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Author Topic: Yamaha C3 Mellow tone  (Read 6715 times)
keithw
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« on: May 13, 2011, 11:58:36 AM »

Dear Pianists,
I purchased a 1984 Yamaha C3 for my daughter. It appeared to be in very good condition. Our piano tuner thought that it was a good piano. He examined the piano + checked the keyboard response with a weight, looked at the hammers, and they did not look as if they had been used much as there were no deep string marks on the pads. He also liked the tone. After my daughter started practicing on the piano at home, I noticed that the tone was mellow as if muted. It has a big sound but a muted tone similar to some Kawais grands I have seen. The treble notes have nice ringing tone but the midtones and bass feel muted (closed) to me. It does not have the open sound. I don't know how to describe, it can play forte and has a big sound compared to uprights but I perceive a closed sound, not an open sound, as if the sound has a plastic film over it. When she plays slow romantic pieces like Lizst's Consolations or Chopin Nocturnes, the piano sounds good but when she plays a Beethoven sonata, Bach Italian concerto, or a faster piece like second movement of Rondo Capricciosso by Mendelssohn, I don't like the lack of clarity of the sound that she normally gets from her teacher's Yamaha C3, Bechtein or the Steinway she tried on stage. I am not a musician and don't know much about pianos, I'd appreciate if you would give me some feedback about how to go about this. Should we try to sell this piano and look for a more suitable, should we get it toned to brighten it up, or would it brighten in time with playing? Does this mean that this piano has not been played much? I look forward to hearing your valuable opinions. with regards
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keys60
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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2011, 07:15:29 PM »

Keith.

Tone is subjective and opinions vary to what sounds good. Your tuner likes a mellow tone, and you it seems prefer the more open kind of stringy sound that I also prefer. Many of the techs I know, especially the upper aged ones in their 60's also prefer the mellower tone. As we age, those high frequencies tend to become an annoyance. And to add to that, to someone who is pounding away at various pianos for 8 hours per day.

 You mentioned that the contact points on the hammers do not have deep grooves. They either have not been played in and the felt compacted and hardened. They may have been reshaped and voiced which is where the hammers are filed and pinned with a voicing tool which can mellow out a piano if that is what the owner was looking for, or the hammers may have been replaced. New unvoiced hammers tend to sound a bit soft until properly voiced. I would guess it is one of the latter two since the piano is from the 1980's.

Your tech said the piano is in good shape? Then I would say no, don't sell or trade it in. Describe the sound you are looking for to the tech. He can voice a few hammers at different levels as samples for you until you can identify the sound you prefer, then pay him or her for a voicing job. They can harden the hammers first with a solution and then pin gradually soften them to cut that icy edge they will have. Something that most pianos should undergo every few years depending on use and the customers tolerance to what they are hearing. Voicing is a real art. Make sure your tech is highly qualified at it for an eveness of tone.

Most Yamahas I hear have a pretty clear bell like tone. Not a real meaty sound like some other pianos, but that's usually out of the factory. Yamaha is pretty consistent with their set ups where Steinway tends to pride themselves in making like pianos sound differently to suit the purchaser. They really want you to take one home. Yamaha doesn't vary their standards. Although they have good quality control, its still pretty much an assembly line mentality. Don't screw with a sure thing.
ADDENDUM.....SEE THE THREAD CONCERNING BLACK KEY HEIGHT. SCROLL DOWN TO BOTTOM AND CHECK THE POST ABOUT STEINWAY VOICING.

You have a high quality piano there but you may just have to invest a bit more to suit your tastes.

Hope this helps at least a bit.

Curtis
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keithw
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2011, 02:18:30 AM »

Thank you very much for the advice. I'm not sure whether our piano tuner is specialized enough to be able voice the piano for brightness. I am concerned about making it worse but will ask his advice if he can do it with a few sample sounds as you suggested. I also phoned the piano shop from where my daughter's teacher bought his Bechstein. The salesmanager who is a pianist and technician appeared to be very enthusiastic about European pianos such as Bechstein and Hoffman and for our price range he strongly recommended a Hoffmann as invited us to try it. He was not enthusiastic about about Yamahas and Kawais and even Steinways. What do you think of the Hoffmann pianos? My daughter mostly played Yamahas and Kawai's on stage but when she played a particular Steinway on two occasions she said the piano was much more responsive, had open sound, easier to play and big sound. These are the qualities she likes.
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keys60
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2011, 01:18:30 PM »

Your sales manager is going to be enthused about what ever he can sell you. I'd get enthused too if you were going to trade in a C series.
Yamaha C is a good series of piano. Sure, there are preferences. I prefer the Steinway myself, Mason Hamlins, even a well cared for Chickering. Doesn't make the Yammie bad. I like them quite a bit too. Just my tastes. Bottom line is what you or your daughter like. Don't ever let a sales manager tell you what's a better piano. Take your time and play them all, then you decide what's best for you.

Oh. And if he is your tech, find another one from the Piano Technicians Guild. Look it up on line. You need an unbiased opinion.
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pianolive
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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2011, 07:39:19 AM »

Hoffman is from a low price line made by Bechstein. For some time manufactured in Indonesia. Actually not an alternative to the C3.
The C3 series have gone through changes since the first model, which were made to compete with the S&S O. Most important changes were made in the bass mensuration. In front of the production number there is a letter; D, E...
Personally I find the Ds to be very good.
It is quite a job voicing the hammers harder and the start over to get the tone you prefer. When hammers are voiced too soft once the felt-structure is in fact destroyed  and most often there is no way back.
I would rather think of setting in a new set of high quality hammers. They do not have to be from Yamaha.
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keithw
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2011, 03:03:57 AM »

Thank you for your replies. I called the sales person and asked his suggestions. When I asked him if they were qualified to voice the piano, he said they were qualified and were members of piano guild association. After my initial inquiry, they called me back and suggested that they would take the action of the piano to their work shop and iron the hammers. As I understood, he said using acrylic to harden the hammers may cause too much brightness, which would be harder to reverse. The ironing of the hammers by application of flame would slightly brighten the tone and if required minor revoicing adjustments can be made to some individual hammers after the application of the iron. To do this the piano will have to be taken to the work shop and brought back to test the result. I called my daughter and she was a bit concerned that it may cause too much brightness (like harpsicord) and may also cause unevenness of the tone and wanted to have a chat with the technician before sending her piano's action. What should we do? I would appreciate if you could give me some suggestions here.. (I should also mention that, there is also a very good offer on a brand new Yamaha C3, from another shop, far away, he said his offer will be valid if I'd sell ours and approach him)(I attached two images of her c3)


* eda c3 .jpg (670.27 KB, 1200x797 - viewed 366 times.)

* eda yamaha 1r.jpg (982.69 KB, 1400x930 - viewed 300 times.)
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keys60
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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2011, 08:21:09 PM »

Ironing is a first step. You kind of need to take baby steps when voicing. Let him iron the hammers, reinstall the action so you can test it out. Ironing is not a huge undertaking. Taking the action out is a 5 minute job, so don't let that bother you. If she still finds it too mellow, the application of acrylic
( really what that is, is a solution made from ground up piano keys melted into a liquid applied to the hammer, then it dries and hardens. Very common procedure. From there, the hammers can be needled to resoften them to your liking.) Don't let all this jargon scare you off. Your C will not sound like a harpsichord if they voice properly. Some factories apply acrylic and voice the hammers before purchase. Hammers are not usually installed as freshly made components. 
Even if you had new hammers installed, there's a very strong possibility they would have to be voiced anyway.

I certainly would not go through the hassle of selling a C3 just to buy one that is voiced more to your liking.
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pianolive
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2011, 08:19:13 PM »

Why should they take the piano to the shop? This kind of work is done in the room where the piano is used. Ironing takes maybe half an hour.
I know plastic is used to make the hammers harder, but it is far much better to do it "the old way" by using collodium. With collodium you might have to apply it three times to to get very hard felt you get using plastic, but you will have much more control over the proces with collodium.
The plastic gives instantly a hard hammer but with collodium you can build up the hardness you need.
Besides, it is much more easy to voice a collodium hardened hammer than a plastic hammer.
Anyway, the whole job should be done in your piano-room!
 
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quantum
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2011, 05:57:38 AM »

I had similar request when my C3 (version E) arrived - although not to the extent you are seeking.  I was requesting the top most octave be given more sparkle.  After consulting with two different technicians, their advice was generally to leave it alone and just let the natural playing of the instrument brighten it up.  From what I gather, Yamaha's receive more complaints due to overly bright and harsh tone then overly mellow tone.  

Looking back, I think it was the correct decision to not brighten up the top octave.  Other voicing procedures have been done such as evening out the tonal differences between the bichord / trichord break, and tweaks to the action - but no brightening.  

Playing a Yamaha is a very different experience to playing a Steinway.  I would not say that one is more superior, but rather the pianist needs to recognize the differences in the strengths of each piano.  My own C3 has grown on me over time.  There were some pieces that just sounded blah when the piano was still new to my ears.  I've learned to reinterpret music to show of the strengths of any particular piano I am playing.  

Now in the pictures, I see your vertical is a Kawai.  My previous piano was also a Kawai.  The tonal approaches of these two makers is quite different.  Personally, it took me some time to adjust after playing Kawai so long.  At the time the Yamaha did indeed sound a bit too mellow for ears that were accustomed to the overtone-rich tonal characteristics of Kawai. 

In photo 1, is that the bench that came with your C3?  I was dearly hoping for an artist bench to come with my own C3, but got a non-adjustable instead.  Nothing wrong with it, great size for duets, just I would like more of a padded bench for all the practicing I do.  


What glass did you use to take those photos?

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Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach
keithw
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« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2011, 02:27:13 AM »

Many thanks for the replies. I haven't been on this site for a long time so apologies for the late response. The shop took the action away and lightly ironed the pads but I did not feel any significant difference in the tone. They said they could keep working on it until she is happy but she seems very reluctant for this experimentation with the tone of her piano.
My daughter's teacher uses a newer C3 (about 12-14 years old) for teaching and I have observed that it has become very bright over the past two years, as you mentioned. That piano gets about 8 hours use per day and the teacher can have a very powerful touch which may have contributed to the rapid brightening of that C3. Also, according to my daugther her piano has a firmer touch than that of the teacher's.
Regarding your question about the lens, I used a Pentax 10-20 Fisheyelens.
Her previous piano was Kawai NS10 which had a nice tone, not too bright, not too mellow.
Yes, the stool and the cover were included with the C3.
with regards,,,
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jimbo320
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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2011, 03:14:40 AM »

A friend of mine has a C5 and when the tone started to loose clarity she replaced the strings. A bit costly but sounds better than ever.
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keithw
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« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2011, 05:00:21 AM »

Dear Pianists,
I just received a call from the dealer who sold a Bechstein A190 to my daughter's teacher, who paid about $40K for a new A190 and he is very passionate about his new instrument. Apparently, he got a special deal on that day. The same dealer called me and urged us to try a Hoffmann. He seemed very passionate about Hoffmanns and said the T series is as good as Bechsteins. He wanted us to try a T186. He said this is basically a Bechstein with a different name tag just to penetrate a different market with the same quality. He said Hoffmann V series were inferior quality in comparison but T series are made with the same resources and quality. Before we visit the shop I wanted to ask your advice about the validity of the claims of the dealer. Personally, I'd aim to get a genuine Bechstein if we could get a similar deal as her teacher.
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quantum
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« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2011, 04:31:30 PM »

I'd suggest giving your new-to-you C3 a chance first, unless there is something predominantly objectionable about it.  Adapting to a new instrument takes time.  With every instrument, one needs to make adjustments to one's own playing and interpretation. 

With regard to a Bechstein, I would rather be after the real thing than something like it.  They can be wonderful instruments.  It would not hurt just to try out a Hoffmann even if you don't intend to buy it.  The experience of trying out different instruments is very worthwhile, and will ultimately inform you of the qualities you desire in your own instrument. 
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Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach
jimbo320
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« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2011, 06:33:48 PM »

With all due respect.
Most people miss the obvious. Replace your strings...
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pianolive
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« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2011, 07:37:06 PM »

He seemed very passionate about Hoffmanns and said the T series is as good as Bechsteins. He wanted us to try a T186. He said this is basically a Bechstein with a different name tag just to penetrate a different market with the same quality. He said Hoffmann V series were inferior quality in comparison but T series are made with the same resources and quality.)

Now, that is a salesman way of talking. The Bechstein company make C.Bechstein, Bechstein (without the C), Hoffmann and there may be some others. They are all at quite different price levels for one reason - They are of quite different quality. I find he is going too far saying that the Hoffmann is basically a Bechstein and so on. That would mean that Boston and Essex are basically Steinway...?
There is only one reason why the top brands have these cheap instruments made. They simply want to tie up customers to their products. You might want the C. Bechstein, but it is too expensive right now, so you buy the Hoffmann and you are in the "family". You "basically get a Bechstein". The idea is to get the customer to become loyal to the specific Brand, so he later buy the more expensive pianos.
It is a normal sale psychology within all kind of business.
If you really like a certain piano and you can afford to buy it, then do it and be happy, but be sceptical to the salesmen.   
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