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MMD > Archives > January 1999 > 1999.01.05 > 10Prev  Next

QRS Pianomation Installation
By Craig Brougher

I do not install Pianomation players, but a few things that D. L.
Bullock mentioned were of interest, and I'd like to ask these questions
in regard to what he has already said about them, hoping to clarify
more in regard to their "ease" of installation and accessibility.

While I have never had my "jaw drop" at the possibility of a solenoid
stack playing as well as a reproducer can play, I will give it the
credit of being able to play as well as many reproducers I have heard,
so I _can_ imagine that to be a real surprise to some.  I don't think
that Pianomation ever intended to complete with a pneumatic instrument.
It is a different system, whose usage was intended to be convenience and
lower overall expense, over critical performance.

> Having installed several hundred electronic players over the last
> 20 years, I can say that I have found a few secrets that other
> technicians never thought about.

That is a universal phenomenon among professionals and people who do
this for a living, versus those who do it as a hobby.  If one is even
half-awake, he will have a lot more to stick under his hat fairly

I was curious how old you are, since I was under the impression that
you are a fellow in your 30's.  20 years and 200 or more Pianomation
installations is an awesome amount of business for a system that really
didn't even get started very well until about 6-8 years ago around
here, and I don't think there's a shop in town that has done more than
about 20 of them all told.  So I am truly impressed.  Granted, St.
Louis is much larger than Kansas City, but not ten times larger.
I don't doubt you -- I just am amazed, that's all.

> I do know that if you remove the weight of the keys from the
> equation, the regulation of the volume is not fully possible.  The
> problem being, the system is not able to play at forces lower than
> #24 on the test box readout.

I don't know.  Now, according to Andy, while it is designed to regulate
at level #25, it will play reliably down to about #5 without a miss.
But I too have also heard that the system tends to want to lift keys
off the balance rail.  Have you run into this problem?

As far as regulating any stack without the weight of the keys, that
isn't a problem.  You have a trimmer in the box to adjust overall power
with, and the linearity of the piano action should not change at all,
whether operating it from below or above the keys.  Matter of fact,
Keys are not weighted very accurately in most uprights, but whippen/
hammer weights are.  So all you're doing is eliminating a source of
trouble by  bypassing the key, it would seem to me.

Am I missing something, here?  What is it about placing a key in-
between the stack and hammer that causes the reproducing effect to
be more precise, as long as the test box is able to adjust out the
differences in weight?

> I applaud your experimenting with positioning and whatever you decide
> to try.  But I suspect when all is done you will eventually agree
> that the system plays softest and loudest (and with no extra noise)
> when the cores' fully activated position is the same as the key's
> fully depressed position.  And, again, with no need of a stop rail.

I can see how this would be a vertical regulation adjustment.  However,
I know that for any stack to play well, you must first remove the lost
motion.  Then for the Pianomation to regulate, you must run the keys,
adjusting the electronics to the note.  Setting armature travel to be
exactly the same as key travel in order to prevent overtravelling the
key somehow doesn't sound reliable over a long period of time, to me.
I do see how it will prevent the key from pivoting on its front rail
and lifting at the center rail, though.

On the other hand, The efficiency (speed versus power) of the solenoid
in grams/inch or whatever changes as the armature plunger gets closer
to the center of the core.  So if you set the travel for an "ideal" key
travel and no more, using the equilibrium position of the plunger as a
natural stop and beginning the plunger travel a little over 3/8" away,
would you get the full power of that action? I can see how it would
play its softest reliably, but wonder if it could still play as

> I do not wish to experiment as some have done nor would I condone
> others doing so on customers' pianos.  Most of the Pianomation
> systems are installed onto new pianos and any drastic changes to
> piano action may mean voiding of factory warranty.

I wonder what the piano makers themselves think of a player that
requires the plate's keybed nose support to be sawn off (as I under-
stand) in order to get that stack positioned?  Overall, whose guarantee
is most valuable?  And what about the slot you have to cut into the
keybed to allow passage of the strikers? Does that tend to cause
warranty problems occasionally, or not?

> Also the only place to position a player on modern small new pianos
> happens to be under the keys.

That's true.  Then again, you said:

> I personally discourage Pianomation installation on any spinet.
> I tell them the piano should be worth at least as much as the
> Pianomation system.  Having installed systems on several Spinets,
> they are always terribly disappointing in sound and they take lots
> more work to install.

In that case, what's wrong with an "above-the-keys" installation
that can be removed with two bolts, adjusted mechanically without
having to put the piano on its back to get to the stack, and allowing
the technician to easily remove solenoids which are right up in front
of him? I don't see how playing the piano action directly off the
whippens would hurt either the piano warranty, the Pianomation
warranty, or disturb the tuner, as long as other extremes of
modification weren't used.

> I prefer to install to the best use of the accepted methods of
> installation since I will not be the only person working on the piano.
> Someday another technician will be working on the instrument and if it
> was installed too far from the accepted standards the technician of
> lesser ability will not be able to figure out what was done.  I do all
> my pneumatic restorations so that some one may work on it 30 years
> down the line with no difficulty as well.

If I had a choice of taking care of problems in an upright with a
bottom stack versus a top stack, I would prefer the one on top any day!
I really don't see the problem if that's the only complaint.  If the
trouble was piano action, then any changes I make to it (regulation,
dampers, hammers, etc.) will still require a re-adjustment in the
player stack, so I'm still happier to have it at eye level even if
I have to initially remove it to get the action out.

Granted, I do see the problem once the strikers have been modified
further as Andy mentioned he had done.  But then again, he didn't
do that to a customer's piano, and he's as welcome as he can be to
experiment with it to his own to his heart's content, and I too applaud
him for it! He will learn more things that way, and we will then learn
as a result.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Tue 5 Jan 1999, 16:31:17 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Installation, Pianomation, QRS

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