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Adjusting your piano...

Piano <em>action</em> in motion
Animation showing a modern grand piano action in motion

The piano is made up of several major components including the cabinet, harp, strings, soundboard, and action. Your piano's action is the mechanical component of the piano that transmits the downward motion of your fingers on the keyboard into the controlled and precise strike-and-release operation of the hammers. The vibration caused by the hammers striking the strings is amplified by the soundboard and heard as musical notes by the listener. Making adjustments to the piano's action is known as regulation.

The modern piano action is an intricate and ingenious mechanism that, when adjusted properly, makes a very precise strike-and-release of each note possible. A well regulated piano action allows the pianist full expressive capability when playing the very softest notes of a musical passage, to the very loudest. A well regulated piano will have a fast, responsive feel to the keyboard, while a poorly regulated piano might be described as sluggish, hard to play, lacking in power and evenness of "touch". Poor regulation can prevent you from being able to play softly. In short, enjoying a fully expressive performance on your piano becomes impossible! This is frustrating for the accomplished pianist and student alike.

The modern piano action has an average of over thirty moving parts per note that comprises a system of levers, hinges, and springs, many of which can be adjusted. In order to give the best service to the owner, the action should be regulated from time to time so that optimum performance of the piano is maintained. Periodic regulation will ensure a smooth and dynamic response over the entire keyboard, and can greatly enhance your overall enjoyment of the instrument.

For little or no additional cost, many tuner/technicians will make minor adjustments to your piano's action during a routine tuning session. However, performing a full regulation on an old piano, or one that has been poorly maintained, may involve the removal of the action and transport to the technician's shop. Procedures required might include a complete keyboard leveling, replacement of worn out parts, and systematic adjustment of the entire mechanism. This can take days rather than minutes. Your tuner/technician can evaluate your piano and let you know how much work is required to get your piano's action back into good mechanical working order.

Something to bear in mind: The action, and therefore the mechanical performance of the piano, can be seriously affected by foreign objects that find their way into your piano's action. Most piano tuner/technicians annually find and remove hundreds of pencils, pens, crayons, coins, hairpins, and small toys that have lodged in the moving parts of pianos. Oftentimes, simple removal of these objects is all that is needed to get things working properly again. However, it is best to let your piano technician remove these objects to minimize the chances of delicate action parts becoming damaged.

Here is partial list of the more obvious "symptoms" that may indicating your piano is in need of some action regulating and/or minor repair:

  • When depressing certain notes, they don't sound at all
  • Some keys don't go down, they are "stuck"
  • Keys feel as though they are depressing too shallowly or too deeply
  • There is an uneven "touch" from one note to the next
  • You're finding it difficult to play softly and still have the notes sound
  • When repeating one note rapidly, it fails to sound each time
  • Notes continue to ring after the key returns
  • Certain notes seem to "blubber" when played (hammer bounces on string repeatedly)
  • Some hammers strike the strings but do not retract causing a "thud" rather than a tone
  • Certain keys stay "stuck" in the down position after being released

You can click the link below to view an interactive view of a piano mechanism in motion:

Piano Action In Motion (Use your browser's 'Back' key to return to this page)

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Over 30 Years Experience

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Los Gatos, CA 95033

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