Posts tagged vibration

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.

Cause & Effect: Piano Rattles

HOPEFULLY you don’t have a rattle like this snake inside your piano! But you have to admit… it DID grab your attention right? Well… needless to say, sourcing out rattles in pianos are tough tough tough… Yep… A rattle in a piano is a difficult thing to find the source of.  Why? Because the piano emits vibrations and the vibrations usually excite some part on the piano unrelated to the string that is loose.  Generally there are 4 main areas that cause rattles in pianos:

    1. Something loose on the soundboard (especially on grands) – a pencil, paperclip, ummm (don’t laugh) rat poop (ewww i know…), marbles, combs, pieces of paper
    2. Loose hinge pins are HUGE on the list – the centre pin of the hinge is sitting too loosely in it’s frame and rattles sympathetically with the string
    3. Loose pedal rods or trapwork
    4. Buzzing unseated string – where an individual string is not snug against the bridge or capo
      The solution? I start by removing any extraneous things (like pictures or ornaments from the area). Next, try to localize the source.  Move your ears around as you play the note and try and find out the general vicinity where the noise is coming from.  If you see any loose item, now’s the time to grab the tweezers and pull it out.  It may be something simple like that.  Then start holding things – start touching all the hinges or piano parts until the noise stops.  When all else fails, try touching individual strings that are being struck by the hammer.  If for example there are 3 strings being struck at once, place your finger on each one and then strike the key again.  You may find that one of them is creating noise.  Now when it comes to loose parts, you MAY be able to tighten a screw down and stop the noise.  But if you feel like you’re over your head, simply ask a technician about it next time he/she comes to tune.
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