Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/716

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

judicious sprinkling, ostensibly to allay dust, might thus successfully compete with a good instrument during an ordinary public exhibition, although it would soon prove worthless.

Varnish is now used for sound-boards and cases, both here and in England.

The constitution of the English piano-forte enables it to bear the English climate, in which the humidity is more uniform. When brought here it breaks down. But even the American piano-forte can only to a certain extent bear the trials from climatal changes to which it is subjected, and for a very limited space of time in some parts of the States, as, for instance, the Rocky Mountains. If a good instrument, made with native woods, seasoned for two years in the open air, and kiln-dried for three months at 130° Fahr., be removed in winter, while the thermometer is at zero, and placed in a heated concert-room, the sudden rise in the temperature, causing dampness, would affect the glue as well as the wood-work. But when organic derangements are not caused, a host of minor ailments set in which impair and gradually destroy a piano-forte. The metals corrode, the strings break, the pins holding the wires relax their hold, and then turn round (in inferior instruments), the felt on the hammers becomes worn, the damper actions rattle, the various centres loosen, the hammers (that deliver the blow before the key is fully down, and then immediately retire from the string, to allow it to vibrate and take up such a position as to deliver a number of consecutive blows with rapidity) may act with irregularity, or without the requisite vigor, and moths may attack the felt and cloth. Although many of such ailments yield to treatment, yet they are unmistakable signs of general decay. In forming an estimate, however, of the longevity of a piano-forte, one should reflect on his growing insusceptibility to sensuous impressions, and not institute comparisons with newer instruments of greatly-enhanced capabilities. It is well also to point out that sometimes articles of furniture, free to vibrate, wall do so in sympathy with certain notes of the instrument, and thus make a supposed defect. Articles, such as a stiletto in a metal sheath, or a glass globe on a gasalier, are not readily detected in the act of responding.

On comparing piano-fortes by various makers it is well also to bear in mind the special peculiarities of each. The makers of the Erard piano desire to produce a brilliant, ringing effect, and do not destroy the numerous, tingling overtones which succeed the cessation of their primaries. Sensitive artists, who desire an achromatic quality, object to these, although they are intended to add a kind of harmonic halo or lustre to the general tone, which in a crowded drawing-room might appear dull and lifeless—wanting in radiance and animation. The Broadwood makers strive for the formation of a full, organ-like tone. The Collards are successful in obtaining flute-like and liquid tones, which in the treble are remarkably sweet and dulcet. The Ger-