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MMD > Archives > August 1997 > 1997.08.17 > 14Prev  Next

Voicing Hammers
By Craig Brougher

Robbie, you were commenting on the fact that in your opinion, the upper
partials in the new big Bosendorfers and Yamahas (I guess you're speaking
of the concert grands (?) are too strident and atonal for you.  You wrote,

>[ I don't like the sound of the high treble section in the new, big
>[ Boesendorfers and Yamahas.  To me, the tone-purity has been sacrificed
>[ by demanding so much power from the partials, which sound quite
>[ atonal to my ears.  Is that due to the great tension or the hammer
>[ characteristics, or what?  (Or is it my ears?)

I suspect that is due to some overzealous brightening of hammers.  Hammer
voicing is often not very good, anymore, because technicians are not
really taught the right way to do it.  The tendency is to harden the
hammers in one place, mainly-- the striking point.  And they do.

They get this little ball of felt at the striking point so rock hard that
there is almost no way to correct it.  Then they start single-needle
voicing, stabbing deep into it and simply tearing it up a little until it
is just a bit under what is required to craze the enamel on your teeth!

Another problem I have seen with voicing is that in  the case of concert
pianos, that piano was voiced for a particular hall before a concert,
played, and then returned to the store that loaned it out.  In the hall
it was gorgeous.  In the store it is awful!

The reason has to do with Helmholtz and his darn principles!  When you
put an acoustic instrument in a wide box with a low top, the wave
interferences can be disastrous.  Now on a stage, you have a high top,
and the longitudinal wave can develop well, so you voice for that.
You're an electrical engineer -- just think of your wave guides and
Dr. Maxwell.

Hammers have to be evenly tensioned to sound nice at all striking
potentials.  That means, you can't just harden and then voice the
striking point of a hammer.  If the tension is not concentrated at the
striking point and then evenly graduated around the hammer head, you have
nothing -- for long!  Voicing is an art, and really difficult to describe
in a letter, but I suspect that there is the problem, and not the scale.
There is something wrong with the voicing.

Craig Brougher

 [ You've made a good point.  The energy of the high-frequency partials
 [ will be soaked up by the drapes (and the well-draped audience) in a
 [ concert or recital hall.  When a piano voiced for concert work is
 [ placed in a home it's deafening!  And not much fun to play.  ;)
 [ I was amazed when the engineer at my favorite recording studio proudly
 [ demonstrated the "new" voicing of his old Yamaha C7-D (and introduced
 [ me to the very shy piano tech who was almost hiding behind the drapes).
 [ The sound was transformed into a mellow Mason & Hamlin sound!  I could
 [ scarcely believe the difference!
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 17 Aug 1997, 21:14:35 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

Key Words in Subject:  Hammers, Voicing

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