Most pianists and piano owners know that their instruments will need to be tuned, but rarely have they been educated about the significance and necessity of the full Cycle of Improvement (Tune-Regulate-Voice).
Each piano has its distinctive tonal characteristics. These are the result of the string scale engineering and the unique design of the sound board. Still, it is the instrument’s hammers that enable these vital designs to blossom. Voicing is the manoeuvring of the hammer felt and related mechanical components to shape and improve the tonal spectrum in-built in the piano.
There are two modus operandi for voicing – concert voicing and residential voicing. In the world of live performance the pianos are voiced to have brightness and power. Large venues with high human capacity and more sound absorbents. Concert pianos need to be able to highlight the upper partials in the strings’ tonal spectrum. This permits the pianist’s music to reach to the back of an acoustically defied hall.
As for Residential voicing, the tone is perceived as somewhat more balanced and warm in comparison to a concert voiced instrument. In a concert venue the residential voice feels rather subdued and will not have the same power to pierce through the space. It is always left to the clients taste off course, whether you prefer a warmer, mellower sound to a bright powerful sound.
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There are two types of piano hammers – hard pressed and soft pressed. In the soft pressed world, the hammer begins its life as soft material. Like a piece of cloth. Naturally, those hammers are too soft to produce the type of tone that most end users would want. So the producer would introduce a chemical such as diluted lacquer into the material fibers of the hammer in order to strengthen the cloth and therefore “build up the tone.” On the other side of the process, hard pressed hammers begin their useful life as densely layered, hard felt mallets. Subsequently, this type of hammer must be unstiffened and brought down to create a palatable tone.
The single most common voicing technique is “mechanical voicing.” The technician will use needles to manipulate and relax the felt fibres. Other approaches include chemical softeners and steam. The final result is to yield a tone quality that is pleasant to the costumer.