As some of Toronto’s most experienced piano technicians, there’s not a lot that we haven’t seen when entering our customer’s homes and studios to assess their upright or grand pianos, but on the other end of the spectrum is that which we see far too frequently, which is of course neglected and unmaintained instruments. While this is hardly a surprising thing given that many pianos are seldom used outside of family gatherings or visits from the grandchildren, a weathered, poor-responding and out of tune piano can also be the root cause of it being neglected in the first place. While the benefits of regular piano tuning are relatively obvious, the improper maintenance of other components may not be. Here we’ll take a look at one such oft-forgotten element: The hammers.
While on one hand logic might dictate that a seldom used, and therefore static part should mostly retain its original, optimal condition, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to piano hammers. Felt is a slave to its elements, and neglected hammers, especially in Canada’s harsh and changing environment, will become hard/dense over extended periods of time. This results in an overly loud, harsh, bright tone, which severely limits the moods one is able to create when sitting down at the keys. At the other extreme, over-used hammers will develop wear that will make them produce a muted, muffled tone which won’t allow the player to achieve the louder, epic tones required of more energetic and striking pieces.
The good news is that for both situations there is a solution: voicing. While many times the best, cheapest and quickest option may very well be replacing the offending hammer, in other instances your piano tuner/technician can restore the intended striking point and tone by either softening or hardening the hammer’s felt. If the hammer is worn, your technician will file /re-shape the hammer to restore its original shape, and at times may further harden it with specialized chemicals. If the hammer is too hard, a special needle tool can often soften the felt’s fibers to allow a more mellow tone to be achieved. Regardless of the procedure you require or choose, some relatively inexpensive restoration and regulation work can bring your lifeless and forgotten piano back to the land of the living.