Keys dont always play?

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siontw
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Keys dont always play?

Post by siontw » 24 Jan 2012, 18:32

Hi All, im new to the forum but hopefully will soon be my new "local".

I have just got back into playing the piano after buying my first house and having somewhere permanent to keep one.

I bought myself my first piano from a reputable dealer (I hope) on ebay (do the two go together?). It’s a Broadwood circa 1880 in a lovely walnut cabinet. The piano itself is in fantastic condition externally as I can see, and all the notes play (most of the time).

It was tuned before I bought it and has stayed in tune quite well since it was re-housed into my front room. Only the middle c and a few others have fallen flat, most of them are still in tune after 4 weeks.

I took it apart (as you do) to have a good look inside. The only issue im having with it is sometimes the keys don’t play, especially after playing for about 2-3 minutes. It also happens when you play softly.

Im a newbie to piano servicing but I would like to think I’m pretty handy. I know I should get someone pro to check it out, but everyone wants a call out fee! Probably understandable, but I want to learn more about the piano and how to look after, maintain and play properly so am keen to soak up as much advice from you Gurus as possible and do as much work myself as I can.

After taking it apart, I took a few photos of what, to my novice eyes, didn’t look quite right.

So finally, (sorry for the waffle) to my question…. Can anyone see anything untoward in the photos that needs immediate attention, or might be the cause of the keys not always playing?

Thanks in advance

Image
after taking a second look at this pic, is this the main culprit? i do feel like a double hit sometimes? if there is this gap this may be what im feeling? a tap of the bottom then when it hits the string. if this gap exists, it might not then reach the string? hmm....

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Image
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it looks like someone has turned this one upside down?! can you buy these felts easily?

thanks again

S

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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 24 Jan 2012, 22:25

We did take it to pieces :D

Sounds like the jacks centres may be a bit stiff your tuner may put some CPL on them that may do the trick, if not ... then they will have to re centre the jacks and hammers

As to the parts being uneven that standard for a piano that has been neglected over the years. At least all the bits are there unlike some that come off Ebay

Get a tuner in in a few week to give it the once over

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 25 Jan 2012, 02:25

The whole of the mechanism needs to be regulated - "regulation" is the adjustment of all the parts by turning screws/ wires, bending wires, adding shims etc.... but not a job for the faint-hearted on these pianos! Most of the parts will be quite fragile, and I very much doubt if a piano tuner would adjust the dampers without various wooden dollies shattering into small bits!

1st Photo: There should be a gap here between every lever body & damper wire button - but with the mechanism IN THE PIANO - however, as you have lifted the mechanism out & placed it on carpet, the gaps & geometry will be larger & change as the levers collapse slightly - so the gaps need to be created & adjusted with the mechanism in the piano, sitting on the keys.... however, I would leave them well alone - the wood will probably be quite brittle. The gaps here are intentional, and nothing to do with why the notes won't play. If the dampers mute the strings OK, best to leave them alone.

Last photo: These are the key capstan cloths. Reason the cloth has been reversed is due to the excess wear on the cloth (the end of the cloth closest to you doesnt come into contact with the undercarriage).... under each piece of cloth is a countersunk screw.... this has probably worn its way through the cloth?.... if you fold the cloth back, you'll see the screws.
The cloth is also only glued at one end, creating a flap under the screw.
Have a look on ebay for some box cloth - ????mm - but obviously cant measure it on a photo. However, whatever you replace with thicker & new materials, you will completely change the geometry of the movement - so you are best contacting a piano person who can give you some advice.

I hope that helps.
General help can be given, but I doubt a detailed synopsis will be given!
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 25 Jan 2012, 11:03

The problem in trying to explain stuff here on this forum.... no matter how detailed your photos are - which some are fine - then comes the "language barrier" ; technical terms, names of parts, jargon used etc.... in most cases a new member wont understand which bit is which!.... how to adjust it, what tool to use, what's its name? etc.

One of the problems with your photos showing the explanations in text, and that some of the parts are not in-line with each other is that you have taken all your photos with the mechanism removed. The back checks for instance (short wires with a wooden block & thick green felt).... when the mech. is removed, (and the fact that the piano is over 130 years old & not been regulated recently) is that they will all look higgildy piggildy when the mech is removed - due to the bridle tapes either broken off, the tape stretching, combined with the wires bending over time. When you put the mech back in the piano, then take some photos.... you will see the undercarriages raise slightly as they rest on those pieces of grey cloth (key capstans) and most of the gaps & parts misaligned will be different to when you took the photos on your carpet. If you can understand this, then I can explain a few things - but there are some trade secrets!!

Best advice would be for you to purchase the Haynes manual on pianos by John Bishop.... it is fully illustrated, names all the parts, and covers various sections on over-damped pianos.... but sometimes for the wrong reasons!

On your piano, if you look at the top of the damper wire, it will be threaded.... this is wound into a wooden block (which is pivotted on a pin), and then locked with a wooden circular 'bolt' .... rather like a locking nut. On some pianos there is a grub screw to hold the wire in place, even though it is still threaded. Some of the regulation process in adjusting these involves turning these wires up or down to create the right gap.... however beware! .... sometimes these wooden blocks break in half. These are generally the piano technician's worst nightmare - very awkward to adjust correctly - missing red felt washers? wires bent? and generally now are obsolete. Parts have to be hand-made, or pinched from another old mechanism.

During part of the mechanism cycle, there must be various small gaps between certain parts - rather like setting tappetts on an old car engine. Without these gaps, the mech will not function correctly/ dampers will lift prematurely etc......

Hope that has given you an insight....
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by siontw » 25 Jan 2012, 13:52

Fantastic,

Thanks for your great advice and your patients with a beginner!

Lesson one - done!

I will order the manual and begin to familiarise myself with technical terms. Like i said, i want to start to learn to play again, but also to service and maintain.

I think my best bet to start with will be to have someone come to inspect and service like you recommend, and i will bug them as much info as i can while they are there. i appreciate that small tolerances can make a big difference so its probably the best bet. they can then advise on the thickness of cloth i might need and any bits that need replacing/making up.

Any decent servicers local ish to Urmston Manchester anyone could recommend?

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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 26 Jan 2012, 00:45

The worn capstan cloth wont really make much difference to the notes not playing - they just improve the way the piano plays in general. As Barrie says, probably the main reason the note works (first time played), then after repeating the same note - it stops working - this will either be the jack pin/ flange stiff or seized up, or maybe the hammer returning slowly. When the action is at rest - if the pin is seized, the jack will appear to be forward & away from the hammer - the small spiral spring (jack spring) - under its tension will gradually push the jack back under the hammer (in slow motion).... however, for quick repetition, the pin will need to be replaced - and this is a specialised job, using special tools.

To give you an idea of some of the parts, their location, and their names, here is a cross section diagram of an over-damped mechanism similar to yours. (Some of the parts have been removed for clarity). You will see the jack tip rests under the hammer notch. Dont take any notice of the "missing gap" between the lever & damper wire wooden dolly - this is just a general diagram, not outlining the before - during and after movement.
overdampedaction.JPG
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by siontw » 27 Jan 2012, 11:31

Yeah thats pretty much what im seeing...

i thought i would take another approach last night, rather than try and find the problem from the inside, i played for about 30mins paying attention to what was happening.

I can run my fingers up all the notes and they will all play. But when playing a tune with chords and quick movements etc, I go to press a note and its hard and nothing will play. If I let off and wait a fraction of a second and try again it hammers and plays.

So I’m guessing the hammer is struggling to return properly.

After a quick inspection the bridal straps are all in pretty good conditions and no sign of splits or tears so don’t think that is the culprit. Will have a look at the seating of the jack spring, and closer inspection of the jack in general to see if it is stiff, from the diagram (thanks) and the advice im guessing my problem will lie here ?

Just another quick note (no pun intended!) will it get better the more times its tuned? E.g its been sat now for about 4-5 weeks so should be settled, should I get it tuned now, then again when I have sorted this issues, or just wait until its sorted then get it tuned?

Have called two tuners, one is saying get the servicing sorted first then tune, the other is saying he will tune it, sort any bits that might need doing, but if more work needs doing then that will be done after the tune, then will need another tuning?

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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 27 Jan 2012, 13:28

If you just ask for a tuning first, the tuner will just stop tuning your piano when they reach a problem - you cant tune a piano if the notes dont play or repeat rapidly. During a tuning, each string (so there is 2 or 3 strings in the treble?) has to be muted off to allow one string to be tuned first, then the other string is put in tune with the previously 'tuned' string. A tuner will very rapidly & loudly play each string for about 15-30 seconds to put it in tune.... but if the jack or hammer doesnt reset - it cant be tuned. Bit like finely tuning & timing a car engine - if the engine wont start, the job cant be done - same with a piano.

The bridle tapes wont have any effect - as I said before, and the jack spring will only do its job when the pin is replaced, and the bushing cloth in the flange is reamed out to accept a new slightly larger centre pin. The measurements here are to within 0.05mm - so an expert technician can only do this job, using a micrometer, pin extractor, reaming tools & centre pin cutters.

No.... wont make any difference if you have the piano tuned... the tuning is separate - nothing to do with the "mechanics" .

Here is another diagram below (cropped) - showing the areas that will need working on - in red. The tiny black dots on each flange is the centre pin & bushing cloth. The lever has 2 flanges, one at the back - for the lever itself (sometimes called the undercarriage or whippen), and the centre flange is for the jack. On some pianos, the flange part is on the jack - but they do the same job. When a new pin is inserted (after reaming) - the pin must be exactly 0.01mm smaller than the bushed hole - if the bushing hole is too small, the new pin will be too tight, and if too large, the parts will 'knock' or wobble from side to side.... same applies to the hammer flanges. On occasions, the weight of the parts & inertia is enough to bring everything back - but if you use the sustain pedal, the weight of the dampers & their wires do not add gravity - so the lever parts just get stuck mid-air. The bridle tape assists in the hammer return - it helps to 'tug' the hammer back (aswell as support all the levers from collapsing when you remove the mech.).... but again, if the pins are tight - the bridle tapes, springs, damper weight etc will be of no use.

If there are many notes to repin, your tuner may stop the tuning - and advise you that re-pinning is needed first - and if loads to do, they may prefer to take the mechanism away in their workshop. Also when you repin, the lever/hammer has to be removed from the action - so it is likely the bridle tape will need to be replaced aswell.... even though it has nothing to do with the repair! Bit like replacing a new exhaust pipe on a car.... if the brackets are rusty, or other associated parts unable to hold the new exhaust in place - they must also be replaced.... just like the tapes.

So.... here we are - your tuner will examine all three flanges PER NOTE.... the odd few they can repin in your home (and easier to remove the damper rail to get to the parts).... but if starts to become a ball-ache, expect a hefty(ish) quote for repinning. The repinning must be done first before any tuning - and thats if the piano CAN be tuned?
overdampedactionflanges.jpg
overdampedactionflanges.jpg (38.14 KiB) Viewed 8358 times
Oh yeh.... and of course, it also depends if the flanges break or not when the old pin is being forced out? so on a piano many moons old, anything can happen.


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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by siontw » 27 Jan 2012, 16:58

Thanks again for your reply colin,

im noticing it on both octaves either side of the middle c. (the notes that get played the most)

so i imagine its something someone is going to want to do at home rather than my front room with the dog licking his ear!

with those kind of tolerances its probably best left to a technician, however, if the bill is going to be more than the piano i may as well have a crack myself and if it works (ish) great, if not well it looks like i might be buying a new one anyway at this rate.

thanks again for all your great help and advice

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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 27 Jan 2012, 17:37

Good luck with the repairs anyway. Best left to a piano technician!

If you want to save on call-out fees, and just pay for the repinning labour - let me know. If you know how to remove the offending levers & jacks/ hammers etc.,.. just take the action out, uncouple the bridle tape, unscrew them from their flanges (at the back) and pop them in the post to me complete. PM me for a price if needed, or just contact your local piano tuner.

I think we've just about covered everything..

cheers
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by siontw » 30 Jan 2012, 12:10

Will do! But i think it might be quite a few of them!

Thanks very much,

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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 30 Jan 2012, 14:52

The only way really to see how the lever & jack performs is to remove the whole section, then flick the jack to see how it moves. In the 'rest' position, it should be at about 10 O'clock (bridle & check wire on the right) - and if you remove the spring, just "shake" the whole lever gently in your hand, and the jack should move freely backwards & forwards. Also move the lever flange to see if it turns freely aswell. However, us technicians know the right amount of 'feel' in the moving parts.

Here is an image of a lever - showing the jack flange & lever flange repinned.... however on very old pianos (this is a Chappell upright - dated c.1930) - depending on the design of the jack flange, sometimes they are glued into the lever - like this one (similar to a tenon joint).... however, on a few notes, the notes didnt play AT ALL.... not even once from the beginning! and this was due to the bead of glue becoming brittle/ drying up & separating from the wood - hence you will see a gap (circled in red) .... so its not always the pin. As I started to assemble the mechanism - a few other jack flanges start to pop out of their sockets, so I rang the customer & took the decision to remove them.... cracked all the old glue off - on all 85 levers, and re-glued the whole lot.

This is the joys of piano restoration.... you sometimes never know .... and of course, because the new flange pins are forced into place, this would have also weakened the joint areas. However, this job was done in Feb 2011.... all back together - new pins/ new tapes/ new glue .... no phone calls as yet!!

Let me know if you need any help.....
loosejackflange.JPG
Loose jack flange
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 02 Feb 2012, 11:25

Excellent topic. Excellent input. Excellent sharing of info to help a forum member
Well done chaps!

But... I can't help but add that I'd love to hear a video/sound recording of this piano being played. It's a straight-strung (oh no!) overdamper (oh no oh no!!) so I just can't help but think that if you are prepared to spend time and money on a piano you might as well start with something a bit more up to date.

In my opinion a dealer shouldn't be selling straight-strung overdampers to anyone who does not bring a technician prior to purchase. It's like selling a rotten old Austin Maestro with rotten sills and £2000 of welding needing doing, blowing smoke out the back and none of the wipers, windows, radio, fans, heaters or locks work. And trying to sell it for £200 as an "excellent 1st car". It's as bad as that in my opinion.

Can you upload a video?
I need to hear it. Make sure you play some fast chords where you let go as soon as you played so that we can tell how well the damping is working.

Fingers crossed you got a good one. I'd love to be wrong :)
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 02 Feb 2012, 12:15

I'm not sure if this forum will be able to download MP3 recordings? but maybe put on Yewtube !! then a link sent. Regrettably many of the posts on here are asking about "what is wrong with my piano" .... and an enthusiastic DIY will probably have taken then thing to bits before I say .... "get the tuning checked first" .... and with respect, it falls on deaf ears (tumbleweed). Then I hear.... "we want to sort this out first" ...... eg... finding a 1900 decal for the fallboard, or "how should we clean the strings" .... things like that.

A regular punter of mine had his piano pitch-raised about 2 years ago - Bechstein Model 10 (I know!!) .... all went well, and ever since, he has nurtured the piano. I also regularly receive recordings of "Middle C" !!! sent to my email - so I can forewarn him before his next appointment. Nice touch!
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 03 Feb 2012, 14:11

haha, you'll have to upload that middle C recording to youtube. It could go viral!

The lesson to learn is if you can't afford a proper piano just yet, WAIT! Don't get a cheap one, don't get a free one, don't get one from freecycle, just WAIT and SAVE UP!

I'd say spend an absolute minimum of £500 but even then you might enjoy a good 2nd hand digital in that price range over a tatty, tired Chappell/Rogers/Broadwood/Brimsmead/Mickleburgh/Zender/Bentley/etc
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 03 Feb 2012, 14:51

Here it is !!!!.... hope link works >>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=at8hdDCz ... e=youtu.be

I also sent the customer a small muting strip through the post! - I then uploaded his 'Middle C' tuning test it onto my PC.... then put my iPod up against the speakers!! .... and we have narration aswell by the customer! Unfortunately - its a bit blurred, but considering a major pitch raise (Bechstein Model 10) - its held its pitch quite well.

The things I do ...... !!

didnt make any difference to the cost of the next visit!!.... I visited again in December last year - had lunch in a nice pub in the Lakes - all paid for, and was also tipped for my journey of 126 miles!!

A bit of fun though - and anyone can do it to get a rough idea of their tuning!!
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Re: Keys dont always play?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 03 Feb 2012, 22:06

Or just get them to play Middle C over the phone and listen or use your app

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