The Brass string level is used to bring the strike point of grand strings, both bass and treble, into level. The tool is 2 oz of brass, 3/8 inch wide x 1 1/4 inch tall. This allows the tool to be used on most grands very near the strike point just in front of the dampers.
This tool is very useful in damper regulation, since when strings are leveled many previously bleeding strings will now damp correctly. When doing a damper felt installation, the strings should be leveled first, then the wires bent.
Leveling the trichords is done using a string hook (I use the Hart tool) to raise or lower a string.
To check the level of the strings the tool is placed on the string unison with the foot of the tool across and touching all strings of the unison. Then, with the dampers raised, each unison is plucked. The difference in sound will reveal an open string. Watching the bubble will show if the strings are in a level plane. If the level rocks back and forth the middle string is too high.
Level strings and correctly mated strings can eliminate many voicing problems.
Q & A about string leveling.
- Do you need to level the piano? The level of the grand piano needs to be determined prior to starting. I use the stretcher as a bench mark to give me the level of the piano. If the bubble is in between the lines and to the left, I use the left side of the line as my new mark. If the piano needs to be leveled as well to use the tool, place blocking under one leg. Old houses with settled floors can present problems.
- What tools are needed?The tools that I use besides the level are #313 string leveling hook and #315 seating rod. Of the two, I use the rod to seat the back scale and the hook for working the front where the level is used. Both tools have a groove at the tip to keep the ( brass ) tool from slipping off the wire. When used to push or rub the wire down I use the handle for all my tools #400. Both the rod and hook can be used inside the action cavity to push the string up. I mention this as there are several models of pianos that have a shelf that does not allow one to work the string close to the termination point. The closer one can work to the termination point the less likely there will be issues with false strings.
- Which string do I move?Starting out I would suggest leveling the bass bi-chords first. This will give you a better idea of what to expect when leveling the tri-chord unison. When leveling the tri-chord I first look to see if the center string is too high. This will show in two ways. The level may rock back and forth, or the the tool may stay tipped to one side with the other side ringing open when plucked. As it is harder to push a string down and we also want to reduce the curl at the termination points, I lift the outside strings until they are level and the center string is slightly low to them, then gradually lift the center string until all block when plucked (dampers are blocked up at pedal safety hook).
- How often do strings need to be leveled?The answer to this will depend a lot on how much you need to work the wire (how far it was changed) and humidity changes the piano is subjected to, pitch raises or lowering, what the piano is being used for (home use, concert, studio recording etc.). In any event, once leveled the following work should be much reduced. I have become used to hearing a unison that is not level, and you may, too.
- How long does it last?See above information on pitch raises or lowering.
- Do you level uprights?Only if there is a shifting action of which there are so very few. However, any upright will sound much better with seating of strings and mating of hammers to strings.