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Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? #2714211
02/14/18 10:39 AM
02/14/18 10:39 AM
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CyberGene Online content OP
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I've been researching the possibility to create a DIY MIDI controller that's using a real grand piano action and sensors both for hammers and keys.

Is there such a company (maybe a specialized piano action company or a piano company that makes their own actions) that can sell the entire action with everything including all the keys, frames and hammers? How much would that cost? I am OK with Chinese parts and possibly a low-grade action. Are there any that are made of ABS or other plastic? I know Kawai Millenium are ABS but apparently they don't sell their actions. But wondering if there are other manufacturers that utilize ABS as well. What would be the cheapest price for an action? And I know it would be entirely out of my budget but just out of curiosity how much for an entire Renner action? smile


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714213
02/14/18 10:51 AM
02/14/18 10:51 AM
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You could try researching on WNG actions.

http://www.wessellnickelandgross.com

Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714218
02/14/18 11:06 AM
02/14/18 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
I am OK with Chinese parts and possibly a low-grade action.


In that case, just look at freebie junker pianos from Craig's List. You should be able to find grand with a viable action but block/board/bridge problems that make it worthless. A grand is better than an upright for this because it's so easy to pull the action out. Then all you have to do is get rid of the rest of it.

As for Renner, they mostly just make the stack -- everything above the keysticks, but not the back action (dampers). A Renner stack is probably North of $5K by now....





-- J.S.

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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714222
02/14/18 11:13 AM
02/14/18 11:13 AM
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https://www.wessellnickelandgross.com/index.php/action-parts/grand-assembled-top-action.html

You will have to buy keys / keybed and others to make an entire keyboard.

How are you going to deal with the hammer sensors?

Even if you have the sensors, you also need to program the sensor systems so that you can get the desired midi output to the host PC. You might need ADC and a DSP chips for data processing.

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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714226
02/14/18 11:26 AM
02/14/18 11:26 AM
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CyberGene Online content OP
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Kenny, thank you, after your first post I opened the same link with the preassembled action and since there's no price, I wrote them an email asking about whether I can purchase directly from them or I should go through a certified technician. Wondering what the price would be though? Also, where can I buy keys from?

As for sensors, that's not yet decided. I am thinking of either Vishay CNY 70 optical reflective sensors or something else. Honestly I am not familiar with either piano parts stuff or even electronics laugh I have a degree in engineering physics but never practiced it and that was more than 20 years ago, so I am rather a total newbie in anything related to electronics but I can learn fast. And I work as a software engineer, so the controller part and software will be the easier one for me.


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714232
02/14/18 11:32 AM
02/14/18 11:32 AM
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From a pianists point of view, I think the WNG system is amazing. I just has my Steinway Model B rebuilt with their parts.

As another option, make contact with some local technicians. Maybe they'd have some actions the'yd part with pretty inexpensively. It may not be the best, but maybe you could experiment -- proof of concept kind of thing -- before you invest thousands of dollars in an action.

Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: GC13] #2714234
02/14/18 11:35 AM
02/14/18 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by GC13
From a pianists point of view, I think the WNG system is amazing. I just has my Steinway Model B rebuilt with their parts.

As another option, make contact with some local technicians. Maybe they'd have some actions the'yd part with pretty inexpensively. It may not be the best, but maybe you could experiment -- proof of concept kind of thing -- before you invest thousands of dollars in an action.


That's a good suggestion and is probably what I'm gonna do first indeed. Seems like a brand new action would cost me thousands and I don't think I'm willing to spend more than say $3000 for the entire project anyway.


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714240
02/14/18 11:59 AM
02/14/18 11:59 AM
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I was considering using the QRS PNOScan Optical Strip with an old Grand Piano and then hooking up a stand alone box just for Pianoteq. The PNOScan is listed at US$1595 plus installation fees. http://www.qrsmusic.com/PNOScan.asp

But it makes me wonder if getting an FP-90 or VPC-1 will basically get me the same thing ...


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And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714252
02/14/18 12:33 PM
02/14/18 12:33 PM
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I already have a Kawai ES7 which is a pretty good MIDI controller. However I would like to have ultimate realism which means a proper grand piano action, i.e. a hammer that can be thrown separately from the key which is not the case with digital piano actions. The wooden actions in some of the Kawai digital pianos have something like a hammer that's not always connected to the key, similarly to a real action and I owned a CA63 with the same action as in VPC1 - the Kawai RM3, however it had relatively short pivot length and also was quite stiff. Besides, even longer pivot wooden actions such as Kawai GF2 in their high-end digital pianos have their flaws. For one, there's escapement simulation that's actually a notch that goes in the way of the hammer. I find this pretty silly since the hammer shouldn't have obstacles in its free travel. On a real grand piano the escapement is something that's part of the mechanics before the hammer (whippens, jack, etc.) so you would feel that but it won't affect the already moving hammer. On the Kawai GF2 if you manage to throw the hammer without pressing the key fully, the hammer will be able to hit the sensor but before that it will also pass the escapement notch and that would slow it down and that's very unrealistic. That entirely beats the purpose of why there's escapement. Kawai put it in GF2 to only emulate the feeling but sacrificed the accuracy of dynamics in the cases where you play leggiero (e.g. barely touching the keys on top, without pressing them fully). In real pianos the escapement is there for faster repetition, however digital pianos solve this by using triple sensors, not escapement. And they put escapement notch only for recreating the feel.

Then there are hybrid pianos such as Yamaha AvantGrand and Kawai Novus NV10 that use full grand piano action with optical sensors but those are also expensive pianos with sound technology that's probably slightly lacking judging by how many people use them only as MIDI controllers to Garritan CFX, Pianoteq, etc. So I was thinking that if I manage to stay in a reasonable budget and implement my own grand piano action controller, that would be great. Otherwise I'd probably go for a Yamaha N1 smile

P.S. As to the PianoScan and similar solutions with sensors under keys. I don't think this is realistic enough because it's ultimately the hammer that hits the strings, not the key. You could estimate hammer speed by measuring key speed instead but that's not always the case because you can create a huge speed in your initial strike of the key then decelerate it until it bottoms out and the sensor under the key would have difficulties in deciding what exact effective velocity it should produce: an average one? But it was the initial high velocity that would have sent the hammer into the string so the sensor reading would be ambiguous unless it's aware of hammer movements (e.g. hammer behavior modeled in the controller software) which I believe would still be unreliable.

Last edited by CyberGene; 02/14/18 12:51 PM.

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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714509
02/15/18 10:59 AM
02/15/18 10:59 AM
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......and just what are the hammer heads going to hit?

Ian


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714547
02/15/18 01:00 PM
02/15/18 01:00 PM
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That’s a good question. They should hit a material that would produce similar rebound as from a tensioned string.


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714559
02/15/18 01:43 PM
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This project will cost you probably upwards of $20,000 for a one-off instrument.


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: BDB] #2714563
02/15/18 02:15 PM
02/15/18 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
This project will cost you probably upwards of $20,000 for a one-off instrument.

Do you really think it’s that much? The cost of electronics and other stuff is negligible. I’d imagine the bulk of the cost is the action and that seems like an awful lot for just an action unless it’s a Renner action.


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: BDB] #2714572
02/15/18 03:12 PM
02/15/18 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
This project will cost you probably upwards of $20,000 for a one-off instrument.


Why not just start with a junker piano that has a usable action?


-- J.S.

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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: JohnSprung] #2714590
02/15/18 04:05 PM
02/15/18 04:05 PM
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Why not just start with a cheap piano that works, and play it?

To the action, keyboard, back action, and the other mechanics, like imitating the feel of strings, there needs to be a case for it, plus the electronics, and gobs of other things. They are going to take time, which is money, as well as money. If you use a junker piano, why would you expect it to have a usable action without lots of work and money?

When Yamaha mass produces these things, they amortize the design and development costs over a bunch of instruments, and they still cost $10,000 or so, and they already had actions. Why would someone with no experience expect to do it cheaper?


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714598
02/15/18 04:27 PM
02/15/18 04:27 PM
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I have plenty of time smile There’s no rush here. I still don’t have a quote for an entire action with keys. Can anyone give me an estimate?


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714614
02/15/18 05:04 PM
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Keyboard and action, probably in the neighborhood of $5000-6000. You could ask the manufacturers yourself. After all, how are you going to get them to do it if you do not talk to them?

If you really want to do this, why not start by making a keyboard yourself? If you do not have the skills to do that, you are never going to get through it.


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714616
02/15/18 05:17 PM
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I contacted a local piano technician in Bulgaria, hopefully he can answer and help me. I'd love to assemble an entire action by myself and I am good with fine things like that, it's just that I lack any experience with piano repairing whatsoever smile I know this probably doesn't sound like very promising. The idea is not to have some piano to play on quickly. I already have an acoustic upright and a digital piano. It's about the journey as they say smile I'd like to have e challenging DIY project and I won't be bothered even if it takes me 10 years wink Of course, I don't have unlimited funds. Let's say I have the funds to buy a Yamaha AvantGrand N1 and of course that would save me a lot of troubles but once again, it's the journey and the experience creating something with your hands smile I might fail of course.

Last edited by CyberGene; 02/15/18 05:18 PM.

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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714636
02/15/18 06:10 PM
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If you have really good woodworking skills I could actually see this work for a reasonable price and time input. My old Grantouch had a wooden bar with a block of foam that the hammers would hit which you'd need to make, then add some legs and it should be good to go. Some junker pianos have hammers worn down to the wood, but an otherwise somewhat playable action (ideally, you would want to spend some money to replace the wear items). That would be perfect for this project. A few pieces of wood added to the harvested action/keyboard would make it playable, and I think someone skilled could do it in perhaps just an hour.

The hardest part would be hammer velocity sensors, which you can figure out :P

Last edited by trigalg693; 02/15/18 08:11 PM.
Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: BDB] #2714650
02/15/18 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
If you use a junker piano, why would you expect it to have a usable action without lots of work and money?


With all the junkers there are to choose from, why not look around and see if you can find one with an adequate action? The OP said he'd be OK with a low grade action. If you try, you might get lucky.


-- J.S.

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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: JohnSprung] #2714654
02/15/18 07:43 PM
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I am not going to look. I live 8000 miles away from Bulgaria.

Anyway, looking around is more work and more money.


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714703
02/16/18 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
I work as a software engineer

I teach software engineering. One of our mantras is never reinvent the wheel. You'd be better off putting in some overtime and buying a high-quality digital with your extra earnings!

That said, I think I understand that this is just something you want to do to satisfy your curiosity.

So, you should ask your neighbor PhilipInChina (who's no longer in China) if you can borrow one of his many piano's actions! wink

On a serious note, if you are determined to do this, I'd suggest finding a decent used piano because you'll get the piano action, and it'll already have keys, be installed in a case, and the hammers will be hitting strings. You'll just have to focus on the digital stuff. Consider it a feasibility study. If you get something working, you can upgrade the piano components later.


if you're content with A V E R A G E . . . then just do what everyone else does
Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714758
02/16/18 07:41 AM
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You CAN purchase an entire action and keyboard assembly, you may have to buy it through a technician. A keyboard from Laukhuff or Kluge can cost £3000. You'll still need to buy capstans for it, but capstans are not expensive. A set of top action parts - in other words the under-levers or whippen assembly from someone like Tokiwa can cost £1500, and to be honest they're not cheaper than Renner, or at least not by much. Then you'd need to buy the flanges, shanks with rollers, and hammer heads. That could easily add another £2500.

Then you'd have to have the action rails, action standards (the brackets), and you'd have to have the whole thing assembled, and regulated. You'd need to have the keyboard weighed off with lead to counter-balance the hammer assembly, and this is not work for the inexperienced. This kind of work can cost around £3000. So your entire action and keyboard assembly has cost you £10,000.

At this point you haven't got a back-action, pedal assembly, case, or electronics. I'm presuming you're using a pre-existing sound-engine.

Yes I know you can buy a whole piano for £10,000, but it's made in a big factory with high output and massive purchase power. I'm not sure if you could call Hailun and ask them to send you over a complete grand piano action assembly and keyboard, but that might be one way to do it, you could certainly try. That might cost you around £5000 including shipping and you'd still have to have it regulated.

I don't really think there's a cheap way to do this, and while it's an interesting project, you might be better just to spend the £6000 on a Yamaha N1......

I give UK prices because I don't know dollars, and I'm giving rough estimates on what the work would cost if done by good technicians in the UK, but obviously there are cheaper places. Perhaps SAP renovation in Poland might also be a good source?

Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: Retsacnal] #2714762
02/16/18 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by CyberGene
I work as a software engineer

I teach software engineering. One of our mantras is never reinvent the wheel. You'd be better off putting in some overtime and buying a high-quality digital with your extra earnings!

There are so many valid reasons to reinvent the wheel that the advice you give is bordering on unthinking cliché.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: phantomFive] #2714780
02/16/18 10:09 AM
02/16/18 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by CyberGene
I work as a software engineer

I teach software engineering. One of our mantras is never reinvent the wheel. You'd be better off putting in some overtime and buying a high-quality digital with your extra earnings!


I've taught in the past too and this is really a valid advice smile But I will admit that even after so many years in the industry I still have a great pleasure reinventing the wheel, of course not in my everyday job, just because I love to create things from scratch. Heck, I even write a quick sort routine from time time, just to feel the pleasure in doing so and then replace it with a library sorting routine. I realize what I am trying to do might be qualified as middle-age crisis laugh Bit I'm just trying to find pleasure in seeing how things work, how I can recreate this and that myself. Maybe I'm simply a typical geek. You've seen those guys that stack multiple 5.25" floppy drives and control them with e.g. an Arduino to plat the Star Wars theme. Why do they do it? laugh Try answering that...

As I said, I have an acoustic piano, I have a digital piano, I play as much as I can for a father of a newborn wink Here's a shameless self-advertised Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star reharmonization I recorded recently:


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Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714836
02/16/18 02:15 PM
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Beautiful playing, Gene! Thank you. smile

Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714903
02/16/18 06:22 PM
02/16/18 06:22 PM
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 3,588
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Retsacnal Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015
Retsacnal  Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015


Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 3,588
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Yes, very nice. And Kismet too: your neighbor PhiipinChina is also working on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (per his signature)!


if you're content with A V E R A G E . . . then just do what everyone else does
Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: phantomFive] #2714906
02/16/18 06:37 PM
02/16/18 06:37 PM
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 3,588
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Retsacnal Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015
Retsacnal  Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015


Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 3,588
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by CyberGene
I work as a software engineer

I teach software engineering. One of our mantras is never reinvent the wheel. You'd be better off putting in some overtime and buying a high-quality digital with your extra earnings!

There are so many valid reasons to reinvent the wheel that the advice you give is bordering on unthinking cliché.

Touché!

Funny, though, one of the synonyms of cliché is "truism:" a statement that is obviously true. wink

The premise of the blog post you linked is that reinventing the wheel helps to learn more about wheels. I don't discount the value in experimenting or exploring. In fact, I basically acknowledged that in the sentence just after what you quoted.


if you're content with A V E R A G E . . . then just do what everyone else does
Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: CyberGene] #2714909
02/16/18 06:41 PM
02/16/18 06:41 PM
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 3,588
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Retsacnal Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015
Retsacnal  Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015


Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 3,588
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btw, as I posted above, I think the OP's experimenting will go further and faster if he starts with a decent used piano. It'll save him the trouble of assembling an action, building a case to house it, mating keys to it, and "strings" for the hammers to strike. Plus, it'll cost a lot less, and that's a criterion that seems to concern him.


if you're content with A V E R A G E . . . then just do what everyone else does
Re: Can one purchase an entire grand piano action? [Re: Retsacnal] #2714910
02/16/18 06:41 PM
02/16/18 06:41 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,316
Sofia, Bulgaria
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CyberGene Online content OP
2000 Post Club Member
CyberGene  Online Content OP
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Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,316
Sofia, Bulgaria
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Yes, very nice. And Kismet too: your neighbor PhiipinChina is also working on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (per his signature)!


Hehehe, just saw that now laugh I've also notated it, so he can try mine laugh Sheet music

Philip once contacted me but he lives in another part of Bulgaria not close to Sofia, so never had the chance to meet him and his piano arsenal...


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