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#1524022 - 09/27/10 11:00 PM response of a key  
Joined: Sep 2009
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Lingyis Offline
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Lingyis  Offline
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i have a steinway B at home the past summer it happened to be especially humid in new york city. my piano, along with many others according to my technician, had the problem of stuck keys. he said things should return to normal when there's less moisture.

well, first thing is that at least one of the keys still has response problems. another thing is that they just feel heavier. i don't know if it's because i'm practicing more these days and am just getting tired or if there were some permanent effects.

but one of the things my technician did was put those little weight counters on each key to see how many force is needed to depress a key. so my question is: what is the typical weight needed to depress a key?

my rationale for heavier action is that if i'm used to working a piano with a heavy action i'll have no problem with pianos with lighter actions. but now all the other pianos i play i find it really hard to play soft...

i wonder if anybody knows the answer to this question for various grands? say, the steinway D, the smaller steinways, etc. i want to practice on a piano where the action isn't way heavier than the typical concert grand.


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#1524047 - 09/28/10 12:03 AM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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Lingyis Offline
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so i managed to find something... apparently the technical terms are "touchweight", "downweight", and "upweight". i'm a little confused about how to measure downweight as i'm trying this. one website says apply "a light rapping" to break the starting friction as weights are placed. what exactly does that mean? thanks.

#1524075 - 09/28/10 01:57 AM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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rysowers Offline
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rysowers  Offline
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Olympia, WA
When I was at Steinway last summer they told us the target downweight was 52 grams in the low bass tapering to 48 grams in the high treble. The reality is they can vary quite a bit from instrument to instrument, especially as they age.

Humidity can certainly cause the wooden parts to swell and the hammer to get heavier and softer, both of which will make the touch heavier.

The light rapping can be as simple as bumping your hand against the bottom of the key bed. Otherwise you will tend to get a heavier reading.

The measurements should be made while depressing the right pedal so the dampers don't interfere.

You can use nickels and pennies to measure the weight - nickels weight about 5 grams and pennies are about 2.5 grams.

It's also good to measure upweight which should be somewhere around 20 grams

If you subtract the upweight from the downweight and divide by 2 you will get the amount of friction which should be in the 10 to 15 gram range. If the friction is high it is most likely a tight keybushing or hammer flange. If it is less than 9 or 10, the hammer flange is probably loose.

Good luck with your Steinway!

Last edited by rysowers; 09/28/10 01:59 AM.

Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
#1524091 - 09/28/10 03:03 AM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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Lingyis Offline
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I haven't done the upweights... but I measured the downweights on all 88 keys. It took me a long time. The pedal is held the entire time, but no rapping was done. Using 1 quarter = 5.67 grams and 1 dime = 2.27 grams, here are some statistics:

58/88 weigh < 10 quarters (56.7 grams) (i taped 10 quarters together to facilitate the process)

The distribution of keys < 56.7g: 13-10-8-9-6-3-6-3 (each number represent an octave, starting from the top octave going from C-C, to the 3 lowest keys) There's noise in this data though: a couple months ago my technician stopped by a little bit and oiled up the bushings for several notes in the middle to upper register. I don't remember which ones.

8 keys weigh > 68 grams all of them in the 2 lowest octaves

Worst offender: lowest D comes in at a whopping 76 grams (13 quarters + 1 dime)

I'm guessing that's why it's especially my left hand that's been getting tired.

Generalizing, the most played keys are the most messed up. Presumably, playing the piano when the bushings were moist had a permanent effect.

What do you guys think?












Last edited by Lingyis; 09/28/10 03:06 AM.
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#1524662 - 09/28/10 09:53 PM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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SM Boone Offline
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OMG, why would the tech add weight? Going back to your original post, and given our summer, ... even with AC you are probably 70% humidity. It you throw the windows open now and then, AMEN, .
About weighting keys, pretty pointless, and now you have extra weight,,,,,and I am wondering why? Your action on B is messed up and you will probably, (and should_) have those weights removed. If you want heavier touch, that can be regulated into action without adding weights.

#1524668 - 09/28/10 10:14 PM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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Zeno Wood Offline
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Zeno Wood  Offline
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SM-
My understanding of what Lingyis wrote is that the technician did not add weight, but rather used weights to measure downweight.


Zeno Wood, Piano Technician
Brooklyn College
#1524712 - 09/28/10 11:30 PM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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Bob Offline
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Florida
That is on the heavy side, but we can not tell why without seeing the action. You could call the factory and have them send someone out to look at it. You should try to keep the ambient humidity in the piano room between 40% and 50% for best results.


#1524742 - 09/29/10 12:59 AM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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Lingyis Offline
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Lingyis  Offline
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Thanks for the responses. Speaking of humidity, that reminds me... my parents have a Yamaha at their place in Macau (in Asia). It's extremely humid there, and last summer I went to visit. My parents actually spend most of their time in Shanghai, so the place is usually unoccupied and untended.

And... the keys on the Yamaha felt like they weigh a ton.

Opening up the lid, you can actually see the hammers puffed up. You can see uneven they looked. They literally soaked up all the moisture in the atmosphere. My god. It took a few days of dehumidifying to have the piano to return to somewhere near normal weight. But the piano actually felt kind of okay afterwards.

Anyway, I'm gonna have to do something about the piano. I'll guess I'll visit the Steinway showroom and ask whether somebody can take a look at it.

How much does it typically cost to "fix" something like this?


#1524777 - 09/29/10 03:52 AM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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Mark R. Offline
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Mark R.  Offline
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Pretoria, South Africa
I don't think one can attach a "typical price" to such a problem.

After re-acclimatizing the piano to a moderate humidity range, it then depends on the condition of the bushings [EDIT: and other possible friction points]. If they are only slightly tight, one might get away with lubrication or re-sizing them with an alcohol water mixture. That's a quick job. But if this doesn't work, or if it only works for a short time, the flanges may need to be re-pinned, including possible reaming of the bushings with an awl, which is much more time (and money) consuming.

I think that this judgment call would need to be made between yourself and your technician.

Last edited by Mark R.; 09/29/10 04:07 AM. Reason: given in post

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#1524921 - 09/29/10 10:50 AM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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rysowers Offline
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Olympia, WA
It sounds like the first thing to spend money on is a Dampp-chaser! For the basic dehumidifying system you're probably looking at around $350 more or less depending on your local economy. Use at least two or three dehumidifier rods. Treat the cause before treating the symptom.
$.02

Last edited by rysowers; 09/29/10 10:51 AM.

Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
#1525283 - 09/29/10 10:23 PM Re: response of a key [Re: rysowers]  
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Bob Offline
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Bob  Offline
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Florida
Originally Posted by rysowers
It sounds like the first thing to spend money on is a Dampp-chaser! For the basic dehumidifying system you're probably looking at around $350 more or less depending on your local economy. Use at least two or three dehumidifier rods. Treat the cause before treating the symptom.
$.02


Ryan, DC units don't do anything for a grand piano action. Putting a rod in the action cavity will loosen tuning pins, if that is what you are suggesting.

#1525310 - 09/29/10 11:14 PM Re: response of a key [Re: Bob]  
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rysowers Offline
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Olympia, WA
Bob,

Of course you have a lot more experience with high humidity down there in Florida!

You are right about not installing dehumidifier rods in the action cavity - big no-no!

However, I would think if the owner put a cover over the outside of the piano, the warm air of the dehumidifier rods would circulate all through the piano underneath the cover,including the action, right?

One way to tell would be to put a hygrometer in the action cavity, and take measurements before and after installing the DC.

Dampp-chaser does recommend the system for keeping moisture out of the action. From their website


* Stabilizes piano tuning, maintaining pitch and markedly extending the life of piano tunings
* Minimizes the expansion and contraction of action parts which provides optimum touch and predictable keyboard control
* Prevents rust on the strings and metal parts
* Minimizes felt deterioration, reducing the harsh tones that come from flattened hammer felt in low humidity or the muffled tones from swollen hammer felt in high humidity
* Minimizes glue failure throughout the piano
* Protects your investment year after year

Have you found that in Florida the system doesn't help keep the action drier?


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
#1525446 - 09/30/10 07:18 AM Re: response of a key [Re: Lingyis]  
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UnrightTooner Offline
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UnrightTooner  Offline
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Bradford County, PA
I think Dampchaser recommends putting a 25 watt bar under the keybed and controlled by the humistat. I would think toward the rear of the keybed, though.


Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?
#1525863 - 09/30/10 07:17 PM Re: response of a key [Re: rysowers]  
Joined: Jun 2001
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Bob Offline
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Bob  Offline
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Florida
Originally Posted by rysowers
Bob,

However, I would think if the owner put a cover over the outside of the piano, the warm air of the dehumidifier rods would circulate all through the piano underneath the cover,including the action, right?

One way to tell would be to put a hygrometer in the action cavity, and take measurements before and after installing the DC.


Have you found that in Florida the system doesn't help keep the action drier?


Ryan, without a piano cover, in Florida, the answer would be no, the dry air from the DC located in the soundboard cavity would not overcome the ambient humidity level to make a difference in the action cavity. Most pianos have a sealed action cavity, separate from the soundboard cavity. I doubt if much dry air works it's way though the belly rail. The average humidity here is 50%, and some locations can get up to 70%. That's a lot of moisture to overcome from a location remote to the action cavity. In support, I've seen key touch go from light in winter to heavy in summer due to humidity changes when the DC on the soundboard operated properly. (Chicago area).

I don't know the answer as to weather a piano cover helps direct dry air into the action cavity. I would assume there would be some effect, especially if it's a floor length cover.

I'll have to experiment on my own piano and post the results, though, we are just now coming out of our hot and humid season, so this might not be the best time of year to experiment

In addition to rods in the action cavity, I've seen rods on top of the plate, which burn the underside of the lid. Neither one stopped the action sticking - some sticking was vertigris, in others, the parts needed re-pinning.

A tech needs to check out the OP's piano, and the ambient humidity. Sometimes a combination of factors can cause issues.

A DC system certainly can't hurt, but my guess is more factors than that are at play here.


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