Voicing piano hammers – an incredible difference in sound

Voicing piano hammers – an incredible difference in sound

Did you know there are actually three categories of maintenance that pianos need? Tuning is the first that most people think of. But regulation and voicing are two other maintenence items that make an enormous difference in the feel and sound of a piano - sometimes more so than tuning. I've discussed regulation before, but voicing is the third element of piano maintenance and refers exclusively to the manipulation of the hammer felt. Over time, piano hammers get deep grooves, as well as the natural hardening and compressing of the felt with age and use. Voicing involves several different techniques to harden, soften, reshape, and re-texturize the hammer felt. It's called "voicing" because every change made to the hammer felt makes a significant difference in the tone quality of the piano. What may be perceived as a "sour" or "out-of-tune" note is sometimes a voicing issue. Lastly, it's worth pointing out that new pianos need this too! Technicians spend many hours voicing quality new...
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The new Steinway Spirio player piano

The concept of the player piano has reached a new level with the Steinway Spirio. Not only have they recorded numerous performances by Steinway artists into the piano, but for a number of them you can even watch their performance at the same time! Oh, and the iPad comes with the piano... Glenn Gould performing J. S. Bach's E-flat major fugue from the Well-Tempered Klavier, Book 2. Steinway Spirio video...
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Soundboard cleaning – easy with the right tools!

Soundboard cleaning – easy with the right tools!

Grand piano soundboards tend to collect dust, and unfortunately they are pretty difficult to clean with any standard household equipment. However, there are some specialized tools, both commercial and handmade, that can do the trick! Pictured here is a soundboard cleaning set that I carry everywhere with me (3 pieces). They're not too expensive, if you hate dust and want to do it yourself on a regular basis. Alternatively, most piano technicians will do it for a nominal fee. For annual customers who keep up with their tunings, I often do this service free of charge! ...
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Hard-to-find serial numbers

Hard-to-find serial numbers

Virtually all pianos have a serial number, which can be used to determine the age of the instrument and often the location of its manufacture. Sometimes, however, serial numbers are hard to find, particularly in older pianos and those that have been rebuilt. This 1960's Steinway had been rebuilt, and the rebuilder not only painted over the serial number next to the pin block, but also did not write or etch it anywhere else on the piano as is often done on rebuilds. Thankfully, there was one remaining place that the serial number had been inscribed - on the back of the keyslip! This is the piece that runs across the front of the keyboard, covering most of the front of the keys. Sometimes finding a serial number makes for a fun scavenger hunt. Most often, though, they are easy to find and provide helpful information both to the piano technician and the owner. ...
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Piano plate – the heaviest part of the piano!

Piano plate – the heaviest part of the piano!

This metal frame inside the piano is known as the "plate." Many people erroneously refer to it as the soundboard. The soundboard is in fact just that - a thin board behind the plate that resonates with the strings and amplifies the sound. The plate is purely structural. And sorry, even though it's often a nice shiny gold color, the plate is not made of gold! Or even brass, bronze or copper. Other than a few rare, experimental exceptions, all piano plates are made out of cast iron. And that's why pianos are so heavy. ...
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What’s the most out-of-tune piano I’ve seen?

Pianos do not naturally go out of tune this badly! For a single note on a piano to be this wild, it is highly likely that a previous owner tampered with the tuning pins in some way, perhaps in a less-than-successful tuning attempt. It would not be the first time I've run across that... I don't ever discourage people from working on their own piano - in fact, I think it's a good thing. Just make sure you do your research first and know what you're getting in to! Suffice it to say it's more complicated than it appears. A very out-of-tune piano...
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Spinet “drop” action

Spinet “drop” action

This is what's known as a "drop" action. This type of action is found in spinet style pianos, the smallest of upright pianos. Frankly, it's a pain to remove due to the lifter rods (which "drop" down to the action inside the piano), and since spinets are generally not valuable instruments, it's often not worth removing the action to do extensive work. In this case, the plastic elbows connecting the lifter rods to the action needed to be replaced. You can see the brittle old plastic on some and the clear new plastic on others. A number had already broken. This is a very common problem in old spinets, and other than a couple hours of labor, it's not too expensive of a repair. Despite their small size and low market value, spinets can be perfectly viable instruments with the right upkeep! ...
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