Soundboard lacks crown - advice?

Posted by: lkplatow

Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/16/04 08:06 AM

I had the piano (a rebuilt 1928 6'5" Chickering) I am considering checked out by the tech yesterday, and the only thing he found was that the soundboard lacked crown. He said it does have downbearing, just not crown (I didn't even think that was possible). Anyhow, the tone of the piano is beautiful and he said that obviously the lack of crown isn't hurting it - notes in the upper treble were sustaining for over 15 seconds. I know Larry Fine's book says much the same thing - that many fine-sounding pianos have no measurable crown. However, I am curious to know if the tone will deteriorate over time or, if after 3/4 of a century, the soundboard is as compressed as it's going to get. The piano does have a dampp chaser with humidifier and undercover and I plan to monitor the humidity and control its environment as best as I can. Any thoughts? Thanks!
Posted by: Jim Volk

Re: Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/16/04 09:35 AM

I'd venture to say that if the rim and bottom braces are still structurally sound, and the rebuilder has done a good job securing any loosening soundboard ribs, then your careful maintenance of the environment should be sufficient to prevent any future loss of downbearing.

Preventing shrinkage due to an overly dry environment would seem like your most important goal here.

Also, the reason you can still have downbearing without a significant crown is that the horizontal plane in which the strings contact the capo bar and hitchpins is slightly lower than the horizontal plane of the bridge surface. This disparity forces the strings upward slightly, so they do not lie in a plane perfectly parallel to the soundboard.

-Jimbo
Posted by: Del

Re: Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/17/04 01:30 AM

My goodness, let's not look for trouble. If you're happy with the sound and overall performance of the piano enjoy it and don't worry about it.

Yes, it is quite possible to have string bearing without soundboard crown. It simply means that the rebuilder has reset the plate down a bit from its original position to gain some string bearing. We prefer not to do this because it doesn't always give the tonal results we want out of a rebuilt piano. In this case it seems to have worked just fine -- don't loose any sleep over how long it might last. Just enjoy it.

Del
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/17/04 01:06 PM

Lisa,

At the price you have seen this is a fair repair. As already mentioned it is common to change the plate position to get downbearing as a board "flattens".

Del,

I am surprised by your answer. I have seen pianos rebuilt like this that need boards in five to ten years. I thought you would feel stronger about this.
Posted by: Del

Re: Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/17/04 04:15 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Rich Galassini:
Lisa,

At the price you have seen this is a fair repair. As already mentioned it is common to change the plate position to get downbearing as a board "flattens".

Del,

I am surprised by your answer. I have seen pianos rebuilt like this that need boards in five to ten years. I thought you would feel stronger about this. [/b]
It seems I misread the opening lines...I somehow got the impression the piano had already been purchased. That's what I get for skimming the opening.

If I were to make a service call on the folks who had already purchased a piano like this I probably would not raise any alarms unless there were other problems with the sale. If asked I would give my honest opinion. But, I'd still tell them to enjoy the piano and get the most out of it. Few things will kill the relationship between a pianist and a piano is the fear that itís about ready to fall apart. And there is that matter of good to outstanding sustain in the "treble" (wherever that may have been measured) which is usually the first area to give notice that the soundboard is in the process of giving up the ghost.

If I were called in to evaluate a piano in this condition prior to the sale I would explain the situation in as balanced a way as possible. In a nutshell, the piano sounds great now, but that may or may not last. The soundboard may continue working just fine for some time to come ó or it may not. Itís a gamble. If you win the toss youíll end up with a nice piano at a reasonable cost. If you lose the toss in five or ten years it is going to cost you an additional $x,xxx to make it right. (And, yes, this is more like what I should have said earlier.)

In general if the soundboard in a rebuilt piano is flat but does have string downbearing then the soundboard probably did have some crown before the piano was strung. Depending on how the soundboard assembly was crowned originally it may retain that crown for some years to come. Or it may not. Yes, the soundboard probably should have been replaced but this was probably a judgment call on the part of the rebuilder. Without know who that might have been it is impossible to tell whether or not a reasonable call was made.

Del
Posted by: Pianoray

Re: Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/17/04 04:31 PM

Anyone,

What is acceptable for sustain length in the treble and on what notes?

Thanks.

Ray
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/17/04 09:15 PM

Now thats the Del that I know. \:\)
Posted by: lkplatow

Re: Soundboard lacks crown - advice? - 03/18/04 10:54 PM

Thanks Del. If I said the rebuilder (at least for the bellywork) was SAMA, would that influence you at all? I don't believe they ever replace soundboards, do they?