What does voicing mean?
Voicing a piano usually focuses on the felt hammers which strike the strings of the instrument. The first step in voicing is to “shape the hammer” using sandpaper to get a fresh surface. The new shape of the felt hammers will create a proper contact point between the hammers and the strings. Next, by pushing tiny needles into the hammer with various techniques, changes will occur in the texture and firmness of the felt resulting in an array of different audible colors. When this service is performed properly, the results will reveal the beautiful voice inside of your piano. Only experienced, professional technicians should venture into the realm of piano voicing.
Voicing may also be necessary to correct for the deterioration of age. Musicians often find that the tone of their piano is too bright or harsh. This is usually a result of the hammers striking the strings repeatedly when being played over several years. This repetitive motion causes the hammers to slowly become more compact. As the felt hammers convert from soft to firm, the sound produced when the hammers come in contact with the strings becomes brighter. For most people’s ear, this change in tone is unpleasant. On the other hand, there are also needling techniques to brighten the tone of a piano which seems to be too mellow. In some instances it is even necessary to use hardener or softener chemicals to change the consistency of the felt hammers.
There are other maintenance issues that often need to be addressed before using the voicing techniques described above. Voicing should not be preformed on a piano which is in need of regulation. The extent of this regulation process depends on the condition of the piano’s action. The term “action” refers to the 88 moving keys and all of their moving mechanisms which cause each of the hammers to strike the strings. Adjustments made to improve the consistency and fluidity of the action, are referred to as regulations. Without an even regulation of the action and its many moving parts, the inertia of each individual note will vary slightly. Voicing a piano in this uneven condition could lead to inconsistencies in the pianos’ tone in the future.
We hope this information has helped you become more aware of the spectrum of sound that your piano is capable of producing. If the only maintenance your piano has received in the last few years is a tuning, then voicing your piano would likely improve its tonal quality and give you a richer palette of musical expression. Don’t forget that the wider the array of sonic capabilities you have at your finger tips, the more creative and musical your thoughts will be when you express them through your instrument.