Trying to improve my piano's sound...

Posted by: JoelW

Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 01:24 PM

Hello. I live mostly over at the Pianist's Corner but I have a question for you guys.

I have a Yamaha G2 grand and the sound is a little harsh. It's hard for me to get the pianissimos that I want, especially with the lid up, so I always keep it down. Recently I've been wearing earplugs to soften what I hear. Pathetic, I know.

The copper-wound strings are not shiny anymore and the last 3 notes down at the bass are tubby. So it seems they need to be replaced. Also, the hammers have significant grooves in them.

Is the harshness of my piano due to the grooves alone, or could old strings have something to do with it? Would it be okay to get the hammers voiced without changing the strings first?

Thanks.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 01:33 PM

It is hard to say exactly what is happening without seeing the piano. What does you tech say?
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 01:36 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
It is hard to say exactly what is happening without seeing the piano. What does you tech say?


I haven't brought in a tech yet.

Would it help at all if I uploaded some HD pictures?
Posted by: BDB

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 01:37 PM

Nothing will help without bringing someone in.
Posted by: Eric Gloo

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 01:38 PM

If the hammers have significant grooves, they are overdue for reshaping and voicing. If the grooves are really bad, the hammers made need replacing. You'd have to check with your piano technician on that one. I'd have the hammer work done before considering changing strings. Tubby strings can be helped by putting a half-twist in them...sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't...but it should be a fairly easy thing for your technician to do. If the hammers are worn, the action is probably in need of regulation.
Posted by: Phil D

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 01:39 PM

Not really. It would help if you talked to a tech who can see the piano! smile

As a crass generalisation, this problem is more likely to be caused by the hammers than the strings. Piano strings should last 20+ years without changing tone. Hammers nowhere near that long without careful maintenance.
Posted by: Olek

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 01:56 PM

Sure but depending of the age of the piano, the treble wire and the wound ones may also be at last as efficient, tone wise, than changing the hammers.

Hammers are for the player comfort, even much worn hammers can be hidden under a judicious voicing, but old bass wire cannot sound nice, and hard treble strings produce also a hard tone, without much color.

Installing new hammers can raise the dynamic range, but they will have to be voiced very soft to hide the hard partials produced by the old strings (if the piano is 30-40 years old for instance.

making old worn hammers produce an accepteable tone is not really easy, but how do you think some piano dealers are doing ? shape until really no felt remain, raise all the felt you can to the crown, and impregnate the rest for a minimal stiffness.

I know a competent shop that file hammers 4 or 5 times... once the piano is sold then only, after a few years, the customer begin to wish for a better tone...

Then, changing a hammer set on a G2 will be a 1500 to 3000 UDS operation depending if the shanks are changed too.

Hence the success of refelting jobs as often done here (no hammer gluing, soft heads without much needle work, price just 1/3 more than new heads ... Also, refelting leave much of the felt outer tension, the main drawback is that large heads are rarely refelted as thick, and the inner of the heads are not dense enough in basses and treble.

Despite that (the felt packs and after a few years of heavy playing the tone begin to be dense enough) that process is used in a very large music school I know, for all the studio pianos.





Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:03 PM

From a pianist ------

Call a Qualified & Experienced Piano Technician to do a full evaluation. That is the starting point to solve the problems you are having. All pianos need regular care and servicing and it sounds like yours is past due.

Remember, tuners are not necessarily competant technicians.

Good Luck
Posted by: Tunewerk

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:03 PM

This is a very clear problem with a clear solution, Joel.

Yamahas have harsh tone when they are brand new. To say it is harsh now with grooved hammers would probably be an understatement.

First, you would be wasting your money and time to voice hammers like that. They need to be reshaped or replaced. A good technician will be able to see if there is life left in the hammer and if it can be filed, then voiced, after the piano is carefully tuned.

Pianissimo is a problem with the regulation, which is partly related to the compacting of the hammer. This should be addressed second.

To fix the tubby bass, it seems clear your strings need to be replaced. You can do this without needing to significantly redo steps one and two if you desire even better sound.
Posted by: Olek

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:18 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel_W
Originally Posted By: BDB
It is hard to say exactly what is happening without seeing the piano. What does you tech say?


I haven't brought in a tech yet.

Would it help at all if I uploaded some HD pictures?


It would help if you give us the serial number of the piano.

Pics of the action (out of the piano) will may be help us to show you that your hammers are worn, but I suppose you know that yet.

G2 can stand quite some decades, but you cannot expect to have a piano with some musicality without dealing with a good professional (and they are rare, I can promise you, who know how to handle neglected pianos efficiently)

Regulation also, when gone, make your instrument harsh and difficult to master, then it will help treble strings to break)

Cost is the main issue, when old pianos have to be bring to a better level. Some "magicians" know how to gain a few years , so you can find the money, things can be done in different parts, but for instance : shaping hammers, repairing a few hammer centers, voicing after shaping (necessary) and rough regulation, will take 3 days (or 25-30 hours, let's say) (including cleaning and global basic maintenance and basic repairs)

If you have to change the hammers 2-3 years later almost the same job have to be done with the new hammers, so the final cost is too high... All depends of your budget, the way you play, your level of musicality...

If you want to lower the aggressiveness of the piano there are a few things you can do, but nothing really efficient as the job done by a pro.
Posted by: Olek

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:22 PM

Old worn Yamaha hammers can be voiced without real reshaping (real reshaping would take too much felt/weight off the heads)

They can be voiced and impregnated so you have a less harsh tone. half of that is obtained by a good regulation AND a good tuning.

Yamaha hammers are thick and have alot of felt so they can be used for long, but someone competent is necessary, that is probably your bigger problem (it is anywhere) concert tuners have the courage to voice aggressively worn hammers, knowing what they are doing.

Others with be shy and prick a little the heads, giving no more resiliency, cutting only in the high spectra, then the hammer compress soon and begin to be harsh again.
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:22 PM


Originally Posted By: Joel_W

I haven't brought in a tech yet.
Would it help at all if I uploaded some HD pictures?


The photos would only allow us to have a look. What would help you immensely is to hire a technician of your choice to evaluate the instrument for present mechanical condition.

Reads like full regulation first to see what is there. Then reads like possible bass string set and hammer set.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:26 PM

So even though it may not feel uneven to my fingers, the action may be in need of a regulation? And regulation changes the sound too?

I have a very strong suspicion that this piano has not been regulated in many, many years. The family we bought it from (last year) never played it and it just sat there primarily as furniture.
Posted by: Tunewerk

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel
So even though it may not feel uneven to my fingers, the action may be in need of a regulation? And regulation changes the sound too?


Yes, absolutely.

And there are many different levels of regulation.. not simply, it needs to be regulated or not. Finer regulation will yield even touch, control of the hammer in all dynamic ranges, and flawless pianissimo at the lowest volume.

This significantly affects the voice of the piano, so voicing should not be touched until this is done right.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:36 PM

Ahh, I see. This is an eye-opener. Thanks! What do regulations go for usually?
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:39 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel_W
What do regulations go for usually?

You will need to ask a political action committee.

(Sorry - couldn't resist!)
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 02:56 PM


Prices vary widely across the country and depend upon many factors not the least of which is how deep the technician has to go into the action/keyboard to repair and adjust for wear.

If the instrument is from the seventies I would think 1-2k for starters, maybe a little more or less depending upon where you are located.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 03:08 PM

To do this sort of job properly yes, you most certainly need a good piano tuner AND a good piano technician. You would be amazed at how many pianos tuners are down right lousy piano technicians. More so than I'd like to admit.

The piano needs to be properly assessed by one of the "good ones." It should be tuned and then regulated first, prior to voicing but only after the hammers are filed and mated to the strings and, the strings are mated to the hammers. These are both important parts of doing the job properly. Then the final tuning can be done as well as a good job of voicing. But only if the hammers are not worn so much that they should be replaced instead.

That's where a good, honest technician comes in. One that will tell you like it is. Do the bass wires really need replacing and do the hammers need replacing too? For example. You can only do so much with badly worn hammers.

Bear in mind too, that the best technicians all charge more for their talents and abilities and rightly so. They've earned that right by learning how to do it correctly. You generally do get what you pay for in this field.

The more your piano has been sadly neglected, the more problems you are apt to encounter.
Posted by: Olek

Re: Trying to improve my piano's sound... - 01/11/13 03:33 PM

If the piano did not play, possibly the regulation will be "relatively" fast (you feel it even under your finger, that is a good thing)

But it is possible that some lube is necessary there and there, and "not played" is what is always told when the piano is sold, so it have to be asseced in its condition.

if not really played and not tuned/followed by a good tech, most grand pianos, left very strong almost harsh from the factory, will harden more and more as no final voicing is really done.

As the action settle at the same time it can go out of regulation even, if not played.

I believe that thoses days 80 % of the piano tuners never take care of the hammer travel distance, nor screw tightening, nor vacuuming the dust from the mortise, they come to "tune" and they tune, that is all. meanwhile the hammer distance raise more and more and the tone is harder and harder.

Just think that the usual "tuner" will stay 1:30 for a tuning, while Japanese techs (tightly followed by Yamaha or Kawai) spend 3 hours for the same operation (of course they don't tune less fast, they just do much more maintenance)

The piano may not be in a so terrible condition if you did not have it tuned (or you dont know what a normal piano sound is wink

You could search for a Yamaha tech, here trainings are done by that brand for the technicians that work in their circuitry.

Not all techs have followed those trainings and there are different kinds and levels (the best ones will have be trained in the Japan Yamaha factory)

I don't know if the NY Steinway techs are much used to Yamahas hammers, possibly not all of them, as the hammers are so different and ask for a different job than the Steinway ones.

A well trained tech will be so much more efficient, it is really worth looking for the good person. In the end it can be less expensive, also..