Posts tagged board

Floating Piano Soundboards… What’s all the hype?

So the concept is not new… but rather new to ME. In January, i decided to interview all of the manufacturers at NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants). It took me 3 days to get through all of the pianos and speak to everyone at this large trade show. One of the companies that caught my attention due to design implementation was Young Chang. Speaking with designer Del Fandrich, we looked at “floating” soundboards. But before we get into floating soundboards, let’s first look at soundboards in general.
A soundboard appears to be a big flat sheet of wood (usually spruce) underneath the strings on the piano. The soundboard isn’t actually flat but slightly curved under compression. The purpose is that it acts like (what i would call) an amplifier… technically speaking my engineering friends would call it a transducer – transforming energy into sound. We hear the piano tone primarily because of the vibration of the soundboard.
So what’s a ‘floating’ soundboard then? Well pianos have two battling elements – string length vs. soundboard flex. What do i mean by that? The longer the strings are, the deeper the sound of the piano. That’s why 9′ long concert grands sound magnificent! They have lonnnnnnng strings. So if you were to stretch the strings in a short piano to the very edge of the rim, you would think that you would have this marvelous tone right? Wrong. See that’s where this battle goes on. Think about diving boards for a moment. The closer you are to the edge of the pool, the less the diving board will move. Why? Because it’s attached to the side of the pool (which is rigid). The farther out over the water, the more the diving board will flex. So back to pianos, the closer you get to the rim, the more the rim ‘stifles’ the sound vibration. Ideally the bridge of a piano should be some distance away from the rim. Enter the floating soundboard concept. So… what happens if you could have the best of both worlds? What happens if you have long strings AND flexibility? That’s what has happened with Young Chang’s latest design. If you look straight down in the bass section on their latest pianos, the soundboard is not attached to the outside rim for the entire bass section. The advantage then is that you can have longer strings and still have decent vibration of the soundboard in the bass because it is not attached. Kudos to Young Chang for being not necessarily the first to the finish line but being one of the largest piano companies in the world to embrace this advance in technology and build bigger sounding pianos.

Piano Soundboard Tension???

It was a funny afternoon of visitors in my piano shop.  One such visitor was a friend of mine… another guy named Glenn (although i keep reminding him that 2 ‘n’s are redundant… but then again, i named my youngest son Quinn…)  ANYWHOOOO… he comes in, sits down and states “Glen… i have a REALLY hard time reading information from piano ‘authorities’ when in the first paragraph, there are GLARING errors. It’s rubbish”.  Now you have to bear in mind that most of my friends are critical thinkers.  Glenn is no exception – structural engineer by trade but also piano lover.  He continued “I was reading from a leading expert who was writing about piano soundboards being under tension”.  Me being the non-intellect of my friends… i get dragged by my collar into such discussions… i’m a little slow to the draw and reply… “Ya… uh huh and your point?”  (I’m surprised he didn’t have my head at that response.)  “Glen think about it!!!  Tension by definition means to pull apart.  Take a rubber band. Stretch it apart. THAT’s tension.  Compression means pushing together.  He held one of my business cards bending it slightly – THAT’s compression.  It’s ridiculous that a soundboard would be under tension… it would be KINDLING! Pull apart a soundboard??? Pianos aren’t under tension at all… they’re under compression.  The Roman arches were designed with compression – pushed together”.  After thinking about it for awhile i recognized how he was right.  Piano soundboards are compressed – slightly arced with a crown.  The more i think of that concept, the error in logic almost seems humourous.  We’ve somehow slipped into bantering terms about that incorrectly define the piano.  We then have a scenario of the blind leading the blind don’t we? When the so-called experts are educating their followers down a slippery slope.  Starts to make one wonder however as to the validity of other information given. Just sayin’.

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