Where others stop (or don’t even bother), at PianoCraft, we are just beginning.
Whether brand new from the manufacturer or newly rebuilt, at PianoCraft much of the important work regarding a piano’s touch and sound is about to begin. At PianoCraft, this is known as Prep and Tonal Finishing. This work is what allows the piano’s true essence to be discovered.
Mr. Poundy Jr
A fully rebuilt piano or a brand new piano freshly uncrated must have its action (playing mechanism) regulated, meaning the thousands of moving parts must be adjusted and balanced. The best way to do this is to actually play the piano. Unfortunately, we don’t have endless hours to play our pianos, so we use a robotic key pounding machine that is much more thorough and precise than any human. Known as Mr. Poundy, Jr. (Mr. Poundy, Sr. is still in use, but near retirement!) our key pounder plays in the new action’s felts and helps idealize friction within the moving parts. It also matures the action in several beneficial ways and help us also find any lurking problems that otherwise might not show up for months or years even.
Mr. Poundy also helps mature, develop and play in the piano’s new hammers. This develops the sound of the piano at the attack as well as the singing quality after the attack. This is just one of the many reasons PianoCraft’s new pianos and rebuilds sound and play at a level not found anywhere else.
More regulation and tune tune tune
After the piano has gone through key pounding, the regulation is further refined. It is important for the tonal finishing process that the piano is at a very high level of regulation which requires multiple passes further refining the touch with each pass and then repeated tunings. If the piano isn’t precisely regulated and beautifully tuned, the technician will confuse regulation and/or tuning concerns with tone building, tonal finishing and voicing needs.
Tonal finishing, Voicing, Tone building
Dealers and rebuilders generally talk about voicing a new or newly rebuilt piano as a kind of catch-all technique. While voicing is an art and a science, what they usually mean is simply sticking the hammers with needles to soften the sound of the hammers that are brighter than their neighbors for a superficial evenness of sound. This is certainly important, but only one small part of the overall tonal finishing process exclusively available from PianoCraft.
Hammer Weight and Strike point Counter balance
At PianoCraft, we find the specific hammer weight that is ideal for the the belly system (soundboard, bridges, strings, pinblock) with which they are matched. Out of the box hammers are never the ideal weight and must be customized to have the best possible sound. When the hammers are too heavy, they mute the sound and add an overly percussive quality to the attack. When the hammers are too light, they sound overly bright and weak. When the hammers are the ideal weight, they have the richest sound, the widest dynamic range, the most bloom and balance and they sing. This is a process never done at a production manufacturer or a production rebuilder. Additionally, each hammer must be specially set up to hit the string at the correct sub division. If the hammer is too far in or not far enough in, the sound is noticeably weaker. When the hammers are set up at the ideal strike point, the sound blooms. Once the hammer weight is identified, the action’s keys can be counterbalanced to offer the pianist the desired feel and control of sound.
With the ideal hammer weight and strike point in place, the tone building begins. To develop tone in a hammer, it must have sufficient support in the shoulder area. Every set of hammers, even from the same maker, has a slightly different density so the support in the shoulder area must be developed specially with each set of hammers. The technician must play and listen and feel as this process progresses. If the hammers do not have sufficient support, they lack power, sustain and tonal variety.
To have maximum tonal variety, also known as color, the hammers must not only have sufficient shoulder support, but they must have a variety of density throughout the hammer so that as the pianist plays harder or softer and plays into the surface of the hammer or deeper into the hammer, the tone not only gets louder or softer, but also changes quality. This is where much of the true expression is found in piano playing.
Once the hammers have sufficient support, and sufficient variety of density, now the filing and needling is done for note to note evenness and to address the quality of the attack. It is interesting and surprising to many pianists and piano technicians that softening the hammers in certain areas can actually increase power rather than mute it.
PianoCraft’s proprietary tonal finishing process brings out the expressive potential of any piano to which it is applied. It is a major part of why the incredibly affordable pianos at PianoCraft dramatically outperform pianos elsewhere that can cost sometimes two or even three times as much. Once Steinways by PianoCraft have undergone PianoCraft’s tonal finishing, they truly are the world’s best Steinways. Estonia pianos and Steingraeber pianos truly become incomparable with this process.
PianoCraft’s tonal finishing allows the pianist to play from whisper soft to full power without distorting with every shade of dynamic and color in between. Combined with PianoCraft industry best action regulating and action balancing, a PianoCraft piano is an expressive wonder and a joy to play and hear.