The sound, or tone quality a piano produces is a combination of many factors; soundboard construction and design, case design and materials, scaling, quality of construction – but none is more important than the hammer. The correct shape, density of the felt and how the hammer hits the string means that getting the hammer right can have a huge impact on the tone of the piano.
Voicing – the adjustment of the tone relating directly to the hammer – requires an adjustment of the hammer mechanism and matching it to the string. The process requires great skill, patience and dedication and involves filing the hammer to the correct shape, matching the hammer to the strings so that all the strings are struck at the same time, and finally needling the hammer to produce the right density in the hammer’s felt.
Mark Bolsius, the technican at Touchstone Pianos, has spent years garnering these skills and applies them to most pianos he works on as part of his holistic piano service approach. These skills and techniques can be applied to any piano in a variety of ways – a little needling each time the piano is tuned is fine, assuming the voicing and hammer shape is right. More can be done at an in-home service, where tired or heavily used hammers can be filed and needled to produce a better tone. When this is no longer possible, ie the hammers are too worn, replacement is the next option.
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