If you’ve shopped for a piano you might be familiar with these terms. As you might expect, the answer to which one of these types of hammers is preferable is not so simple.
Cold Pressed Hammers
Cold pressed hammers are typically found on American and European Pianos. The felt is typically softer than hot pressed hammers found on Asian pianos and they lend themselves more to the warm tone appropriate for much classical music.
Cold pressed hammers can actually be a bit too soft in some instances – like on many new Steinway pianos where hammers have to be treated with chemical agents such as lacquer in order to get the felt to harden up a bit to make the piano sound bright enough.
Hot pressed Hammers
Typically found on Asian pianos, hot pressed hammers contain felt that is already hard and produce a nice bright tone right out of the box! For certain styles of music this is the type of sound you may be after. In rock or pop settings the piano will cut through a mix better than a Steinway! This is why Yamaha is the preferred piano for many rock and pop artists.
If the hammers are a bit too hard for your liking and produce a sound that is too bright and brittle, you can sometimes have a technician needle them to soften the felt and get good results.
Time and Play is a Big Issue
Whether you have cold or hot pressed hammers, over time the felt will harden with continued play. As the hammers continue to strike the strings of the piano they will become grooved:
When the felt on the hammers becomes grooved like this, the felt becomes more compacted and harder over time with continued use.
Sometimes you can get new life out of worn hammers by filing to get the egg shape essential for good tone. Needling them can make the tone more mellow as well. Eventually there isn’t fresh felt to work with and new hammers are required.
The Choice Depends upon You
Like many aspects of the piano, the choice of the right type of hammers for you depends largely on the style of music you play.
If you are a classical player and you practice a great deal, hot pressed hammers could be problematic as they will get harder faster and need to be needled more often. But no matter how many times you needle them they might not be able to be brought down far enough to produce the softer tone you may be looking for. So, in this case, cold pressed felt may be more suitable.
However, if you play classical music but have a softer touch, you might prefer the sound of hot pressed hammers since you can get brilliant sound with less energy. If you don’t find yourself playing with a great amount of force on the keys, the hot pressed felt will help produce a louder and more distinct tone that can cover up for the lack of force at which the hammers strike the keys.
The same thing is true for rock and pop music. Hot pressed hammers may be a great fit, but if you are an extremely powerful player, you may want the cold pressed hammers so the tone doesn’t become crunchy and distorted at higher volumes.
So much depends on the type of music and style in which you play and your personal preference in tone. As with most decisions with your piano, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to hard or cold pressed hammers.
Just keep in mind these simple truths when it comes to hammer felt:
Cold pressed hammers = softer felt – mellower tone
Hot pressed hammers = harder felt – brighter tone
I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.