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Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
#2857446 06/11/19 08:57 AM
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Mostly I'd call myself a pianist and have spent a lot of time on an acoustic upright, though in the context of a band there's a lot of other ground to cover organs, strings etc and I've been using a non-hammer digital keyboard to cover these and piano parts.

Thing is, I find that my playing of piano parts sucks without the heavy action I'm used to. My touch is too hard and giving very inconsistent dynamics.

I'm tempted to ditch the digital keyboard in favour of a dedicated electric piano, but is this difficulty normal? Is it just highlighting some bad technique on my part? Should I just work on a lighter and more even touch?

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857448 06/11/19 09:19 AM
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I recently purchased a Roland GO:KEYS for my daughter. It has full size keys that are weighted but it's not a hammer action. I couldn't play piano or electric pianos with it. It's really weird. I am used to feeling the hammer and just throwing it with the proper momentum (as a curling player slides the stone wink ) and then leave the inertia do its thing. On that keyboard all that is lost. You need to bottom out with the proper velocity and that's too difficult for me. I could only play the non-velocity sensitive brass sounds. I've recently purchased a Yamaha reface CP with very shallow soft mini keys and it's a bit easier but is still rather weird experience. There's nothing compared to a hammer action and that's the reality smile You're not alone.


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857449 06/11/19 09:20 AM
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IMO there is nothing wrong with that except the keyoboard you are using is bad smile Keys have to have some weight to them to allow dynamic playing with as much control as possible.

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857464 06/11/19 10:08 AM
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I have played piano on some semi-weighted actions with no problem others not so much. For example I used to have a Kurzweil SP4-7, I played piano on it without issue. I also currently own a Roland VR-09, good thing I bought it for organ and synth, because I can't play piano on it at all. For me it has to be at least semi-weighted and there its hit or miss depending on the brand. A fully weighted system with hammer action is much preferred and that's what I play on today. A light synth action doesn't work for me for much, I usually play my Deep Mind 12 or various modules from my SP-6.


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857493 06/11/19 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Angry Hobbit
is this difficulty normal?

Yes it's normal, but as Kbeaumont said, it varies a lot from one action to another. You may well be able to find a non-hammer action that you can play piano quite acceptably on, even if it's still not as good as something with a hammer action. What is the keyboard that is giving you trouble?

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857609 06/11/19 08:30 PM
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The age-old debate?

There are people who can do wicked awesome AP and EP parts on unweighted actions. And there are people who can do awesome organ and synth stuff on a weighted board.

I am not one of them. Every time I've learned to adjust, I end up completely at a loss when I go back to the proper weighting. Then again, I'm not doing basic stuff, either. I like my flashy bits when I play out.

Many folks are happier playing with a properly weighted AP/EP action below, and an unweighted action above for organ, synth and the like. Count me among them.

Yes, more gear and more complexity, but totally worth it given the alternatives.

For example, my current electric band rig is a Nord Stage 3 Compact above (unweighted), and an ancient Nord Piano 2 below (weighted) driving one of the A/B panels on the NS3C via midi. One set of outputs from the NS3C, one physical panel to control it all, etc. One keyboard producing sounds, two controllers driving it.

Works for me. I want for no more these days.

Last edited by cphollis; 06/11/19 08:31 PM.

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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857658 06/12/19 02:45 AM
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Piano technique doesn't translate directly to non-weighted keyboards.

My teachers recommended I take a few organ workshops for playing un-weighted "light" keyboards. We all play in the same weekend gig band so it was a "strong" suggestion on their part. grin It did wonders for my keyboard/organ technique and it made me appreciate much more the idea of adjusting your "touch" to the instrument.


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Groove On #2857669 06/12/19 04:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Groove On
Piano technique doesn't translate directly to non-weighted keyboards.

My teachers recommended I take a few organ workshops for playing un-weighted "light" keyboards. We all play in the same weekend gig band so it was a "strong" suggestion on their part. grin It did wonders for my keyboard/organ technique and it made me appreciate much more the idea of adjusting your "touch" to the instrument.

In the days before digital pianos keyboard weight/touch was a non-issue and you just adjusted to every piano you encountered. And it was certainly never mentioned when I moved on to the organ. It was simply treated as a different 'piano'. What is different with the organ is fingering as you don't have the sustain pedal to 'help' you.

I would always suggest playing on as many different pianos as possible to develop technique. Even if you end up only playing on your piano.


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857688 06/12/19 07:19 AM
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The organ is not velocity sensitive and has shallow keys with activation at midway. However playing velocity sensitive sounds on a non-hammer action is challenging because it requires pressing the keys all the way. If those are standard synth keys that's kind of OK, since those are shallow keys with no resistance. However somebody decided for some weird reason that they will do full-size weighted keys with no hammers, those keys have long travel and stiff springs and create very unnatural feeling because even if you hit the key with high velocity if you slightly release your finger at the bottom all that velocity is lost.

Last edited by CyberGene; 06/12/19 07:19 AM.

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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
anotherscott #2857691 06/12/19 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by anotherscott
Originally Posted by Angry Hobbit
is this difficulty normal?

What is the keyboard that is giving you trouble?

I've been using a Korg Krome to cover a lot of instrumental ground doing covers, but I much prefer my Roland fp30 with it's natual piano feel. I want to keep just one so I'm thinking of just plugging into an ipad or something for other instruments.

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
CyberGene #2857696 06/12/19 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
The organ is not velocity sensitive and has shallow keys with activation at midway. However playing velocity sensitive sounds on a non-hammer action is challenging because it requires pressing the keys all the way. If those are standard synth keys that's kind of OK, since those are shallow keys with no resistance. However somebody decided for some weird reason that they will do full-size weighted keys with no hammers, those keys have long travel and stiff springs and create very unnatural feeling because even if you hit the key with high velocity if you slightly release your finger at the bottom all that velocity is lost.


All keyboard actions could be described as 'unnatural'. Develop your technique to deal with them - i.e. practice!


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Colin Miles #2857697 06/12/19 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by CyberGene
The organ is not velocity sensitive and has shallow keys with activation at midway. However playing velocity sensitive sounds on a non-hammer action is challenging because it requires pressing the keys all the way. If those are standard synth keys that's kind of OK, since those are shallow keys with no resistance. However somebody decided for some weird reason that they will do full-size weighted keys with no hammers, those keys have long travel and stiff springs and create very unnatural feeling because even if you hit the key with high velocity if you slightly release your finger at the bottom all that velocity is lost.


All keyboard actions could be described as 'unnatural'. Develop your technique to deal with them - i.e. practice!

That's the best advice I've ever read. It makes the entire forum obsolete in a way.

Last edited by CyberGene; 06/12/19 08:08 AM.

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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2857728 06/12/19 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Angry Hobbit
Originally Posted by anotherscott

What is the keyboard that is giving you trouble?

I've been using a Korg Krome

The low-end Korg non-hammer action (as in the 61-key versions of Kross, Krome, King Korg) are particularly bad for piano. In a low price range, the Numa Compact 2/2X is much better. Still not as good as a hammer action, of course, but much more playable than that Korg.

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2859806 06/18/19 01:34 AM
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It is especially difficult to control dynamics and shape melodies well with digital piano patches activated with semi-weighted keys, but if that type of expressive piano playing is your goal, an acoustic piano generally will serve you better than a digital piano with weighted graded hammer action.


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
CyberGene #2859818 06/18/19 02:11 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Originally Posted by Colin Miles

All keyboard actions could be described as 'unnatural'. Develop your technique to deal with them - i.e. practice!

That's the best advice I've ever read. It makes the entire forum obsolete in a way.


I don't know, this kind of feels like tying together legs of an olympic runner and telling him to just practice running like that, because of the same argument.

There are some standards with piano industry. I guess you can take anything, map it to piano sounds, master it and become a prodigy for that custom unnatural setup (play piano on joystick controller? No prob. Computer keyboard? Why not! Heck, we can even take piano tiles/floor mat seriously!)

Why do digital piano makers try to get as close to the real acoustic action? I guess it's not because everything is unnatural, but because one, original, instrument stands above and feels most natural: acoustic piano.

I get your point in broader picture (you can invent any instrument you want, the question is whether people adopt it in future), but if the topic is about a pianist who feels that unweighted keyboard is unnatural, I don't think they're to blame...if you remove frets from guitar you can't blame the guitar player for not playing in tune, initially.

I don't think there's any concert pianist who'd answer the question "I suck when I try to play keyboard, because I'm so used to play acoustic pianos, what should I do?" other than "why do you even play keyboard? get an acoustic piano". Simply, standard answer to "how not to suck on piano" is PRACTICE (recommended 40hrs/day), "how not to suck on a keyboard with unweighted keys"...don't play keyboards with unweighted keys.

Check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6FaOOL_voI and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNgwI7K6rGs ("bare minimum is 88 key, weighted action")

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2859836 06/18/19 03:00 AM
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^ My reply above was apparently (or not so apparently) a tongue in cheek comment smile Saying that difficulties in playing a spring action compared to a hammer action is non-existent and the pianist is to blame, needs to learn to live with it and all actions are “unnatural” is a complete nonsense to me. But people have their opinions.


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
CyberGene #2859837 06/18/19 03:24 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
^ My reply above was apparently (or not so apparently) a tongue in cheek comment smile Saying that difficulties in playing a spring action compared to a hammer action is non-existent and the pianist is to blame, needs to learn to live with it and all actions are “unnatural” is a complete nonsense to me. But people have their opinions.


Here's what I've been concerned about: I never actually touched a real organ, but from what people say, it's not like piano...keys are not sensitive to touch (true?)...do they feel "springy"? If yes, I heard several people saying that they developed tendonitis from playing springy keyboards, does this apply to organs as well?

So in some sense you might be right, there's an instrument one has to consider seriously: organ.

P.S.: even a pianist can get tendonitis from not relaxing their hands enough. However, true actions differ from spring-weighted keys. Spring weighted keys push up the same force that was initially needed to push them down. Real action has a certain point beyond which it takes a relatively constant, small, force to hold them down. It wouldn't be comfortable to have a keyboard that always pushes up strongly (and this is not how real pianos work), and this can, apparently, lead to tendonitis.

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Chopin Acolyte #2859873 06/18/19 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte
So in some sense you might be right, there's an instrument one has to consider seriously: organ.

Basic organ technique is useful for un-weighted keys.

The main challenge is adjusting for velocity-sensitive sounds like pianos and EPs like the Rhodes, Wurlitzers, Clavinets etc.

It’s more like your hands are flying over the keys; and it requires more precision in terms of hand placement and finger control of velocity. Much more like a staccato technique rather the legato technique on weighted keys. FWIW - I engage my back, arm and forearm muscles in a similar way, but the “center of gravity” in my hands moves from the bottom of the palm (near the wrist) - up the palm (closer to the knuckles).

It can also be instructive to work out how achieve the same musical results with different key actions.

My teachers’ ability to play Chopin on an un-weighted action with all the subtly and nuanced dynamics you’d expect from a weighted keyboard is jaw-dropping.


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Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Chopin Acolyte #2859927 06/18/19 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte
Here's what I've been concerned about: I never actually touched a real organ, but from what people say, it's not like piano...keys are not sensitive to touch (true?)...do they feel "springy"?

True that organ is not velocity sensitive. Though many keyboards sold today as organs have other sounds in then, and those other sounds can respond to velocity. As for whether they feel springy, the amount of push-back varies with the design of the particular action. And as mentioned in post #2858768 in the "What DPs really lack" thread, the amount of pushback varies among digital pianos as well... and almost all DPs push-back more than real pianos do, where, as you mention, it generally takes very little force to keep a key held down.

Re: Any pianists have real trouble with non-hammer action?
Angry Hobbit #2859928 06/18/19 09:09 AM
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The problem with spring-loaded actions VS hammer-actions regarding pushback is that the spring-loaded ones have very light keys with very low inertia, there's virtually no inertia: the moment you stop pushing the key it stops and will push your fingers back. If that's 1mm above the bottom point you have no sound. On a hammer action there's the high mass of the hammer that has the inertia and even when you stop pushing the key it will continue moving through that inertia. And then even though the hammer is pushing against your finger on release, it has a limited speed of release due to the inertia and you can lift your fingers faster than that. A spring-loaded action is almost constantly pressing against your fingers both on press and release.


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