The optimum sound quality of a piano through enhancement of the fundamental harmonic and the other required harmonics or overtones, while muting the undesirable ones.
This can be achieved by reshaping the hammers by means of filing or sanding, properly aligning the hammer heads with the strings, softening the loud or harsh notes by pricking, piercing or loosening the hammer felt with a set of toning needles. Piano Voicing Or Piano Toning Needles or steaming extreme hard hammers, and hardening the soft or dull notes by filing, sanding, ironing, or applying hardening chemicals.
The final goal of voicing or toning is to have the hammers strike the strings of the piano in such a way that it offers a uniform sound from the bottom to the top of the full range to the instrument.
Maintenance Of Voicing Or Toning
The maintenance of the voicing or toning of your piano is mainly a question of your individual taste. Generally speaking, the voicing of a piano can vary from a more brilliant or harsh tone to a slightly softer or mellow tone. As time goes by, the tone of a piano becomes brighter as the hammer felts become more compressed at the striking point. Older hammers also get worn and hardened and will require voicing or toning as part of regular maintenance of a piano. It will be necessary to voice or tone the instrument regularly. A piano might require this service every 2-3 years during normal usage to ensure a stable tone quality. Before voicing or toning is performed, it is to the utmost importance that regulation and tuning are perfect.
String impressions, deep cuts or grooves in the hammers can also be the cause of poor tone. This will make the piano sound dull and lifeless mainly in the treble. If the cuts or grooves are too deep, this can affect the center pins due to sideways pressure being put on them thus wearing out your piano’s action. The hammers will then need to be reshaped or in worst cases, even replaced. If the grooves have not become too deep, the hammers can be reshaped, by filing, sanding or removing a layer of felt from the hammer’s surface, restoring it to its original profile or shape. Hammers can usually be reshaped a number of times, if the grooves have not been allowed to get too deep between the reshaping processes. The hammers might, however, end up being slightly smaller after the reshaping process.
The continuous and repeated striking of the hammer head against the strings also gradually wears the top of the hammer flat and causes the felt to compress and harden. This makes the sound bright or harsh, and narrows both the spectrum of tone color and the dynamic range. The flattened surface can also cause strings to break. Eventually it becomes necessary to reshape the hammers in order to restore the desired tone and sound quality to the profile of the specific piano.
The piano action is extracted from the piano for the purpose of reshaping. The hammers are removed from the action and placed in a jig to be sanded or filed and can in some cases be reshaped individually. This process might take a few hours to complete depending on how badly worn the hammers are. Only a small portion of the hammer material gets removed from the hammer top so this procedure can be repeated a few times during the life span of the hammer. The action needs to be regulated to some extent after the hammers were reshaped, for the hammer distance from the strings had been changed. Normally hammer reshaping is done to improve the tonal quality of the piano and as part of regulation.
Benefits that will be reaped from reshaping piano hammers:
The piano has a natural, clearer, sweeter tone;
No sideways pressure on the center pins because of grooves in the hammers, thus no wearing out of the piano’s action;
String breakage is less likely to occur;
The proper shape of the hammers provides the optimal required foundation for accurate piano regulation.
Aligning Hammers And Strings
The more frequently a piano is played, so much more the hammer felt that strikes the strings wear down and get compacted. The hammers and strings can get misaligned. In the treble the three strings from which a single note is comprised may have gone out of line so that the hammer is not hitting all three strings in unison. This could be because the hammer is not perpendicular to the strings or because one string may be slightly lower than the other two. All of these affect the tone of the piano. Aligning strings to hammers and/or visa versa, adjustment and/or repair of strings and their anchor points will definitely improve the tone and playability of the piano. By adjusting the relationship of the hammers to the strings, only part of the process of voicing or toning has been completed.
Voicing Or Toning Types
The final work on voicing or toning can only start once reshaping of the hammers, alignment of hammers and strings, piano tuning, and regulating has been properly done. Here are a few general types of piano voicing or piano toning with which the process will normally be completed.
Voice Or Tone Down
This is to soften or moderate the tone of the piano throughout its total compass range. Pricking, piercing or loosening the hammer felt with a set of toning needles. Piano Voicing Or Piano Toning Needles or steaming extreme hard hammers are the techniques used to make the piano produce a softer and mellower tone.
Voice Or Tone Up
This is to brighten up the tone and make the piano sound louder throughout its total compass range. Filing, sanding, ironing, or applying hardening chemicals is used for hardening hammers in order to produce a harder and brighter tone.
Voice Or Tone With Or In With
This is to level out the tone quality in order to restore the tone color or characteristics of the piano, or make the tone blend with the acoustics of a room or the tone of a second piano which can be a combination of the previous types mentioned.
Benefits Of Voicing Or Toning
The piano sounds as when you purchased it;
You are pleased with its sound after it’s been tuned;
The piano has the tonal ability to sound softly;
Tone does not vary from note to note;
You can achieve a range from mellow to bright when playing at different volumes with No lost dynamic range;
The tone is not excessively bright.