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#1315723 - 12/01/09 09:50 AM Scaled Hammer Action -- why?
Sean M. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 97
Hi all,

Stupid question: Why is scaled hammer action desirable on a digital? As far as know, the action on a grand is scaled because it has to be, it's a feature (limitation?) of the mechanics.

They don't try to replicate scaled hammer action on acoustic uprights (or do they?) though in theory it ought to be possible.

What advantage does it bring that the bass keys are heavier than the others? Wouldn't it be better if all keys were the same weight?

Why is this feature found on some digitals? Is the answer any more complex than "because that's how it is on grands and that makes the digital piano seem classier"?

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#1315732 - 12/01/09 10:07 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Sean M.]
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2368
Loc: Denver, CO
Sean,

All acoustics, upright or grand, have larger hammers on the bass side than on the treble. You are right in that it is part of the mechanics of the piano. Larger and heavier bass strings need to be hit heavier to produce the same level of sound as the much lighter treble strings. I believe the difference is just to make an acoustic piano more even in volume and control across all the keys - by making them uneven in weight. laugh

Digital pianos have this feature to make it easier to play an acoustic. If you were not used to playing a piano with graded action, you would not have the control over the bass notes that you would have over the treble. As far as I know, almost all digital pianos manufactured now have some form of scaled or graded action.

Rich
_________________________

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#1315748 - 12/01/09 10:20 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: DragonPianoPlayer]
Bunneh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 399
Loc: Berlin
Yeah, to sum it up, it's not "because it's like that on a Grand and the digital will seem more classy, it is "because it's like that on a Grand and the transition to an acoustic action will be easier that way"
_________________________
aim for the moon - if you miss, at least you'll be among the stars.

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#1315773 - 12/01/09 10:49 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Sean M.]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
The point of a digital piano is that it is played just like and acoustic piano.

There are many keyboards, most of them in fact, that do not try to replicate a Piano and have piano sounds only as a secondary feature. THese don't have the scaled weights.

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#1315863 - 12/01/09 12:30 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: ChrisA]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
On acoustic pianos, both grands
and uprights apparently, the
action is lighter in the treble
than in the bass. I'm not
sure about the exact reason
for this. I thought it was
because most of the fast passages
would be in the treble, and so
it makes sense to have the
action lighter there.

In any case, I grew up with classical
lessons and acoustic pianos only,
an upright at home and uprights
and grands in the teachers' studios
and at recitals, and I never once
noticed the difference in weight
between the treble and bass.
The difference is not very
pronounced.

The scaled (or graded) hammer
action is a fairly recent feature
on digital pianos. For many
years digitals had an evenly-
weighted hammer action, and
that was just fine as it was.
But in the constant effort
to make a digital that is
the same as an acoustic, this
feature was added a few yrs.
ago, and frankly, I don't like
it. I believe the non-scaled
action is better because it
builds greater strength in
the r.h.

The digital I had before my
current one had a scaled action,
and although it was very good,
I began to feel that it did
not develop strength in the
r.h. like a non-scaled action
does. So when shopping for
my current digital, I deliberately
looked for a budget model,
as these are just about the
only ones today that still
have the older non-scaled action.

Another recent feature I don't
like on digitals is the half-pedal.
Like the scaled action, this
is another feature that was
only recently added. This
attempts to reproduce the
"continuous" pedaling on
an acoustic piano, but I
think it's terrible and just
encourages sloppy pedaling.
Even on an acoustic piano,
one should not "half-pedal,"
in my opinion, as this just
creates a muddled sound.
All the way down upon engaging
the pedal, and all the way up upon
releasing it, is the way to
pedal, in my opinion.

My current digital, an economy
model, has the older non-scaled
action and non-half pedal,
and I think it's just great.
The heavy, non-scaled action
builds more strength, and
the non-half pedal encourages
crisp, clean pedaling.

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#1315867 - 12/01/09 12:37 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Gyro]
LesCharles73 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/07
Posts: 739
Loc: Denton Texas
It's about the same reason some digitals come with an escapement feature.
_________________________
Les C Deal





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#1315873 - 12/01/09 12:43 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Gyro]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
One of my favorite keyboard actions, Roland's SK-6, which is in my HP-1700, is not scaled, and it really makes no difference to me.

The CP-300 has a graded action...also very nice.

I have no problem playing one, and then going to the other....think of it, guitar players use more than one guitar, and they're set up differently (the guitars, not the players) wink.

Even velocity sensitivity has it's drawbacks for certain sounds, like organ and some synth patches, where you want evenness of volume from note to note.

Gyro, who makes the Williams piano?


Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316026 - 12/01/09 03:47 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
Sean M. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 97
So all acoustic pianos will have scaled hammer action? For some reason I thought only grands. To tell the truth, I thought this because today while reading about the Yamaha U1 acoustic piano, I saw this in the description:

"Each key of a Yamaha piano is individually tested and measured for the corrections needed to obtain uniform "down weight" pressure. Yamaha actions play correctly and uniformly. This balancing helps ensure a lifetime of superior touch and control across the keyboard."

So I guess it's still normal that an acoustic (even an upright) will have scaled hammer action, but Yamaha's U1 is an exception to that, where they have intentionally prevented that?

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#1316036 - 12/01/09 03:58 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Sean M.]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
Imagine a sea-saw with one side having a 100 weight and the other a 99 pound weight. It would take only a pound of pressure to push the 99 pound side down.

Now imagine another sea-saw with 1000 pound and 999 pound weight. Still it only takes one pound to push the 999 pound weight down.

If those sea saws were hammers each would require only a pound to move but still one is ten times larger.

What you'd notice while applying that one pound is that the heavier sea-saw has much more inertia and hits the ground harder when it bottoms out.

I think piano keys are kind of like this, they have counter weights and I think the static balance maybe what you were reading.

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#1316084 - 12/01/09 04:59 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: ChrisA]
Alden Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/02/06
Posts: 211
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Sean,

Here is the portion of the DIgital Piano Basics article in PB that deals with the action. The weight of the hammers varies dramatically from the large hammers required in the bass to the smaller hammers used in the treble. Hammer size and density is part of an acoustic piano's scale design and must match the tension and mass of the strings targeted by each hammer. If I remember correctly, the felt difference in hammer weights is multipled about seven times due to the leverage involved.

All acoustic pianos have key weights to help balance the response across the keyboard. Some are more precisely positioned and more successful than others...

btw, Williams is the house brand DP of Guitar Center/Musicians Friend and are sourced from one of the many Chinese contract manufacturers.
_________________________
Alden Skinner
DP Technical Advisor, PianoBuyer Magazine
| VSL Imperial | Pianoteq Pro | Logic Pro |

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#1316086 - 12/01/09 05:02 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Alden]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
Thanks for the info Alden...Gyro must be snoozin'.

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316156 - 12/01/09 06:38 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
Kawai James Online   content
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 9206
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Alden, may I ask if there are any plans to review a Williams instrument in a future edition of the Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer?

Cheers,
James
x
_________________________
Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 fan & occasional rare groove player.

"Richard, none of us could forget you have a CLP-990." - EssBrace, 2014

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#1316183 - 12/01/09 07:12 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Kawai James]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
I somehow recall there was a review of the Williams piano in Keyboard Magazine...it was just a mini-review, but if I remember correctly, they said it was a good bang for the buck...or at least, satisfactory for a beginner on a strict budget.

I'm thinking the poly was 28 or 32.

If someone could wake up Gyro, we might get some specifics. wink

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316201 - 12/01/09 07:46 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Kawai James]
Alden Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/02/06
Posts: 211
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Hi KJ - There are currently no plans to review a Williams.

There will be a Kawai though wink
_________________________
Alden Skinner
DP Technical Advisor, PianoBuyer Magazine
| VSL Imperial | Pianoteq Pro | Logic Pro |

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#1316212 - 12/01/09 08:04 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Alden]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
Hey, the Williams got good user reviews at Guitar Center, and several other sites.

32 note poly on the Symphony Console model.

Gyro definitely knows his stuff.

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316221 - 12/01/09 08:20 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
Alden Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/02/06
Posts: 211
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Snazzy - you're talking about the same guy who thinks half-pedal capability "just encourages sloppy pedaling" and that it shouldn't even be done on an acoustic?!
_________________________
Alden Skinner
DP Technical Advisor, PianoBuyer Magazine
| VSL Imperial | Pianoteq Pro | Logic Pro |

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#1316233 - 12/01/09 08:41 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Alden]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
Well, Alden, he does make many excellent points along with the bad, and so far he's batting at about the same average as the other posters here, including me. wink

At least he's not connected with Williams...as far we know.

Maybe he owns shares in the company? wink

I find his approach refreshing and remarkably candid...and his opinions are at least his own.

There's good in everyone, you know.

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316241 - 12/01/09 08:52 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Sean M.]
edt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 210
when the hammer hits the piano string, the wave begins to travel down the string. Now the heavier the piano hammer, the longer it lays on the string. Also the heavier the piano hammer, the longer it is in contact with the string. sound travels at about 1 foot per millisecond, and a bit faster on the hard wound steel strings on the piano.

Now if the wave travels down to the end of the peg and then comes back to the hammer before it lifts up, there will be damping of the sound.

Typically a hammer will lay on the string for a few milliseconds, and if the hammer is still on the string by the time the wave bounces off the end of the string, the sound quality and quantity is compromised.

A shorter string means that there is a very short time that the hammer can lay on the string before you get this damping. So even though you ideally want the higher register strings to have a heavier hammer to give it more volume, you can't.

The lower strings can let the string lay on the hammer for several more milliseconds, which means that you can use much heavier hammers.

The larger the piano, the heavier the hammers can be from top to bottom.

If you calculate how long the hammer can lay on the string before it catches that rebound wave, you will notice that modern pianos are built so that the hammer leaves the string, a bit less than a millisecond before the wave would have hit the hammer. Pianos are incredibly fine tuned this way, which is why if you hammers even a tiny bit too heavy, the piano will sound awful.

As for why you want scaled action on a digital piano, well, it's all about giving it a good feel. You don't need any weight on the keys at all, you could play on synth action keyboard, and it's cheaper, but it's a lot more fun to play on a piano that emulates perfectly the feel of an actual audio piano.

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#1316284 - 12/01/09 09:45 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
Alden Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/02/06
Posts: 211
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Snazzy - nicely stated and point taken. But if someone told you over and over that no one really needs a Neumann U87 when you can get a perfectly good mic at radio shack that will do the same thing for $19.95, and that you really don't need EQ, effects send, or meters on your board, or that faders just encourage sloppy mic placement wouldn't it start to get a little old after a while? confused

Only human.

Cheers,
A
_________________________
Alden Skinner
DP Technical Advisor, PianoBuyer Magazine
| VSL Imperial | Pianoteq Pro | Logic Pro |

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#1316306 - 12/01/09 10:15 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Alden]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
Originally Posted By: Alden
But if someone told you over and over that no one really needs a Neumann U87 when you can get a perfectly good mic at radio shack that will do the same thing for $19.95, and that you really don't need EQ, effects send, or meters on your board, or that faders just encourage sloppy mic placement wouldn't it start to get a little old after a while? confused

Only human.

Cheers,
A



Well, Alden, this is a piano forum, and I'm looking for answers about electronic pianos, and certainly not mixing boards, microphones or how to place a mic.

If I needed to know that information (which I don't) I can find that out on any of the relevant boards on the Internet.

However, Gyro offers another point of view about digital pianos, and somewhere between his idea and everyone else's views, there lies the answer.

Most of us are biased, however slightly, on this forum, from being employees of piano companies, to those who grew up always using a certain brand, or those who's heroes played a certain instrument.

Gyro, is coming from his own independent ideas of what makes a successful instrument for his needs...I appreciate that kind of angle, even if I don't agree with it sometimes.

Sometimes I wish I could step away from the hype, and choose with a much more open mind, but I can't...at least not as much as I'd like to.

I've had to wade through hopelessly rhetorical posts on this forum, and I'm sure others have waded through mine with equal impatience, but we still manage to find a great answer more often than not.

Saying we're "only human" is just an excuse...we're all different humans.

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316307 - 12/01/09 10:15 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
LesCharles73 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/07
Posts: 739
Loc: Denton Texas
Originally Posted By: snazzyplayer
Well, Alden, he does make many excellent points along with the bad, and so far he's batting at about the same average as the other posters here, including me. wink

At least he's not connected with Williams...as far we know.

Maybe he owns shares in the company? wink

I find his approach refreshing and remarkably candid...and his opinions are at least his own.


Snazzy



You obviously haven't been around here long enough. He's been repeating this same "refreshing" viewpoint constantly for at least 2 years. Copy/Pasted i might add. Gyro is a great guy I'm sure but... well...


Edited by LesCharles73 (12/01/09 10:16 PM)
_________________________
Les C Deal





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#1316310 - 12/01/09 10:18 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
LesCharles73 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/07
Posts: 739
Loc: Denton Texas
Originally Posted By: snazzyplayer


Well, Alden, this is a piano forum, and I'm looking for answers about electronic pianos, and certainly not mixing boards, microphones or how to place a mic.

If I needed to know that information (which I don't) I can find that out on any of the relevant boards on the Internet.


Snazzy


The mic vs. mixer board thing was an analogy...

IMHO Williams < Casios and everyone here knows it, and yup, I've tried a Williams.


Edited by LesCharles73 (12/01/09 10:22 PM)
_________________________
Les C Deal





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#1316317 - 12/01/09 10:29 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: LesCharles73]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
LesCharles, getting back closer to the subject, why do you think companies put light action graded touch keyboards on their pianos?

I'm thinking of those made by Yamaha, for example, the NP-30, and some by Casio as well.

What's the purpose behind it, in your view?

I know these instruments sell extremely well from my buddies who are in the retail end of it....who would buy such a curious blend of actions?

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316371 - 12/01/09 11:58 PM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
LesCharles73 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/07
Posts: 739
Loc: Denton Texas
I believe that a digital piano's goal is to replicate acoustic pianos as accurately as possible - even if it means incorporating some 'necessary evils' ie escapement and graded touch.

Also, many digital piano players also play acoustic (sometimes professionally) and will not accept something that is not as close to the real thing as possible.

Benefits may include:
-Authenticity/Realism
-Dynamic Control
-Ease of Transition back to acoustic, and/or from an acoustic
-Previous Familiarity with graded touch on acoustic
-I'll think of others smile

Thanks for asking! smile

EDIT: Did you mean acoustic pianos? If so I really have no idea. My guess is that it's a Newton Law that can't be fully avoided, or that's just the way that it's been for hundreds of years so it's accepted.


Edited by LesCharles73 (12/02/09 12:00 AM)
_________________________
Les C Deal





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#1316442 - 12/02/09 02:02 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: LesCharles73]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
No, not quite, my friend...I'm wondering why Yamaha and Casio digital pianos use light action (unweighted), but it is graded from bottom to top, similar to graded weighted hammer, but, of course with much less resistance.


You have played a Yamaha NP-30, or a Casio with similar unweighted graded action.

Why would they use this, as it feels nothing like a piano?

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316454 - 12/02/09 02:52 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
edt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 210
snazzyplayer I am pretty sure that every single piano which is advertised with "graded" action is supposed to emulate perfectly the real feel of a piano. so when it says graded hammer action, they mean to sell you a completely realistic piano. some of these digital pianos have springs and obviously they feel like synths, even if the spring is just as hard to press as a piano it doesn't feel the same. of course if you build a digital piano with springs instead of weighted keys it will be hundreds of dollars cheaper and weigh half as much.

I suppose it's possible one day they will find some kind of mechanical spring that will perfectly emulate a real piano, that's the goal anyway, but to the average consumer, if you are buying piano A with springs that costs $500 less than than piano B with weights they won't care that it uses unweighted keys as long as there is some sort of half ass effort to make it feel somewhat like a piano, or at least more like a piano than an accordian.

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#1316475 - 12/02/09 04:33 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: edt]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
So, Joe, do you think the Yamaha NP-30, that has unweighted graded action, feels as much like a piano, as a digital that has weighted graded hammer action, as on the Yamaha P-85?

Why would a manufacturer use graded unweighted action in place of graded weighted hammer action? What would be it's purpose?

I think you might be missing the crux of my question.

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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#1316493 - 12/02/09 05:48 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: snazzyplayer]
Ángel Santana Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/27/09
Posts: 24
Loc: Gran Canaria (Spain)

Hi everybody.

First I'll say that I've spent a lot of years playing guitar (classical, acoustic and electric). I also owned an upright piano (W.H. Barnes) and some keyboards too. Now I'm waiting for a Kawai CN32.

My acoustic piano was a second hand, and came in a very bad condition. I worked a lot trying to improve its state, and get it a little better.

Well, I say that because I know what's the feeling of a "real" instrument, and I preffer it all the way.

I remember the feeling of the vibrations on the keys of the acoustic piano, the response to the touch, the action of the pedals... even I could say that you have a better feeling when playing guitar, your hands directly on the strings (sorry, I loved piano, then guitar and now I returning to piano ;-)).

As you guess, I'm talking about expression and feeling... and thats the reason to look for a graded keyboard if yo want to play the piano (acoustic or digital). The Kawai keyboard and response was very familiar to me, because I've played an acoustic. This doesn't mean electric keyboards are a bad option, I enjoy a lot playing mine, but I miss the feedback of a real piano. Anyway, I know that a digital piano will not be able to produce that feeling (who knows in the future), but there are options very close.

Digital pianos try to get all the advantages of a real piano, and dismiss the "worst" (volume, tunning...), and in fact, one of the best things is the graded hammer action.

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#1316507 - 12/02/09 06:42 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Ángel Santana]
Martin C. Doege Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/09
Posts: 448
Loc: Hamburg, Germany
Originally Posted By: Ángel Santana

As you guess, I'm talking about expression and feeling... and thats the reason to look for a graded keyboard if yo want to play the piano (acoustic or digital). The Kawai keyboard and response was very familiar to me, because I've played an acoustic. This doesn't mean electric keyboards are a bad option, I enjoy a lot playing mine, but I miss the feedback of a real piano. Anyway, I know that a digital piano will not be able to produce that feeling (who knows in the future), but there are options very close.


Trying out a Kawai DP recently, I noticed there was quite a bit of vibration in the keys. I don't know if this is a deliberate design decision by Kawai, or just some kind of random resonance. But it was conspicuous, because normally the keys on a DP feel "dead", and I think it was only one Kawai model that seemed to "buzz" like that. Of course the AvantGrand does feature key vibration, but I don't recall reading anything similar about Kawais...
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Yamaha P-85; Pianoteq Pleyel

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#1316510 - 12/02/09 06:54 AM Re: Scaled Hammer Action -- why? [Re: Ángel Santana]
snazzyplayer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/09
Posts: 983
Loc: Earth
I have not yet played a digital that feels or sounds exactly like a real grand piano.

Some have come very close but digital pianos are basically all the same as far as feedback is concerned.

Sure, some of them even have actual grand piano actions, but they still have hardly any more soul than when digitals first came out, because they all do not give realistic tactile feedback. The keys feel like they are connected to hammers, but these hammers do not feel like they are in a real piano.

All, that is, except the Yamaha Avant Grand...that is a piano with the soul of an acoustic grand piano. It is a piano that makes you feel like you are playing a real grand piano.

Yet, it has all the benefits of a digital piano. Brilliant!

I can see other brands attempt to copy the Avant Grands incredible soul, but, Yamaha was first.

I'm seriously thinking about getting one for my master bedroom.

Snazzy
_________________________
Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)

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Need a stool of some kind
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Schoenberg's Kammersymphonie Op. 9 (for piano)
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Old Schumann Upright
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