Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions

Posted by: Gomer

Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 12:56 PM

In an attempt to balance the desires (not demands) of my instructor to have an acoustic piano at home (which isn't currently viable), I've been looking into the mechanics of the piano actions and the synthetic implementation with digital pianos.

Lessons are taught on a Steinway grand piano, so the bar has been set high. Upon further reading, it seems that not all DPs have escapement designed into the action, as well as double escapement (a feature of grand pianos, which in general, isn't available with acoustic uprights).

With that, is there a list (or perhaps someone here can discuss and help to generate the list) of current DPs that have escapement and double escapement designed into their action?

As I'm going to have to use a DP, I'd really like to hone in on an appropriate digital piano action that is a bit more synergistic with the lessons on the Steinway grand.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to any information and/or discussion on the topic of escapement and double escapement.

Cheers!
Posted by: Artur Gajewski

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 12:59 PM

What is the escapement feature in key actions?
Posted by: Gomer

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 02:16 PM

Quote:
When you press a piano key, two things happen: (1) a damper moves away from the strings for that note so they can vibrate freely, and (2) a hammer strikes the strings.

Now, if the mechanical connection between key and hammer was a simple lever, then the hammer would strike the strings and remain in contact with them as long as you held down the key. That would prevent sustained vibration of the strings. Imagine the muffled "thunk" you would hear if, for example, you pressed your hand down on a guitar's strings and kept it there. To make a sustained sound, you need to touch the strings and then move away.

The piano's escapement mechanism is the clever solution to that problem. Just an instant before the hammer strikes the strings, it "escapes" its connection to the key so that it can strike the strings and then fall away from them, allowing them to continue to vibrate. It's almost as if the key "throws" the hammer, and the hammer bounces off the strings. Bartolomeo Cristofori is generally credited with inventing this mechanism and building the first pianos around 1710. The double escapement mechanism was invented by the Erard brothers in 1821, which allowed the same note to be repeated very quickly.

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_an_escapement_mechanism_in_a_piano#ixzz1YQKEF8Wy
Posted by: hannibal2

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 02:43 PM

I wonder if there is any significant importance of the DP escapement mechanism as a whole(Kawaii RM3, Roland PHAIII, and such)

I know what it is but being a student of classical piano for 10 years (uprights+grands) I don't even remember a piece where I was aware of it. I'm not sure if the majority of classical piano players who are not educated in the DP tech arena smile ) could answer such a question.

There are things with higher importance when considering a DP, like connection to the sound, depth, tonal variance (timbre change), sympathetic resonance (pedaling), key resonance (keys held), maybe coating (ivory-like surface and such).

I think majority of piano players can play ppp without any problems regardless with of without the escapement which is a technical/mechanical necessity after all in 'ordinary' pianos.

(Still I loved the escapement on the Kawaii CN33 smile )
Posted by: Kona_V-Piano

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 03:09 PM

I would definitely consider the V-piano first if you can afford $5,500. It has the best response and sound in my opinion you can get from a digital piano and the fake ivory is pretty neat. Next on my list would be the AvantGrand series followed by my CLP990 which is an old model however it uses real wooden keys and hammers and has the same action as Yamaha's $250,000 grand piano's of the time. Yes I have seen it as a Clavinova repairman came to the house and opened it up. It is the only Clavinova that had it set up that way. It garnered a $5000 premium in price as well over the other CLP900 line of the time and used a completely different sample set as well with 5 layers and each not sampled separately. The Avantgrand looks to be the same action but instead of hammers it has metallic sensors on the ends and much newer technology making it sound even better than any previous CLP. Both my CLP990 and the Avantgrand are capable of very fast repeatable notes (double escapement). So is the V-Piano (albiet better at it). Which is why I recommend it over the others since it is not as heavy feeling. I truly believe I can play more accurately the quicker passages with the V-Piano in my opinion than my 10 year old CLP990 and Avantgrand which I did get to play a couple of times now. The CP1 is very good as well and another option.
Posted by: ChrisA

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 03:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Artur Gajewski
What is the escapement feature in key actions?


That is where at the last moment the hammer disconnects from the key and continues to fly on it's own momentum until it hits the strings.

"escapement" is a term for the mechanical parts that enable this feature. But in English "escapement" is not confined to pianos. It is a general term used in mechanics. Mechanical clocks have a feature like this too where a mechanical system comes apart briefly to allow free movement.
Posted by: ChrisA

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 03:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Gomer

With that, is there a list (or perhaps someone here can discuss and help to generate the list) of current DPs that have escapement and double escapement designed into their action?


The only piano like this I can think of is the Yamaha Advent Grand. It uses a real wooden piano action fro a grand piano. All other digital pianos simulate the grand action using much simplified construction.

For example the double escapement system on a grand pinao is there to allow you to play a repeated note without need to fully lift the key all the way back up. That is the reason of the rather complex double escapement system. But, on a digital piano the key height is senses with electrical switches so one does not need many small bits of wood. Digital pianos with three switch/sensors can allow you to play a repeated note without need to fully lift the key all the way back up. So you get the effect you are looking for but with a mechanically simply system. Likewise other parts of the grand piano's action are simulated with with simpler mechanics.

Look at some of the Roland keys and Kawai too. Make a trip to the big chain music stors and try a Roland RD700 or FP7-f and KawaI MP6 and MP10. See which key action you like. That key action will be re-used in many other models of piano. The chain stores are good because they keep many brands under one roof.
Posted by: PianoWorksATL

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 04:58 PM

Here, terminology is getting the better of us. Escapement is like ChrisA describes, a moment where the linkage is broken to allow free movement. Both uprights and grands have escapement. "Double escapement" is the design feature in grands that allows for faster repetition, a shallower reset, and by necessity, the little catch or bump partway down the keystroke is felt.

On a DP, "escapement" is simplified marketing terminology really trying to describe that little catch associated with a grand piano's "double escapement" design.

So in acoustics, upright has single, grand has double. In digitals, the maker can either simulate the upright (no bump) or the grand (bump).
Posted by: Gomer

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 05:02 PM

Thanks. Learning more and more!
Posted by: dewster

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 05:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Gomer
With that, is there a list (or perhaps someone here can discuss and help to generate the list) of current DPs that have escapement and double escapement designed into their action?

DPs that have a '3' or "III" or "triple" in the name of their key action will most likely have three position sensors per key and therefore (if it is implemented well) should have the ability to behave more like an AP with double escapement (i.e. easier to do fast reps & note doesn't damp between reps). For example: Roland has "PHAIII", Yamaha has GH3, and most if not all Casios currently being manufactured now that are not toys have three sensors. I believe an exception to this rule is Kawai RM3, which is not a triple sensor action. Huge caveat: you should test these yourself to see what impact, if any, the third sensor (or lack thereof) actually has on playing.

DPs that say their key action has "escapement" have a simple mechanism that makes it feel somewhat analogous to the hammer slipping off the actuator. I think it's a piece of rubber or something. For the Roland "PHAIII with escapement" you only really feel it when playing the key slowly, and it is pretty subtle. That's the limit of my experience.
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 06:31 PM

There's a fair bit of misinformation above so proceed with caution.

There are two aspects to consider:

1. The physical simulation of the escapement (a slight click or moment of additional resistance part of the way down the key stroke).
2. The ability of the action to recognise and articulate fast repetitions.

Three examples for you:

Kawai pianos with RM3 action: some (not all) of these pianos have the simulation of the click but do not have the sensor arrangement required to articulate the fastest repetitions. Eg: MP-10, CA-93.

Yamaha GH3 actions and NW (but not NW stage) actions: they have the sensor arrangement that allows the fastest repetitions but do not simulate the physical feel of the escapement. Eg: Most Clavinovas and many other Yamahas.

Roland PHA-III actions: these simulate the physical feel of the escapement AND have a sensor arrangement allowing the fastest repetitions. Eg: RD-700NX, V-Piano, FP7F, HP-307.

But as others have said, there are perhaps more important considerations.

Good luck,

Steve
Posted by: Kona_V-Piano

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 07:11 PM

Originally Posted By: EssBrace
There's a fair bit of misinformation above so proceed with caution.

There are two aspects to consider:

1. The physical simulation of the escapement (a slight click or moment of additional resistance part of the way down the key stroke).
2. The ability of the action to recognise and articulate fast repetitions.

Three examples for you:

Kawai pianos with RM3 action: some (not all) of these pianos have the simulation of the click but do not have the sensor arrangement required to articulate the fastest repetitions. Eg: MP-10, CA-93.

Yamaha GH3 actions and NW (but not NW stage) actions: they have the sensor arrangement that allows the fastest repetitions but do not simulate the physical feel of the escapement. Eg: Most Clavinovas and many other Yamahas.

Roland PHA-III actions: these simulate the physical feel of the escapement AND have a sensor arrangement allowing the fastest repetitions. Eg: RD-700NX, V-Piano, FP7F, HP-307.

But as others have said, there are perhaps more important considerations.

Good luck,

Steve


I agree with you 100%. I suggest going to the stores and trying each out yourself before making a decision if possible. If it is not possible, then take our word for it here and you shouldn't be disappointed with any of the top choices from the top brands. However most agree the Roland seems to be the overall winner if not by a small and personal margin of taste.
Posted by: ChrisA

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/19/11 11:24 PM

Originally Posted By: EssBrace
There's a fair bit of misinformation above so proceed with caution.

There are two aspects to consider:

1. The physical simulation of the escapement (a slight click or moment of additional resistance part of the way down the key stroke).
2. The ability of the action to recognise and articulate fast repetitions.

Three examples for you:

Kawai pianos with RM3 action: some (not all) of these pianos have the simulation of the click but do not have the sensor arrangement required to articulate the fastest repetitions. Eg: MP-10, CA-93.

Yamaha GH3 actions and NW (but not NW stage) actions: they have the sensor arrangement that allows the fastest repetitions but do not simulate the physical feel of the escapement. Eg: Most Clavinovas and many other Yamahas.

Roland PHA-III actions: these simulate the physical feel of the escapement AND have a sensor arrangement allowing the fastest repetitions. Eg: RD-700NX, V-Piano, FP7F, HP-307.

But as others have said, there are perhaps more important considerations.

Good luck,

Steve
Posted by: minimammut

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 03:25 AM

Interesting to read. When I played the CA-93 against some yamahas it was definitely noticeable that the yamahas had better repetition (eg when playing very fast inverted mordents). However even on the Kawai action it was much easier to do these fast ornaments than on the mostly upright acoustics I am used to playing. However little control I put into it, on the yamahas all the notes would come, so I thought the Kawai would make a better piano for practicing.
Posted by: macbug

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 05:05 AM

While it's true that escapement is often a subtle effect you would not even notice during normal playing, there are certain times when you play very slowly and softly and it becomes very noticeable in that case. Take for example the beginning of Chopin's Nocturne 20 used in the DP midi playback thread - if you don't feel the escapement playing that on a Steinway then I suppose you probably won't miss it on a DP.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 05:23 AM

The double escapement system in grand pianos is simulated in DPs by the slight feeling of resistance ('bump') just after pressing the key down, before the complete 'give'.

If you're having lessons on a grand, it's worth having on the DP you're practising on, so that the feel is similar, though there're other things on a real grand that cannot be mimicked on any digital, like the lighter keyweight when the sustain pedal is down (which disengages all the dampers), and the way the whole keyboard shifts when you press the una corda pedal down.

The double escapement feature on grands allows for very quick note repetition (even when the key is still partially depressed) and very fine control of ppp which cannot be achieved on uprights. In DPs, this is achieved electronically by the number of sensors. If you aspire to play works like Scarlatti's Sonata in D minor, Kk 141 or (much more difficult) Ravel's Alborada del gracioso and/or Scarbo, all of which requires very fast repeated notes, you'll need this feature in your piano, whether acoustic or DP.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 08:08 AM

Bennevis,
FWIW, yes, just about everything you say matches my understanding. (although I think it's just "escapement" - not "double escapement" that produces the bump feeling - they are two different things, as was stated earlier in this thread). I've gotta get to an upright to test this for myself!

HOWEVER, I think it would be wrong to assume that every DP that has a tri-sensor action would automatically be better than every DP that does NOT have a tri-sensor action. For example, there may be other more important factors that come into play.

My "cheap" Casio PX-330 has a tri-sensor action, and I'd be a bit surprised if a concert pianist could play those example works better on this DP than a very good 2-sensor DP. (however, just maybe, with enough practice..... ;^)

Greg.
Posted by: anotherscott

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 08:24 AM

Originally Posted By: sullivang
My "cheap" Casio PX-330 has a tri-sensor action, and I'd be a bit surprised if a concert pianist could play those example works better on this DP than a very good 2-sensor DP.

I agree with that. I do not find I can do repetitions faster on a tri-sensor Privia than on a good quality 2-sensor DP. Heck, I can do them fastest on a 2-sensor unweighted action!

The acoustic piano effect that the tri-sensor Casio does permit you to do is, when playing softly/slowly, you can lift a key up a little bit, and press it down again to retrigger it again at a softer volume, without having the effect of the damper fall in between the two triggers (i.e. no silence between note triggers, even when not using the sustain pedal). It's cool that it works, but I'm not sure how many pieces require that you to be able to do it.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 11:02 AM

Anotherscott,
Agreed, however, more importantly, it allows fast and soft playing - especially trills. As I've stated in the past, my piano tuning book makes a point about soft trills. It allows the piano player to trill with less effort - the fingers simply do not need to be lifted as high. This replicates the behaviour of a real grand piano, which is what this is all about.
All this assumes that the action has similar mechanical dynamics to a real piano, of course. (thinking about it, even on an unweighted action, the limiting factor for trills may in fact be the ability of the pianist to lift their fingers high enough for a repetition?)

However, I'm thinking that 2-sensor DP designers may be able to place the sensors in positions that result in an overall performance that is very nearly as good as a 3-sensor action.
I know that some DPs have the top sensor at the 50% return point, whereas my piano tuning book says that the dampers on a real piano damp when the keys are very nearly at the top of their travel. (and for upright pianos, repeats also require the keys to return nearly to the top) So, moving the sensor down may be an example of the DP manufacturers achieving a better overall compromise.

Now, for these rapid partial repetitions, yes, the dampers will not be touching the strings, and there will probably be more timbral changes for each strike, due to the fact that the hammers are striking strings that are already vibrating. As I've said before, a Clavinova I tested did seem to invoke a sustain-pedal like behaviour for slowly repeated partial notes, just as you say. (I realise we've discussed all this at length in the past) 2-sensor actions can't do this directly, although perhaps it would be possible to guess what the player is trying to do, and to invoke the damper-less repeats. ;^)

Greg.
Posted by: PianoZac

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 11:52 AM

If you give us a price point, it may be easier to help. If you can spend a lot, but have space and location restraints (neighbors), than I highly recommend the AvantGrand N1. After all, it has a real grand piano action. If touch is important, there is nothing better than the AvantGrands. Although, I'd rank Kawai's RM3 Wooden action to be superior to all other digital piano actions, and second to the AvantGrands in terms of action in a non-complete acoustic.

Have a look:

AvantGrand action
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUsliF47RMU&feature=relmfu
http://media.photobucket.com/image/avantgrand%20action/virtualpiano/IMG_1703.jpg

Real Grand Piano action
http://www.fordpiano.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/action1.jpg

Originally Posted By: dewster

DPs that have a '3' or "III" or "triple" in the name of their key action will most likely have three position sensors per key and therefore (if it is implemented well) should have the ability to behave more like an AP with double escapement (i.e. easier to do fast reps

Interestingly dewster, the RM3 doesn't possess three sensors as far as I'm aware. RM3 stands for Real Mechanism, Real Motion and Real Materials. I may be wrong but I'm almost positive.
Posted by: anotherscott

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 12:09 PM

Originally Posted By: sullivang
Anotherscott,
Agreed, however, more importantly, it allows fast and soft playing - especially trills.

Ah, yes. I never tested to see whether or not that is genuinely easier on a PX-3 than on other (2-sensor) DPs, but at least in theory, I could see where that should be a benefit.

Originally Posted By: sullivang
Now, for these rapid partial repetitions, yes, the dampers will not be touching the strings, and there will probably be more timbral changes for each strike, due to the fact that the hammers are striking strings that are already vibrating.

Yes... though that also depends on whether the tone generator being triggered includes the kind of string resonance feature that actually does alter the sound of a key depending on what other keys (if any) have been depressed and have had their virtual dampers raised. AFAIK, the PX3 does not have that feature, it only has "pedal down" string resonance, not "pedal up, some keys down" resonance, which is what you would need for this to create an audible difference. However, it would presumably work very well if you were to use the PX3 to trigger a piano sound that did have that kind of string resonance, like in a Nord Stage 2.

In fact, as I was discussing on another forum, I think the most "authentic" Nord Piano might be achieved by triggering it from something like a PX3, not only because I think the Nord keyboards don't have the PX-3 style third sensor to permit the "pedal-up but damper-up" retriggering (can someone confirm?), but also because the Nord action does not trigger easily enough to permit the kind of light thumbnail glissando you can do on most boards. OTOH, someone else pointed out that there is one kind of real piano functionality that you can do on a Nord keyboard directly that you can't do on a Nord over MIDI, which is depressing the keys so slowly that they make no sound (but could still be used to create resonances for other notes). Again, I don't know how much repertoire calls for that, but it's cool that it works. It really should work over MIDI as well... the fact that it doesn't means that you can record a performance form the Nord into a sequencer that will not play back the same way it sounded when you first played it. It really should produce no tone at MIDI Velocity 1 received externally, just as it does internally. I suspect the fact that it doesn't is a bug.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/20/11 04:21 PM

Anotherscott,
I suspect that all the Clavinova does is overlap voices for partial repeats, just as it would do for a normal sustain pedal. I believe that almost all DPs do this, at least, aside from any fancy sympathetic resonance processing, for the sustain pedal, and it would be trivial do replicate this for partial repeats. If you repeat a single note, with the sustain pedal, I'd be surprised if ANY DP you were to test would not produce a subtle "ding dang dong" sound, due to the phasing effects of multiple voices sounding simultaneously.

So, I'll be surprised if my Casio PX-330 doesn't behave similarly to the Clavinova I tested. smile

I think the overlapping voice technique, although very crude, just seems to work well.

You can SEE this behaviour in software pianos that display the voice count in real time.

Greg.
Posted by: Quarkomatic

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/22/11 04:17 PM

If money is no object, I'd look into a digital with real grand piano action (long wooden keys, with real hammers), rather than just something with simulated escapement or triple sensors.

While triple sensors help with fast repetition as others have noted, the resistance at the bottom of the key makes it feel more like a grand piano. I find playing softly very difficult on a grand piano. I think this is because when you are depressing the key slowly, the extra resistance at the bottom of the stroke can slow down your movement even further, to the point where the hammer is not thrown high enough to reach the strings, and no sound is produced. The digital escapement simulation makes you compensate for this and focus on playing through to the bottom of the key evenly, and while I occasionally fail to produce tone on my digital with escapement, it is still far easier to play softly on it than on a grand.

My teacher is a bit of a piano purist as well. She always forgets that I play on a digital and bemoans it when it comes up... but I guess if she always forgets about it, it must not be negatively impacting my technique, right? wink

This thread has been technically very interesting. I play on a Roland DP-990, which has escapement, but I believe only 2 sensors. I know a note can be repeated without the key fully returning to the top, but now I'm curious if the damper engages between... I will have to experiment.
Posted by: dewster

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/22/11 05:20 PM

Originally Posted By: sullivang
Anotherscott,I suspect that all the Clavinova does is overlap voices for partial repeats, just as it would do for a normal sustain pedal. I believe that almost all DPs do this, at least, aside from any fancy sympathetic resonance processing, for the sustain pedal, and it would be trivial do replicate this for partial repeats. If you repeat a single note, with the sustain pedal, I'd be surprised if ANY DP you were to test would not produce a subtle "ding dang dong" sound, due to the phasing effects of multiple voices sounding simultaneously.

So, I'll be surprised if my Casio PX-330 doesn't behave similarly to the Clavinova I tested. smile

I think the overlapping voice technique, although very crude, just seems to work well.

You can SEE this behaviour in software pianos that display the voice count in real time

Greg, I don't often disagree with you, but I would be rather surprised if most DP sound generators overlapped notes of the same pitch like this. Once the looping hit it could statistically sometimes cause drastic phase issues, and it could massively eat into the polyphony. Software pianos have no looping, and so much polyphony to spare (or at least they act like they do smile ) that they can afford to throw some at note repetition.

Originally Posted By: Quarkomatic
My teacher is a bit of a piano purist as well. She always forgets that I play on a digital and bemoans it when it comes up... but I guess if she always forgets about it, it must not be negatively impacting my technique, right? wink

Her toes would curl if she chould see some of the things my wife's students practice on - old home organs, toys, etc. Your Roland DP-990 should be the least of her worries.

Originally Posted By: Quarkomatic
This thread has been technically very interesting. I play on a Roland DP-990, which has escapement, but I believe only 2 sensors. I know a note can be repeated without the key fully returning to the top, but now I'm curious if the damper engages between... I will have to experiment.

You might try those repeated notes at various places on the keyboard. I bet there isn't much difference between two and three sensors on the low end, where (if brief partial damping is realistically implemented) the mass of the heavier strings keeps the note from damping much in between plays, but on the high end it may be trickier on a two sensor.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/23/11 12:10 AM

Dewster - we'll have to remain in disagreement then. DPs have done this practically FOREVER. Go and find the oldest one you can, and test it. You'll hear the subtle phasing. (ok, if it doesn't, then try to find a slightly less old one. ;^) ;^)

The reason they can get away with it is that piano notes fade away relatively quickly. Also, they may limit the number of overlapping voices too.

EWQLP doesn't do any voice aging. It will keep overlapping voices until it runs out of polyphony. (which I think it just silly). Yet, it still sounds ok.

From memory, Pianoteq does limit the number of overlaps. (can't remember the number, but I think it was about three)

The Lounge Lizard EP software is a rare example of one that does NOT overlap, and it sounds very bland. HOWEVER, the early versions MODELLED it, and it had a flaw - every now and then, repeated notes with the sustain pedal would produce a note that was far too loud. As far as I can tell, they simply disabled this aspect of the modelling, but did not implement voice overlapping. I have let them know about the issue.

I hacked in overlapping into Csound a very long time ago. I noticed that repeated notes with the sustain pedal sounded bland, so I coded it in.

Greg.
Posted by: PianoZac

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/23/11 10:09 AM

Quarkomatic, the DP-990 is actually a nice DP and I would consider to be one of the better DPs out for piano. Any of the higher end Yamaha, Roland, Kawai, and even the Casios are a heck of a lot better than many of the instruments students learn on, as dewster pointed out.

As far as the money being no object, the Yamaha AvantGrand N1, whilst still quite expensive, is the least expensive digital (hybrid) that comes with a full grand piano action. For around $8,000 it takes up no more space than an upright, sounds a heck of a lot better, plays even better, and costs less than many new uprights.
Posted by: Quarkomatic

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/23/11 10:45 AM

Originally Posted By: ZacharyForbes
Quarkomatic, the DP-990 is actually a nice DP and I would consider to be one of the better DPs out for piano. Any of the higher end Yamaha, Roland, Kawai, and even the Casios are a heck of a lot better than many of the instruments students learn on, as dewster pointed out.


Yes, I'm quite happy with it. Digitals in general mimic the touch of a grand, which is great - I find the touch on most uprights to be far too light.

It may be that I'm just used to the DP-990's keyboard now, but I was at a piano store recently, and I found the actions on most of the other digitals felt completely different - even other Rolands. One might think the F110's "PHA alpha II" would be similar to the DP-990's "PHA II with escapement," but it seemed vastly inferior to me. There seemed to be more friction in the travel of the keys, whereas key travel on the DP-990 feels smooth and only resisted by the weight of the "hammer." The keys also looked and felt cheaper - more plastic-y and with slightly more rounded edges. My one complaint about the DP-990's action is that the key bed is rather hard, so it is a bit thumpy.

Anyway, it's certainly a good idea to try before you buy. When I made my purchase, I didn't really know what to look for, but looking back with more experience now, I think I made a good choice.
Posted by: PianoZac

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/23/11 10:52 AM

Originally Posted By: Quarkomatic


It may be that I'm just used to the DP-990's keyboard now, but I was at a piano store recently, and I found the actions on most of the other digitals felt completely different - even other Rolands. One might think the F110's "PHA alpha II" would be similar to the DP-990's "PHA II with escapement," but it seemed vastly inferior to me.


Oh yeah. Huge difference. I owned both the RD-700GXF and RD-300GX at the same time. The 700 having the PHA II Ivory Feel w/escapement, the 300 having the PHA II Alpha. The difference was night and day. After playing the 300, going back to the 700 was like going from an upright to a full on concert grand.
Posted by: dewster

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/23/11 12:42 PM

Originally Posted By: sullivang
Dewster - we'll have to remain in disagreement then. DPs have done this practically FOREVER. Go and find the oldest one you can, and test it. You'll hear the subtle phasing. (ok, if it doesn't, then try to find a slightly less old one. ;^) ;^)

OK Greg, I'll definitely be on the lookout for this one!
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/23/11 05:20 PM

The first time I noticed the effect was on my Roland RD-300SX (the old Structural Adaptive Synthesis one, about 20 years ago). I thought it may have been some fancy modelling, but someone told me it was likely to be simple overlapping. I'm sure they were right. I had a Kurzweil PX-1000 at the same time, and I'm pretty sure it did it too.

Note that in EWQLP, in general it takes a very long time to actually terminate a voice after a release, so that may be inflating the voice count.

The main piano sounds on my Casio PX-330 do it, however the EPs, and even the "GM" piano sounds, do NOT do it.

What you're listening for is a very subtle "jaw harp" ding-dang-dong when you play repeated notes with the sustain pedal. It sounds very natural - it doesn't spring out at you. However, when you try it with a sound that does NOT do this, it sounds cold and dead.

Greg.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 09/24/11 08:10 PM

I just tested Pianoteq again. I was wrong when I said it overlaps about 3 voices - it's 12. If I just play a single note with the sustain pedal, it only uses 1 voice, so it appears that the sympathetic resonance effects don't consume any extra voices - at least nothing that shows up on the performance tab.

The voices are terminated about 2 seconds after release without the sustain pedal, but for repeated notes with the sustain pedal, playing a note just twice will cause 2 voices indefinitely. So, it appears that Pianoteq is intentionally sustaining the earlier voices - it's not just the normal release fade time.

Without having any knowledge of Pianoteq internals, I can't be 100% sure that it's doing the overlapping in precisely the manner I have always assumed, but on the surface, it appears that it could be. (although 12 sustaining voices for a single note seems a bit excessive, if it really is doing that!)

Greg.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 03:41 PM

So where does "playing off the jack" come in?
With reference to this site, I surmise that it's the ability to play a note by pushing the key very slowly to the double escapement position without sounding a note, and then playing the note from there?

One thing I'm curious about is why manufacturers haven't made double escapement standard across all pianos. There should be no excuse with Digital Pianos. Even on Acoustic Pianos I don't understand why classical music pianists would want to buy uprights, or why manufacturers haven't found a way to incorporate the mechanism into uprights.

I don't buy the argument that it's "for advanced players" only. Classical music is full of trills and other ornaments, and having double escapement would seem to help greatly in playing them well. And how will you even learn to do that if your instrument doesn't allow you to repeat notes without fully lifting the key?

Anyway, this an older thread, so to update as of the end of 2012, my understanding of the premium keyboard actions on the market are:

Yamaha AvantGrand N1/N2/N3:
- full wooden keys with replica grand piano action right up to (just before) the hammer
- optical sensors
- DOES have double escapement
- slightly heavier action than a real grand

Kawai Grand Feel(GF) (CA65/CA95):
- Wooden keys with similar pivot point to a grand piano
- 3 optical sensors
- DOES simulate double escapement
- great feel, has simulated "let-off" bump

Roland PHA III (LX-15, RG-1F, FP-7F, etc)
- Plastic keys
- 3 optical sensors
- DOES simulate double escapement
- simulated "let-off" bump? (unsure)
- lighter action with a harder stop at the bottom of key travel

Would this be a fair assessment?

I'm interested in updating my DP and my priority is the key action since superior sound can always be generated by software as long as there is MIDI out. I was going to go with the N1, but was interested in the new Kawai GF keys at 1/3 the price until I found out it doesn't do double escapement... EDIT: I have now verified this to be untrue. In fact the GF keys really do feel good.






Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 04:13 PM

I need to reread this thread to see why you are saying the GF action in the CA line doesn't simulate double escapement. I think it does. As far as I know, every triple sensor action simulates double escapement in the sense that you can repeat a note without lifting the key fully and resetting the damper.

Also, the sensors in the Roland and Kawai models you mention are not optical. They are electromechanical--somewhat reminiscent of the switches under the keys in your computer keyboard. This type of switch is all but ubiquitous in digital pianos.

Lastly, the action in the AvantGrands are modified. There are no felt hammers. Just weights. So the "up to the hammer" part is incorrect.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 04:28 PM

Hmm thanks for the insight, gvfarns. It seems that I am a bit confused and underinformed about issues.

See for instance this post.

I don't quite understand how "let-off" comes into the equation since from my understanding from here, let-off is the distance that the hammer travels away from the strings after striking it... Obviously it does not make any sense in a Digital Piano, so obviously Kawai have to be using the term to mean something else.

I still don't quite grasp the difference between "play off the jack" and a normal double escapement playing though, because if you look at the mechanism of a grand piano, the hammer can only be in one of 2 positions at rest - fully retracted or sitting on the Back Check. So how can there be a difference between playing off the jack (if I've described it correctly above) and a normal half-depressed repetition of a key (aka double escapement)

As for the optical sensors - I was under the impression that the sensors measure the position and velocity of the key action, and the rubber domed switch (of which there is only 1 per key) is just the on/off indicator when the key is fully depressed.

I take your point about the N1 lack of hammers and have adjusted my list.

I think I will need to read up a bit more on these issues.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 04:54 PM

Lots of good questions. I'll try and keep them organized.

People say "double escapement" to mean a number of things in digital pianos. The most significant meaning is the ability to restrike a string without putting down the damper and resetting the action. That is something a grand can do (thanks to double escapement) but an upright cannot. In digital pianos, a two-sensor action behaves as an upright action does: you cannot restrike a note without lifting the key enough to reset the action, which also lowers the damper. This is because the higher sensor is used both to control the lifting of the digital dampers and to begin velocity measurement. In a three sensor action there's a separate sensor for the dampers and two to calculate the velocity, so you can repeat a note without lowering the damper.

Sometimes people are also referring to the physical sensation you get when escapement happens. It's a little jitter or bit of resistance. Roland has been simulating this for some time and some Kawai actions do it as well. It is more correctly termed "letoff simulation." It doesn't affect the ability of the piano to play repeated notes.

Playing off the jack means pushing down the key to where this letoff simulation kicks in, and then pressing down from there, as you can on an acoustic. Whether this works or not has to do with where, exactly, the manufacturer placed the sensor relative to the resistance. As far as I know, playing off the jack is not tied to anything else more significant in digital pianos (the AvantGrand has a real double escapement mechanism, but it cannot play off the jack), so it can safely be ignored if you do not use this technique. Roland does it, Kawai and Yamaha (at least the AG line) do not.

Most people don't play off the jack. The primary reason for concern is that for greatest accuracy velocity is measured as near the end of the strike as possible (as near the letoff point on an acoustic). The fact that some digitals have letoff simulation but cannot play off the jack might lead us to believe that the sensors are not placed very close together. For this reason, the reply pv88 got from Kawai is a little cryptic. I'm not sure anyone around here (James excluded) understands exactly why correct position of the sensors precludes playing off the jack. At least, I don't. The Kawai engineers appear to be action purists, though, so they probably know better than I do.

Digital piano sensors are typically on/off switches placed at different heights. Velocity is calculated by the time it takes from one switch being activated to the next being activated. Your computer keyboard has only one switch per key. But if it had one at 2mm of depression and one at 3mm, then it could calculate the velocity with which you pressed the key. This is how most digitals work. For each key there is a rubber dome with three switches that activate at different heights. The AvantGrand has an optical equivalent. It has two beams of light that are broken as the hammer passes them. The time between the two breaks is used to calculate the velocity. The third sensor on the AG is under the keys. We don't know the details of how they work but probably they shine a light up to the key and when the reflected light reaches a certain intensity, they are considered "on," which probably means the software dampers are lifted.

As far as I know none of these switches is continuous. They are all on or off. The reason Yamaha uses optical sensors (as far as I know) is not because they are more continuous or in other ways better, but because they don't affect the feel of the action. Since the AG already has a grand action, they wouldn't want to make you push down rubber domes and perturb the natural key sensation.

The super-expensive alpha piano apparently operates on a different principle than other digitals and has an actual pressure sensor. I have never heard of anyone around here owning or even trying one, so we may never know the details on how or how well this works.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 05:39 PM

Appreciate the detailed reply, gvfarns.

I had not appreciated the fact that the damper stays off the string during a double escapement action. However it still doesn't make sense that "double escapement" as defined by "in the sense that you can repeat a note without lifting the key fully and resetting the damper" can exist independently of "playing off the jack". As far as I can see, if you have one, you have the other. Playing off the jack is just a case of playing ONE note as opposed to repeating a note, under exactly the same circumstances (half-depressed key). Unless of course, the key "release" or "reset" point is at the halfway point of return travel, but in that case the damper would have come back on the string, and it would not be considered "double escapement".

This link demonstrates that there is only 1 type of motion possible with "double escapement", so there doesn't seem to be a different type of motion possible for "playing off the jack"

Anyway, are you sure about your assertion earlier that the Kawai GF keyboard "implements double escapement" as defined above? Might have to look around for a Kawai dealer to test it out after all...

I had not appreciated the let-off "feel" issue. I should pay attention to that in my testing.

Incidentally, I tested a Yamaha GB1K "silent" (acoustic) baby grand yesterday. Whatever sensors they put in there, it does NOT do double escapement in silent mode. It was plain that repeating a key with very short travel from the bottom would sound in "regular" mode and would NOT sound in "silent" mode. In any case, they went through all that trouble to put a silent module in, but neglected to include simple midi out, very disappointing.

Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 05:52 PM

Some of the Kawai plastic actions have the escapement feel feature. For example my old CN33 did, so I assume the newer range of x4 models do.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 07:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca
However it still doesn't make sense that "double escapement" as defined by "in the sense that you can repeat a note without lifting the key fully and resetting the damper" can exist independently of "playing off the jack". As far as I can see, if you have one, you have the other. Playing off the jack is just a case of playing ONE note as opposed to repeating a note, under exactly the same circumstances (half-depressed key).


Depends on how you define "half." These digitals do not actually have jacks, so there's no reason to think that the point of resistance and fast repetition should be related in any way at all. All you need is for the resistance point to be placed below at least one of the velocity sensors and playing off the jack is impossible. This appears to be the case in the Yamaha AvantGrand and in Kawai's triple sensor actions. It's not called playing off the jack unless you can rest the key on the point of resistance and then play from there. But you can definitely replay a note on a triple sensor action without lifting it as far as you need to on a double sensor action, and that's the key characteristic of a grand action.

Notice that the placement of this resistance point has nothing to do with the sensor governing the dampers. The important characteristic of a double escapement is that you can play a note twice without lifting the key to the point where damping occurs (and the action resets). The point of resistance used when playing off the jack is a very unimportant characteristic of a double escapement action by comparison.

Originally Posted By: Acca
Anyway, are you sure about your assertion earlier that the Kawai GF keyboard "implements double escapement" as defined above? Might have to look around for a Kawai dealer to test it out after all...


I am quite sure, but you can test it for yourself if you would like.

Be aware that in all pianos (acoustic and digital) the difference between the point at which you can replay a note in a single- and double-escapement action differ by only a couple of millimetres or so, so you have to be very careful in your testing. Under normal circumstances one can't easily tell if an action has double escapement or not. That's one reason so many very fine digitals have been made without this feature.

In other words, try it on an acoustic upright and grand before moving to the digitals. That way you will ensure that your testing methodology is sound.

Originally Posted By: Acca
In any case, they went through all that trouble to put a silent module in, but neglected to include simple midi out, very disappointing.


That is disappointing and saddening indeed. I had no idea there were silent modules that did not export MIDI.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 07:57 PM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Originally Posted By: Acca
However it still doesn't make sense that "double escapement" as defined by "in the sense that you can repeat a note without lifting the key fully and resetting the damper" can exist independently of "playing off the jack". As far as I can see, if you have one, you have the other. Playing off the jack is just a case of playing ONE note as opposed to repeating a note, under exactly the same circumstances (half-depressed key).


Depends on how you define "half." These digitals do not actually have jacks, so there's no reason to think that the point of resistance and fast repetition should be related in any way at all. All you need is for the resistance point to be placed below at least one of the velocity sensors and playing off the jack is impossible. This appears to be the case in the Yamaha AvantGrand and in Kawai's triple sensor actions. It's not called playing off the jack unless you can rest the key on the point of resistance and then play from there. But you can definitely replay a note on a triple sensor action without lifting it as far as you need to on a double sensor action, and that's the key characteristic of a grand action.

Notice that the placement of this resistance point has nothing to do with the sensor governing the dampers. The important characteristic of a double escapement is that you can play a note twice without lifting the key to the point where damping occurs (and the action resets). The point of resistance used when playing off the jack is a very unimportant characteristic of a double escapement action by comparison.


I can understand how a keyboard action with fake/simulated double escapement feel and sensors in the wrong place can give rise to the dichotomy of "double escapement for repeated notes but no playing off the jack". However the Avantgrand has EXACTLY the same mechanics as a grand piano. (I could not find a clear cross section picture to verify that, but articles like this make me assume that the whole shebang including double escapement is identical.)*
If this assumption is true, then the double escapement action on an Avantgrand must be generated by mechanical action identical to a grand piano. If so, it's impossible for it to have double escapement but no playing off the jack. It's not like the Avantgrand has a sensor for saying "oh, the key is now in double escapement phase"... it just happens mechanically same as in a real grand piano!

Any action that will cause the hammer to hit the strings in a real grand piano, should trigger the hammer sensor on the Avantgrand. And like I've said, in a real grand piano (and presumably in the Avantgrand), as far as I can see, the action that gives rise to double escapement is exactly the same as that for "playing off the jack".

Anyway, it's just something that puzzles me, but you're right, "playing off the jack", whatever it means, is not something I would need. However, the double escapement feature is definitely a requirement. I just don't see how the two are different in the grand piano mechanism.

*Edit: found this. You can clearly see there is a Back Check that the Hammer Tail rests on, so it's safe to assume the mechanical double escapement is all there, exactly like a grand piano.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 08:12 PM

You are right that the double escapement mechanism is there and being used, but when you say "Any action that will cause the hammer to hit the strings in a real grand piano, should trigger the hammer sensor on the Avantgrand" you make the mistake of assuming that the sensors on the AvantGrand are at the location of the string and infinitesimally close together. They are not.

Only the hammers passing the two velocity sensors are used in computing whether a strike has happened or not. If the first sensor is further up in the stroke than the jack is, no playing off the jack. You can make the hammer shoot up from the jack, but no note sounds.

It is a well-established fact that the AvantGrand cannot play off the jack but it does feature a triple sensor action, real double escapement, and fast repetition capability. Though I guess the repetition may not be as fast as that of an acoustic if the configuration is as I have described.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 08:14 PM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns


Originally Posted By: Acca
In any case, they went through all that trouble to put a silent module in, but neglected to include simple midi out, very disappointing.


That is disappointing and saddening indeed. I had no idea there were silent modules that did not export MIDI.


I'm very annoyed with Yamaha right now. They charge a $2000 premium over the standard acoustic to have the silent module, but they intentionally do the minimum necessary for a single purpose (silent practice), forcing you to pay for much higher end pianos $30k and up for "extra" features like midi out. They also charge huge 200% markups in markets like Australia while not even making the latest models available. I have a lot more respect for companies like Kawai and Roland, I just wish they would make an Avantgrand competitor, and I wouldn't even need to consider Yamaha.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 08:16 PM

It is a well-established fact that the AvantGrand cannot play off the jack but it does feature a triple sensor action, real double escapement, and fast repetition capability.

I'm not sure what that means, but I know I will sleep well tonight.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/06/12 08:18 PM

Haha, I did modify the fast repetition part, since that's not as well established as the other statements. smile
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 04:36 AM

Here's a post where I found a link about playing off the jack, however the link appears to be dead now:
Re: Let-off feel - grands vs uprights - any difference?

Note that it says that the piano must be finely regulated to be able to play off the jack at all, and also, you must play firmly. It also says that this technique allows playing so softly that it is not possible to achieve that softness playing normally. (do any digitals simulate THAT aspect, I wonder?)

Greg.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 08:11 AM

Very interesting link, sullivang, thanks! So it seems there IS another type of action possible apart from double escapement after all!

It's funny how they were so dismissive of digital pianos, but I would have thought the actions of an upright would be far inferior compared to a grand... (and possibly to digital pianos?) But there was a good point about how manufacturers would not be interested in introducing more parts and expense to the action, hence no one really trying to come up with a way of adding double escapement to uprights.
Posted by: ando

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 10:21 AM

Originally Posted By: Acca

It's funny how they were so dismissive of digital pianos, but I would have thought the actions of an upright would be far inferior compared to a grand... (and possibly to digital pianos?) But there was a good point about how manufacturers would not be interested in introducing more parts and expense to the action, hence no one really trying to come up with a way of adding double escapement to uprights.


Yes, they are inferior. I think you need to read that link again if you got the message from it that the upright action is equal to the grand action. It clearly comes down in favour of the grand.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 10:41 AM

Actually, this has been done:
Originally Posted By: Acca
But there was a good point about how manufacturers would not be interested in introducing more parts and expense to the action, hence no one really trying to come up with a way of adding double escapement to uprights.
The Bafunnon patent (US PAT 7,718,872, May 2010) shows a double-escapement action for an upright piano. But it's more complicated than a conventional upright action, and likely more expensive. And I wonder how well it works: It has a peculiar backcheck mechanism.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 02:45 PM

Originally Posted By: ando

Yes, they are inferior. I think you need to read that link again if you got the message from it that the upright action is equal to the grand action. It clearly comes down in favour of the grand.


Obviously the grand is the standard, but I thought they were far more dismissive of digital pianos than of uprights (there was a "analog vs digital" tension there, when it should have been "grand vs everything else").

In any case I was more thinking about how some people will prefer to spend more money on a "good" upright than a cheaper grand piano, especially for classical music. I would have thought a better keyboard that allows better technique would trump any slight differences in "tonal" quality. (Granted, there could be space considerations.)
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 03:05 PM

I suspect that a good upright action is still very well respected, and is considered superior to most digital actions. I know that an upright doesn't have double-escapement, but I don't think that matters all that much for many players - I think the general feel of the action is what most players look for, and most digital actions are hindered by the fact that they don't have a real, mechanical (single) escapement at all - the hammers simply never really detach/escape from the keys in the same way as they do in a real piano. If the upright action is so lousy, I don't think Yamaha would have bothered to develop the NU1 digital, which has a real upright action.

I agree that they did seem overly dismissive of digitals, and yes, I felt the tension. ;^) I was glad to get out of that place in one piece. I don't know what would happen if I were to give them a link to that post here where someone likened all real pianos to a (fictional) Fiat Doblo.

Greg.
Posted by: ando

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 04:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca
Originally Posted By: ando

Yes, they are inferior. I think you need to read that link again if you got the message from it that the upright action is equal to the grand action. It clearly comes down in favour of the grand.


Obviously the grand is the standard, but I thought they were far more dismissive of digital pianos than of uprights (there was a "analog vs digital" tension there, when it should have been "grand vs everything else").

In any case I was more thinking about how some people will prefer to spend more money on a "good" upright than a cheaper grand piano, especially for classical music. I would have thought a better keyboard that allows better technique would trump any slight differences in "tonal" quality. (Granted, there could be space considerations.)


I think the difference in tonal quality is more than slight. A good upright really trumps a digital because of the dynamic range and the amount of resonance available with hundreds of real strings.

Current DPs have very crude resonance simulation. The Amplifiers they use use a fair degree of compression so the dynamic range is not there. Loudspeakers tend to be a compromise. they aren't going to put full range state-of-the art speakers in a DP. There is a very real reason why a lot of people will prefer an upright over a DP. It feels more real, more present.

I would also say that a good upright action is right up there, if not superior to most digital actions. The sensation of a full sized hammer swinging and rebounding off a string is a real plus. As Sullivang said, the main disadvantage of the upright action is the lack of rapid/undamped repeats. The thing is, most of these 3 sensor digitals still fail to implement this really well anyway. If you don't play music that uses rapid repeats, it's inconsequential.

I still see DPs as a technology of great potential, but one which has not yet marshalled all its resources to put all the right features in the one box. I love reading this forum because I'm interested in the evolution of the technology, but every ounce of the musician in me says acoustic is still king, by a comfortable margin. DPs are a practical means to an end for me. Silent practice, easy recording. But they are definitely not my instrument of choice, sometimes a "tool" of choice though.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 06:33 PM

Originally Posted By: ando
Originally Posted By: Acca

In any case I was more thinking about how some people will prefer to spend more money on a "good" upright than a cheaper grand piano, especially for classical music.


I think the difference in tonal quality is more than slight. A good upright really trumps a digital because of the dynamic range and the amount of resonance available with hundreds of real strings.


I was talking about acoustic uprights vs acoustic grands, not digital. In my experience, a lot of people will prefer to pay top dollar for an upright even though they could get a baby grand for less. However like I said, perhaps it's because of space considerations, but I find this true even for professional musicians and that's puzzling (especially for classical music)
Posted by: ando

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/07/12 11:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca
Originally Posted By: ando
Originally Posted By: Acca

In any case I was more thinking about how some people will prefer to spend more money on a "good" upright than a cheaper grand piano, especially for classical music.


I think the difference in tonal quality is more than slight. A good upright really trumps a digital because of the dynamic range and the amount of resonance available with hundreds of real strings.




I was talking about acoustic uprights vs acoustic grands, not digital. In my experience, a lot of people will prefer to pay top dollar for an upright even though they could get a baby grand for less. However like I said, perhaps it's because of space considerations, but I find this true even for professional musicians and that's puzzling (especially for classical music)


That's because baby grands generally sound pretty terrible. They have shorter strings than a larger upright and it is very noticeable. It goes to show that sound does trump action more often than not. As I said, unless you specifically need an action that repeats rapidly, you would go for an upright with a nice sound over a grand with a weak sound. And a lot of grands out there are so poorly regulated that they don't really play any better than an upright action anyway. There is nothing terrible about a well-maintained upright action. It will get you through most situations, and you have to be pretty advanced to be held back by it.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 12:56 AM

That's absolutely true. I regularly play on a grand and upright and I notice many differences between them (primarily the way they are regulated) but speed of repetition has never been one of them. The difference between grand and upright actions (and even digital, for that matter) only matters when things are working right...properly regulated and so forth. A grand action *can* be the best of the three. That doesn't mean it always is.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 02:58 AM

I've finally managed to visit a couple of small acoustic piano specialist stores, and I have a much better idea of things.

First off:
What people refer to as the "let-off" feel is actually a small bump of resistance at the last third or last quarter of key travel. On a grand piano, if you rest the finger at that point, and then push the key down all the way, you will get the hammer to hit the string. It also seems to be the point at which double escapement happens. Therefore if you re-tap the key slightly above this point, the note will repeat. Hence, you can repeat notes by merely lifting about 1/3 - 1/4 of the travel from the bottom.

Uprights have a resistance point about 1/3 to halfway from the top of the travel. A note will not repeat if you do not lift the key past this point. So you practically have to lift the key up all the way to repeat a note.

The Kawai Grand Feel keyboard (CA65, CA95) has a SIMULATED let-off. From playing with their cross section model, the "let-off" is simply a bit of resistance from a rubber flap, and happens at the last quarter of key travel. However, no note will sound if played from that point. There is another point about halfway down the travel, at which the note will play if you press from that point. It is also the point you need to get back to before "double escapement" will happen.

So what I didn't realize was that the digital piano keys have a different escapement point above the "let-off", whereas on a grand, they are one and the same (and very low down in the travel).

I must say, I was very impressed with the Kawai GF keyboard. It had a very good touch, the fake "ivory" felt good, and the black keys had a different texture which is quite similar to how it is on a grand. And it's funny but the wooden keys seem to make a difference even though the keytops are covered in that fake ivory. It also doesn't bottom out too abruptly. The simulated let-off.. well, it's kind of silly because it doesn't do anything. On a grand, it signals the point at which you can pop the hammer up to the strings again. Whereas on the GF keyboard this is patently not true, you need to lift the key up another 1/3 of travel. They should make the bump coincide with the "double escapement" of a note, to simulate the grand. All in all though, the best feeling digital piano I've experienced so far.

In contrast, I was not at all impressed with the Roland PHA III keyboard - the fake ivory has too much texture and actually has random grooves in it. The keys seem to sit too "flat" and the travel seems a bit short. They also hit the bottom a bit abruptly.

Yamaha and Casio had no resistance at all throughout the travel. Not in the same league.

However, none of them can beat the real thing of course. Even the cheapest grand feels great.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 01:56 PM

It's real nice to be able to get your hands on these pianos after talking about them so much in the forums, isn't it? Sounds like you went a real good store if all four big brands were represented and they had high end models from each. Good deal!
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 04:05 PM

Yes, all the reading and speculating is no substitute for just trying the damn things! However, without my prior research I would never have even known what the differences between DPs, uprights and grands were, and wouldn't even know what to look for! smirk
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 04:20 PM

Thanks Acca - very informative! Just one little point though - I don't agree that the simulated let-off "doesn't do anything" - I think it would still allow the pianist to become accustomed to having to overcome the extra resistance when playing softly.

Did you test the let-off point and double-escapement repeat point of the Roland? If not, get back there please. ;^)

Greg.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 04:43 PM

Originally Posted By: sullivang

Did you test the let-off point and double-escapement repeat point of the Roland? If not, get back there please. ;^)

Greg.


I must admit no, because I tested the Rolands last week before I knew much about the let-off point. I did test double escapement, but I didn't note where the double escapement point was (didn't know enough to test that last week.) I tested the LX-15 and FP-3F. However, I really was not impressed with the keyboard in general, it just felt like the travel was too short and hit the bump stop at the bottom rather abruptly.

The fake ivory also didn't look or feel right (does real ivory have grooves like that?) Kawai's fake ivory looked and felt a lot better, much closer to a normal grand (which I was able to compare almost side by side yesterday).

This is just my personal opinion of course.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 04:50 PM

I've seen that comment about the Rolands having a shallow key travel often. I measured one once, and I'm pretty sure it was about 9.5mm, which is quite normal for a real grand. However, it is a bit less than my Kawai MP9000, which is 11mm. I think my Casio is 10mm.

Greg.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 04:54 PM

Originally Posted By: sullivang
I've seen that comment about the Rolands having a shallow key travel often. I measured one once, and I'm pretty sure it was about 9.5mm, which is quite normal for a real grand. However, it is a bit less than my Kawai MP9000, which is 11mm. I think my Casio is 10mm.

Greg.


Wow, that doesn't SEEM like a lot of difference... I'm also coming from a Casio Privia, but it's a perception that I never had when I tried the Kawai. (and obviously the grand)
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 05:42 PM

(note that I should not be quoting my measurements to 0.5mm accuracy, because the depth depends on how firmly the key is pressed. I didn't control this pressure)

Greg.
Posted by: ando

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 07:43 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca
Originally Posted By: sullivang
I've seen that comment about the Rolands having a shallow key travel often. I measured one once, and I'm pretty sure it was about 9.5mm, which is quite normal for a real grand. However, it is a bit less than my Kawai MP9000, which is 11mm. I think my Casio is 10mm.

Greg.


Wow, that doesn't SEEM like a lot of difference... I'm also coming from a Casio Privia, but it's a perception that I never had when I tried the Kawai. (and obviously the grand)


A 10-15% reduction in key-dip doesn't seem like much? Sounds like plenty to me. I'm not surprised you noticed it. As Greg said, all are within the typical range, but Roland and Kawai seem to be on opposite ends of typical - so it's not surprising that some would prefer or dislike one over the other.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/08/12 11:54 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca
The fake ivory also didn't look or feel right (does real ivory have grooves like that?) Kawai's fake ivory looked and felt a lot better, much closer to a normal grand (which I was able to compare almost side by side yesterday).


Yeah, I have always hated Roland's ivory. I personally don't agree with the whole notion of imitating Ivory. It was used because there was no such thing as acrylic at the time. Whenever I've played real ivory I have found it less desirable than plain acrylic resin or some of the less ivory-like synthetic ivories (of course, I have never played new ivory). Roland's stuff feels quite unnatural to me. No acoustics seem to have that kind of texture, so I'm not sure what they are going for.

The other day I went and played an FP7F for some time. I really wanted to love it but I just couldn't. Strangely, I don't really love my Kawai. If only I could cherry pick attributes from lots of different pianos...
Posted by: pv88

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 07:22 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Yeah, I have always hated Roland's ivory. I personally don't agree with the whole notion of imitating Ivory. It was used because there was no such thing as acrylic at the time. Whenever I've played real ivory I have found it less desirable than plain acrylic resin or some of the less ivory-like synthetic ivories (of course, I have never played new ivory). Roland's stuff feels quite unnatural to me. No acoustics seem to have that kind of texture, so I'm not sure what they are going for.


Not only does it not "feel" quite right, but I had a key bed (on the V-Piano) which had key tops that were showing dandruff coming off of them as the surfaces were flaking away... however, did receive a new key bed with better materials (not showing any wear) although the textured feel is about the same.
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 07:25 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Strangely, I don't really love my Kawai.


May I ask why not?

James
x
Posted by: JFP

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 09:27 AM

Kawai RH-II key travel is also 10mm (bit less than the previous RH, which I assume was the 'standard' Kawai 11mm). Noticeable but it's up to what you prefer - deeper or more shallow key travel. I like my Kawai, though given enough room and money, I would probably liked a CA with GF even better. Be happy to swap if people have a 'problem' with their GF Kawai piano ;-)
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 12:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Kawai James
Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Strangely, I don't really love my Kawai.


May I ask why not?

James
x


It can be exhausting to play. The action feels very heavy (whether it objectively measures that way or not) after not too long playing it. I'm not sure whether this has to do with the physical weight of the keys/hammers, the configuration of the sensors, or what, but I definitely feel more fatigue when playing it than I do when playing the acoustics I normally use.

I like it better than my old Yamaha (P80), though that was a little exhausting too. I'm beginning to side with anotherscott (IIRC) and others who feel that many DP actions are too heavy.
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 04:28 PM

Hmmm...I believe the MP8 had a heavier action than the MP8II (some folks prefer the original MP8 to the MP8II for this very reason).

How about an MP10 or CA95/CA65? What do you think of the action weight on those models?

James
x
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 06:16 PM

(apologies if anyone feels this is too much of a hijack)

Yeah, I think you are right. I remember when the MP8II came out and tons of people complained that it was lighter than the MP8. For many people the original MP8 is a classic piano that is better than its successors. I kind of want to find someone like that and swap. smile

Unfortunately, I no longer live near any Kawai dealers, so I haven't been able to play RM3. My budget has been easing up a little lately, so probably I will buy the replacement for the MP10, whenever it appears (assuming it has a GF action and is priced at all reasonably). Either that or I'll finally cave and get an N1, action noises notwithstanding.

I went to a nearby store the other day hoping to fall in love with the FP7F, but as I mentioned, I just couldn't.

Maybe I will need to do like pv88 and start a DP collection at home. smile Having a spare EP3 sitting around doesn't sound that bad to me.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 07:08 PM

gvfarns, have you tried or do you play regularly on a real grand? I have only ever had real experience on uprights before yesterday (never really tried grands because they were always way out of my budget), but having spent a good 30 minutes comparing the action in detail with other uprights and DPs, I have to say, there is no substitute for the delicate touch that popping a hammer up against gravity can give.

I've been considering the N1 (which I cannot try yet, hopefully when I go overseas in a couple of weeks), but the more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards a REAL grand with silent action, since the pricing is no different! The only problem is space considerations! :P

People were talking (in another thread which I won't fan the flames on) about how DPs should dispense with all the "fake" feeling of escapement etc because it's an artifact of producing sound on a real piano... I totally disagree, especially for classical music. If anything they need to make it MORE accurately modeled after the real thing.

People who think like that might as well just go with unweighted keyboards, why bother with "weight" when it's obviously an artifact of having to push real hammers? The day that I see accomplished pianists like Hamelin, Wang, Lisitsa or someone like that saying "Forget the Bosendorfer or Steinway, give me a Yamaha P130 so I can get a PURE touch!", that's the day I will revisit my opinion.

You know I had a similar discussion talking to the owner of one of the boutique acoustic piano stores I visited. I mentioned how kids these days prefer to play Guitar Hero than learn real skill and nuance on a guitar, and she remarked that to her, playing on a DP is exactly like pressing a button on guitar hero compared to a real grand...
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 08:08 PM

Yes, I am lucky enough to have the chance to play regularly on both acoustic uprights and grands. Certainly my favorite pianos have all been grands, but I've also played some real dogs. A while ago I played a 9' concert grand in a church and one of the musicians there was boasting about how rare it is to see a grand of that magnitude in a regular church. The problem is, playing quietly resulted in silent notes a large percentage of the time, and some notes were worse than others. Drove me crazy. To me, good regulation is more critical than the upright/grand distinction. And it seems that a large percentage of normal-quality acoustics are poorly regulated.

In buying acoustics with silent options, space is quite a consideration indeed. I'm also suspicious about how well implemented the silent functionality is (both the midi recording and playback, if implemented). I played a silent upright the other day and also had it play back some recorded music and I was unimpressed with both. Of course, that was just one piano. I haven't played many silent pianos.

In principle I'm all for making digital feel like acoustics. I don't think anyone in this forum, for example, advocates unweighted keys. There is, however, a legitimate question about whether it makes sense to attempt to emulate the deficiencies of acoustics. I personally consider the little bit of friction right at letoff to be a deficiency. I'm also inclined to say the gradedness of acoustics (and digitals) from low to high notes is also a deficiency. The latter is important to have in a digital so you can easily transition from your digital to an acoustic--for this reason I'm wary of Yamaha NW-Stage actions, for example, despite high ratings by people who use them. The former (the friction thing) I don't feel is as important or useful. My digital doesn't have this feature and by no means do I consider that a bad thing.

A related but more extreme example: would it make sense for digital organs to add a ton of latency artificially in order to play the same way as their (large) pipe counterparts? Certainly that would be more authentic, but to me this seems like it would be pain with no gain. I feel the same way (but to a leser degree) about the letoff simulation we've been talking about lately. On the other hand, when I played the PF7F the other day, I didn't notice it at all, so it's clearly implemented in a scaled down fashion relative to acoustics. For that matter, it seems (to me) that digitals are not as graded as a typical acoustic

I think Kawai's move to gain authenticity in its GF action by increasing key length (so the mechanical advantage changes from the front of the key to the back only as much as it does on an acoustic) is a step in the right direction. Haven't tried it yet, but I definitely agree with the theory.

If they really wanted to make digital actions authentic, they'd figure out a way to make key downweight heavier than upweight. The next level after that would be making the weight of the keys slightly lighter when the pedal is depressed (as it is in an acoustic because the force on the key need not lift the damper). Even the AvantGrand doesn't do that. No dampers.

A guy can dream...
Posted by: Pedro_Henrique

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/09/12 09:28 PM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Yes, I am lucky enough to have the chance to play regularly on both acoustic uprights and grands. Certainly my favorite pianos have all been grands, but I've also played some real dogs. A while ago I played a 9' concert grand in a church and one of the musicians there was boasting about how rare it is to see a grand of that magnitude in a regular church. The problem is, playing quietly resulted in silent notes a large percentage of the time, and some notes were worse than others. Drove me crazy. To me, good regulation is more critical than the upright/grand distinction. And it seems that a large percentage of normal-quality acoustics are poorly regulated.

In buying acoustics with silent options, space is quite a consideration indeed. I'm also suspicious about how well implemented the silent functionality is (both the midi recording and playback, if implemented). I played a silent upright the other day and also had it play back some recorded music and I was unimpressed with both. Of course, that was just one piano. I haven't played many silent pianos.

In principle I'm all for making digital feel like acoustics. I don't think anyone in this forum, for example, advocates unweighted keys. There is, however, a legitimate question about whether it makes sense to attempt to emulate the deficiencies of acoustics. I personally consider the little bit of friction right at letoff to be a deficiency. I'm also inclined to say the gradedness of acoustics (and digitals) from low to high notes is also a deficiency. The latter is important to have in a digital so you can easily transition from your digital to an acoustic--for this reason I'm wary of Yamaha NW-Stage actions, for example, despite high ratings by people who use them. The former (the friction thing) I don't feel is as important or useful. My digital doesn't have this feature and by no means do I consider that a bad thing.

A related but more extreme example: would it make sense for digital organs to add a ton of latency artificially in order to play the same way as their (large) pipe counterparts? Certainly that would be more authentic, but to me this seems like it would be pain with no gain. I feel the same way (but to a leser degree) about the letoff simulation we've been talking about lately. On the other hand, when I played the PF7F the other day, I didn't notice it at all, so it's clearly implemented in a scaled down fashion relative to acoustics. For that matter, it seems (to me) that digitals are not as graded as a typical acoustic

I think Kawai's move to gain authenticity in its GF action by increasing key length (so the mechanical advantage changes from the front of the key to the back only as much as it does on an acoustic) is a step in the right direction. Haven't tried it yet, but I definitely agree with the theory.

If they really wanted to make digital actions authentic, they'd figure out a way to make key downweight heavier than upweight. The next level after that would be making the weight of the keys slightly lighter when the pedal is depressed (as it is in an acoustic because the force on the key need not lift the damper). Even the AvantGrand doesn't do that. No dampers.

A guy can dream...




Man... If this forum had a like button, sure i'd press it. Said everything.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Escapement and double escapement in digital piano actions - 12/10/12 01:31 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns

A related but more extreme example: would it make sense for digital organs to add a ton of latency artificially in order to play the same way as their (large) pipe counterparts? Certainly that would be more authentic, but to me this seems like it would be pain with no gain.


IMHO, yes, it absolutely makes sense to allow a digital organ to have tons of latency like a real pipe organ, IF the player's goal is to be able to translate his practise time on the digital over to the real organ. If not, the player may develop bad habits, depending on how often they get to play the real organ.

If the player is not serious about playing the real thing, I'd agree completely that there's no need to emulate the large latency at all.

Greg.