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#2009831 - 01/06/13 04:31 AM Keybed/action: a matter of perception?
mabraman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/24/12
Posts: 321
Loc: Valencia, Spain
Once and again, we read the same question. Is that action better than the other? Is it mor realistic?
Leaving aside technical details, which most of times aren't really helpful to those who question, I'd like to share my view.

There's no such thing as an "action" that can only be felt by our fingers. Unless you were deaf.

What we feel is combined/determined by what we hear. I can't be the only one who thinks so, because it's so obvious that,as soon as you start modifying some parameters, like hammer delay, key off/on effects, voicings from mellow to bright and so on...the feeling of the keybed is completely different. And physically it's the same!!

Strange that we don't talk much about this.At least I haven't read anything.
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#2009838 - 01/06/13 05:22 AM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5273
It's a given that on acoustics, our perception of their action is influenced by their tonal quality, overall loudness for a given key strike and response to the pianist's touch. If the sound on a piano becomes more brilliant and louder more quickly for a smaller increase in strength of key strike, we perceive that piano's action as lighter than one on which we have to hit much harder to produce the same effect.

But on DPs, it's very easy to judge and compare their actions objectively: just switch them off, and play the keyboards silently.
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#2009847 - 01/06/13 05:58 AM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: bennevis]
mabraman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/24/12
Posts: 321
Loc: Valencia, Spain
Originally Posted By: bennevis
[...] our perception of their action is influenced by their tonal quality, overall loudness for a given key strike and response to the pianist's touch. If the sound on a piano becomes more brilliant and louder more quickly for a smaller increase in strength of key strike, we perceive that piano's action as lighter than one on which we have to hit much harder to produce the same effect.

But on DPs, it's very easy to judge and compare their actions objectively: just switch them off, and play the keyboards silently.


...but we don´t play DPs switched off! So what you told about acoustics can be applied to DPs, word by word.
I own one with RH II action, ivory-like covering keys. What I feel when switched off is that it's deeper than others (GH i.e.), the return of key is softer than others (Roland, i.e.),
and it`s not as padded as others, though it's not hard at the bottom.
Let's switch the thing on, and with default settings/grand concert 1 the touch feels stiffer at the bottom as soon as you decisively hit one key. Now let's set some mechanical key sounds down in 5 steps, to zero. And voi-la, it's like walking on grass.
Then let's add some hammer delay, and try this on the mellows...it's even sandy.I guess it happens because the mellow voicings are fatter and you just hit the keys more gently, and hammer delay breaks the association between sound/and touch so the keybed feels softer.
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Learning piano from scratch since September, 2012.
Kawai ES7.

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#2009860 - 01/06/13 07:04 AM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
pianoxcape Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/29/08
Posts: 72
Loc: Cape Cod
this is a very interesting field - 'psycho-acoustics' I believe is the term... In fact, when you change the setting on your piano/keyboard from "Hard", "Medium", "soft", etc.., the WEIGHT and MECHANICS of the key do not change - the only thing that changes is the way the sound engine responds to the velocity of the keys being played...

Very interesting indeed..

I think a great solution to these debates would be a mechanically adjustable key action - where the true weight of the keys can be modified. Then everyone can be happy smile

- Gary
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#2009885 - 01/06/13 08:26 AM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
Carlos-CR Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/05/12
Posts: 64
Loc: Madrid, Spain
Originally Posted By: mabraman
Originally Posted By: bennevis
[...] our perception of their action is influenced by their tonal quality, overall loudness for a given key strike and response to the pianist's touch. If the sound on a piano becomes more brilliant and louder more quickly for a smaller increase in strength of key strike, we perceive that piano's action as lighter than one on which we have to hit much harder to produce the same effect.

But on DPs, it's very easy to judge and compare their actions objectively: just switch them off, and play the keyboards silently.


...but we don´t play DPs switched off! So what you told about acoustics can be applied to DPs, word by word.
I own one with RH II action, ivory-like covering keys. What I feel when switched off is that it's deeper than others (GH i.e.), the return of key is softer than others (Roland, i.e.),
and it`s not as padded as others, though it's not hard at the bottom.
Let's switch the thing on, and with default settings/grand concert 1 the touch feels stiffer at the bottom as soon as you decisively hit one key. Now let's set some mechanical key sounds down in 5 steps, to zero. And voi-la, it's like walking on grass.
Then let's add some hammer delay, and try this on the mellows...it's even sandy.I guess it happens because the mellow voicings are fatter and you just hit the keys more gently, and hammer delay breaks the association between sound/and touch so the keybed feels softer.


For me it's not so. The action always feel the same. What is different is the response to the keypresses. I mean, if you lower the sound you have to hit harder to achieve a given volume, but that doesn't make me feel the action as harder. You just have to adjust your playing to the new conditions.

I can even switch voices to mellow piano, guitar, or whatever, but the perception of the action doesn't change.

Carlos

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#2009898 - 01/06/13 08:55 AM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
MacMacMac Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 3835
Loc: North Carolina
I'm with you on this, Carlos. The keyboard always feels the same to me, regardless of the velocity curve setting.

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#2009908 - 01/06/13 09:20 AM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3554
>Strange that we don't talk much about this.At least I haven't read anything.

I have seen this issue coming up many times, last time about a week ago. Usually as part of a different question about the action.
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#2009913 - 01/06/13 09:33 AM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
This has been discussed in the past as I know for a fact I've mentioned it.

Changing the velocity sensitivity makes it feel like you're playing a different keyboard. Also, changing the sound from piano to organ or to strings can make the action appear to be different.

Of course, some actions are just bad to begin with and changing the velocity sensitivity or attack can make it different though not necessarily better.
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#2009994 - 01/06/13 01:19 PM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3483
Loc: Pennsylvania
You can definitely fool my brain by changing the velocity curve and even such things as speaker placement and volume. I actually get very annoyed with myself when I go to a piano store and compare a bunch of different pianos because playing two pianos that I know have the same action (say the Yamaha P155 and Yamaha YDP181) provide very different experiences. Just a few days ago I played a CLP430 and P155 that were side by side (these don't technically have the same action, but they are supposed to be very similar) and they were night and day different.

Playing without sound removes these variables, but isn't helpful to me in knowing whether a particular action is more like an acoustic action. With acoustics, the action and sound are tightly related and it's hard to separate the two. Removing the sound, as you can with a digital, leaves you without something to compare against. Still a useful exercise, but for me playing without sound is of limited value.

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#2010085 - 01/06/13 03:11 PM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
Adro Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 27
Loc: Northants UK
Fascinating stuff. I completely believe that the perceived feel of an 'action' will be influenced by altered acoustic parameters. Therefore if you only ever play 1 piano then it is paramount to have an instrument that you like in terms of both sound and feel (inc pedals). That is - it feels right to you.

if however, you practice at home on a DP but play at other locations on various pianos then the physical characteristics of your home piano need to fulfil another need. I.e it needs to cause you to develop and maintain a sound techniue that renders you capable of playing any instrument.

This in my conundrum at present. I have a 17 year old Technics Digital Piano that I use to drive Ivory II GP's. I adjust the velocity curve to suit and it sounds and feels good. I have a sneaking suspicion though that the old action is physically light and lacks grading from base to treble. I am therefore concerned that my playing skill is not transportable. This has been borne out when I've tried other DP's (mostly Yamaha). All of them feel heavier in the base and more definite throughout. The hybrid NU1 feels different but nice whereas the Avant Grand N1 feels much too heavy. When I play these pianos it's as if I'm nervous and afraid of sounding the notes. I think this down to technique that is being limited by a physically light action.

I think that this means that despite liking my current instrument, I ought to change to on that has an action that is physically heavier irrespective of what I perceive. Does this make sense?

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#2010142 - 01/06/13 04:58 PM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: mabraman]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3483
Loc: Pennsylvania
Quote:
I think that this means that despite liking my current instrument, I ought to change to on that has an action that is physically heavier irrespective of what I perceive. Does this make sense?


Things like this depend on how often you expect to play other pianos, especially in contexts that matter. Almost all my playing is at home on my own piano, so if my home piano is the way I want it, it's fine. However, once a week or so I end up accompanying a choir at church, sometimes on a grand other times on an upright. If it wasn't for that and the fact that I expect that opportunity to keep coming up, I'm not sure I'd bother.

This forum has wide range of people. Some will almost never perform on anything but their own piano, others have to perform on a wide variety all the time. So I guess it depends on who you are.

The other thing I'd like to point out is that although it is best to practice on an instrument exactly like what you will perform on so as to reduce the adjustment period, I also find that it doesn't take that long to adjust. Playing on a very different or inferior piano is much better than not practicing at all.


Edited by gvfarns (01/06/13 04:58 PM)

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#2010245 - 01/06/13 08:49 PM Re: Keybed/action: a matter of perception? [Re: gvfarns]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12044
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Quote:
I think that this means that despite liking my current instrument, I ought to change to on that has an action that is physically heavier irrespective of what I perceive. Does this make sense?


Things like this depend on how often you expect to play other pianos, especially in contexts that matter. Almost all my playing is at home on my own piano, so if my home piano is the way I want it, it's fine. However, once a week or so I end up accompanying a choir at church, sometimes on a grand other times on an upright. If it wasn't for that and the fact that I expect that opportunity to keep coming up, I'm not sure I'd bother.

This forum has wide range of people. Some will almost never perform on anything but their own piano, others have to perform on a wide variety all the time. So I guess it depends on who you are.

The other thing I'd like to point out is that although it is best to practice on an instrument exactly like what you will perform on so as to reduce the adjustment period, I also find that it doesn't take that long to adjust. Playing on a very different or inferior piano is much better than not practicing at all.


I prefer to play on a heavier action piano regularly, because I have an easier time adjusting to a light vs. going from light to heavier action. But if you aren't a performing pianist, then just play what you feel comfortable with and don't worry about the action. If you take lessons on an acoustic piano, however, you may want to try to practice a bit on other pianos during the week to keep your 'chops' up.
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