft out of the box and need juiced to be hard enough. That's my experience with Steinway New York hammers too; they need voiced up. I've found that Renner hammers often sound pretty decent before any voicing is done.

Anyway, the piano needs to be in tune and good regulation before hammer voicing can be accurately assessed/addressed. If those are in check, then talk to your tech about voicing!
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/08/12 12:36 PM


Lacquer or colodium are the chemical solutions. I have clients who do not want their pianos soaked in chemicals so I use naturally occurring products that are available and give the same results.

If the piano has just been restored I would wait a while until the true tone of the instrument comes out.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/08/12 01:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
If the piano has just been restored I would wait a while until the true tone of the instrument comes out.


I agree. In my experience, Ronsen hammers play in rather quickly with vigorous playing. We put a set of Ronsen Weickers on the Baldwin SD-10 at school, and even a little hardening ended up being a bit too much when all was said and done (causing more work for ourselves).

Hammer shaping (filing) should help if this was not done before they were hung. I pretty much always file to a diamond shape, progressing to finer grades of abrasive as I go.
Posted by: Playhouse

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/09/12 01:18 PM

Thank you all so much for the feedback -- and for the consistent message that these hammers are likely soft out of the box and need to be worked in. I have notice significant brightening with vigorous playtime in just the last week...so the voice is beginning to come out. Who knows, breaking these hammers in may finally force me to practice runs!
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/09/12 01:39 PM


Until such time as the wire has seasoned and is firmly seated at the contact points I would recommend no change to the hammer set. This could take up to a year or more.
Posted by: Unequally tempered

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/09/12 03:08 PM

Hi!

The Bechstein used for concerts noted on this forum for example of unequal temperament has this year had its hammers refelted by Abel in Germany with their premium felt.

First fitted, the instrument oozed musicality but was a shade on the soft side. Just four or so concerts later the instrument is starting to be able to come alive, here with Schumann http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd0o7qzIGz8

So my advice is to be patient and play it in. Audience at this concert commented that at times the instrument sounded like a Clarion. This is the effect both of the playing in of the hammers as well as the dynamics available in the harmonic accordance brought about by the tuning.

Comparing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC6TsAa6T4Q on an instrument with old and quite standard hammers you can hear the sweetness of the smoothness of the hammers of the Bechstein although capable of developing good forte tone.

Best wishes

David P
Posted by: mariotto

Re: Why are my Steinway Replacement Hammers Muted and Muddy? - 10/10/12 02:10 AM

You have a PM...