What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

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Jonathan the 2nd
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What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 07 Apr 2012, 01:23

This question may need moving , but the other headings don`t seem right. Are there certain sounds that tuners recognise that point to work needed on the hammers?

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Gill the Piano » 08 Apr 2012, 21:15

Stick it under Piano Advice. Marky will probably do it for you - I am a technopillock, I'm afraid.
Sound varies from woolly and muffled in the midsection to hard and horrid in the treble.
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What sounds mean that a piano needs Voicing.

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 10 Apr 2012, 15:08

I started again here as it`s technical hammer material. The B note has a whining ringing sound shortly after tuning . It had it before too .Obviously it`s not a tuning effect. I shall treat myself to a full voicing service when my tuner comes round. Balancing all the physical adjustments and then blending the sounds must be like a plate spinner on roller skates.

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Re: What sounds mean that a piano needs Voicing.

Post by dancarney » 10 Apr 2012, 16:12

It could be that the string is 'false' - i.e. has a beat (ringing) of its own. Or just a bad string.

Voicing is to some extent down to personal taste. Essentially, the various sections of the piano; bass, tenor, treble, etc. should sonically relate to each other; and all notes within a section should sound even in tone. The overall effect is an instrument that is consistent in its voice.

Make any sense?
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Re: What sounds mean that a piano needs Voicing.

Post by Colin Nicholson » 10 Apr 2012, 17:50

I've almost finished re-stringing a piano - chipped up & had about 3 tunings so far. Mostly sounding good - hammers voiced etc.... but one of the treble strings wouldn't tune properly to its unison, nor would it stay in 'reasonable' tune with the others - so I replaced it with exactly the same new wire as before.... and now its fine! I've found this with a few newish pianos aswell - although the customer is prepared to put up with it - and not risk having a single looped wire replaced.... wonder why? (Maybe not if its an old piano)

As Dan said, in some cases it could be false beats occuring. I reckon in most cases, most piano strings are 'past their best' after about 15-20 years, some longer, some shorter.... there is no exact period, however I reckon if the piano is not tuned regularly enough, and subject to over-stretching the strings during a pitch change, this can actually change the shape of the wire.

False beats can be other reasons like: rust/ corrosion/ poor downbearing/ generally an old string.... but sometimes even a tiny area that may become 'pear shaped' and lose its spherical shape somewhere in the speaking length, this can give rise to false beats. In this case, there is no cure - waste of time voicing/ toning, and often a process of elimination.... so first job (and maybe cheaper) would be to ensure all strings were in tune first, then try toning - and if all fails, replace the string.

Here is a diagram briefly showing the 'properties' of piano wire, and the after effect of a stretched string during the sound waves. As the string changes shape over the years (which cant be seen with the naked eye) - the oscillations speed up very slightly where there is a flat-spot/ pear shaped area - causing inharmonicity with the 'good' parts of the wire.
false beats.jpg
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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 12 Apr 2012, 17:05

Just in case there`s a difference , is toning the same as voicing ? In a three string note are all the strings separate items or do two of them run down and back up again. I`ve never looked closely enough , but is there a hole through the tuning pin or is it just wrapped tightly ? I think the square part ends before the wrap round . ( after an Images check , I `ve seen the little hole ).
Is changing a string a big deal or just a routine thing ? It would scare me off if I had to do it . There was a horror film last week where the piano strings broke and slashed her face. Very gory .

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 12 Apr 2012, 21:07

Jonathan the 2nd wrote:Just in case there`s a difference , is toning the same as voicing ?
Yes there is
Voicing is an old Harpsichord term to shape the quilts to get a different sound by emphasizing certain harmonics in pianos its altering the shape of the hammer to get the same effect.

Toning is Harding or softening the hammers alter the volume Also, it can effect the harmonics.

As the Americans dominate the internet they call it all Voicing so most now call it all Voicing.

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 12 Apr 2012, 21:48

Jonathan the 2nd wrote: In a three string note are all the strings separate items or do two of them run down and back up again. I`ve never looked closely enough , but is there a hole through the tuning pin or is it just wrapped tightly ? I think the square part ends before the wrap round . ( after an Images check , I `ve seen the little hole ).
Is changing a string a big deal or just a routine thing ? It would scare me off if I had to do it . .
On most pianos, yes, 2 strings is actually one piece of wire, left string loops around a hitch pin then comes back up to form the middle string. Sometimes at the end of a section or the 'break' area (where there is a strengthening bar running down on the cast frame) - the odd last string is individually hitched with an eye - like a guitar string. On all pianos, the bass strings are individually 'eyed' - and on several good quality pianos, eg Steinmayer, Carl mand.... all treble strings are individual - and the eyes are made by hand. Quite a lengthy job. On the Bechstein model 10, there is a bit of both - top treble all separate strings, then main treble looped. On a grand its easy to see, but on an upright, its easier to remove the action to see the string formation.

All tuning pins (made from tungsten) have a hole drilled right through them - the end of the string goes into the hole, and stops flush with the other hole - bit like threading a needle. The bend (knuckle) is then created to stop the coils slipping and going out of tune.

Changing a string is quite easy to a tuner, but you need the right tools. On average it takes me about 5-7 mins to change a string (that is to remove a broken one, and replace with new). Every 6-10 notes, the gauge of wire also changes - you cant see the changes easily. Top C (note 88) is around gauge 13, (about 0.77mm) - and middle C is around gauge 17.5 (1mm) - each gauge changing every 1/4 of a mill. Trick is also to preserve the original tuning pin without disturbing it too much.
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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Withindale » 14 Apr 2012, 17:00

Barrie Heaton wrote:
Jonathan the 2nd wrote:Just in case there`s a difference , is toning the same as voicing ?
Voicing is an old Harpsichord term to shape the quilts to get a different sound by emphasizing certain harmonics in pianos its altering the shape of the hammer to get the same effect.

Toning is Harding or softening the hammers alter the volume Also, it can effect the harmonics.
In all probability there is a problem with a string, as the experts have said.

With my upright I found shaping the hammers, voicing as Barrie defines it, to remove flat grooves was very beneficial - especially getting rid of the hard ridges that had built up at the ends of the grooves. This cut down the higher harmonics causing strident tones and, at the same time, increased power in the lower harmonics.

After that there were many aspects of regulation and setting strings that affected tone and power. Freeing up the strings behind the pressure bar in the tenor and treble livened up the notes remarkably - though my piano may have been a "one-off" in this respect, perhaps due to a liitle rust forming in storage years ago.

I have found no need to tone the hammers; in fact the tuner recommended leaving well alone even before reshaping. In any case I'd agree with the wise counsel not to needle hammers until everything else that affects tone has been done.

Ian

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 14 Apr 2012, 23:50

This trick may be useful for you . I tried it just today. One or two harsh notes had a cross between a twang and a miaow. I used a piece of black felt for this. I teased the black felt fibres out of the edge with an old wood sanding tool .(Metal bonded to plastic ). It has minute teeth and is a bit worn down now. So that combed out the fibres and then I shaped it to the width of the hammer. (Just half an inch of it.) Previous sentence needs editing. I made a small circular disc of fibres about 1/4inch diameter .Very thin like a gauze. And yet it takes the harshness away . The fibres are loose enough to let plenty of light through. None of it has any solidity , it`s just fibres . Then I pat that onto the hammer so nothing sticks out sideways. It stays in place on its own . Blow me down it takes all the edge off the notes and they blend in nicely. Just a tiny bit quieter at this stage but hardly noticeable . My guess is they will regain some volume by tomorrow. When I get the voicing done properly by my my splendid tuner he will wonder what I`ve been up to. But it`s all easily removed when necessary .
Last edited by Jonathan the 2nd on 14 Jun 2012, 01:09, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Withindale » 15 Apr 2012, 09:50

Jonathan the 2nd wrote:This trick may be useful for you . I tried it just today. One or two harsh notes had a cross between a twang and a miaow. I used a piece of black felt for this. I teased the black felt fibres out of the edge with an old wood sanding tool .(Metal bonded to plastic ). It has minute teeth and is a bit worn down now. So that combed out the fibres and then I shaped it to the width of the hammer. Just half an inch of it. The fibres are loose enough to let plenty of light through. None of it has any solidity , it`s just fibres . Then I pat that onto the hammer so nothing sticks out sideways. It stays in place on its own . Blow me down it takes all the edge off the notes and they blend in nicely. Just a tiny bit quieter at this stage but hardly noticeable . My guess is they will regain some volume by tomorrow. When I get the voicing done properly by my my splendid tuner he will wonder what I`ve been up to. But it`s all easily removed when necessary .
Does this mean there is something odd about the hammer or its strings? Either could be the odd man out. If it's the strings, and you voice the hammer to compensate, you'll wind up with an odd hammer and odd strings! Better ask the tuner, but was nothing said about the harsh notes at the last tuning?

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 15 Apr 2012, 13:56

I had a notion before the last , recent , tuning that the harsher sounds were connected with the string pitches. In fact the effect remained after the tuning.This is a Hohner upright over 20 years old and I have read that they can be on the bright side to start with . Then I read a few days ago that hammers harden by themself over time.The hammer shape has not any faults .There is hardly any flatness at the tips . The strings have only made minimal grooves. What you wrote about shaping the hammers has a few drawbacks. Number one would be attempting anything with a Grand piano .That would be risky . Moving on to Uprights there is a strange difference in the resting angle of the hammers , most obviously seen in the bass section. Unlike a Grand , which has most hammers in a straight line , in an Upright even the centre hammers are all angled a bit to the left and the hammer felt surfaces only assume a straight line as they arrive at the strings. Who had the nightmare job of designing that ? So each upright hammer felt can be distorted by trying to sand the surfaces en bloc. That en bloc image is a common sequence on Youtube . Each hammer will need separate attention . But that probably would need the whole caboodle being lifted out of the piano body "before you realised it". A chicken and egg situation.

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Withindale » 15 Apr 2012, 15:59

From what you say, Jonathan, some or all of the hammers could do with softening rather than reshaping. I've read some hammers produced 20 years were on the hard side, depending on where they were made. If it were my piano I'd have the strings checked for seating, hammer alignment, etc. before embarking on voicing. However needling a couple of hammers might be simpler and quicker. As I said in my last post, your tuner is the one to advise.

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 16 Apr 2012, 14:19

What I wanted was a temporary reversible fix that would last till the tuner did his stuff. But the tiny amount of fibres make it sound better . Use fingertips to pull the fibres out of a felt strip . The single fibres seem to be about an inch long. I`ve no idea what piano makers use on their hammers .

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 19 May 2012, 14:42

Well it`s a month since I added my tiny patches of black felt fibres to the hammers. None of the notes are harsh .None draw attention to themselves. One evening I listened to a Grand Piano on Young Musician of the Year and heard a harsh sound from one key. I think the idea has some value. It`s very easy to test .

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by dancarney » 21 May 2012, 16:52

Was it the final of the BBC Young Musician? Piano didn't sound great, tuning fell apart quite rapidly...
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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 05 Jun 2012, 14:06

(Late reply. ) Yes it was the Young Musician Final . I used to watch this competition all the way through but my wife and I agree that the presentation and in between psychology completely ruins the program. Some years we see about 5 seconds and then switch it off . Pity .Then you get the Final Winner question. "What does it feel like ?". It`s just too banal and stupid to answer .

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 08 Jul 2012, 01:03

Since the addition of the fibres the notes have all settled down and sound good. That`s a few months now . I don`t keep noticing the harsh sounds that were there with the bare hammers. A thorough job by my tuner is on the menu soon .

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 07 Aug 2012, 16:13

There seems to be a move towards better quality wool fibres in top range pianos. I learned there is a big difference between hair and wool fibres.

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Re: What Sounds mean a Piano Needs Voicing ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 04 Feb 2013, 22:46

One effect that was causing a bad tone was the hammers not contacting the three strings exactly together . It made a whining sound.

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