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Topic Options
#1524415 - 09/28/10 02:20 PM Downweights
Lingyis Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 832
This is actually a post I made on a separate topic, but the title was bad because I didn't know as much as I do now. I want to get you guys' opinion on this.

I haven't done the upweights... but I measured the downweights on all 88 keys. It took me a long time. The pedal is held the entire time, but no rapping was done. Using 1 quarter = 5.67 grams and 1 dime = 2.27 grams, here are some statistics:

58/88 weigh < 10 quarters (56.7 grams) (i taped 10 quarters together to facilitate the process)

The distribution of keys < 56.7g: 13-10-8-9-6-3-6-3 (each number represent an octave, starting from the top octave going from C-C, to the 3 lowest keys) There's noise in this data though: a couple months ago my technician stopped by a little bit and oiled up the bushings for several notes in the middle to upper register. I don't remember which ones.

8 keys weigh > 68 grams all of them in the 2 lowest octaves

Worst offender: lowest D comes in at a whopping 76 grams (13 quarters + 1 dime)

I'm guessing that's why it's especially my left hand that's been getting tired.

Generalizing, the most played keys are the most messed up. Presumably, playing the piano when the bushings were moist had a permanent effect.

What do you guys think?

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#1524437 - 09/28/10 02:50 PM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
You mention in the other topic that no 'rapping' was done. The key needs to be encouraged to move to overcome static friction, by lightly tapping it or tapping near it. If there is enough weight on the key when it is tapped, then the key will continue to move, and this is the correct measured downweight. However, the weight needed on the key to START the movement is greater than the actual downweight, and so the measurements you have made may not be accurate.

Having said that, if you feel the downweight is too much, have your tech take a look to suggest ways to improve it. Perhaps the keys just need easing, which is a pretty simple procedure.
Phil Dickson
The Cycling Piano Tuner

#1524449 - 09/28/10 03:11 PM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
Lingyis Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 832
Yeah, I didn't do rapping on the keys. I still don't understand exactly how to rap them, but I tried to slightly nudge UP the keys and then release them when the weight on. Didn't seem to do too much.

At least everything was done in a consistent manner. I'm wondering, why is rapping important? After all, when you play the note, it's the "proper downweight" + static friction that matter, no?

#1524541 - 09/28/10 06:05 PM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
Lingyis Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 832
I don't know, what really annoys me is that my technician told me that when it's less moist, everything will go back to normal, no problems. I'm definitely not seeing that. I guess I should get a technician whom I trust. grrr...

#1524547 - 09/28/10 06:11 PM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
Les Koltvedt Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/05
Posts: 3195
Loc: Canton, MI
Originally Posted By: Lingyis
I don't know, what really annoys me is that my technician told me that when it's less moist, everything will go back to normal, no problems. I'm definitely not seeing that. I guess I should get a technician whom I trust. grrr...

At the very least, get a second opinion.

Edited by Monster M&H (09/28/10 06:11 PM)
Les Koltvedt
LK Piano
Servicing the S. Eastern Michigan Area
PTG Associate

#1524552 - 09/28/10 06:14 PM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
Imagine pushing a very heavy trolley that's on wheels. The initial push to get it going can be quite an effort, but once it is actually going, the thing doesn't seem that heavy. The static friction only has to be overcome for a moment, after that it is just the retarding forces that need to keep being overcome, and these are much lower.
But if the wheels on the trolley are poor, rusty and old, then the retarding forces will be much greater when the trolley is moving, and so it will seem heavier.

When playing the piano, the initial force we use is always much greater than the force needed to play the key. The sensation of heaviness in the action, I think, comes from the continual force needed after the key is struck a lot more than the instantaneous force needed to move it.

More relevantly, downforce measurements taken from factory specifications are measured without the static friction component, and so comparing your measurements with these measurements is meaningless, so it is difficult to say whether your piano is actually heavier than it should be according to factory specs, or whether it is just heavier than you would like it to be.

Of course, what your tech said was right - if you think there is a problem, then there is a problem, regardless of how the measurements compare to the factory specs. It's your piano!

But definitely get either that tech back in or a different tech and explain the problem, and he'll advise what can be done.

What your tech said would happen may not have happened, but his reasoning was sound, and he may well have seen other pianos exhibit the same problem. However, no piano should ever become hard to play because of atmospheric conditions (unless they are very extreme)- the tolerances in the regulation should be set up so they don't.
Phil Dickson
The Cycling Piano Tuner

#1524564 - 09/28/10 06:23 PM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22265
Loc: Oakland
The first thing to do before considering weights is to regulate the piano. If the piano is not regulated, nothing else will be accurate.
Semipro Tech

#1524722 - 09/29/10 12:07 AM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1392
Loc: Michigan
Measuring weights has become all the rage. There is a place for it, but the sensation of resistance may have to do with other things than the ability of a key to statically support a given amount of weight.

68 grams can actually be "light" depending on how the action is set up. As I said, there are more issues to look into. I'd suggest getting someone that is known to be competent with action setup and have them have a look.

You don't mention whether this is a Bozo Imperial or a Whitney spinet . . .
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

#1524740 - 09/29/10 12:49 AM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
Lingyis Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 832
Thanks for all the response. It's a Steinway B.

I also have an electric piano with a half-decent action. It's a Technics. I'm surprised that when I measure it's downweight, all the keys are also pretty close to 10 quarters!

But the piano feel much, much lighter than the Steinway. I can play the Black Key etude at an extremely fast speed on the electric piano without breaking a sweat, but doing so at the Steinway, I'll actually need to sit up, position myself properly, and still can't play at that speed.

So like people here have said, I suppose there's a lot more to the action than this one downweight metric!

#1524776 - 09/29/10 03:51 AM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
Gadzar Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/15/06
Posts: 2010
Loc: Mexico City
I don't think it is a moisture issue. If it was then the problem would be not returning keys, hammers, jacks, etc.

Here the symptoms are different: the action plays well but it feels heavy.
Rafael Melo
Piano Technician

Serving Mexico City and suburbs.


#1524848 - 09/29/10 07:52 AM Re: Downweights [Re: Lingyis]
UnrightTooner Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 5219
Loc: Bradford County, PA
I played around with dynamic testing of an action a while ago. I took a plastic tube about a foot long and cut a slot along the entire length of it about 3/8 inches wide. Then I used a small rubber "superball" and released it from different heights from the keys by using a pencil in the slot. I would try to find the distance that dropping the ball would just barely make the note sound. I did not make a formal study or anything but it convinced me that the feel of heaviness in touch has more to do with inertia than with downweight.

Also, there are times when a downweight measurement will stall out due to the changing leverage as the key pivots first on the back of the balance rail bushing and then the front of the balance rail bushing. I haven’t seen this mentioned before.
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?


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