Cleaning, Regulation, & Voicing

Cleaning, Regulation, & Voicing

Tuning is not the only maintenance that pianos need! As dust and other debris accumulates inside a piano, age and routine use wear down moving parts, and hammers compact and form deep grooves, various other maintenance tasks become essential. There is no standard interval for these maintenance tasks; but as a general rule, the more use the piano gets and the more advanced the pianists using it, the more frequently they should be done. Many pianists are simply not aware of what a well-regulated and well-voiced piano feels and sounds like, and don’t realize what they’re missing! As a general rule, any instrument that is being used by an advanced pianist, or for any performance purposes, should have voicing and regulation touched up on an annual basis. A thorough cleaning and regulation will generally be necessary every few years. If these tasks are done on a regular basis, the costs… Read More

Key Dip: All pianists notice it, few think about it

Key Dip: All pianists notice it, few think about it

One of the biggest and most immediate factors in how a piano “feels” to the player is the key dip. You’ve probably played a piano with very shallow key dip, and disliked it, but not been able to put your finger on the culprit (pardon the pun).The keyboard may have felt sluggish, clunky, hard, unresponsive, or just plain weird.    Key dip is the distance the key travels downward when you play it. As pianists, we are used to a key dip of about 3/8″, and even the smallest fraction of an inch makes a significant difference in how the piano feels. Part of this is due to the fact that the key dip is directly related to several other action regulation items, such as how far the hammer travels, at what point it stops being driven by the action (let-off), how far the key continues to move after let-off… Read More

Key Leveling, Squaring, and Spacing

Key Leveling, Squaring, and Spacing

Key level, squaring, and spacing: three areas that few pianists notice unless they are very poorly regulated. But all three areas dramatically affect the feel and function of the keyboard. Adding to the fun on this keyboard were a few loose keytops that had not been glued well when they were replaced. Taking care of your piano keyboard is one of the most visible and important cosmetic aspects of the instrument, but it also will make it much more enjoyable to play!

Voicing piano hammers – an incredible difference in sound

Voicing piano hammers – an incredible difference in sound

Did you know there are actually three categories of maintenance that pianos need? Tuning is the first that most people think of. But regulation and voicing are two other maintenence items that make an enormous difference in the feel and sound of a piano – sometimes more so than tuning. I’ve discussed regulation before, but voicing is the third element of piano maintenance and refers exclusively to the manipulation of the hammer felt. Over time, piano hammers get deep grooves, as well as the natural hardening and compressing of the felt with age and use. Voicing involves several different techniques to harden, soften, reshape, and re-texturize the hammer felt. It’s called “voicing” because every change made to the hammer felt makes a significant difference in the tone quality of the piano. What may be perceived as a “sour” or “out-of-tune” note is sometimes a voicing issue. Lastly, it’s worth pointing… Read More

Regulation – more important than you realize

Regulation – more important than you realize

For every single key in a piano, there are dozens of parts working behind the scenes to produce the sound. Translate that to several thousand parts in a piano action, and you have a good reminder that tuning is not the only maintenance pianos need! The adjustment of the mechanical workings of the action is referred to as regulation. Regulation, not tuning, is what determines the “feel” of the piano – heavy, light, bouncy, stiff, fast, slow, etc. Often, your piano playing experience may be improved dramatically by some quality action regulation. If there are a number of issues, this can be a more involved job and may be scheduled as a separate appointment from your tuning. However, good piano technicians often will perform some limited regulation as part of a regular tuning appointment, if time allows, or may recommend some additional work that can be performed on the spot.… Read More

Spinet “drop” action

Spinet “drop” action

This is what’s known as a “drop” action. This type of action is found in spinet style pianos, the smallest of upright pianos. Frankly, it’s a pain to remove due to the lifter rods (which “drop” down to the action inside the piano), and since spinets are generally not valuable instruments, it’s often not worth removing the action to do extensive work. In this case, the plastic elbows connecting the lifter rods to the action needed to be replaced. You can see the brittle old plastic on some and the clear new plastic on others. A number had already broken. This is a very common problem in old spinets, and other than a couple hours of labor, it’s not too expensive of a repair. Despite their small size and low market value, spinets can be perfectly viable instruments with the right upkeep!