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Sound Advise

About voicing:

It is the last step of regulation and in large part a consequence of proper regulation procedures from start to finish. If voicing is the end result of an exhaustive process then we should look at everything that precedes the use of liquid hardeners, solvents or needles in our best efforts to produce an even and dynamically interesting piano tone.

When we listen carefully there is always something that can be done to improve the range and quality of piano tone. Often it is not difficult at all to hear unevenness in tone color or brightness. In listening to Wilhelm Kempf play his Bach Chorale transcriptions I am struck by the excellent dynamic range and enormous subtleties of the piano in his performance of these works. Great recordings from the past-just as in live performances help reveal not only the astounding pianism of artists but the excellence of their piano technicians and the instruments they have skillfully prepared.

Listening is of course key to the judgments we make regarding the direction to which we would incline our piano’s voice. Careful listening will also help us to know the starting point from which we will begin and improvements will be made.

Voicing is a regulation and is dependent upon every step of a sensible and thorough regulation of the keyboard, action and hammer assembly.

We should look at everything as a whole. I am still hung up on our Regional title” The Whole Piano” because it all works together. Touch and tone are what we concern ourselves with and virtually every aspect of the piano is involved in those two considerable aspects.

Since both will benefit from thorough regulation we can simply forge touch and tone regulations together in our mind and know that everything we do will benefit the piano as a whole.

Bed the keyframe. Pianissimo expression will rely on our being able to insure the connection of hand/finger to key as long as possible during key travel. Sponginess will not only cause power loss but erratic escapement. The first goal of voicing may be at the most delicate end of the dynamic spectrum. A properly bedded frame will prevent the loss of power and provide the basis for keyboard and action regulation.

Key bushings guide key travel, help deliver the capstan vertically and assist in even checking. Sloppy or tight key bushings will not help in delivering the hammer to the string in a consistence manner.

Even pinning to the torque that is best at hammer, wippen, jack and repetition centers will help in controlling touch and ultimately expressing tone. A thorough look at friction and the reduction of unnecessary friction in many places will yield better voicing at the end of the process.

All pertinent processes will act as prelude to voicing. These include not only the adjustments we make at the repetitions, damper timing, string leveling, aligning, spacing, traveling, shaping hammers and of course tuning. All of this should be done before anything at all happens with the hammer felt.
The message here is to avoid the temptation to make quick fixes in voicing. Look deeper into the reasons why tone may suffer and go from the foundation of touch in seeking meaningful solutions.

Everything works together. Getting the hammer to the string in the most predictable and even manner are essential to touch and tone. When that happens and when the hammer is well shaped we can focus on adjusting the density of the felt with various solutions, needles, heat, steam and you name it. Go easy though with the sauce! Sometimes less is more and we might find most or all of what we want out of the piano without pouring anything into the felt.

Having already addressed pianissimo we can look toward forte and what more is needed to expand the dynamic range to full potential. Still, increase tone gradually until there is no longer a benefit to a bigger sound. Hammers and the piano have limitations. Other factors include the soundboard and the environment in which the piano exists. Everything contributes to the sound of the piano.

More than anything, exercise patience in striving to exact the best sound possible from the piano. This virtue will provide for itself over and again when looking for solutions to better voicing.