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#2308145 - Yesterday at 12:52 PM Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions
Dwscamel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 452
The sentiment is often repeated that it's better to practice on a heavier action than a lighter one, because if one's fingers are used to the heavier one, then a lighter one will be easier to play on.

I wonder if anyone has any experience with this being the case.

Moreover, I wonder if anyone has experience with practicing primarily on a light action and still being able to adjust to heavier ones quickly.

A light action was good enough for, say, Horowitz, but we don't all have the luxury of taking our instrument everywhere (or being able to play like Horowitz whistle). I suspect that the obsession over 'as heavy as possible' actions is misguided, but I'll wait to hear people's actual reports first.

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#2308155 - Yesterday at 01:10 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
dire tonic Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1169
Loc: uk south
- I don't see that there's any way to define an ideal weight. In any case I doubt anyone would advocate 'as heavy as possible'. If the idea of working with a heavy action is to avoid being ill-equipped to cope with uncertain actions in strange places then all that's required is to get used to playing on something representative of the typically heavier action. Clearly, there's an upper limit.

You've hit the nail on the head with Horowitz and others who only play their own pianos. The same would presumably apply even to an amateur who refused to play with anything other than <insert model ID> keyboard. But for those who expect to get around, to perform in unpredictable settings, I'd say they'd be taking a risk in working out on too light an action.

Perhaps this should be qualified; if the music one performs is leisurely, not too technically demanding, it probably matters much less.

As an afterthought..
Quote:
I wonder if anyone has any experience with this being the case.

I do. Whenever I gigged on a lighter action piano, I felt like I was on steroids.

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#2308180 - Yesterday at 02:52 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11434
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
It will be different for everyone. Personally, I like heavier actions for Romantic and music with big chords, but for more detailed stuff from Baroque and Classical eras, I prefer a lighter one.

I have experienced it where you practice so much on a heavy action and perform on a lighter one that it's much easier to play. Sometimes TOO easy and your tempo gets away from you. I have also experienced where you practice on a really light action and perform on a heavy one and it's difficult to play.

I don't think there's a great solution. I will switch the touch on my MP11 to varying levels also depending on what I'm playing, so it's nice I can do that.
_________________________
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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#2308183 - Yesterday at 02:59 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Morodiene]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3453
Loc: Northern England.
Not to mention the long term finger health issues . . . now don`t you lot go selling your VCP1s; a permanent cure for arthritis is surely just round the corner . .
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

""

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#2308188 - Yesterday at 03:07 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: peterws]
Vid Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/01
Posts: 808
Loc: Vancouver, B.C.
Originally Posted By: peterws
Not to mention the long term finger health issues . . . now don`t you lot go selling your VCP1s; a permanent cure for arthritis is surely just round the corner . .


LOL - that action is still considerably lighter than most real grands I come across.
_________________________
Kawai VPC1, Pianoteq, Galaxy Vintage D

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#2308189 - Yesterday at 03:09 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4845
I started learning piano (as a 10-yr-old) on a very light-actioned little (acoustic) Yamaha vertical. It certainly didn't do me any favors - not only because my second teacher's upright had much more realistic key weight (my first teacher came to our home), nor because the pianos I did my ABRSM exams on were also heavier, but because when I left home and started playing on pianos (also Yamaha uprights but much bigger) with more realistic key actions, it took me several months to develop the strength to cope with them.

And then of course, in turn (several years later), I had to get used to the grand piano action, when I was at university, and my new teacher had two old grands to teach on - though I was still practicing on Yamaha uprights in the university practice rooms.

However, I don't see any point in practicing on heavier-than-normal actions. You'll just develop heavy-handedness which is probably just as difficult to undo as lack of strength from practicing on light actions. Almost as bad as people who learnt exclusively on DPs but playing them with volume control turned right down - they bang with all the subtlety of a hippo, and none of the delicacy of a gazelle grin.

The only reason I can see for people to practice on unduly heavy actioned pianos (not the same as actions on the heavier side, but still within acceptable limits) are concert pianists who might have to play on such pianos in performance. Personally, I believe that if you're serious about piano playing, and your name isn't Vladimir Horowitz or Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (both RIP, bless their virtuosic fingers), or, still very much alive & performing, Maurizio Pollini and Krystian Zimerman (who both cart their Steinways around for every concert), you should endeavour to play on as many different pianos as possible, to get used to being able to adjust to all kinds of actions and key weights easily.

I think it's significant that more and more pianists are gravitating towards pianos with lighter, swifter actions like Fazioli. Seasoned concert virtuosi like Hewitt, Lortie and Demidenko as well as younger ones like Trifonov and Piemontesi are playing on Fazioli whenever possible.

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#2308191 - Yesterday at 03:10 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
toddy Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/30/11
Posts: 1585
Loc: Portugal
A moderately heavy action is preferable to an unusually light one, perhaps because,

1. You can control scale runs and precise timings more confidently with some weight in the keys.

2. If you suddenly have to play on a heavier piano action, you'll find it hard to play if you're used to a light action.

Having said that, I really get the impression that some digital pianos are too heavy - more than justified. Maybe this is because there is a general feeling among the public that 'heavier = better'. According to some info I've just found online (not totally reliable, but probably true),

'Horowitz's D averaged a 41 gram downweight across the keyboard as opposed to the graduated standard of 52 to 47grams'.

Well, armed with a pile of euro coins and a table of weights, I've just found out that my (middle) D goes down (towards the escapement notch, but not all the way) at 61.1 grams.

My piano is a Roland PHA II action which is considered by many to be light, and is certainly lighter than Yamaha GH (&GH3) - Yamaha's standards action for their Clavinovas for the last 10 years, and, I think, Kawai's MP6 keyboard.

I personally like the Roland PHAII and according to this information, it would be a bit heavier than Steinway's standard weighting. Why would you want heavier than that?
_________________________
Roland HP 302, Yamaha SY85

Reaper / NI Komplete 9 /Kontakt 5// EWQL Sym Choirs/ Sym Orchestra Silver/ MOR2
Mics: SP B1 & MXL V67g/ Alesis MicTube Preamp/ Xenyx302/ Yamaha HS7s .

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#2308236 - Yesterday at 05:36 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
Digitalguy Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 02/04/14
Posts: 367
Loc: Switzerland
I regularly play piano on the "heavy" ivory feel g and on a couple of synth actions and every now and then on acoustics (uprights and grands) and have played the "light" GHS for years and have no problem switching precisely because I play all of them. I think the problem is when you only play one type of action. I had stopped playing synth actions for a while and had a hard time re-adapting to them (that is controlling the dynamic range), now I am used to them again so I don't find them uncomfortable. But, personally, I am more inspired when I play on action that is (or resembles) that of an acoustic grand piano (provided that I like the sound too...).
_________________________
Roland FP-4F, Korg Kross 61, iRig Keys Pro, RME Babyface, M-Track Plus, Roland DuoCapture, iPad Air, iLoud, Ivory II American, Galaxy Vintage D, Galaxy Steinway, VILabs Ravenscroft, TrueKeys American, Kawai-Ex Pro, The Grand 2, SampleTekk Black, Addictive Keys, Truepianos, Pianissimo, EzKeys, iGrand

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#2308246 - Yesterday at 06:08 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
anotherscott Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/10
Posts: 3153
Something else to keep in mind is that "heavy" feeling DP actions are sometimes heavy in a different way than "heavy" acoustic pianos, in that they often "push back" in a way that genuine acoustic piano mechanisms do not.

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#2308260 - Yesterday at 06:54 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
Joe Garfield Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/13
Posts: 152
Loc: Ohio, USA
I started on a light action digital and couldn't play well at lessons on a Steinway baby grand. I tried 3 or 4 digitals with the same results. My MP10 has a stiffer action and I don't really struggle at all on the acoustic any more.

However it is important to make sure the weight is 'realistic' and not too heavy as you can inadvertently hurt yourself.

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#2308289 - Yesterday at 08:06 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: peterws]
Kawai James Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 8866
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Originally Posted By: peterws
Not to mention the long term finger health issues . . . now don`t you lot go selling your VCP1s; a permanent cure for arthritis is surely just round the corner . .


Pete, may I ask if you suffer from arthritis?
Moreover, have you ever played a VPC1?

Kind regards,
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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#2308297 - Yesterday at 09:27 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
joflah Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 277
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
I find that the VPC1's downweight is over 70g, and upweight is about 50g. That seems to be higher than what I've read is usual for grand pianos- maybe 45-50g and 20-25g. It's beginning to seem too much. I'm tempted to modify all the hammer weights...

(The weights were tested on several white keys at the middle of the keyboard with Ohaus weights centered at 13mm from the key edge.)
_________________________
Jack

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#2308361 - Today at 02:02 AM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Kawai James]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3453
Loc: Northern England.
Originally Posted By: Kawai James
Originally Posted By: peterws
Not to mention the long term finger health issues . . . now don`t you lot go selling your VCP1s; a permanent cure for arthritis is surely just round the corner . .


Pete, may I ask if you suffer from arthritis?
Moreover, have you ever played a VPC1?

Kind regards,
James
x


Answer to first Q; I`m in denial.
Answer to second; No. I could get nothing out of it wink . . . (the action was quite nice but I preferred that of the ES7.)


Edited by peterws (Today at 12:52 PM)
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

""

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#2308371 - Today at 03:40 AM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: joflah]
dire tonic Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1169
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: joflah
I find that the VPC1's downweight is over 70g, and upweight is about 50g. That seems to be higher than what I've read is usual for grand pianos- maybe 45-50g and 20-25g. It's beginning to seem too much.

I've used a strip of inflexible wood to straddle 5 keys to average out (using kitchen scales it's easier to find household objects to do the job).

My VPC1's down is similar at 72 while the 'up' is showing as marginally heavier than yours at 60 (it's a bit vague and our definitions might have differed).
The undistinguished upright piano here is 70/50 respectively. I'd have described its action as 'middling'. It's been a while but I'm sure I've played grands which were heavier.

Quote:
I'm tempted to modify all the hammer weights...

Grief! I admire your pioneering spirit (I remember you rehoused your VPC1's innards) but unless your mod is reversible that sounds like a journey into the unknown. Possibly a more than usually sluggish return? - DPs are already noticeably slower than APs.

If Horowitz were still alive perhaps he'd be on this board raving about Yamaha's GHS action.

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#2308376 - Today at 04:05 AM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: dire tonic]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3453
Loc: Northern England.
There was a Yamaha CLP250 on sale at the local shop some years ago. Friends were interested. It had had all the hammers lightened (the action was a tad heavy, I had one previously)

The result was an unplayable mush. No proper return at all. It was still for sale!
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

""

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#2308450 - Today at 10:47 AM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: joflah]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11434
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: joflah
I find that the VPC1's downweight is over 70g, and upweight is about 50g. That seems to be higher than what I've read is usual for grand pianos- maybe 45-50g and 20-25g. It's beginning to seem too much. I'm tempted to modify all the hammer weights...

(The weights were tested on several white keys at the middle of the keyboard with Ohaus weights centered at 13mm from the key edge.)


I have not measured the weight of my Petrof (which has Renner action), but according to my tech it was pretty heavy, and I felt it was identical to the VPC1. So anecdotal info only, but it was not outside of what you can experience on a grand.
_________________________
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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#2308463 - Today at 11:13 AM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Dwscamel]
NormB Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 04/02/12
Posts: 37
Loc: Vancouver, BC
I wonder whether "weight" alone is a sufficient measure here. Certainly inertia plays a role and is quite another thing. A semi truck sitting on imaginary frictionless rollers weighs a lot but could be moved eventually with the sustained push of a finger. More to the point, two actions could have identical downweight but quite different inertial masses. Imagine an AG key made of lead rather than wood. You could get the downweights to be the same, but they sure would play differently. It is my impression that the inertia behind DPs tends to be much, much less than AGs.

I suppose friction plays a role also. Clapped up old grands with sloppy bearings tend to be lighter, etc.

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#2308498 - Today at 12:32 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: NormB]
joflah Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 277
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
Originally Posted By: NormB
I wonder whether "weight" alone is a sufficient measure here. Certainly inertia plays a role and is quite another thing. A semi truck sitting on imaginary frictionless rollers weighs a lot but could be moved eventually with the sustained push of a finger. More to the point, two actions could have identical downweight but quite different inertial masses. Imagine an AG key made of lead rather than wood. You could get the downweights to be the same, but they sure would play differently. It is my impression that the inertia behind DPs tends to be much, much less than AGs.

I suppose friction plays a role also. Clapped up old grands with sloppy bearings tend to be lighter, etc.


Inertia must be important too. But, I notice that the static force needed to keep the keys down feels high, especially practicing something with 4- or 5-note chords very slowly, as is sometimes recommended. There, inertia isn't important. Some fingers will be on black keys, and not at the outer edge, so the forces are even higher. My finger joints and muscles in my hand can start to ache after a bit of that.
I have some arthritis, and that is probably contributing to the problem.
_________________________
Jack

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#2308501 - Today at 12:39 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: Morodiene]
Dwscamel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 452
To Morodiene specifically: since you teach, is there a 'minimum weight' you recommend to your students for practicing on digitals?


=================================================================

The impression I get from this thread is that while there may be some benefit to practicing on heavier actions, there's really no substitute for playing a large variety of them regularly.

This raises the potentially interesting question of what action one should choose for her main practice instrument. In my experience, pianos located in public places are often neglected and have heavy, sluggish actions. Perhaps I should go with a 'lighter' board like one of Roland's for my next practice instrument.

Another interesting idea in this thread is that the material of the keys affects the action too. So it's more complicated than raw downweight and upweight. Some factors to consider are:

-downweight, upweight;
-the material the keys are made from;
-the manner in which the keys return (springy? mushy?);
-the relationship between touch and sound (e.g., very light actions may not allow you to create many dynamics, as indicated by several in this thread);
-the degree to which what one learns on a given piano is transferable to other actions

As usual, there's a lot going on to think about!

Thank you everyone for your input.

Oh, and I loved the bit about Horowitz raving about GHS if he were alive grin.

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#2308512 - Today at 01:18 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: NormB]
dire tonic Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1169
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: NormB
I wonder whether "weight" alone is a sufficient measure here. Certainly inertia plays a role and is quite another thing....I suppose friction plays a role also. Clapped up old grands with sloppy bearings tend to be lighter, etc.

Inertia, friction, all will play a role and have often been mentioned but no meaningful values have ever been ascribed to them in this forum. Weight is the one thing we can measure and grasp and it does seem to fairly reflect the coarser differences between actions.

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#2308563 - Today at 03:14 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: toddy]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4845
Originally Posted By: toddy


'Horowitz's D averaged a 41 gram downweight across the keyboard as opposed to the graduated standard of 52 to 47grams'.

Well, armed with a pile of euro coins and a table of weights, I've just found out that my (middle) D goes down (towards the escapement notch, but not all the way) at 61.1 grams.

My piano is a Roland PHA II action which is considered by many to be light, and is certainly lighter than Yamaha GH (&GH3) - Yamaha's standards action for their Clavinovas for the last 10 years, and, I think, Kawai's MP6 keyboard.

I personally like the Roland PHAII and according to this information, it would be a bit heavier than Steinway's standard weighting. Why would you want heavier than that?

I measured the downweight of my V-Piano some time ago, using stacks of coins, and found that middle C has a downweight of 50g, exactly what the 'industry standard' for pianos are. (That's the weight that's required to start the key tipping down to the 'notch' but not beyond it, with the weights placed right at the end (tip) of the key.)

I also measured the downweight of the acoustic piano which I'd discovered had the most similar key action and weight to my PHA-III (so similar, in fact, that it felt completely at home when I played it), a Grotrian-Steinweg 192 grand at a piano showroom. It too measured 50g on middle C. Its 'grading' was slightly higher - the bottom A measured 58g (my V's bottom A was 55g).

I think people are measuring their key weights in a different manner here.

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#2308571 - Today at 03:33 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: bennevis]
dire tonic Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1169
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: bennevis
I think people are measuring their key weights in a different manner here.

I measured mine down to and not beyond the let-off notch. I see no evidence of differences that can't be fully normalised.

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#2308591 - Today at 04:12 PM Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: dire tonic]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4845
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: bennevis
I think people are measuring their key weights in a different manner here.

I measured mine down to and not beyond the let-off notch. I see no evidence of differences that can't be fully normalised.

How far from the edge did you place your strip of wood on which the weights were sitting?

The nearer to the pivot, the heavier the weight required to get the key to start tipping down. 72g seems very heavy to me (though I've never seen a VPC1). Even Artur Rubinstein, who, among classical concert pianists, favoured the heaviest actions, played on pianos with keyweight of around 60g only.

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#2308601 - 39 minutes 30 seconds ago Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: bennevis]
dire tonic Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1169
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: bennevis
How far from the edge did you place your strip of wood on which the weights were sitting?
That's what I meant by normalising.

Instead of trying to balance on the tip (and you must have been at least a fraction in) you can position the weights at a comfortable margin and cut down the measured weight by the ratio:-
<length from pivot to centre of weights>/<overall key length to pivot>

In fact I omitted to take that into account in my previous result but with the VPC1 key at 19cms by my reckoning and the weights inset by 1cm that still only results in a 5% reduction and a revised weight of 68g (just rechecked).


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#2308621 - 10 minutes 17 seconds ago Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: bennevis]
dire tonic Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1169
Loc: uk south
- one other thing. I don't know if this is of any interest.

The result recorded above corresponds with 'letting go' of the weights, IOW, the weight itself is having to overcome initial inertia/friction.

If instead I load up some weights and 'help' the keys down to the notch by pushing gently to overcome that initial resistance, the unassisted weight required to keep the keys sitting on the notch is 57g. IOW once the key starts moving, less effort would be required for its descent. I seem to remember gvfarns (where is he?) talking about dynamic weight...that seems to be the nature of it.

...I need to get out more....

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#2308626 - 3 minutes 26 seconds ago Re: Questioning the Wisdom of Heavy Actions [Re: dire tonic]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4845
That seems nearer the mark.

I don't think friction is factored into the key weight as measured by piano technicians - they tap the key a little to see if it starts to dip.

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