You may have heard your piano tuner talking about ‘voicing’ your piano. But what does this actually mean? 

Voicing is when a piano tuner manipulates the felt surrounding the hammer heads in the piano to be softer or harder, in order to change the tonal qualities of the piano itself. It is done with a voicing tool, which consists of a handle with 3-4 voicing needles. These needles prick the felts of the hammers to soften them.

This softening of the felts helps to produce the more powerful tone a piano has when it's played with more force, as well as giving the piano lots of colour and expression when it’s played softly.

Another way of softening hammers is to reshape them by shaving off some of the felt. As you play a piano, the hammers strike the strings over and over again. As a result, grooves begin to form on the hammers. The felt on the hammers compacts and becomes particularly dense where the grooves form. This often makes the tone of the piano too consistently bright and harsh, taking away the ability of the piano and pianist to produce a sweet sound. 

The tone can also become uneven across the keys, meaning that sound and tone may vary from note to note. By shaving off some of the felt, the hammers can regain their rounded shape where the grooves had formed, recapturing the even and versatile tone of the piano.

An alternative method of voicing is applying a lacquer-based solution to the felt. When the thinner mixer has evaporated, the lacquer remains. This has the effect of increasing the felt’s density (as opposed to softening the felt) and allows the piano to produce a brighter tone. Therefore, a piano should be able to produce a bright and powerful tone when played with more force, but also lots of colour and expression when played softly.

These are some signs that your piano may benefit from voicing:

If you feel that your piano is in need of voicing, or would like to know more about this process, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Written by Grace Morgan