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#2016613 - 01/18/13 10:02 AM Heavy touch for young students?
concertina Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/11
Posts: 43
Loc: Canada
I am going to look at a couple of Kawai RX1s tomorrow, one from 1997 and the other from 2001. I have heard that Kawai's old action had quite a heavy feel. Of course I will try it for myself, but I have three young children and I would like for them all to learn to play.

One piano salesperson told me that young children need a light touch so they don't injure themselves. Is this true? How much does it really matter? I don't want to miss out on a good piano that I like because I'm worried about a problem that doesn't exist.

Thanks!

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#2016626 - 01/18/13 10:27 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
jawhitti Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/12
Posts: 235
Largely I think that's BS. Young students can injure themselves on light action as easily as a heavier one - it's bad technique that causes injury, and the sorts of pieces young children start out with don't necessarily call for a lot of finesse anyway smile

As long as the action is "a bit firm" and not "like concrete" I wouldn't worry about it.

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#2016668 - 01/18/13 11:37 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
PianoWorksATL Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/09
Posts: 2706
Loc: Atlanta, GA
We overestimate the strength of little fingers. For children younger than 8, I definitely steer toward middle weight actions over firmer ones.

Young children must be taught posture and position, but if they are progressing fast enough to require lessons on technique, then a heavy weight piano would compound their early challenges.

The weight of Kawai's actions has varied and continues to vary. I believe their target is slightly firmer than average. If it is heavier than that, it needs service.

Fixes in the field tend to address regulation for evenness but not weight specifically, so you should consult with a tech before assuming it's an easy or standard fix. If you don't have that kind of relationship with a tech, then you absolutely should be concerned about heavy actions.

How old is your child? Is your child average, larger or petite physically?
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#2016685 - 01/18/13 11:56 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7401
Loc: Rochester MN
Concertina,

Use your own judgement. You know your children and will be able to tell by the feel of resistance and weight of the keys. You can judge if you feel that they would pose a problem. There should be no problem with young students if the piano falls into a normal weight for pianos.

Neglected pianos can become stiff with disuse. That can be alleviated by a good action service and the parts can be lubricated. That is very different than the touch/weight design or modification of the instrument.

As you have stated previously, after you audition the pianos you intend to have it inspected by a technician. Add this question to the list of concerns about the piano you have selected.

Something to keep in mind is that the piano teacher should be teaching proper technique, from day one, to make sure that there are not injuries. You might pose this same question in the teachers forum. They're the pros in this matter.
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Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2016703 - 01/18/13 12:24 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1260
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Touch weight is fairly consistent from brand to brand, and the target is tapering from roughly 55 grams in the bass to about 48 grams in the upper treble. If there is deviation from that, ANY piano should be corrected to reflect that. Friction comes from any bearing/rubbing points in the action and in addition, the weight of the hammer itself of course plays a role. Reducing hammer weight is in a ratio of about 1:5. That is, if you remove a gram of weight from a hammer, it will reduce touchweight 5 grams. Steering away from a given manufacturer because of this is counterproductive.Any competent tech can fix the problem.

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#2016716 - 01/18/13 12:53 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1188
some of the old Kawais ended up very heavy, but I don't think that a Kawai from the late 90s would have a heavy touch - any that I've played from that period have been quite normal.

I wouldn't recommend buying a piano that has a heavy touch, for children or anyone. There is a certain amount of weight required, yes, but something overly heavy and difficult to play is probably just wrong.

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#2016724 - 01/18/13 01:11 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
jawhitti Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/12
Posts: 235
A really really light action can be just as hard to control. I've played a few that really pissed me off that way smile

The perception that the action is heavy can also just mean that the piano needs voicing / regulation work. Someone used to a very bright piano might find a mellower piano to feel like it has a "heavy action" just because they are subconsciously banging on it harder to try to get the timbre they're used to.


Edited by jawhitti (01/18/13 01:11 PM)

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#2016744 - 01/18/13 01:49 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3334
Originally Posted By: concertina
I am going to look at a couple of Kawai RX1s tomorrow, one from 1997 and the other from 2001. I have heard that Kawai's old action had quite a heavy feel. Of course I will try it for myself, but I have three young children and I would like for them all to learn to play.

One piano salesperson told me that young children need a light touch so they don't injure themselves. Is this true? How much does it really matter? I don't want to miss out on a good piano that I like because I'm worried about a problem that doesn't exist.

Thanks!


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. Children are already at a disadvantage because the keys are so big relative to their hand size; a heavy touch will make this worse.
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#2016760 - 01/18/13 02:23 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5285
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: concertina
One piano salesperson told me that young children need a light touch so they don't injure themselves. Is this true? How much does it really matter? I don't want to miss out on a good piano that I like because I'm worried about a problem that doesn't exist.

The question here is not just one of touchweight but of touchinertia. The two are related but they are not the same thing.

Most of the inertia in a piano action comes from the mass, or weight, of the hammers. This, combined with the overall action ratio—the amount of hammer travel relative to some amount of key travel—and the combined friction of all of the sliding and rotating components of the action, gives us the amount of key downforce required to move the hammers. In the modern piano action this amount of keyforce would be very high. Too high for comfort. So the weight of the hammers is counterbalanced by adding some amount of lead weight to the front of the keys. And herein lies the problem with how we generally discuss touchweight.

To illustrate the problem let’s assume we have two actions with identical lever ratios and identical amounts of friction. One action has relatively massive—“heavy”—hammers and the other has hammers of relatively low mass—i.e., “light” hammers. Both of these actions can be “weighed off” to yield identical amounts of downweight as measured by the common technique used by piano technicians. But one action will be decidedly more difficult to play; particularly at forte and above volume levels.

The problem is found in the overall inertia found in the systems. The action with the more massive hammers will require more lead located in the forward half of the keys to counterbalance the high mass of the hammers and achieve that low key downweight. While your fingers may not notice this when playing at very quiet pianissimo levels they certainly will with the action is played hard or fast. It takes a lot of finger effort to move all that mass quickly.

While some pianists—including children—do not seem to ever have problems with this some do. Over the years I have observed that every client I’ve had who has developed finger or joint problems related to their piano playing have done so on pianos featuring relatively massive hammers and lots of counterbalancing weight. Or on pianos with actions having a numerically low overall action ratio and the accompanying long key travel. Increasing the amount of key travel for a given amount of hammer travel is another way to compensate for relatively massive hammers. With a numerically low overall action ratio less lead is required to counterbalance the massive hammers but the key stroke is made longer and the fingers have to move further to make the hammers strike the strings.

So, the question is not just one of finding a piano with a “light touch” in a static condition, it is one of finding a piano with a relatively low-inertia action. This action will have relatively few keyleads and the amount of key travel will be reasonable. In my opinion it is at least worth asking about this. The salesperson may or may not know what you’re talking about—which should be telling you something all by itself—but he or she may be able to connect you with a technician who can help you make an informed purchasing decision.

ddf


Edited by Del (01/18/13 02:24 PM)
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#2016816 - 01/18/13 04:55 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
concertina Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/11
Posts: 43
Loc: Canada
Wow, thanks for all that information, Del. So to summarize, I should look for something where the keys don't travel too far, and the action is responsive at both the quietest and loudest levels?

I've heard great things about Kawai's new action, and I've played it and liked it myself, but these pianos I will be looking at would have their older action. I have never tried it and I'm not a very experienced pianist myself, so I guess I just wanted some reassurance that if it feels okay to me, it's not going to cause problems for my kids. The oldest is 6, by the way, so I'm guessing we have a lot of years of piano learning ahead of us!

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#2016840 - 01/18/13 06:09 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1260
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Del, of course the inertia issue cannot be debated, but given that she is essentially pondering modern instruments from major manufacturers, the likelihood of having an action from the majors that is really out of whack as regards geometry would be remote, but having a stiff action because of tight flanges or key bushings for example would be more likely?? I can't imagine either Kawai or Yamaha for example allowing something substandard to leave the factory. They are pretty diligent about that kind of thing, not just for accuracy but for the "beauty of uniformity", according to a Yamaha text.

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#2016847 - 01/18/13 06:24 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: John Pels]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3334
Originally Posted By: John Pels
Del, of course the inertia issue cannot be debated, but given that she is essentially pondering modern instruments from major manufacturers, the likelihood of having an action from the majors that is really out of whack as regards geometry would be remote, but having a stiff action because of tight flanges or key bushings for example would be more likely?? I can't imagine either Kawai or Yamaha for example allowing something substandard to leave the factory. They are pretty diligent about that kind of thing, not just for accuracy but for the "beauty of uniformity", according to a Yamaha text.


That would depend on what your definition of "substandard" or "out of whack" is. If one fancies a heavier touch, they are likely to find the latest offerings by Steinway or Fazioli to be unacceptable. Likewise, one who prefers a light touch would probably find many new Steingraebers to be problematic. While the latest Yamaha pianos have been on the light side, I have always thought that Kawais tend to feel too heavy. While I do not discount the importance of regulation and friction issues, I would not at all be surprised if the ratio/mass relationship was contributory.
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#2016856 - 01/18/13 06:53 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: John Pels]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5285
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: John Pels
Del, of course the inertia issue cannot be debated, but given that she is essentially pondering modern instruments from major manufacturers, the likelihood of having an action from the majors that is really out of whack as regards geometry would be remote, but having a stiff action because of tight flanges or key bushings for example would be more likely?? I can't imagine either Kawai or Yamaha for example allowing something substandard to leave the factory. They are pretty diligent about that kind of thing, not just for accuracy but for the "beauty of uniformity", according to a Yamaha text.

Do you really think so? That certainly doesn't match my experience. I've encounter examples of several piano brands and models with hammers that are heavy enough to require either excessive (in my opinion, at least) leading and/or excessive key travel (again, in my opinion) to avoid static downweights upwards of 54 ‒ 56 grams.

Most Japanese piano manufacturers have produced pianos with hammers in the heavy to vary heavy range. They are balanced by lead and key travel well upwards of 10 mm. It is sad, I think, that these standards have become the norm and are no longer considered to be problematic (as they once were before advertising and marketing numbed us into believing that bold, hard power was the only criteria by which a good piano should be judged).

I suppose my prejudice (and, perhaps, my age) might be showing here, but when I started out in this business the standard key travel was more like 9.5 mm and it was unusual to find more than four leads in even the lowest keys. Today it is not unusual to find pianos with at least five leads in those same keys along with key travel in the 10.5 mm range. This may not be considered substandard by some but try telling that to the pianists who have had to either reduce their playing time or, in some cases, stop altogether.

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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#2016861 - 01/18/13 07:04 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7401
Loc: Rochester MN
OK Gang - Do you think, with all of this back and forth, that Concertia now considers purchasing a 2nd. hand RX-1 to be more difficult than buying a used nuclear reactor?

Geeze, how could anyone ever buy any piano? They should all come with a WARNING label.

Maybe a toy Casio keyboard with no action resistance would be the proper choice.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2016901 - 01/18/13 08:17 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: Minnesota Marty]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3334
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
OK Gang - Do you think, with all of this back and forth, that Concertia now considers purchasing a 2nd. hand RX-1 to be more difficult than buying a used nuclear reactor?


No. Have you ever tried to buy a nuclear reactor? So much red tape, it's unbelievable.

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Geeze, how could anyone ever buy any piano? They should all come with a WARNING label.


Only spinets, very old tall uprights, square pianos, and other similarly bad instruments.

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Maybe a toy Casio keyboard with no action resistance would be the proper choice.


I started on a keyboard. Why not?
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M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
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#2016902 - 01/18/13 08:18 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
concertina Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/11
Posts: 43
Loc: Canada
I don't know about classified weapons, but I do find this more confusing than buying a car!

So Del, how does one go about measuring key travel, or is this best left to the pros? Can I accurately measure the touch in some way, or do I just have to guess, based on my own limited experience, whether I am doing my kids a big favour by getting them a grand piano to start on, or ruining them forever?

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#2016933 - 01/18/13 09:27 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1260
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Concertina, you are doing your kids a BIG favor by buying a grand. If there are touchweight issues or inertia issues, they can be dealt with by a competent tech. I have taught a lot of students over the last 30 years with new Kawais and Yamahas and seemingly the issues discussed are not that prevalent. I teach in my students homes and I have had firsthand experience with their instruments. It is always my advice that if you are not a pianist, it would be best to enlist the services of someone that can play at an advanced level to evaluate any instrument. That, and a competent tech will get you moving in the right direction.

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#2016938 - 01/18/13 09:36 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Steven Y. A. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/13
Posts: 291
Loc: Toronto
Great write up Del! Very informative.
I am also selecting an upright piano for my future daughter. What do you think of Renner upright action? ( used in Schimmel and Vogel upright)
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#2016944 - 01/18/13 09:50 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1260
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Del, as regards those key travel specs, though many American companies of yesteryear subscribed to the shallow 3/8" dip, it was never to my taste as a pianist. My first rebuild was a vintage 9' Knabe and it called for that spec, along with the 1/2" key height for sharps. When I completed the rebuild and set up the action, I was quite disappointed in how it felt. SO, I set about comparing specs with other pianos and I found that Steinway as an example used a 10mm dip and though they quote a strange method of measuring sharp height, in the final analysis it amounted to around 12mm. Actually their dip spec is 10-10.75 mm. It may just be that since I had played a lot of Steinways all through college that I was just accustomed to those specs, but I do note that these days they appear to be pretty much standard for European and Asian instruments as well. Anyhow, I figured that if it worked for Steinway it couldn't be all bad. I DID run into weight/inertia issues. It had some of the smallest and lightest hammers I had ever seen, and there was nothing available at the time (and not really now) that was/is comparable. I lightened the hammers as best I could and re-leaded the keys as well. I need to re-analyze that situation with info gleaned over the last 20 some years and seek a better solution. That said, I have played it all day many a day and it certainly has done me no harm. It needs a new set of hammers anyway, so it's definitely time!

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#2016946 - 01/18/13 09:54 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5285
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: concertina
I don't know about classified weapons, but I do find this more confusing than buying a car!

So Del, how does one go about measuring key travel, or is this best left to the pros? Can I accurately measure the touch in some way, or do I just have to guess, based on my own limited experience, whether I am doing my kids a big favour by getting them a grand piano to start on, or ruining them forever?

You don't really need to. Your question, as I read it, was about whether or not children can be adversely affected by playing on a piano with a heavy touch. In my opinion the answer is, yes, they can. As can adults. And it happens more often than some in the industry would like to acknowledge.

The question then becomes one of how heavy is “heavy?” And for this there is no clear-cut answer. To some extent the answer is technical but it is also one of personal preference and tolerance. Try the pianos that you are interested in and see for yourself how they feel. Compare the touch and feel of those pianos with that of other pianos in the showroom(s). If the action of a piano stands out as feeling “heavy” to you but you otherwise like the piano and/or the deal, ask a technician. It could be just a matter of servicing; adjusting, regulating, lubricating, etc. But if the technician tells you that this piano has an action that is inherently heavy—and can adequately explain why—then I’d avoid it.

I wouldn’t be overly concerned about rumors that Kawai’s old action had quite a heavy feel. As with other pianos, some did while others didn’t. In general the people I’ve heard making these blanket statements were, in one way or another, competitors. They were also things like Kawai’s plastic actions were going to fall apart in just a few years. These actions have now been around well over 40 years now and they are holding up just fine.

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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#2016954 - 01/18/13 10:29 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: John Pels]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5285
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: John Pels
Del, as regards those key travel specs, though many American companies of yesteryear subscribed to the shallow 3/8" dip, it was never to my taste as a pianist. My first rebuild was a vintage 9' Knabe and it called for that spec, along with the 1/2" key height for sharps. When I completed the rebuild and set up the action, I was quite disappointed in how it felt. SO, I set about comparing specs with other pianos and I found that Steinway as an example used a 10mm dip and though they quote a strange method of measuring sharp height, in the final analysis it amounted to around 12mm. Actually their dip spec is 10-10.75 mm. It may just be that since I had played a lot of Steinways all through college that I was just accustomed to those specs, but I do note that these days they appear to be pretty much standard for European and Asian instruments as well. Anyhow, I figured that if it worked for Steinway it couldn't be all bad. I DID run into weight/inertia issues. It had some of the smallest and lightest hammers I had ever seen, and there was nothing available at the time (and not really now) that was/is comparable. I lightened the hammers as best I could and re-leaded the keys as well. I need to re-analyze that situation with info gleaned over the last 20 some years and seek a better solution. That said, I have played it all day many a day and it certainly has done me no harm. It needs a new set of hammers anyway, so it's definitely time!

As you undoubtedly know by now, the “ideal” key travel for any specific action is dependent on a number of variables that have nothing—at least not directly—to do with hammer mass.

Specifically, it has to do with hammer travel (how far the hammer has to travel from rest to letoff), the overall action ratio (how far the hammer travels in relationship to a given amount of key travel) and the need for some specific amount of key aftertouch. Once the action is built these things are all independent of hammer mass. The static downforce will still be affected by the amount of hammer mass, of course, but the lever ratios are fixed.

If a manufacturer has control over the action assembly process—many didn’t (and some still don’t)—then the overall action ratio can be set up for a specific amount of key travel and a specific—and, hopefully, reasonable—amount of key leading. In general, if a manufacture finds itself regularly installing too much lead to counterbalance excessively heavy hammers the practice has been to move either the key balance point or the capstan pickup point to decrease the overall action ratio, increasing the amount of key travel but decreasing the amount of force required to depress the keys. The downside of this is that it also increases the amount of key travel.

While this may be your preference, others—particularly those with smaller hands and/or shorter fingers—may struggle with certain fingering combinations. This is most noticeable on shorter pianos where both the dynamic touchweight and the arc of travel can change significantly from the front of the key’s playing surfaces to the back (close to the keycover).

Given the choice I will always set up the action in a shorter grand with lighter hammers, a moderately higher overall action ratio, a little less key travel and as few leads as possible in the keys.

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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#2016971 - 01/18/13 11:03 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1968
Loc: Philadelphia area
A weight lifting program is not needed to develop the strength to break 55grams of inertia. It's simple. The faster the key goes down, the faster the hammer goes up, and the stronger (louder) the impact of the hammer. It's all technique.

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#2016982 - 01/18/13 11:43 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: Dave B]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3334
Originally Posted By: Dave B
A weight lifting program is not needed to develop the strength to break 55grams of inertia. It's simple. The faster the key goes down, the faster the hammer goes up, and the stronger (louder) the impact of the hammer. It's all technique.



Static down-weight is not the same as inertia (which is not measured in grams). You can have 55g of down-weight on two different pianos and have radically different inertia. In fact, one of my favorite pianos in grad school had something in the 65g down-weight range, and had extraordinarily light touch.

Inertia is determined by hammer mass (more specifically, strike weight) and the overall action ratio. Say you have a strike-weight of 9.5g on some midrange note on two different pianos. On one note, the action ratio is 5.4 and the other is 6.0. The inertia will be significantly greater on the instrument with a 6.0 action ratio, and thus feel much heavier to play than the one with a 5.4 ratio.
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#2016985 - 01/18/13 11:47 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1260
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Del, you're making it sound like I'm the exception rather than the rule. The point I was trying to make was that a preponderance of manufacturers, Steinway included use the specs that I settled on. The oddball out of the major manufacturers was Baldwin with a key dip of 7/16" with an aftertouch of .021-.060 which to my senses seems extreme.If I had that much dip, I think it would seem sluggish. My hands are pretty average sized. I reach a tenth, mainly because of webbing rather than really long fingers. I know what you mean by shorter pianos and how they feel though. I always felt that way about my childhood Baldwin model A grand. Since I just inherited it, I guess I'll finally be able to divine why it felt that way. I don't recall seeing a bunch of lead in there and the hammers were replaced with factory hammers 30 years ago in a piano tech class in college. They are not at all massive and were virtually identical to the originals. I fully apprehend the arc of travel and difficulty in playing when getting close to the fallboard. I worked like heck playing the Tchaikowsky concerto on that piano and the fallboard has the scars to prove it. I have tried to explain this to friends and fellow pianists, but it falls on deaf ears. For some reason, convincing them that longer keys are actually easier to play is a tough concept. I have tried the seesaw analogy, but that didn't work either. I think that most pianists/students don't fully acclimate to the larger instruments, since generally they play them seldom. It was a luxury for us in college certainly, but when you have one that you play every day the advantages just seem to multiply as you get accustomed to the instrument.

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#2017056 - 01/19/13 02:43 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: Dave B]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5285
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Dave B
A weight lifting program is not needed to develop the strength to break 55grams of inertia. It's simple. The faster the key goes down, the faster the hammer goes up, and the stronger (louder) the impact of the hammer. It's all technique.

No, it’s not “all technique.”

And it is unfortunate that static downweight has become the standard specification by which action function is measured. It is misleading to the extreme.

Nearly forty years ago now I was called to tune what was then a relatively new Steinway Model M grand and, while I was there, see if I could do anything about the piano’s “heavy action.” In those days we technicians knew little about the subtleties of action geometry and weighting. Like the factories we primarily went by key down weight. We didn’t think about upweight, friction, hammer mass, overall action ratios or any of the other many parameters we’ve become so used to in the years since. So, when I arrived at the owner’s home the first thing I did was to measure the downweight of the keys. They all checked out pretty much in the “normal” range; about 52 grams in the bass dropping gradually to about 48 grams in the treble. So far, so good. My first impression was that the owner, a woman in her 60s, might be one of those people who had graduated from something like a spinet with a really light action to a grand and just hadn’t yet become accustomed to the moderately heavier touch of the grand. And perhaps her fingers just weren’t all that strong any more.

Then I started tuning the piano and by the time I got about half way through the fingers of my left hand—the hand I used to strike the keys while tuning—were becoming decidedly sore. I have always used a moderately hard blow while tuning. I’m not a pounder but I do aim for a good forte and by the time I finished I could well understand why the owner was complaining about the pianos heavy touch! My fingers and wrist were tired and sore and I was very glad this was my last tuning of the day.

When I pulled the action and looked at the keys I counted some eight to nine leads in the bass keys. The leads decreased down to three in the top octave and then two in the last two or three keys. All on the front side of the balance rail. Admittedly, some of those leads were fairly close to the balance pin, but still…. When I contacted the factory I was asked what the down weight was. When I gave them the down weight measurements I was told this was the factory specification and there was no problem. When I pointed out that the piano had up to nine leads in the keys and was painful to play I was told that, well, this was the factory specification and there was no problem. (Thankfully the factory takes a somewhat more enlightened view of these things nowadays)

This was my initiation into the subtleties of action geometry. After some staring and measuring and thinking I finally manage to figure out what all was wrong. Turned out the action geometry was way off for a variety of reasons and the overall action ratio was very high. The key dip was a little on the short side—about 9.5 mm—and yet there was still a huge amount of aftertouch. I no longer remember just what the overall action ratio was, but I don’t recall ever coming across another action that came close. After relocating the capstans, re-regulating the action and removing more than half the keyleads the keys still weighed off at 52 ‒ 48 grams but the action was now very nicely playable. The owner actually had tears in her eyes when she started to play the piano once the work was done; it had become the piano she’d always dreamed about.

So, no, it’s not always all that simple. And, no, it’s not just a matter of “breaking 55 grams of inertia” (whatever that means).

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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#2017081 - 01/19/13 04:39 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
jawhitti Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/12
Posts: 235
Del, you have a knack for making something as dull and arcane as action weighting interesting and compelling. I see you've authored at least one book but have you considered waiting something geared more for the mass market along the lines of Larry Fine's book? Maybe a collection of essays philosophizing about piano design and the impacts you see it having on people and their music?

You might not sell a million but I think you'd easily produce a classic in the space. You've already got beginnings of it just from your postings on piano world.

I tried to pm this, but apparently you don't accept PMs...

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#2017120 - 01/19/13 07:56 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1940
Loc: Suffolk, England
Concertina,

It seems to me that this thread contains all the advice you need to go ahead and buy a 1997 or 2001 Kawai RX1 with confidence. Unless, of course, anyone comes up with hard evidence to the contrary about those models. Kawai has high standards of design, manufacturing and product quality.

The main question is the condition of the instrument and only a good technician can tell you about that and, importantly, what needs to be done. It is likely that some routine servicing, regulation and voicing, will be necessary to bring it up to scratch. The price you agree to pay should allow for the cost of any work required.

Your technician will advise you about the hammers and voicing and you can get a good idea of what regulation may involve by looking through the photographs and text in the Kawai Grand Piano Regulation Manual.

Good luck with your quest.
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2017167 - 01/19/13 10:21 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: jawhitti]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3572
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: jawhitti
Del, you have a knack for making something as dull and arcane as action weighting interesting and compelling. I see you've authored at least one book but have you considered waiting something geared more for the mass market along the lines of Larry Fine's book? Maybe a collection of essays philosophizing about piano design and the impacts you see it having on people and their music?

You might not sell a million but I think you'd easily produce a classic in the space. You've already got beginnings of it just from your postings on piano world.

I tried to pm this, but apparently you don't accept PMs...


+100

I think half the members on this forum would want to get a copy. I certainly would.

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#2017209 - 01/19/13 11:36 AM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: jawhitti]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5285
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: jawhitti
Del, you have a knack for making something as dull and arcane as action weighting interesting and compelling. I see you've authored at least one book but have you considered waiting something geared more for the mass market along the lines of Larry Fine's book? Maybe a collection of essays philosophizing about piano design and the impacts you see it having on people and their music?

You might not sell a million but I think you'd easily produce a classic in the space. You've already got beginnings of it just from your postings on piano world.

I tried to pm this, but apparently you don't accept PMs...

No, I don't accept PM's but I do provide two email addresses. And I check those every day unless I'm traveling and email is inaccessible (which sometimes happens in China when Google and the Chinese government are having a lover's quarrel). Or while I'm changing computers as I am right now and everything is moving around in a confused whirl.

My wife has also been telling me to write out some of these things and put them into a book. It's something I've started from time to time but then other projects get in the way and it gets set aside for a time.

Thinks for the kind words...maybe it's time to bring this back to a "Recently Opened Files" status.

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

Top
#2017360 - 01/19/13 03:35 PM Re: Heavy touch for young students? [Re: concertina]
concertina Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/11
Posts: 43
Loc: Canada
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'm going to have the newer piano checked out by a technician, and I'll mention my concerns to him and get his advice. Very exciting!

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