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#2017376 - 01/19/13 03:57 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5045
Originally Posted By: concertina
Well, I played both pianos and they seem fine to me, although I'm no expert. I also brought my sister, who teaches piano, and she thought it seemed fine to. So I think that I will assume that it will also be fine for my kids.

This concern just came from a piano salesman who told me that young kids need a piano with a lighter touch, but I didn't know if I should believe him or not. I don't want my kids to injure themselves, obviously, but I don't want them to learn bad habits either!



I learnt piano on a very light-actioned (with shallow key travel) console-sized Yamaha as a child, and can attest that practising exclusively on it wasn't conducive to playing on other pianos, as when doing ABRSM piano exams. Luckily, by the time I reached intermediate standard, I was at a boarding school where the practice rooms had much bigger Yamaha uprights with more 'normal' key weight and travel. Otherwise, I suspect I would have great problems developing my technique and adapting to playing challenging music on better pianos.

Memories can play tricks, but a few years ago, I revisited my childhood home where the little Yamaha still resides, and renewed my acquaintance with it. It was as bad as I remembered it - with such shallow and light key action (and shallow and strident tone to match) that it was difficult to control, and impossible to play softly. Not an instrument to develop a child's control of tone and dynamics. My parents told me the dealer sold them that piano (which was purchased new) on the basis it was 'perfect' for children.......cry.......and not being pianists themselves (nor musical either), they believed him.

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#2017381 - 01/19/13 04:09 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Piano salespeople are often out for a sale for themselves so beware of that. Only a technician can tell you what that piano is really like. Nobody here can tell you what the touch of the piano is, right or wrong. That too, is a personal preference in many cases. Proper regulation would be very important to learning the correct touch. An even touch is crucial to anyone learning how to play the piano.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2017393 - 01/19/13 04:33 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7303
Loc: Rochester MN
Congratulations Concertina!

You've made it through the big part. Good luck with the inspection.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2017411 - 01/19/13 05:00 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: beethoven986]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11789
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: beethoven986


Even some of the new Kawais feel heavy to me. I don't recommend that anyone get a piano that is hard to play, much less a young child. Professional pianists develop all sorts of serious hand injuries by playing on pianos that take too much effort to play, and they have fully developed hands.


I disagree with this statement. I don't think it's the pianos that they are playing that causes injury, it is the way they are playing and/or overplaying that causes injury. I've never heard of a professional pianist getting injured by playing a piano with a heavier action. Certainly, if there's something wrong with the piano it could be difficult to play if you are accustomed to a lighter action. I prefer a heavier action for myself because it forces me to use good technique and I can adjust easier to a lighter action piano.

Quote:
Children are already at a disadvantage because the keys are so big relative to their hand size; a heavy touch will make this worse.


I agree with somewhat. If you have young students who do not yet have a good technique, a heavier action could be harder for them to play. However, the music beginners would be playing there's no risk of injury. The fingers are strong enough to maintain an arch (just ask them to pull your finger with their finger and that nail joint is quite strong) - it's more a matter of concentration on the proper hand shape that matters at this point. The repertoire gets more difficult as they progress technically, so it should not be an issue as long as the piano is not heavy due to poor maintenance.

As a teacher, I recently decided not to buy an upright whose action and sound I liked, because I knew it would be a heavier action than my young students were used to at home and I didn't want to make their lessons more difficult than necessary. I would not have had a problem buying if it were going to be their regular practice instrument.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2017491 - 01/19/13 07:36 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: Morodiene]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3326
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: beethoven986


Even some of the new Kawais feel heavy to me. I don't recommend that anyone get a piano that is hard to play, much less a young child. Professional pianists develop all sorts of serious hand injuries by playing on pianos that take too much effort to play, and they have fully developed hands.


I disagree with this statement. I don't think it's the pianos that they are playing that causes injury, it is the way they are playing and/or overplaying that causes injury. I've never heard of a professional pianist getting injured by playing a piano with a heavier action. Certainly, if there's something wrong with the piano it could be difficult to play if you are accustomed to a lighter action. I prefer a heavier action for myself because it forces me to use good technique and I can adjust easier to a lighter action piano.


You're free to disagree with it, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. While I absolutely agree that many (if not most) hand injuries can be attributed to bad technique and/or over playing, Mack truck syndrome (and key width, but that's another topic) is definitely contributory, and probably causes a lot of that bad technique to begin with. I take issue with the notion that using a heavier action forces one to use good technique... good technique is just as important on a light action, if not more so. As a pianist, I don't believe I should have to fight with a piano; it's unpleasant, and if it's unpleasant, that defeats the purpose of making music. Fortunately, I have the ability to decline playing on pianos I don't like, a luxury to be sure. I am thankful for it.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
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#2017566 - 01/19/13 10:34 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1955
Loc: Philadelphia area
I apologize if 'inertia' is the wrong word, but I think it answers the op's question. The objective for the student is to develop technique, not strength. Ask any baseball pitcher. I've even talked to a shot put thrower who said, "Anybody can get strong. It takes technique to compete." I've seen a 4 month old baby push down piano keys down.

I get confused with all of the approaches to measuring and weighting keys. When playing, we push downward on the key at different distances from the balance rail. Rarely close to the front of the key where weighting measurements are normally taken. (I know a pianist who uses this mechanical advantage when playing long pianissimo passages.) Also how is the friction of the key bushings considered in the different formulas? The natural splay of our hands pushes the keys bushings against the key pins creating changing levels of friction with each key stroke. Take a look at the wear pattern on the key bushings. The keys are moving sideways. Not straight up and down.

I agree that it would be worth the time for Del and others to document their formulations for action weighting and design. The old recordings of players like Rachmaninoff seemed to have pianos that were mechanically fast and responsive. Are we recycling through the same series of trial and error developed through 1920's &30's?

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#2017572 - 01/19/13 10:54 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
j&j Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/09
Posts: 444
Loc: Southwest
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread, especially the technical information that Del provided. With a good piano teacher to show Concertina's children proper technique, appropriate beginner's music, and shorter practice times in the beginning of their lessons, the risk of injury is minimal with a quality grand. IMHO, you want to make sure that your children's practice sessions and lessons are as enjoyable and comfortable as possible so that they'll practice and look forward to each lesson. They will build finger strength as they grow, but they shouldn't have to fight their practice piano to learn. It sounds like either Kawai would be just fine.

One of the good things about taking piano lessons or piano group classes is that it gives me the opportunity to play different pianos with different actions, so I'm not as "thrown" by a different piano on the rare occasion I play in a recital.

Best of luck and let us know what you decide.
_________________________
J & J
Yahama C3 PE
Casio Privia PX-330
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." Pablo Picasso

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#2018005 - 01/20/13 07:39 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: Dave B]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5250
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Dave B
I apologize if 'inertia' is the wrong word, but I think it answers the op's question. The objective for the student is to develop technique, not strength. Ask any baseball pitcher. I've even talked to a shot put thrower who said, "Anybody can get strong. It takes technique to compete." I've seen a 4 month old baby push down piano keys down.

Yes, but…that four-month-old baby pushes the keys down randomly and sporadically. She does not try to repeat the notes tens, or hundreds of thousands of time in rapid succession at ffff power levels. All piano actions can be played with relative ease if only one note is to be played and that only at a moderate level. It doesn’t really matter how heavy the hammers are or how much lead there is in the keys. It’s when the keys need to be repeated quickly that the matter of inertia comes into play. A good, strong pianist with good technique can play most any piano—at least for a time—but with some there is a physical price to pay. I’ve worked with enough good pianists over the years who have sustained permanent physical damage to their fingers and wrists with these pianos that I now believe that a “heavy” action is at least a contributing factor.

This seems to be somewhat like hearing damage. Many people seem to be able to listen to extremely bright and hard sounding pianos for years on end without suffering any adverse side effects. Others end up with permanent hearing damage after relatively brief periods of time.

My feeling now is simply that it is important make people aware of the potential for permanent physical damage and at least attempt to explain why this happens. And, perhaps, make them aware of how it can be avoided. For hundreds of years the piano community managed to get by with much lighter actions and with actions having somewhat shallower key travel. These actions did have hammers that were somewhat lighter than has been common over the past several decades.



Quote:
I get confused with all of the approaches to measuring and weighting keys. When playing, we push downward on the key at different distances from the balance rail. Rarely close to the front of the key where weighting measurements are normally taken. (I know a pianist who uses this mechanical advantage when playing long pianissimo passages.) Also how is the friction of the key bushings considered in the different formulas? The natural splay of our hands pushes the keys bushings against the key pins creating changing levels of friction with each key stroke. Take a look at the wear pattern on the key bushings. The keys are moving sideways. Not straight up and down.

All of this is true; at least to a point. The keys do move relatively straight up and down but it is only because they are guided by a pair of vertical pins. There are at least some standards that are applied to measuring these things but, you’re right, not everyone measures the same way. My own standard is to measure both up and down weights along with key travel at a point 20 mm behind the front edge of the keys. This seems to be about where the average pianist spends most of his or her time.

While the methods in use today to measure key weighting, friction and inertia are still far from perfect they are considerable improvements over the tools we had at our disposal 40 or 50 years ago. They are good enough that we do well not to ignore them.



Quote:
I agree that it would be worth the time for Del and others to document their formulations for action weighting and design. The old recordings of players like Rachmaninoff seemed to have pianos that were mechanically fast and responsive. Are we recycling through the same series of trial and error developed through 1920's &30's?

I do nothing magical when it comes to weighing off keysets. I pay a lot of attention to controlling friction. Experience—and that of my clients over the years—has taught me that the excessively massive hammers are the biggest culprits in actions that are commonly labeled “heavy.” (Assuming, of course, that friction is under control.) So in that sense, yes, we are recycling through the same sort of trial and error process the industry went through from roughly the 1860s through the 1930s. This was a period of intense and wild experimentation. The result being that grand piano makers settled on a hammer mass progression that, by today’s standards, would be considered light to medium. Given this, most of the hammers that I use today also fall into that range.

The really heavy hammers didn’t start showing up until the Asian manufacturers started using them in their attempts to make their pianos more powerful. This practice was quickly emulated by piano makers around the world. The mass of the hammers was offset by modifying the overall action ratios and by leading. Now, finally, we are seeing some manufacturers backing away from very massive and hard hammers. Their tone quality is gradually becoming somewhat warmer and more dynamic.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2018026 - 01/20/13 08:07 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5045
Anyone who's ever played fortepianos (or modern reproductions) of the Classical era, or the early grands of Chopin's time (Pleyels and Erards) will know that not only are their actions lighter than modern pianos (upright or grand) but their key travel is also shallower, and their tone also lack brilliance, depth and power. OK if you're playing a Chopin or Liszt concerto with historically-informed forces but not with a modern symphony orchestra.

The only reason why key actions has gotten heavier and deeper since then is to gain more power - and metal frames also help with the increased string tension required. Octave glissandi was easy on those period instruments but very difficult with modern ones, especially if you have small hands.

But can we turn the clock back?

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#2018040 - 01/20/13 08:59 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7303
Loc: Rochester MN
Not for young students learning to play in 2013.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2018079 - 01/20/13 11:42 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: bennevis]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5250
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Anyone who's ever played fortepianos (or modern reproductions) of the Classical era, or the early grands of Chopin's time (Pleyels and Erards) will know that not only are their actions lighter than modern pianos (upright or grand) but their key travel is also shallower, and their tone also lack brilliance, depth and power. OK if you're playing a Chopin or Liszt concerto with historically-informed forces but not with a modern symphony orchestra.

The only reason why key actions has gotten heavier and deeper since then is to gain more power - and metal frames also help with the increased string tension required. Octave glissandi was easy on those period instruments but very difficult with modern ones, especially if you have small hands.

But can we turn the clock back?

We don't have to turn the clock back. But it would be wise to avoid the extremes.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2018112 - 01/21/13 01:20 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: beethoven986]
musicpassion Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 950
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: beethoven986
I take issue with the notion that using a heavier action forces one to use good technique... good technique is just as important on a light action, if not more so. As a pianist, I don't believe I should have to fight with a piano; it's unpleasant, and if it's unpleasant, that defeats the purpose of making music.

I agree.

I think heavy - and clunky - actions are sometimes tolerated with the attitude that "the pianists just needs to be strong enough" (or have good enough technique) to play the instrument. It's like telling a race car driver he just needs to have good enough technique win the race in a Chevy Suburban.

Actually, I think light action reveals a pianist's technique more than heavy action.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2018287 - 01/21/13 10:33 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: bennevis]
jim ialeggio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 621
Loc: shirley, MA
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Anyone who's ever played fortepianos (or modern reproductions) of the Classical era, or the early grands of Chopin's time (Pleyels and Erards) will know that not only are their actions lighter than modern pianos (upright or grand) but their key travel is also shallower...


Likewise, the cascades of arpeggios that make Schubert so wonderful were written for instruments where the cascades were created by rolling the hand and wrist, not by striking each individual key, as we do in a modern piano. This not only because of the action set up, but because the sustain of these instruments was quite short...one had to play many closely spaced notes to create the "impression" of sustain, when the sustain effect was called for.

From the get-go, playing this music on a modern piano, despite the fact that it is called "piano literature", is a serious "interpretation" and "re-invention" of the music.

Fine...so be it. The modern piano has much to offer in terms of sustain that can benefit this music as an "interpretation" of the composer's intent is(if one can ever claim to know what this)...and be quite beautiful in it own right.

However, this music is not the music of "power", but rather it is the music of lyricism.

Power was not even part of the equation until the very late romantics who, as it were, were the first superstars performing in larger venues. The concept of their music needed to fit the intended large venues,and required power.

This leaves the modern piano in a position where it is asked to do the impossible. It is asked to be all things to all music in all venues. Even when its only used in a home setting or small chamber setting, as a huge percentage of pianos are, it is asked to pretend its a 9 ft piano projecting to the back of symphony hall over a symphony Orchestra.

...sadly, this often leaves lyricism to languish.

So in my view, as is so often the case, the issue really is one of accurately defining the problem, before offering the solution. In terms of defining an action inertia, the first step is to ask one's self what level of inertia turns on one's muse.

What level of inertia draws you into your piano and your preferred music? What level of inertia suites the particular music you love to play?...as most of us have a smaller subset of the literature that really speaks to us. What level of inertia suites your body musculature? What level of inertia makes it possible for you to negotiate the technique requirements of your preferred literature? ...a biggy...what level of action inertia makes it possible for your piano's tone to sound how you wished it sounded, as hammer mass( and its inertial consequences) has serious tonal implications, as Del has described so well.

These are the priority questions, at least in my opinion, because if they are ignored the joy of music making often recedes and the playing gradually stops.

Unfortunately though, they are often not the first questions one asks. Instead they are replaced with; Will the feel of this action effect my meteoric rise to stardom? Or,will I be able to play other instruments on the extremely rare occasion that I do this? Or...some other concern that is not necessarily the voice of one's muse speaking but some imposed opinion or concern.

Imposed opinions may have a place sometimes for professional performing concert pianists, but lets be real...these people are outliers. They must develop musculatures that many of us don't have, will never have, and simply aren't needed for us to enjoy playing our own music for the shear pleasure of it. Or put another way, the high inertia built into concerto instruments do not complement the end use tonal requirements of 99.99% of the pianos in the world.


Originally Posted By: bennevis
...But can we turn the clock back?

Not turn the clock back, but realize that the piano action's inertia and tone can and should be be targeted to suite musical requirements and customized to suite different personal tastes.

Jim Ialeggio


Edited by jim ialeggio (01/21/13 03:08 PM)
_________________________
Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
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#2018421 - 01/21/13 01:35 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Steven Y. A. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/13
Posts: 291
Loc: Toronto
I have a question. When I compare upright action vs grand, even the same make (ie. Renner grand action vs upright action), I feel theres a strong initial resistence on the upright pianos.
means its harder to move the key softly. Why is that?
_________________________
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#2018465 - 01/21/13 03:13 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1298
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
When I was young and just learning the instrument I thought a heavy action would help strengthen and develop my technique. I had an upright at the time. My parents had a tech add lead wieghts to each key stick (behind the fall board). BIG MISTAKE. I have no idea what the toughweight turned out to be, but I imagine it could be measured in lbs. I developed chronic tendonitis in my right hand that I've had the rest of my life. I developed ganglion cysts which required 2 surgeries and now I need a third. Now I'm constantly tring to find ways to get the action as light as possible.
_________________________
Do or do not. There is no try.

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#2018555 - 01/21/13 06:38 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: Ralph]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5250
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Ralph
When I was young and just learning the instrument I thought a heavy action would help strengthen and develop my technique. I had an upright at the time. My parents had a tech add lead wieghts to each key stick (behind the fall board). BIG MISTAKE. I have no idea what the toughweight turned out to be, but I imagine it could be measured in lbs. I developed chronic tendonitis in my right hand that I've had the rest of my life. I developed ganglion cysts which required 2 surgeries and now I need a third. Now I'm constantly tring to find ways to get the action as light as possible.

Sadly Ralph's case is not an isolated one.

There is no need to panic or to stop playing the piano or to not give kids lessons. Just keep it reasonable.

I rest my case....

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2018638 - 01/21/13 09:28 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: Steven Y. A.]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1939
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: Steven Y. A.
I have a question. When I compare upright action vs grand, even the same make (ie. Renner grand action vs upright action), I feel theres a strong initial resistence on the upright pianos.
means its harder to move the key softly. Why is that?


My upright has a lighter action than the grand so it may be the exception to prove your rule. A few of the keys used to feel heavy because their dampers needed adjustment.

In a grand you have to lift the hammer against gravity whereas you only have to rotate it an upright. People who have measured the forces and moments of inertia will be able to give you quantitative answers.

As this thread is about Kawai, I'd suggest you go and compare Kawai uprights and grands with their Millenium actions. That would give you a yardstick to assess other pianos.
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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