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#2053097 - 03/23/13 06:54 PM Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others?
Jason Zhao Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 58
I was wondering about this for a while.
For example, take 2 grand pianos and then put them in the same room and go through the same use.
Over time, can the sound of one piano age and distort faster than the other? Do some pianos have sound that last longer than others before distorting?

Thanks!

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#2053109 - 03/23/13 07:10 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Gatsbee13 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/03/10
Posts: 519
Loc: So Cal
im not an expert.. but I recall speaking to a piano rebuilder here in Los Angeles.. he was saying how a lot of the Korean and lower tier Chinese pianos would sound dull and muddy quicker than say a Steinway or quality Japanese piano.. he was also saying some pianos that were rebuilt using certain strings tended to also go in aforementioned direction..

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#2053125 - 03/23/13 07:42 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
patH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/13
Posts: 596
Loc: Germany
Originally Posted By: Jason Zhao
I was wondering about this for a while.
For example, take 2 grand pianos and then put them in the same room and go through the same use.
Over time, can the sound of one piano age and distort faster than the other? Do some pianos have sound that last longer than others before distorting?

Yes they can. wink
In my experience, there can be a different deterioration of action. As I said on another thread, when I was at University, there were an old Sauter and a new Schimmel in the same practise room (upright pianos), and after a few weeks, the Schimmel felt really used, while the Sauter kept its good action.
But this particular Schimmel model seems to be discontinued; so this doesn't say much about current Schimmel models.

As for sound, there are probably a lot of factors that can cause some models to go out of tune faster. Maybe how tight the strings are. But I guess that piano technicians could say more about that than I could.
_________________________
Everything is possible, and nothing is sure.
XXXI

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#2053127 - 03/23/13 07:45 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Steven Y. A. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/13
Posts: 291
Loc: Toronto
Tuning stability varies from model to model. A well made piano will last lOnger than a mass produce-minded piano.

Chinese made pianos from 90s all suffers now. But the newer ones could be a different story.
_________________________
PLEYEL P124

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#2053129 - 03/23/13 07:50 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
SBP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/12/12
Posts: 258
It really depends on the quality of the piano, its use, and its location. Of course, a Pearl River will age much faster than a Kawai, and both will age faster than a Steinway , but there are other factors in play. There's also maintenance, as a Steinway that sits neglected in an unfinished basement will deteriorate faster than a Brodmann in the living room (or the "pahlah" as my grandmother calls it) with regular playing and tuning. Then there's the issue of repertoire, as a Yamaha played daily for 20 years by a pianist who played nothing but Rachmaninov, Liszt, Joplin, and gospel music will likely age much faster than the same Yamaha that is played daily for 20 years by a pianist who only played Bach, Handel, Lamb, and traditional church hymns, both pianos receiving regular maintenance and tuning. If you just let the Pearl River, the Kawai, and the Steinway sit for a long time, untouched and unmaintained, I'd say the quality will determine which ones last the longest.


Edited by SBP (03/23/13 08:13 PM)
_________________________
2012 Kawai K3

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#2053130 - 03/23/13 07:54 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: SBP]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Originally Posted By: SBP
Of course, a Pearl River will age much faster than a Kawai, and a Steinway will age much faster than the first two,

Say What ? !! ??
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2053132 - 03/23/13 07:58 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Minnesota Marty]
patH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/13
Posts: 596
Loc: Germany
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Originally Posted By: SBP
Of course, a Pearl River will age much faster than a Kawai, and a Steinway will age much faster than the first two,

Say What ? !! ??

My guess: Probably the other way round (both supposedly age faster than Steinway).
_________________________
Everything is possible, and nothing is sure.
XXXI

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#2053139 - 03/23/13 08:06 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
You would think!
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2053144 - 03/23/13 08:10 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Jason,

The bottom line is the build quality of the instruments. Any two pianos, from two different manufacturers, with gracefully age at different rates. Or, drop like a ton of bricks.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2053146 - 03/23/13 08:13 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: patH]
SBP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/12/12
Posts: 258
Originally Posted By: patH
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Originally Posted By: SBP
Of course, a Pearl River will age much faster than a Kawai, and a Steinway will age much faster than the first two,

Say What ? !! ??

My guess: Probably the other way round (both supposedly age faster than Steinway).


Pffthahaha, oh lordy I need to fix that.
_________________________
2012 Kawai K3

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#2053150 - 03/23/13 08:16 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2324
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Aging characteristics revealed from use with pianos is a large topic. The most noticeable area is the hammers. Many new hammers are made with quite dense felt. All hammers get work hardened with use, (brighter sound). Also the denser felt is heavier so the hammer is heavier and this increases the hammer/string contact time. Increased contact time packs the hammer surface down quicker and string cuts begin quicker making the tone quality change quicker with use compared to softer/lighter hammers. Heavier, harder hammers also put more of a strain on the action centers and cushioning elements. This leads to a loose, noisy action quicker. Strings fatigue quicker when displaced by harder, heavier hammers. Action regulation deteriorates quicker also.

The Wessel, Nickel & Gross composite action parts with the hard bushing appear to be a significant leap forward in durability and stability compared to the prior art. (Note, I do not get paid to say this).

By now you may be getting the picture about hammers and their impact on musical utility and value. Piano makers are not ignorant of this fact although most kind of like to ignore it if they can in my experience. Piano dealers think that a piano that sounds bright, clear and loud in the showroom will sell quicker than one with a darker tone. This is especially true with brands that have no history of use in a particular market.

So Piano makers are pushed by the salesmen to make overly bright pianos because they think it is the only way to get the pianist to buy. Then when the pianist actually spends 10 to 20 hours a week playing the piano, it starts to sound like a tin can after a year or two. And sorry to say the felt is so dense that needling shreds the felt much more than it pries the felt apart to make it softer. Some hammer felt is so dense you cannot needle it without breaking many needles-compared to softer types that the same needle can be used for YEARS on many, many pianos

String termination elements can contribute to string fatigue also and some pianos have too hard and/or to constraining string termination points.

Some of the wood species and more importantly grain orientation can affect the durability of the bridges and pin-block. Poorly dried wood can lead to pedal and leg assemblies coming apart after two or three years.

What I have posted here is just the start of what we might discuss under this topic.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2053250 - 03/24/13 01:06 AM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Jason Zhao Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 58
Well, I guess I got the basic part of it, but that shall do for now.
I'm definitely not buying Chinese pianos so that's out of the question.

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#2053438 - 03/24/13 12:05 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Jason Zhao
I was wondering about this for a while.
For example, take 2 grand pianos and then put them in the same room and go through the same use.
Over time, can the sound of one piano age and distort faster than the other? Do some pianos have sound that last longer than others before distorting?

Yes.

Several components of a piano can change—usually not for the better—with either age or use. Among these are the soundboard systems, the actions and the hammers.

In terms of action performance it is usually the choice of materials and the dedication to reasonably seasoning wood that makes the biggest difference in how it holds up over time and use. Manufacturers with no experience either in the music business or, more specifically, in the piano business but who just bought their way into the piano business tend to undervalue seemingly ubiquitous materials like felt. The hard reality, however, is that felt-making—at least felt of good quality—is neither easy nor cheap.

The general lack of knowledge and experience displayed by many of the start-up manufacturers in this area alone has been appalling. Poorly made action felts and leathers—or leather substitutes—may look and feel similar to their high quality counterparts but the differences can start showing up after as little as 100 or 200 hours of playing. Typically the the hammer blow distance increases as the knuckles and capstan felts pack down and deteriorate. Hammer flanges will start to loosen up and the action will begin to feel “sloppy.” (Or, if badly plated centerpins were used, start tightening up.) Poor quality keybushing felts will pack down and/or quickly wear resulting in loose feeling keys. As loosely woven keyframe felts pack down key level and travel become moving targets.

These wear-related issues are common to all piano actions but they will show up much sooner in actions made with sub-standard materials.

In terms of tone the biggest issue will be hammers. Fortunately this is an area in which progress is finally being made but for decades the general philosophy has been “power sells.” In fact, the problem showed up first and then the marketing solution was invented to excuse it.

Good piano hammers are also hard to make in production quantities; a good, working knowledge of cause and effect relationships throughout the entire process along with good felt and tight manufacturing controls. The hard and dense hammers that have plagued the industry for some decades are the result of hammers being treated as commodity items rather than as a vital part of the music making process. It is a lot easier to make massive and dense hammers as long as musicality is not one of the primary goals of production.

To simplify quite a lot; good hammers are a fine balance between felt density and resilience. Cross the line and press them a little too much and both density and the spring rate of the hammer goes up making the sound brighter than is desired. Press them without quite enough density and the spring rate is too low and the sound is not bright enough. In both cases voicing by a skilled worker will be necessary.

If, however, you always press dense and massive using thicker felt (with a lot of moisture to keep it from tearing), a lot of heat and pressure the results will be very consistent and there will be a relatively high tolerance for error throughout the press cycle. If these hammers are a little on the bright side no problem just do a little shallow needling over the tops of the things and ship the piano. Let the dealer worry about them. If the hammers are a little on the heavy side no problem, just lower the action ratio and put in more key leads.

For the pianist, of course, the problem has been that the voicing of these hammers is not stable. No matter how these hammers are voiced by the factory, the dealer or by the field technician they are not stable. They tend to brighten up quickly when played regularly and they also tend to deteriorate faster than a well-made hammer.

Unfortunately excessively dense and massive hammers have not been found exclusively in low-end, entry-level pianos; they’ve been used in pianos across the market spectrum. For some decades the solution of choice was to simply convince the piano public that “power” was good. “Bright” was good. “This is the way good pianos are supposed to sound.” Those of us who thought otherwise were simply relics of antiquity who needed to get with the program and stop our whining. Fortunately this is one pendulum that seems, finally, to be swinging the other way forcing manufacturers to finally reexamine their hammermaking processes with an eye—ear?—toward making actual piano hammers rather than commodity items that just look like piano hammers.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2053515 - 03/24/13 02:14 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
gutenberg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 380
Loc: Wichita, Kansas
Thank you, Del, for another very informative post. Could you elaborate a little on "soundboard systems" in pianos that are not simply old?

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#2053527 - 03/24/13 02:47 PM Re: Do some pianos age faster/more 'brutal' than others? [Re: Jason Zhao]
Jason Zhao Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 58
Wow, thanks a ton Del!
That answers all of my questions!

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