Copper-wound vs. plain wire strings

Did you know that about a third of the piano is strung with copper-wound strings? The lower notes use copper winding because the extra mass helps create lower pitches; without that extra mass, pianos would have to be 20-30 feet long just to have strings long enough for those lowest notes! Usually somewhere in the octave below middle C, pianos switch over to plain wire. On a well-designed piano, the break should hardly be noticeable. Listen for it next time you’re at a piano and see if you can tell where the break is! On this Kawai upright, the copper wound strings continue up three notes past the end of the bass bridge (the point where the angle of the strings changes). That helps make the transition even smoother. Notice also that when the switch to plain wire happens, there is a transition to three strings per note instead of… Read More

String splicing: often the best option

String splicing: often the best option

When a string breaks on a piano, it often breaks at or very near the tuning pin. This means the majority of the string’s length is still perfectly viable, and in fact is ideally suited to the rest of the piano in age, timbre, and general wear. In these cases, it’s often best to splice the string (tie a knot, essentially), creating a new lead wire to attach to the tuning pin, but leaving the rest of the string’s length almost exactly as it was before. This is especially preferable on bass strings, where the length of the string and the thickness of the copper winding is completely customized, meaning a replacement string must be a custom order, and even still will not match the old strings very well in timbre and appearance. The picture is of a recent splice on a customer’s old spinet piano. The piano is not… Read More

Improper Repairs – you get what you pay for!

Improper Repairs – you get what you pay for!

This is what happens when bass strings are replaced improperly! The copper winding around each bass string must terminate at an exact point relative to the length of the string and the geometry of the piano. Notice the copper winding in this picture that extends too far, continuing on past the bearing pin, which separates the winding and makes the string nearly untunable. The separated winding also deadens the tone significantly. Since all pianos are slightly different in measurements, copper-wound bass strings typically have to be custom ordered. This is slightly more time-consuming and costs a few dollars more, but as you can see, it is the only option if you want the job done right.