Feurich 218 M

I took a slightly different path with the 218 and got help. I asked Boaz Kirschenbaum of Cherry Tree Pianos to recommend a configuration and perform the necessary surgery. Boaz is also a fan of Ray Negron’s Ronsen Piano Hammer Company products and together we decided on a set only this time made with Bacon felt. This felt, made by America’s oldest felt manufacturer, is much softer than most anything else used today and requires that the tone be “built up” through the careful application of lacquer. That is not a bad thing as it leads to a very specific piano tone. Boaz also wanted to include a Stanwood Precision Touch Design upgrade that was going to give us complete control of the up and down weight. All in all, it seemed like it was going to be a great piano. There was a catch though…

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Massgefertigt in Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Feurich M Series debuted in Chicago at the Piano Technicians Guild National Convention this summer.

Massgefertigt means tailor made, and in this case, pianos.  It’s a “tweaked out” Feurich Ningbo 218, with some special parts and processes  which leads up to a special piano!

The concept had been bubbling in my head for some time as I thought about the wide variety of modern hammers and action components available these days. I’ve been around volume manufacturing so I know that even with ISO standards, something is always left on the work bench. I believed, especially in the case of the Feurich 218, that there was another level of performance hidden below the surface, waiting for the right combination of pieces to bring it out.

Turns out, I was right.

This 218 blossomed into a piano with an amazingly smooth action coupled with a warm, rich, romantic tone. “A perfect recording piano” said one knowledgeable tech from Los Angeles. To get it there wasn’t rocket science but it did take some careful thinking and even more careful work.

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New Piano Voicing Tricks for a Piano Technician

Piano voicing is a fascinating craft.I came of age as a voicer in the 1980’s, a time when there was not the richness of hammer and felt choices  there are today. Back then the world was pretty much divided into Renner and Steinway. The Renner hammers, with which I worked extensively because of their use on Bosendorfers, were pretty dense and hot pressed. The voicing process was pretty much limited to needling the crap out of them to get them down to a reasonable tone. Steinway hammers at the time were pretty much the opposite. They were balls of soft fluff that needed the application of lacquer, usually a substantial amount, to get any tone out of them at all.

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You Must Have a Good Ear…

I’ve been told that I must have a good ear, usually by someone I’ve just met who has learned that I’m a piano technician, and I’ve always wondered exactly what it meant.

Piano tuners do train themselves to hear components of piano tone, usually called partials or harmonics. These are pitches within pitches (the g that sounds 1 1/2 octaves above midde C on the piano for example) and they are an important part of what the tuner listens to when tuning. However the process of learning to tune was not easy. In fact it was quite agonizing and long and there are still times when I think the piano is going to win.

I think I now know that “having a good ear” means being able to detect very subtle differences in sound or musical tone and, secondarily, having the skill to adjust those tonal differences, either with a tuning hammer or a voicing tool.

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The Myth of Power

Often, when speaking to someone about pianos and piano tone, the topic of power comes up. Frequently whether or not a piano has sufficient “power” becomes a de facto determination of whether a piano is acceptable or not. In these situations, the real question is: acceptable for what?

If a piano is going to be used for a concert with an orchestra, or as a recital piano in a hall with poor acoustics or over 1000 seats, power is important. The simple reality is that the piano must be heard whether one is battling a huge space, an insensitive conductor and orchestra, or uncooperative acoustics.

Many young pianists, striving to make a name for themselves and influenced by some iconic references including Horowitz and Russian school proponents, find themselves striving for power at the expense of color, dynamics and range. The phrase I heard at international piano competitions is that the contestant wants to “pin the ears of the jury to the back wall” as if the jury is there to simply identify  the loudest pianist, or the one that scares them the most. This may be the nature of a circus, action movie or fireworks display, but it is not the nature of music. […]

Welcome to Retail – Allegro Pianos Manhattan

For the past 6 months I’ve been helping build a new high end piano retail store in New York City. Allegro Pianos Manhattan is an expansion of Allegro Pianos of Stamford CT. We represent Bosendorfer, Bluthner, Steingraeber, Estonia and Kawai. I split my time between maintaining all the pianos and working with customers.

It’s […]

Piano Care

A high end piano, while weighing hundreds of pounds, is actually quite a delicate item. The 2 biggest dangers are swings in humidity and improper servicing.

Humidity:

While high humidity (greater than 70%) can cause inconveniences, such as sticking keys, it rarely causes true damange. Besides, in this day and age most homes that have high end pianos have central air conditioning that keeps the humidity in the summer months at a relatively constant level.

Low humidity (less than 40%) can truly damage your piano. This damage can include soundboard cracks, loose tuning pins, action problems and more.

While maintaining a constant humidity level, say 45%, is desirable, it is difficult to achieve. The most critical step is to put an absolute limit to how low the humidity in the room can go. This usually means carefully tracking humidity with a simple hygrometer, available at most hardware stores, and adding humidity by using a humidifier.

It is best to add moisture to a room, using humidifiers that have a large reservoir to reduce the need to refill and to reduce the chances of going dry for too long. Electrostatic humidifiers, while quiet, have a disadvantage of leaving a white dust. Drum or wick humidifiers need a fan that contributes to noise, but are most effective overall.
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Voicing Part One

Voicing is one of the most critical aspects of piano maintenance and repair and perhaps the most mysterious. It’s mysterious because there is so little you can actually specify, unlike the precise measurements of key dip or let off.

Voicing is often referred to as “tone regulating” which has a more clear meaning. It is the technique of adjusting the various parameters that affect the tone of the piano. This of course includes regulation of the action and tuning. But most people consider voicing to be the manipulation of the density of the felt of the piano hammer. It is the image of the technician jabbing a tool with needles into each hammer.

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