Originally posted by Craig S:
I am curious about peoples key dip preferences. Do manufacturers have specs on key dip for specific models. If so how could I obtain that info.
I am pretty sure that key dip preference would be and individual thing but the variation may not be that great.
There are two separate questions here. First is the question of preferences and, second, is the question of reality.
I once did a small trial to see what these preferences might be by setting up two otherwise identical pianos but each with a different keydip setting. (We fudged by altering the hammer travel to maintain a constant key aftertouch ratio.) The two keydip measures were 9.5 mm (0.374”) and 10.5 mm (0.413”). We made voicing and tuning as uniform as possible between the two pianos. The pianists were a mix of amateurs and professionals — the amateurs coming from the factory and the professionals being drawn from the music department of a nearby college. Not a worldwide sampling but interesting and informative nonetheless.
The preferences seemed to vary with the type of music being played. In general the piano with the 9.5 mm keydip was judged to be more “responsive” and “articulate.” It was preferred (by most) for music requiring fast repetition and fingering. The piano with the 10.5 mm keydip was strongly disliked by some pianists who felt that their fingers were getting buried between the keys and that they were being slowed down by the extra finger movement required. Several mentioned that they would get tired of playing the piano with the deeper keydip because they had to “work harder” at it. (Key downweight and overall action mass had been matched quite closely so this was probably not a downweight or mass issue.) Others had no problem at all with the 10.5 mm keydip and thought the other action felt “shallow” although most had little trouble adapting to it..
Of those who expressed a strong preference it was mostly for the action with the 9.5 mm keydip. Several who liked this action a lot asked if it could be made with even less deep. They felt they had more precise control over the action with the shallower keydip and thought they would enjoy playing some early keyboard music on the piano.
The individual preferences were heavily influenced by the pianos each pianist played on a daily basis and were used to. One who regularly played on a relatively recent Steinway with an admittedly deep dip of about 11 mm (his preference) strongly disliked the 9.5 mm action, feeling that he had less control than he was used to.
This was hardly an exhaustive trial and it would have been interesting to play around with a much wider sampling of pianists and with different action ratios and action mass configurations but we lacked the time and resources to expand the effort.
In general key dip has been getting deeper over the years as hammers have gotten heavier and action ratios have been made correspondingly higher. This is the only way to keep both static and dynamic key downweight within reasonable limits. When I learned to regulate actions in the mid-60s the loosely accepted standard was 9.5 mm (Steinway was the odd one at 10.0 mm, or 0.394”). Now many pianomakers specify 10.5 mm and some Steinway actions won’t work well at less than 11.0 mm (0.433”). I’m not sure just how much heavier hammers can get and how much longer key travel can go without adversely affecting the fingers and joints of the avid pianist.