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Making a grand action heavier
#2412891 04/22/15 03:13 PM
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I'm looking for some advice. I own a Yamaha C3 (4 yrs. old) which has an action that's a little on the light side. My tech says there's room to adjust the dampers to lift a little earlier in the keystroke, which would make the action feel a bit heavier. Beyond that he'd have to refer me to someone out-of-state who could add some weight to the keys.
A couple of questions come to mind.
First, would changing the damper lift be likely to make a noticeable difference? If I had the sustain pedal down at all, it seems like it would still be the same as it is now.
Second, the way I understand it, modifying the action would require drilling the keys and adding weights. I'm just looking for maybe a 5gm. increase in downweight to put it more in the middle range of action weights.
Assuming I had a competent tech do this work, am I likely to regret it? Would adding weight be likely to make the action more sluggish or affect the repetition rate?
How big a job is it - since he'd be coming from out of town, is it something that could be done in the home or would he have to take the action to his shop?
I really like the piano and would hate to do anything that would mess it up, but I find that when I go to play on a piano with a heavier action, like my teacher's Steinway A3, I have difficulties with my technique. (Or maybe I should just find a teacher with a piano that's easier to play!)

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Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412903 04/22/15 04:11 PM
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I think your action needs professional evaluation.
Yes, you would have the perception of heavier if the dampers lifted a bit earlier.
Adding weight to the keys will decrease the touch and make the action even lighter, not heavier, but will add inertia, making it slower to respond. It may give a preception of heavier because you are moving more lead weights but will be measurable lighter.
Other things can give the perception of heavier like voicing the hammers down.
Get a technician that understands action function and how to modify to suit your desires.
Typically to increase touchweight or make the action heavier you etiher use a heavier hammer or remove weights from the keys.
If you get a competent tech, you may be able to avoid that kind of surgery.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412904 04/22/15 04:22 PM
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Perhaps your teachers Steinway is the one that needs action work.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
Ed A. Hall #2412909 04/22/15 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Ed A. Hall
Perhaps your teachers Steinway is the one that needs action work.


Ha ha. My thought as well, but not one I'd ever suggest.

I guess my perception was that weight was added to the back of the key to make it heavier, but I can see that taking weight from the front of the key would do the same, at least if my thoughts are correct. One tech I spoke to some time ago (not my tech) had indicated that weights would be added to the back of the key, unless I misunderstood.

I really hesitate to do any physical modification beyond adjustments if there is a chance that it could mess anything up or make the action less responsive. Changing hammers is definitely more of a project than I would want to undertake.

I just am not clear how much of an effect action adjustments can have on action weight. Probably the prudent course of action is to have my tech (who has been my tech for 20 years - he has an excellent reputation and is the most highly regarded around) make the damper adjustment and leave it at that. And maybe find a new teacher.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412911 04/22/15 04:55 PM
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Whoa! Before you go drilling and making sawdust, or paying for a lot of someones time, there is a far easier way to add resistance, and get a micro balance at the same time. Use the small metal clips available from Staples, etc. You can add one, remove the two small spring handles, and slide it up or down the shank to make things very even. They are reversible, cheap, very accurate, and easy to do. Each one, out at the end near the hammer, adds about 5 grams at the key in DW.

Their use will also cause a less brilliant tone due to the increased mass hitting the strings.
Regards,

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412916 04/22/15 05:10 PM
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Hmm, interesting, that sounds like it might be worth a try.
Is this what we're talking about?

http://www.staples.com/Staples-reg-...-5-Size-with-1-4-Capacity/product_566942

Any chance they could scar or stress the shanks?
Maybe a few wraps of solder around the end of the shank - measured out so they were all the same - would accomplish the same thing? Might be a temporary fix but at least I'd get a sense of it that way and it'd be easily removable.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412962 04/22/15 08:21 PM
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A little more research leads me to believe I may be opening a can of worms with this - as far as regulation, etc. I'll talk to my tech about it, but I think I'll probably stick with just having him adjust it to the extent he can, without adding any weight. The action is just too nice to screw around with.
I'll find a heavier piano to do some practice on.
Thanks for the help, all.


Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412988 04/22/15 09:51 PM
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In many circumstances where a pianist requests a slightly heavier feel to the action the best approach is to remove some of the front leading in the keys. It takes someone with the proper tools and experience to do a neat and proper job.

The worst way to increase your touch weight is to place lead on the back side of the key. This would mean most of your keys would have lead on both sides of the balance point. This would greatly slow down the touch and slow repetition.


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Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412997 04/22/15 10:55 PM
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Thanks, Ed, that makes sense. That's what I was afraid of.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2412999 04/22/15 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by EP

http://www.staples.com/Staples-reg-...-5-Size-with-1-4-Capacity/product_566942

Any chance they could scar or stress the shanks?
Maybe a few wraps of solder around the end of the shank - measured out so they were all the same - would accomplish the same thing? Might be a temporary fix but at least I'd get a sense of it that way and it'd be easily removable.


The problem with the lead is that you can't play it much before it becomes first loose, and then a foreign object. The small clips can be permanent or not, and they don't damage anything. I have two piano instructors that wanted their pianos, assigned via studio, to be heavier. I had completely rebuild these actions, so didn't want to bastardize anything permanently. Adding the clips gave them exactly what they were looking for,and have been in for several years with no further adjustment.
Regards,

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413034 04/23/15 05:34 AM
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I second Ed's suggestion about using the small binder clips. These can be installed (and also removed, if desired) in minutes without affecting the regulation. Ultimately and ideally you might have a tech experienced in action balancing diagnose the cause of your action's perceived lightness, which might be due to hammer weight, friction, leverage, or some combination of the three. Or (as Mr. Hall suggested) the problem may be that your teacher's piano is too heavy. Adding or subtracting key leads is rarely a good option, unless undertaken by a tech familiar with all aspects of complete action rebalancing.


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Re: Making a grand action heavier
Ed Foote #2413066 04/23/15 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
I have two piano instructors that wanted their pianos, assigned via studio, to be heavier. I had completely rebuilt these actions, so didn't want to bastardize anything permanently. Adding the clips gave them exactly what they were looking for,and have been in for several years with no further adjustment.
Regards,


I would add that when another instructor is assigned those rooms, the clips can come off and I am right back to where I began with the original set-up. In the industrial use environment that a college school of music creates, practical efficiency becomes a performance in and of itself. Being able to customize action "feels" for various faculty with this quick, easy, cheap, radical, clip-on approach has proven to be an asset. Also, the useful life of practice room hammers is extended by adding the clips after the second filing. The extra mass makes the smaller hammers seem more than they are. Kudos to David Stanwood for promoting it, which is where I heard of it.


I usually set up for a FW that takes lead out of the normal factory results. Not always, but mostly. I reduce FW's to match a smooth curve with a Forstner bit, reducing the existing lead in the keys without sawdust. Often a lead will have to be removed, and others slightly drilled. This is after a calibrated SW is in place. I don't want to change all those relationships by altering the FW if I can add one gram out there at the hammer with a clip, and have all my options remain open. There is no law against putting two of them out there, either. Adding 10 grams to any action is going to be a profound difference, but it is just as easily reversible.

This isn't necessarily art, but a practical way to alter things.
Regards,

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413081 04/23/15 09:08 AM
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Thanks, this sounds like a good solution. I'm not sure my tech will go for it, but I'll talk it over with him. Sounds simple enough I wouldn't be afraid to do it myself if necessary, but I'd rather have his blessing so he doesn't disown me.

A question - there is a cushion or hammer rest under the hammer shank near the end that it appears to rest on (or nearly so). Not sure what this is called (hammer rest or cushion?).
How would one position the clips relative to this cushion, so that they wouldn't interfere with it?

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413112 04/23/15 11:09 AM
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Can I ask though, the Yamaha C3 has, when properly set up, one of the finest actions in any new piano available today. In terms of weight it's pretty standard.

Why do you need a heavier action? Ok, your teachers A3 has a heavy action, but it sounds to me like there might be something a miss with that to be honest. A heavier action won't necessarily strengthen your technique. There are people who have pianos with a very light action at home who cope with some pretty heavy actions in concert situations.

A heavy action on your main practice piano might cause you more problems with your playing than you bargain for - it could encourage you to play with a lot more tension, force, bad sound, make your playing sound laboured and hefty, and that could spell a long term disaster for your playing. I would, if I were you, simply make sure that your piano action is properly regulated and the piano is properly voiced before you even think about adding weight.

I'm a piano teacher and I teach at all levels - beginner to concert level - so can you explain to me what you and your teacher are trying to achieve?

Re: Making a grand action heavier
Joseph Fleetwood #2413129 04/23/15 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by joe80

can you explain to me what you and your teacher are trying to achieve?


I suppose this is the heart of the matter.
The bottom line is that I can practice at home to my heart's content, and when I go to play on my teacher's A3, I simply cannot execute the passages well, due to the heavy action.
I do love my piano, and have some concerns that playing regularly on a heavier action might cause me some hand and wrist problems.
I regularly comment to my teacher that I have difficulties, and she thinks I don't use enough arm weight, too much finger playing. She's very proud of her piano and I would never suggest that there are any problems with it (plus, her father is her technician).
I've played on lots of pianos, and seldom had this sort of problem that I would attribute to the piano's action.
I feel that I'm not getting as much out of my lessons as I would if it weren't for the difficulty I have playing her piano, but after two years with her, I'm still not able to adjust to it.
She's an excellent teacher and I would hate to leave her for that reason, but it may be my best course of action. Meanwhile, I've wondered if having a heavier action on my practice piano would help me, so when my tech was over yesterday to tune the piano I asked him about it.
He thinks the action is in good shape and not in need of regulation at this time, but as I mentioned in my first post he thinks he could change the damper lift to give a bit more feeling of weight in the keys. Even so, I doubt this would be enough to make much of a difference.
I've measured the downweights and upweights of my keys, and they do seem to be pretty normal, although the action does feel a bit lighter to me than average, although not significantly. Nevertheless, I've wondered if part of my problem is that my piano is too easy to play.
On the other hand, I'm a senior citizen (not that I consider myself as such), strictly an amateur who plays for his own enjoyment and, aside from the occasional informal recital, mostly just at home.

I'm sorry if this has rambled on, but it is a real dilemma for me. The more I think about it the less I am inclined to do any modification to my piano other than regulation. I am seriously considering finding another teacher.
joe80, I appreciate your comments as a piano teacher as well. Perhaps I should post on the teacher's forum and see what ideas people there might have about what I should do.
I know it's not just in my head. Of course I have some nervousness playing for my teacher, but I've been around enough to know the difference. This is a genuine physical difficulty playing her piano.
I should add that I tend to play with a light touch anyway, for two reasons - one, simply to keep the volume at a more enjoyable level, and two, I have some arthritis in my right thumb and don't want to further injure it. Probably that's one of the things I most enjoy about my C3 - contrary to what some folks seem to think about Yamahas, it has a nice mellow tone that is easy to control.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413146 04/23/15 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by EP

Originally Posted by joe80

can you explain to me what you and your teacher are trying to achieve?


I suppose this is the heart of the matter.
The bottom line is that I can practice at home to my heart's content, and when I go to play on my teacher's A3, I simply cannot execute the passages well, due to the heavy action.
I do love my piano, and have some concerns that playing regularly on a heavier action might cause me some hand and wrist problems.
I regularly comment to my teacher that I have difficulties, and she thinks I don't use enough arm weight, too much finger playing. She's very proud of her piano and I would never suggest that there are any problems with it (plus, her father is her technician).
I've played on lots of pianos, and seldom had this sort of problem that I would attribute to the piano's action.
I feel that I'm not getting as much out of my lessons as I would if it weren't for the difficulty I have playing her piano, but after two years with her, I'm still not able to adjust to it.
She's an excellent teacher and I would hate to leave her for that reason, but it may be my best course of action. Meanwhile, I've wondered if having a heavier action on my practice piano would help me, so when my tech was over yesterday to tune the piano I asked him about it.
He thinks the action is in good shape and not in need of regulation at this time, but as I mentioned in my first post he thinks he could change the damper lift to give a bit more feeling of weight in the keys. Even so, I doubt this would be enough to make much of a difference.
I've measured the downweights and upweights of my keys, and they do seem to be pretty normal, although the action does feel a bit lighter to me than average, although not significantly. Nevertheless, I've wondered if part of my problem is that my piano is too easy to play.
On the other hand, I'm a senior citizen (not that I consider myself as such), strictly an amateur who plays for his own enjoyment and, aside from the occasional informal recital, mostly just at home.

I'm sorry if this has rambled on, but it is a real dilemma for me. The more I think about it the less I am inclined to do any modification to my piano other than regulation. I am seriously considering finding another teacher.
joe80, I appreciate your comments as a piano teacher as well. Perhaps I should post on the teacher's forum and see what ideas people there might have about what I should do.
I know it's not just in my head. Of course I have some nervousness playing for my teacher, but I've been around enough to know the difference. This is a genuine physical difficulty playing her piano.
I should add that I tend to play with a light touch anyway, for two reasons - one, simply to keep the volume at a more enjoyable level, and two, I have some arthritis in my right thumb and don't want to further injure it. Probably that's one of the things I most enjoy about my C3 - contrary to what some folks seem to think about Yamahas, it has a nice mellow tone that is easy to control.


EP, if you are a bit older and have any amount of arthritis, you would be crazy to even consider making your Yamaha's action heavier. You will definitely regret it - much more than you would regret changing teacher.

Now, given that you believe your action weight to be fairly standard, and you feel your teacher's piano is unusually heavy, I have a suggestion for you: before you bid farewell to your teacher, why don't you take your measuring weights to your lesson and objectively measure the action weight of your teacher's piano. Your teacher should have no issue with this. Just tell her that you want to know if this is all in your head or if there is a measurable difference in weight between your two actions. If her piano measures outside the norm, this might be the push your teacher needs to have her piano worked on. She may have lost her objectivity through having played it for so long and adapting to it.

You can forget her father being her technician - that is immaterial to your problem. If your teacher does not concede there is a problem but the measurements dispute this, you should be upfront in telling her why you need to leave for another teacher. Your physical well-being is paramount and being honest about that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413148 04/23/15 01:13 PM
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Thanks for that EP, it clears up some things.

This is merely my opinion so don't take it for absolute truth:

Her Steinway A3 is probably quite elderly, and it may well have been restored at some point. I know that sometimes when a piano receives new hammer heads, the action can go heavy because the new hammers are much heavier than the ones that were on it originally, and no amount of regulation can fix it. This issue with hammer head replacement is far less common these days than it was, say, 20 to 30 years ago but it does still happen. The hammer heads have to be modified to fit, usually by cutting them on a special machine to make them the right weight for the old action. This is, in fact, why many restorers these days will just install a whole new piano action. Ed McMorrow on this forum knows this subject in intimate detail and will be able to shed more light on it than I can.

Your teacher is right that arm support and arm weight is crucial in piano playing, but a very heavy action isn't going to respond to arm weight all that well. My gut instinct on this is telling me that your piano teacher has a problem with her piano.

I have an idea - why don't you ask your teacher to give you at least one lesson on your own piano?

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413182 04/23/15 03:00 PM
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ando - I've thought about taking my weights to measure her piano but wasn't sure how she'd react to it. Since I'm going to bring up the discussion at my next lesson, that would be a good time to do it. Thanks for the suggestion.
My gut tells me you are right about not making my action heavier.

joe80 - It's a good idea to have a lesson on my piano, but due to my teacher's schedule and her new baby, I don't think that's an option, nor would it really solve the problem as it would be a one-time thing at best.

If my weights confirm that the action is outside the normal range, I think I'll just have to make a change, for my own good
I don't really know the history of her piano, other than it was made in the 40's and was restored at some point, but I don't have any idea what was done to it.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413197 04/23/15 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by EP
I should add that I tend to play with a light touch anyway, for two reasons - one, simply to keep the volume at a more enjoyable level, and two, I have some arthritis in my right thumb and don't want to further injure it.


I think this sentence from you tells everything about what you should do. If the UW and DW are indeed in the normal range and you enjoy the volume that your lighter touch offers, you should definitely NOT make your action heavier. You could ask your tech to modify the damper timing just for a few notes and see if you like the change. It doesn't take much to feel the change under the fingers. And this might be just enough for you - and it easily can be undone.

About six months ago, I "modified" and regulated my action for a lighter touch. I'm really happy with it now. I believe your piano should be as you want and like it.

Re: Making a grand action heavier
EP #2413225 04/23/15 05:04 PM
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Just out of curiosity, what did you do to "modify" it for a lighter touch?

The odd thing about all this is that I had a Kawai VPC-1 digital piano, which has a heavier touch due mainly to a shorter key pivot. I felt like the heavier action was giving me hand and wrist problems, so I traded it for an MP11, which has a lighter touch, almost a dead ringer for the action on my C3. I love the feel of it, but now I'm having these issues with learning to play on a piano with a heavier touch.

I'm the only adult student my teacher has. I seriously doubt that she's heard any complaints from any of the kids she teaches, so I don't want to be the only whiner!

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