The mystical balance of power. This brief article is meant to give the layman the general overview of the working craftsman has on the balance and control of the pianoforte.
Of course the type of techniques and adjustments that can make noticeable improvements and changes depends on the designs, materials and conditions of the different instruments. When I approach a piano for the first time I take an evaluation of how much music is being projected from this piano. Each piano has its own set of variables of what it can and cannot produced. Each depends on type of piano, size of string length, and scale design and mechanical action type that produces the energy. As a piano tuner by trade I am usually called upon first to tune their piano. There are many circumstances which I must correct or improve the mechanical advantage before I have enough energy to hear a clear set of harmonics which are created by the impact of the piano hammers and setting the several strings in motion at the correct levels the designer had intended.
Another obstacle I may be up against is the worn, dull hammer surface. The cut surface from striking the high tensions sharp piano wires over many decades has misshaped the contour and internal wool felt structure now is not resilient and flexible. Its has a flat top surface and is hard as concrete. This poor conditioned hammers and poor energy thru misaligned piano mechanics. This adds up to a dampening effect on tone production. With these missing elements my job as a piano tuner becomes very difficult. The full body of harmonics that on a normal piano in good condition are very limited and this process is a thin unclear sound! So we have road blocks in mechanical energy and harmonic impedance. We have yet to tune. Tuning is actually the third element in the balance of your piano. Frankly this relationship is essential in a healthy piano. The overhaul balance in a piano takes all three areas to be running at a perfect or near perfect levels to obtain highest tonal capacity.
So between action advantage and what a technician performs is called regulation or calibration of mechanical tolerances. We have hammer felt adjustments. Generally terms of voicing, Register balancing, and hammer felt retensioning. Increase or decrease hammer power, tension, resilience. What we are really trying to do is tune the piano. Most tuners are not skilled at the whole balance of internal power. It takes decades of working and correction this instruments to put your finger on the pulse. I believe it's the mystical balance of power that push myself into this third dimension. Calibration, voicing, tuning are what compel me to create in each piano I prepare and shape. Understanding of the hammer string relationship within the thousands of different piano manufactures within the USA in the last century show how different each can react. A piano hammer has two force, tension and compression an understanding of how its made. It takes approximately seven pounds of raw wool to make up hammer sets. This wool is pressed under extreme PSI, heat, and set in a high tension caul for an intended length of time. Then stapled to hard wood molding, cut apart after pressing into 88 individual hammers.
About ten years ago some lost documents surfaced.
The receipt of the old American piano hammer designs. Specifications on hammer designs, weights and ideology. What I have experienced in my lifetime of piano technology in America was a phenomenon of music getting louder, electronic age. Bigger, better. Approximately 1970. Introduction of the Japanese pianos in America. Japanese pianos were developed from their cultural set of quarter tone system. These tones were higher pitched and played on instruments of brighter sharper sounds. You would classify as brassy intonation. So it seemed Japanese hammers were a hot selling item. The bigger bolder sound was most impressive for the general market. The interpretation of the piano sound was swung into bigger was better. So the weight of the hammer was getting heaver weight wise as well as stiffer felt on a world wide basis. It was the effect of the oriental influence of tones I feel spurred on the now popular contemporary sound. Also fits well into the rock n roll influence. What I am trying to say is hammer tension and make up is CRUCIAL in how it marries to the piano string! Viewing a piano hammer under slow motion looks like a tennis ball collapsing on a concrete wall. It collapses it flattens out as it percusses the string the string now is set in motion creating the multiple set of waves that create the particles and harmonics that create our music! There are multiple actions to the reaction with these multiples. I have a bag full of tools to separate, balance, create the most opportunistic experience for each individual piano and performer.
Hope this helped open the eyes and ears of our loving piano player,
Mastertuner Ira t. langlois lll RPT.