Any warning about changing hammers?

Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/08/12 10:59 PM

Hello again esteemed techs,

I may be purchasing a Mason BB very soon, but wanted to know if anyone here, for any reason, would be concerned about switching from a Renner Blue to a pre-hung (hammers installed on the shanks supplied) Isaac Cadenza 165 in the quest for increasing the piano's timbre range. Am I being too optimistic in this venture? Any cautions?

Thank you to all in advance for all that are kind enough to offer advice.
Posted by: kpembrook

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/08/12 11:17 PM

I assume you've heard the recordings. You can expect a significant improvement from custom made, premium, high-energy hammers as opposed to the production hammers used by factories.

You could benefit from the Cadenza 165, Cadenza 180 or the Classical West hammers.

If you want more info, send me a PM.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/09/12 03:48 AM

I am sure Keith's hammers will transform a piano from one you like into one you like even more.

But I am not so sure any hammers will transform the Mason BB in question to one you really like.

My reservations have nothing to do with hammers but the rest of the piano. When you compare the frequency spectrum of the vibrations produced by the hammers in a string with that of the sound you hear, you will see that they are not quite the same. That's because the bridge and soundboard, together with the rest of the piano, colour the sound.

It is clear from the postings about this piano, and all the recordings, that Mason and Hamlin pianos have their own character. That must be due in large part to the way the soundboard acts as a transducer. You will not be changing that.

What would concern me is that a significant amount of the energy you expect to go into producing a timbral or tonal change, whatever you want to call it, actually goes into colouration. I guess that is the main reason for the differences in accentuation between your BB recording and those in your signature link. If that is the case the BB will never produce the dynamics you may be looking for.

On the other hand your BB should be a very fine piano in its own right.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/09/12 12:56 PM

Originally Posted By: Withindale


My reservations have nothing to do with hammers but the rest of the piano. When you compare the frequency spectrum of the vibrations produced by the hammers in a string with that of the sound you hear, you will see that they are not quite the same. That's because the bridge and soundboard, together with the rest of the piano, colour the sound.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. How does one compare the frequency spectrum with what one hears? I get that you're saying the bridge and soundboard colour the sound, but are you suggesting more colour is impossible with better hammers?
Originally Posted By: Withdale

It is clear from the postings about this piano, and all the recordings, that Mason and Hamlin pianos have their own character. That must be due in large part to the way the soundboard acts as a transducer. You will not be changing that.

Not looking to change the character, but to bring it out more. More changes in timbre within each dynamic.
Originally Posted By: Withindale

What would concern me is that a significant amount of the energy you expect to go into producing a timbral or tonal change, whatever you want to call it, actually goes into colouration.

I don't really understand what you mean here, either. Energy initiated by the hammer striking the string? And what is the difference between timbral change and colouration?

What Kamin said in another thread is that in the 2 Masons he's heard ( I assume both with Renner Blues), that the dynamic range, or ability to play very softly to very loudly is there, but the piano didn't exhibit very different colours from soft to loud. But the question remains: What if different hammers were put on?

Has anyone the experience of changing hammers from heat pressed to cold pressed, or cold pressed premium hammers, and has found that the piano finally opened up its tonal range?
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/09/12 01:49 PM

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
Am I being too optimistic in this venture? Any cautions?


The hammer set is only one component of a system that produces sound. The piano is a fixed tone instrument meaning that the tone is set by the manufacturer. Little can be done to change this; subtle changes can be made with voicing or changing out the hammer set to produce a slightly differing sound but basically it is still the same tone.

This is one of the things that many fail to understand about voicing. Voicing allows the technician to enhance or bring out the good sounds or tones while masking the poor quality tones. The poor quality tones are still there but until such time as the hammer set wears you are prevented from hearing them by needle voicing or other voicing procedures.

There may be some noticeable improvement moving towards what you are looking for but in the end why not look for the instrument that already has the tone you are looking for then most of that problem is solved…..without forcing an instrument to sound the way you want it to go..this is always risky and what then if you see no change or minimal improvements after spending a lot of funds to replace components.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/09/12 05:31 PM

I'd echo what Dan says in general but, in another thread, you said you are happy with the tone.

What you are after is "more changes in timbre within each dynamic" because, as I understand it, the BB does not give you the "timbral response" you got from the Shigeru. This, as Dan says, has little to do with hammers but the design and construction of the piano.

Kawai have a state of the art research and development facility where everything is analysed meticulously. They have published a video of a Shigeru in an anechoic chamber with their engineers looking at the frequency spectra I mentioned. Undoubtedly one result of their endeavours is the piano's "timbral response".

What they must have done, in essence, is make the vibrations of the soundboard follow the vibrations of the strings as closely as possible. When the pianist plays middle C the piano responds with as much middle C sound as the engineers can reasonably get it to produce, fundamental and overtones.

Mason & Hamlin say, "the distinctive Mason & Hamlin tone is the result of a piano that is built using original Boston era designs with scrupulous attention to detail and accuracy. The full, powerful bass, lyrical tenor, bell-like treble tones, and the tremendous sustain are qualities that can only be found in a Mason & Hamlin piano."

As you have found, when a pianist plays middle C on a BB it will respond with middle C sounds plus other sounds that give the piano its distinctive tone. The designer has shared out the sound energy and there is nothing the pianist can do about it. The tone you like must inevitably be at the expense of the response you want.

Hope this helps a bit.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/09/12 10:38 PM

Thanks to Keith, Ian and Dan for sharing your insight.

I have just found out today what the problem is with the Masons I've auditioned. It has nothing to do with timbral range, but more so has to do with the colours when attempting to play the dynamic piano or below. Since I'm used to playing very lightly, what I've found is that the same force I apply on other instruments to produce piano comes out quite loud, probably closer to what I'd think is mf.
So, today after discussing the whole 'tonal limitations' thing with the local Mason dealer, and him saying that he doesn't find that they are limited, I decided to try harder to find these colours when playing the pianos. I still couldn't. That is, until I decided to put my noise attenuation earplugs (musicians earplugs) in that I use for work. Well, when they were in, all the Masons there sounded amazing, with all the range I was hoping for.
So, what does this mean for me? It probably means I can't get a Mason, unless I moved to a detached house, and only practiced when my family was not here. Or covered the piano with blankets, and had padding under the piano.
These pianos really perform well--but all of the dynamics are much higher than other pianos of the same size. I can't imagine playing forte or above without the earplugs in! I took them out for a minute to see the difference, and the sound hurt my ears, except when I put on the soft pedal.
I'm not sure the pianos can be better regulated so as to play quieter, and even if they could, I suppose what I'm experiencing at the Mason pianissimo is the limitation for how dark, or mellow it can sound. But unfortunately, if I wanted to play normally the piano would be excessively loud--especially so in my house.

So, I think my search continues for another brand unless I've missed something?
Posted by: kpembrook

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/09/12 11:30 PM

Well maybe, but what you describe is also characteristic of inadequate hammers.

I've played M&H BB and CC and really like them, but the new ones could do much better with something other than production hammers.

This gets into the whole hard hammer/soft hammer discussion which is largely irrelevant. A pillow is soft and a brick is hard but what is a basketball? It's not just some kind of in-between hardness level along the pillow-to-brick hardness scale. It's capabilities are of a different kind than either the pillow or the brick. You can never make a basketball by hardening a pillow or softening the brick. The more a hammer has that "basketball" quality -- whatever you want to call it -- the more effective that hammer will be in eliciting the tonal capabilities that are present in the belly. And some hammers definitely have more of that "basketball" quality than others.

I believe you've heard Grandpianoman's recordings. If you are not hearing the kind of thing you want to hear in those recordings, then keep looking. If what you hear on those recordings is similar to what you want to hear, I can assure you that that sound can be forthcoming.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/09/12 11:35 PM

We've already talked about this quite a bit, but I'll give you some closing thoughts.

I can certainly sympathize with your difficulty controlling the sound at low volume levels. During school, when I had to practice four hours a day in a small depressing room with shrill sounding Yamahas and Kawais, I actually did use musicians earplugs because that was the only way I could tolerate playing! My piano prof (during undergrad) had a Steinway B that I hated, and a Mason & Hamlin BB (of similar vintage to the one you're looking at) that I hated less. The touch was on the heavier side and the tone was sharp and uninspiring with a less than adequate bass.

After working on pianos as a tech for a few years (in a university environment), I've gotten to see several brands of piano (Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha, Kawai, etc.) with different sets of hammers and subjected to different voicing techniques. Due to the heavy use environment, we'd have to change hammers, so I got to see lots of before, during, and after with respect to hammer replacement. IMO, this is a fixable problem with hammer replacement or voicing. The Isaac hammers should get you where you want to go. But, if that's not an adventure you want to take, then you should absolutely not consider this piano. Good luck.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 12:12 AM

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
I took them out for a minute to see the difference, and the sound hurt my ears, except when I put on the soft pedal.


I just finished voicing the Grotrian 223 you saw me working on. The soft pedal voicing is so different from the rest position voicing. Same hammer, two sounds. Some set the soft pedal to play two stings.
I set mine to hit all three but soften the hammer in the shifted position.
The piano leaves Friday if you want to hear the difference.

My thought is perhaps you need the hammers on whatever you purchase to be voiced as if they are in shift position and have the hammers voiced more when it is indeed shifted.
Hope that makes sense.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 12:46 AM

Originally Posted By: kpembrook

I believe you've heard Grandpianoman's recordings. If you are not hearing the kind of thing you want to hear in those recordings, then keep looking. If what you hear on those recordings is similar to what you want to hear, I can assure you that that sound can be forthcoming.

I absolutely love what I hear on Grandpianoman's recordings. But I wonder if the decibel level is noticeably higher when played live?
In comparison, I also played the Shigeru VI today, along with a bunch of other Kawais, and a Steinway B, and not one seemed too loud. I also found though, that I could enjoy playing softly on these, not needing to play much harder or softer to get a variety in tonal colour.
I suppose I like whatever the sound is that Kawai produces (dark? mellow? muted?)
I also like other 'bright' pianos, too, but haven't really noticed the volume to be an issue on any bright piano as much as I have on the Masons in this showroom. My room is similar to the showroom too in that it has hardwood throughout, and glass on one end.

I'm still planning on seeing the Mason BB in question tomorrow night with my tech, so will consider everything that has been suggested here.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 12:47 AM

Originally Posted By: beethoven986
The Isaac hammers should get you where you want to go. But, if that's not an adventure you want to take, then you should absolutely not consider this piano. Good luck.

Adventure is right. This whole thing is driving me nuts.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 12:53 AM

Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak

My thought is perhaps you need the hammers on whatever you purchase to be voiced as if they are in shift position and have the hammers voiced more when it is indeed shifted.
Hope that makes sense.

It does make sense. My Shigeru was voiced down in my home quite a bit because it came across at times as quite harsh. Even then I had to play with the lid down, blanket on top (mostly for the cat), and with some rugs underneath.
I just don't want to get a huge sounding piano that only has a limited voice when played quietly.

By the way, your Charles Walter 190 was a real pleasure to play. So, contrary to what people might think, I can appreciate a bright piano too. It had lots of character, and definitely lots of timbre range.
Posted by: Phil D

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 04:46 AM

Not personal advice, as I've never been through the process of changing hammers in this kind of situation, but viewing this question like a sport, with two opposing sides battling it out, I'm firmly on the side of the 'change the hammers' camp smile

The fact that you needed your Shigeru voiced way down sways it for me. You're getting a tone at piano that you want kept in reserve for forte playing. Changing the partial structure to reduce higher partials at medium and low velocities will improve this, and from the description of many very experienced workshop technicians here, this can be achieved with the right hammers and voicing.

You seem quite attached to this piano already - the adventure will be very rewarding!
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 10:33 AM

About the recordings I have made....they were done with the mics fairly close to the open lid, with very little room resonance, if any. One can play very softly with the Isaac hammers, however, recordings made with a "closed-mic" position as in my case, the piano will seem louder than it actually is then if you were hearing it live.

One other point....I always record with very little gain, so as not to cause any distortion when the piano is played loudly. In Audacity, when converting it from a .wav file to an .mp3, Audacity ups the volume and balances both channels. This will make the p/mp passages seem a bit louder.
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 11:26 AM


Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

I have just found out today what the problem is with the Masons I've auditioned. It has nothing to do with timbral range, but more so has to do with the colours when attempting to play the dynamic piano or below. Since I'm used to playing very lightly, what I've found is that the same force I apply on other instruments to produce piano comes out quite loud, probably closer to what I'd think is mf.


This part could be due to action geometry which makes one instrument more efficient upon strike then another with the same force applied.

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

So, today after discussing the whole 'tonal limitations' thing with the local Mason dealer, and him saying that he doesn't find that they are limited, I decided to try harder to find these colours when playing the pianos. I still couldn't. That is, until I decided to put my noise attenuation earplugs (musician’s earplugs) in that I use for work. Well, when they were in, all the Masons there sounded amazing, with all the range I was hoping for.

So, what does this mean for me? It probably means I can't get a Mason, unless I moved to a detached house, and only practiced when my family was not here. Or covered the piano with blankets, and had padding under the piano.


So the plugs clean up the sound and produce more of what you are looking for. This tells me that the piano room needs to be set up similar to a studio recording session with soft walls, acoustic panels, tapestry hangings etc etc. More the work of a sound engineer to get the sound that is desired. (acoustics)

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

These pianos really perform well--but all of the dynamics are much higher than other pianos of the same size. I can't imagine playing forte or above without the earplugs in! I took them out for a minute to see the difference, and the sound hurt my ears, except when I put on the soft pedal.

I'm not sure the pianos can be better regulated so as to play quieter, and even if they could, I suppose what I'm experiencing at the Mason pianissimo is the limitation for how dark, or mellow it can sound. But unfortunately, if I wanted to play normally the piano would be excessively loud--especially so in my house.

So, I think my search continues for another brand unless I've missed something?


I believe this entire posting reveals two separate issues; one is tone quality and the other is volume.

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

But unfortunately, if I wanted to play normally the piano would be excessively loud--especially so in my house.


Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

I took them out for a minute to see the difference, and the sound hurt my ears, except when I put on the soft pedal.


Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

It probably means I can't get a Mason, unless I moved to a detached house, and only practiced when my family was not here. Or covered the piano with blankets, and had padding under the piano.


This is the volume part of the equation....

Similar to the motor car engine it is wise to buy more horsepower then you will use. This way the motor does not work so hard and has a longer lifespan.

I don’t believe the instrument you buy will be totally suitable for your situation. There will be adjustments with any instrument to knock down the volume to acceptable levels and to get rid of unwanted tones.

Changing the hammer set out will do nothing for the volume part of the equation. It may under certain circumstances produce a noticeable change in tonal qualities; whether or not that is beneficial is the unknown.
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 11:37 AM

About the Isaac hammers....one thing I did not mention before, is the fact that on my M&H BB, once his hammers were on there and voiced, the color/tonal palette was fantastic, you can hear it in the recordings...in other words, the hammers brought out what the piano was capable of, regardless of any room acoustics etc.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 12:10 PM

I believe all avenues of voicing should be exhausted before changing hammers.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 12:31 PM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

So, today after discussing the whole 'tonal limitations' thing with the local Mason dealer, and him saying that he doesn't find that they are limited, I decided to try harder to find these colours when playing the pianos. I still couldn't. That is, until I decided to put my noise attenuation earplugs (musician’s earplugs) in that I use for work. Well, when they were in, all the Masons there sounded amazing, with all the range I was hoping for.


So the plugs clean up the sound and produce more of what you are looking for. This tells me that the piano room needs to be set up similar to a studio recording session with soft walls, acoustic panels, tapestry hangings etc etc. More the work of a sound engineer to get the sound that is desired. (acoustics)


Doesn't this also indicate that the plugs are filtering out some of the high frequency sounds in the attack that are responsible for the 'tonal limitations'?

No doubt suitable hammers, appropriately voiced, can achieve a similar effect but doesn't that risk some deadening of the notes (by cutting down on the higher partials as well as the other high frequency stuff emanating from the piano)?

I can see the BB would be an interesting adventure but, for my money, I'd look for a piano that is a pleasure to play 'out the box'.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 01:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos

This is the volume part of the equation....

Similar to the motor car engine it is wise to buy more horsepower then you will use. This way the motor does not work so hard and has a longer lifespan.

I don’t believe the instrument you buy will be totally suitable for your situation. There will be adjustments with any instrument to knock down the volume to acceptable levels and to get rid of unwanted tones.

These two sentences seem to contradict each other. The extra 'horsepower' is either good, or it is not good. If it is good, then the instrument would be suitable if the volume issue was dealt with without sacrificing tone. Perhaps you are saying that it is impossible to "knock down the volume" without some sacrifice of tone quality?

Another thing I've noticed from my recordings is that this particular BB is much mellower than those at the store yesterday. That is ironically made me question its 'voice.' Since it was mellower, and perhaps quieter too, it gave the impression of a smaller tonal palette.

Changing the hammer set out will do nothing for the volume part of the equation. It may under certain circumstances produce a noticeable change in tonal qualities; whether or not that is beneficial is the unknown.

[/quote]
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 01:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Withindale


Doesn't this also indicate that the plugs are filtering out some of the high frequency sounds in the attack that are responsible for the 'tonal limitations'?

In theory the musicians earplugs are supposed to attenuate the volume, leaving the tonal spectrum the same. Not the same as cotton balls or wax stuffed into the ears. In practice, I'm sure they cut some of the highs out.
Originally Posted By: Withindale

No doubt suitable hammers, appropriately voiced, can achieve a similar effect but doesn't that risk some deadening of the notes (by cutting down on the higher partials as well as the other high frequency stuff emanating from the piano)?

Yes, this is the risk that I'm wondering about, too. I've recently played a Mason A with Weikert felt hammers, that seemed to have no tonal range at all. They had a beautiful sound at piano dynamics, but the tone remained almost exactly the same at all other dynamics, including ff. The BB in question has a far, far larger tonal range than this A, but given I am looking at putting on hammers similar to this A, I'd hate to get a piano that has even LESS of a tonal range than it currently does.
Originally Posted By: Withindale

I can see it would be an interesting adventure but, for my money, I'd look for a piano that does the job 'out the box' like the Charles Walter.

Well, to be honest, although I enjoyed playing the Walter, I'd also want softer hammers on there as well. As well, there is no substitute for a 7' bass in a piano, and I realize that all the other pianos that I've enjoyed playing have given me the same pause when I reach the lower bass notes. Most everything else sounds great down to about C1, but only this particular Mason BB has the entire bass range to A0.
My Shigeru was an absolute joy to play, as long as I didn't spend much time in the lower bass region trying to play forte.
Posted by: Larry Buck

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 01:32 PM

I don't recommend prehung hammers under any circumstances.

When changing hammers you are essentially changing the design of the action.

Weather altering the design, weight, strike line, alternate boring, decisions need to be reviewed for impact and result. These are important factors and deserve deliberate attention.

My advice .. do not buy and install prehung hammers.

FWIW, I am fan of softer hammers or more specifically, cold pressed.

Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 01:32 PM

The volume issue can be dealt with in the same way it is dealt with in a studio setting. You won’t find many studios changing out the piano components to get the sound they want.

But you will find them adjusting the room acoustics to get a particular sound. I just completed an opera recording in West Van where the room had to be “fixed” to produce a particular sound. We did not rebuild part of the piano to get there. The piano had the right tone just too much of it….so we cut down the volume by using ways that I have previously stated. Still the piano has the horsepower …..just that it isn’t being used for that situation.

Then, once finished, the room was dismantled and the piano sounded like it did originally. If you are looking for a particular sound it is best not to limit the instrument by making it sound one way all the time. That would limit the instrument's capabilities to a particular music or genre.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 04:38 PM

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

These pianos really perform well--but all of the dynamics are much higher than other pianos of the same size.
As I've mentioned several times on your other threads I have no problem playing softly on my five year old BB that sits in a smallish 12' by 18' room. I don't think what you say about the dynamics of the BB are correct. In fact, this wasn't a problem on any of the BB's I tried.

The posters on this thread who said that you should be trying to find a piano you like as it sounds in the showroom, rather than buying an expensive piano and hoping a change in hammers will give you the sound you want, are correct IMO.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 04:54 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
As I've mentioned several times on your other threads I have no problem playing softly on my five year old BB that sits in a smallish 12' by 18' room. I don't think what you say about the dynamics of the BB are correct. In fact, this wasn't a problem on any of the BB's I tried.

Well, this runs contrary to my experience. As well, every single person I've talked to that has sold these pianos, or currently sells them has confirmed that Masons are indeed louder than other pianos. I don't dispute that they can be played softly, but softly for a Mason is different than softly for an Estonia, wouldn't you agree?
Originally Posted By: PL

The posters on this thread who said that you should be trying to find a piano you like as it sounds in the showroom, rather than buying an expensive piano and hoping a change in hammers will give you the sound you want, are correct IMO.

They are not correct, but more prudent I'd say. My natural inclination is towards finding something I love in the showroom too, but this has been harder to do than you might think. Lots of Yamahas and lower end Kawais, and turn of the century used instruments, but not much in between around here. The rare Steinway that turns up is usually over 50K and is comparable to those sold at 30-35K in the States.

The only local piano that I almost love, save for the lowest bass notes (again!) is the Shigeru VI, but the price is now way out of my limit. At this point, even if I could afford it I'd hesitate because I sold my last Shigeru because of the same bass issue. There is no denying that the rest of the piano is superb though.
This all leads me back to the Mason. If the tech, who now cannot come tonight, but probably next week, gives the go ahead for the basic integrity of the instrument I may take the chance with it.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 05:01 PM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
If you are looking for a particular sound it is best not to limit the instrument by making it sound one way all the time. That would limit the instrument's capabilities to a particular music or genre.

I'm not looking to limit the sound, but to have a wider tonal range. What made you think I wanted a limited sound?
In any case, from what I understand from the supporters of hammer change is that, indeed, changing from a hard Renner Blue, heat pressed hammer, to a softer, cold pressed hammer would allow this Mason, and perhaps many pianos with similar heat pressed hammers, to have a larger tonal palette. I understand the risks of pre-hung hammers too, but these seem to be manageable risks. That being said, I'm not completely certain I want to take that risk, and would probably look at trying to voice the current Blues as much as possible. This in combination with a great regulation job may help.
It would be much simpler if I could do this on the piano before purchase, of course.
Posted by: Larry Buck

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 05:02 PM

There is a way to evaluate the dynamic capability of the Mason's sound board independently of the hammers that are on it.

I am presuming you are discussing the new hammers with this piano?
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 05:36 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The posters on this thread who said that you should be trying to find a piano you like ... are correct IMO.


This BB clearly is that piano.

The best advice I have read on this forum is to do absolutely everything else first before doing any voicing at all.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 07:04 PM

I find it interesting I have a M&H BB in the shop we installed Renner blues on around 16 years ago.
Very smooth and wonderful tone. I am restringing the piano for the client right now.

I also have a Steinway "M" we rebuilt around the same time here for sale. We also installed the Renner Blues of that time. Also a very smooth and wonderful tone.

We stopped using the blues at one time because we found them bright from what we use to get.

Scep, they are as mellow as the two other pianos you played here, with the other hammers. And I know we voiced them back then. Surprisingly they did not get bright over time.

I am also not a fan of prehung parts, we install all our hammers in house.

Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 07:43 PM

Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak


We stopped using the blues at one time because we found them bright from what we use to get.

Hi Rod,

Well, the new Masons are very bright out of the box. The one I'm looking at that is not at the showroom is not bright at all. I'd call it mellow but without the range I'd thought it would've had.
That being said, there is a Mason A at the showroom that, although not mellow, definitely has more warmth than the AA, BB, or CC beside it.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/10/12 07:48 PM

Originally Posted By: Larry Buck
There is a way to evaluate the dynamic capability of the Mason's sound board independently of the hammers that are on it.

I'm not worried about the dynamic range. Unless we're talking about the tonal palette here? Like I mentioned, this BB can be played very softly, or quite loudly, and everything in between. But what I hear as far as colours go, they don't change with the dynamics as much as I hear on other pianos. Dynamics by themselves is not an issue.

Originally Posted By: Buck

I am presuming you are discussing the new hammers with this piano?

Yes, changing hammers on the eight year old BB. Or at least trying to figure out the best way to expand the colour palette to that of other pianos.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 04:39 AM

Does anyone happen to know what effect, if any, the crown retention system has on the tonal characteristics of Mason & Hamlins?

Specifically does the tension it applies to the rim affect the reflection of higher partials and tones, compared to other pianos?
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 07:25 AM

Originally Posted By: Withindale
Does anyone happen to know what effect, if any, the crown retention system has on the tonal characteristics of Mason & Hamlins?

Specifically does the tension it applies to the rim affect the reflection of higher partials and tones, compared to other pianos?

That's an interesting question. But does it affect only the higher partials or is it just one of the factors which contribute to the overall voice of a Mason? Maybe Del would add some observations.

Here is the "hype" from the M&H website.

http://masonhamlin.com/crown-retention-system/
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 08:20 AM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Originally Posted By: Withindale
Does anyone happen to know what effect, if any, the crown retention system has on the tonal characteristics of Mason & Hamlins?

Specifically does the tension it applies to the rim affect the reflection of higher partials and tones, compared to other pianos?

That's an interesting question. But does it affect only the higher partials or is it just one of the factors which contribute to the overall voice of a Mason? Maybe Del would add some observations.

A few points underlying the question:

1. M&H appear to have a large dynamic range but not so large a tonal range.
2. The tonal range increases dramatically with Musician's earplugs.
3. Musician's earplugs attenuate higher frequencies more.
4. Our perception of loudness of a note depends on the sound of the initial attack.
5. M&H have reportedly recently addressed a problem of treble weakness.
6. The crown retention system is the main differentiator in M&H pianos.
7. Any rim effects might well have a greater impact on shorter wavelengths.
Posted by: kpembrook

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 10:56 AM

Originally Posted By: Withindale

1. M&H appear to have a large dynamic range but not so large a tonal range.
2. The tonal range increases dramatically with Musician's earplugs.
3. Musician's earplugs attenuate higher frequencies more.
4. Our perception of loudness of a note depends on the sound of the initial attack.
5. M&H have reportedly recently addressed a problem of treble weakness.
6. The crown retention system is the main differentiator in M&H pianos.
7. Any rim effects might well have a greater impact on shorter wavelengths.


(8) M&H also has a greater angle on the rim surface to which the soundboard is glued than many other makes.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 12:33 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Originally Posted By: Withindale
Does anyone happen to know what effect, if any, the crown retention system has on the tonal characteristics of Mason & Hamlins?

Specifically does the tension it applies to the rim affect the reflection of higher partials and tones, compared to other pianos?

That's an interesting question. But does it affect only the higher partials or is it just one of the factors which contribute to the overall voice of a Mason? Maybe Del would add some observations.

Here is the "hype" from the M&H website.

http://masonhamlin.com/crown-retention-system/


The M&H people build a very high quality piano at a reasonable price, but the crown retention system is essentially hype. As Del and a few others have pointed out, because the soundboard is glued to the rim above its centerline, as crown is lost, the edges of the soundboard panel actually pull inward, i.e., they don't spread out and push against the rim. Additionally, because the radius of the crowning is very large, there's not much movement of the outer edges of the soundboard as the crown changes anyway. The effective way to retain crown is to use a rib crowned rather than a compression crowned soundboard.

The tension resonator, although it is not a resonator in any sense of the word, does stiffen the structure of the piano, and therefore may well have an effect on the piano's tone and perhaps even sustain in certain parts of the scale.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 12:36 PM

It would not be the first time Del was mistaken.
Posted by: James Carney

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 01:14 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
It would not be the first time Del was mistaken.


And this isn't the first time you've taken
an anonymous potshot at Del Fandrich. Doing so is cowardly, not to mention mean-spirited and unnecessary.

I don't get it, but I'm glad the potshots don't deter one of the greats from continuing to contribute here.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 01:32 PM

Originally Posted By: James Carney
Originally Posted By: BDB
It would not be the first time Del was mistaken.


And this isn't the first time you've taken
an anonymous potshot at Del Fandrich. Doing so is cowardly, not to mention mean-spirited and unnecessary.

I don't get it, but I'm glad the potshots don't deter one of the greats from continuing to contribute here.


Building off this, I think someone who describes himself as a "Semipro tech" looks like an absolute moron when he criticizes such a prominent industry professional. And perhaps worse, he endangers the health of the forum by encouraging said industry professionals to stop posting, which has happened in the past. Younger techs, such as myself, need people like Del, Jim, Rod, etc. to teach us stuff, or at least serve as an inspiration for excellence; that tends to work best when old curmudgeons aren't wailing on them all the time.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 03:27 PM

I am anonymous because I do not wish to use this board for advertising. I am semi-professional because I make enough money from investing that I can do things for the good of the industry, rather than for profit.

If this statement: "As Del and a few others have pointed out, because the soundboard is glued to the rim above its centerline, as crown is lost, the edges of the soundboard panel actually pull inward, i.e., they don't spread out and push against the rim," is true, then there is no need for the soundboard to be crowned at all. The soundboard assembly of ribs and crown has negative curvature, so it is reverse crowned. (This is a simplification, of course. Those of you who are inclined towards mathematics or physics will see this, and will also note that the situation is much more complicated.)

I might also note that we have the evidence of our ears, when we compare a Steinway A-I with an old Mason & Hamlin AA, virtually identical pianos except for the rim bracing.

If you are still swayed by personalities, Gertz is on one side, Fandrich on the other. The physics has not changed in the intervening years.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 04:35 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
It would not be the first time Del was mistaken.


I know that Ron Overs, by experiment, verified that as crown is lost the soundboard edges do move in. I wouldn't be surprised if Del did a similar experiment.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 04:53 PM

Having known Del for many years, I can attest that his skin is pretty thick. One of his favorite stories is that many years ago, after teaching a class at a national PTG convention, a prominent PTG member told him "Every industry needs it's lunatic fringe - and YOU'RE IT!". He always says it with a smile on his face.

Personally, I didn't think BDBs post was that inflammatory. Nobody has all the answers here. Mistakes and misinterpretations have been made and will continue to be made by all who participate in this crazy business. That's what keeps it so interesting!
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 06:33 PM

To answer the question about tonal range and the crown retention system, I'll go along with Marty and Roy's view that it contributes to M&H tone, for reasons such as the rim angle Keith mentioned.

So, why do earplugs clean up the sound, as Dan Silverwood put it, and allow Scep to hear the full tonal range of the piano? I suspect they must be cutting out a whole lot of high frequency tones in the attack that are drowning out the the upper partials of the notes being played, so that the ear does not hear them immediately.

The bridge and the soundboard generate these additional tones when they are excited by the strings. I think this is what Dan meant by a fixed tone instrument. You can change the vibrations in the strings by working on the hammers but your piano will then determine what sounds you hear.

I came across the following plots from an unnamed piano this evening in Research Report 8097, October 2012, by Juliette Chabassier, Antoine Chaigne and Patrick Joly. They show some of the upper partials (red circles) and piano tones (purple diamonds) from D1#, 38.8 Hz. You can see how the vibrations of the strings in (a) produce vibrations in the bridge (b) and the soundboard (c), resulting in the sound pressure waves we hear (d).

Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/11/12 07:02 PM

Originally Posted By: Withindale
The bridge and the soundboard generate these additional tones when they are excited by the strings. I think this is what Dan meant by a fixed tone instrument. You can change the vibrations in the strings by working on the hammers but your piano will then determine what sounds you hear.


Very good. The technician can regulate what the human brain will hear by voicing out the unpleasant tones for the player or owner through the mallet that excites the wire to transmit the vibrations to the transmitter, the bridge.

Of course the goal is to rid the instrument of all unpleasant sounds. This is completed on a temporary basis by manipulating the hammer set and the amount of time it spends on the wire; the more soft the shoulder the more the hammer compresses and the longer it will linger on the wire.

This is often stated incorrectly as changing the tone. In truth it does change some of the tone; it gets rid of what you don’t want and brings out what you do want. The tone of the instrument basically remains the same; there is just more or less of some of the sounds emitted.
Posted by: Larry Buck

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/12/12 05:41 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB

I might also note that we have the evidence of our ears, when we compare a Steinway A-I with an old Mason & Hamlin AA, virtually identical pianos except for the rim bracing.



I could not disagree more. The two pianos you mention are enormously different.

I will offer, You are not in the business of working with these designs if you do not see or feel the difference.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/12/12 08:19 PM

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
As I've mentioned several times on your other threads I have no problem playing softly on my five year old BB that sits in a smallish 12' by 18' room. I don't think what you say about the dynamics of the BB are correct. In fact, this wasn't a problem on any of the BB's I tried.

Well, this runs contrary to my experience. As well, every single person I've talked to that has sold these pianos, or currently sells them has confirmed that Masons are indeed louder than other pianos. I don't dispute that they can be played softly, but softly for a Mason is different than softly for an Estonia, wouldn't you agree?
Not at all. In a small room I can play as softly as I want to on the BB. I couldn't always do this(I would play ghost notes) until I adjusted my technique about 5 months ago.
Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
Originally Posted By: PL

The posters on this thread who said that you should be trying to find a piano you like as it sounds in the showroom, rather than buying an expensive piano and hoping a change in hammers will give you the sound you want, are correct IMO.

They are not correct, but more prudent I'd say. My natural inclination is towards finding something I love in the showroom too, but this has been harder to do than you might think. Lots of Yamahas and lower end Kawais, and turn of the century used instruments, but not much in between around here. The rare Steinway that turns up is usually over 50K and is comparable to those sold at 30-35K in the States.

The only local piano that I almost love, save for the lowest bass notes (again!) is the Shigeru VI, but the price is now way out of my limit. At this point, even if I could afford it I'd hesitate because I sold my last Shigeru because of the same bass issue. There is no denying that the rest of the piano is superb though.
This all leads me back to the Mason. If the tech, who now cannot come tonight, but probably next week, gives the go ahead for the basic integrity of the instrument I may take the chance with it.
Over the course of many lengthy threads you've gotten so many different opinions about what the "problem" is and how to fix it, I'd think that alone would make you extremely hesitant. The only time I think someone should buy a piano whose tone they don't like with the hope some fix might work is if they are not at all particular about the sound of the piano. You seem to be very particular so I think the chance you're taking is very high.

The only way I think this would make sense is if you're getting such a good deal on the Mason that you could have a good chance of selling it with minimal loss. You seem to be hoping in all these threads to get some major confirmation that your attempt to adjust the Mason's tone will work to your liking, but as far as I can see you haven't gotten anything like that kind of response.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/12/12 08:33 PM

Originally Posted By: Withindale
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The posters on this thread who said that you should be trying to find a piano you like ... are correct IMO.

This BB clearly is that piano.
But he's said many times on many threads that he doesn't like the piano as is. He's made it clear that he wouldn't be satisfied with the piano unless ome change in the tone could be accomplished.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/13/12 01:13 AM

Originally Posted By: Larry Buck
Originally Posted By: BDB

I might also note that we have the evidence of our ears, when we compare a Steinway A-I with an old Mason & Hamlin AA, virtually identical pianos except for the rim bracing.



I could not disagree more. The two pianos you mention are enormously different.

I will offer, You are not in the business of working with these designs if you do not see or feel the difference.


Same size, 20 bass notes, 57 bass strings, some on the same auxiliary tenor bridge connected in exactly the same way. Too similar to be coincidence. The biggest difference is the tension resonator.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/13/12 01:34 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Withindale
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The posters on this thread who said that you should be trying to find a piano you like ... are correct IMO.

This BB clearly is that piano.
But he's said many times on many threads that he doesn't like the piano as is. He's made it clear that he wouldn't be satisfied with the piano unless ome change in the tone could be accomplished.


You're misquoting me. I said range of tonal colours, not tone. I like the tone. I wanted more range.

In any case, here's the update:

I bought the piano.

After listening to the recordings I'd made on three different occasions multiples of times, I've become more familiar with what this piano 'should' sound like. The tonal range, to my ears seems quite linear compared to other pianos, but not plain or restricted. At first, I thought that something was missing in the sound, but realized it simply was a different tone than I'm used to. I also realized that in comparing this BB to all other pianos I've auditioned is that every other piano was much brighter, and so they all had more presence in the recordings.

And frankly, I'm happy with the tone. Not because I have to be. I could have walked away from the deal. But, let me say, that I was really needing a tech to come look at this piano and give his opinion. So, that's indeed what happened tonight.

The tech I chose had tuned my Shigeru twice in the past, and has worked on a number of Masons in town. He's told me before that he doesn't really like Masons too much, and when I originally told him I sold my Shigeru to perhaps get a Mason he was quite surprised.
In any case, I wanted him to check out the Mason BB that I'd been asking about the hammers on, etc, etc.
He came, inspected everything--spending over two and a half hours with me, and he also played the piano to hear it, had me play it to hear it, and did some minor work on the keybed and other quick fixes. Long story short(er): he really liked the piano. He gave me a list of all the things wrong with it, but assured me they could all be fixed, with the exception of the fallboard that wouldn't close fully. He thought it may have warped over that last 6 years and was a bit worried why that would be so.
He also had no problem with me changing the hammers if I wanted to, and didn't bat an eye when I said I'd get them prehung.
It turns out that he had been a piano rebuilder for 7 years before he decided to tune for a living, and was confident that he could do many things to make this BB sound and feel even better than it does with regulation, hammer shaping and voicing.
All in all, the experience tonight was a very happy one. I thought that I may have found a piano that I'd have to compromise on, but in the end it has turned out even better than I'd expected.

Thank you so much to all the techs that have shared their experience and opinions on this thread. Although it is obvious that there is no consensus among you, it is clear that you are all dedicated professionals trying to help and guide in the best way you know how. Those who said I should address my questions to a local tech were right ( I never doubted that in any case), but the replies on this thread and the number of PM's I received from some individuals that believed that the Mason is a great piano, coupled with my tech who now likes Masons more, helped me with the final decision to purchase.

The end.

Now I just need to fit it in the elevator...
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/13/12 04:56 AM

Congratulations.

Please tell us, in due course, how the regulation and voicing go, and what the sonorities of the piano bring to your playing.
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: Any warning about changing hammers? - 10/13/12 11:37 AM

Congrats! Look forward to hearing more of your recordings! smile