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A couple of grand piano regulation questions
#3026360 09/18/20 12:06 PM
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Yesterday I tried out a rebuilt Steinway B and had a wonderful time playing the piano and I am considering purchase. This was at a small shop owned by a technician who rebuilds pianos and has a good reputation. I thought his pianos were in admirable condition overall and this one in particular stood out well above the rest.

While inspecting the piano I noticed a few things that I suspect can be taken care of by adjustment and thought I'd ask about them here.

1 - As I slowly depressed keys to look at the hammer checking distance I saw that it was uneven from hammer to hammer. Some checking distances were short, maybe only 1/4", others longer perhaps 1/2" or greater. I suspect that this uneveness will show up in variability in repetition from key to key (is that correct?) and assume this can and should be adjusted so that it's even from key to key (is that the case?). I discussed this with the technician; his reaction was that I was asking for concert-level regulation. I wouldn't have thought of this being some extra-high degree of regulation.

2 - The sustain pedal had an extremely short "travel distance." Is this something that can be adjusted? I like some degree of control over lifting the dampers (half-pedaling, if you will) and couldn't do it with the short travel in the pedal.

3 - Speaking of the dampers in this case they lifted just barely enough to clear the strings. Notes sustained but I could barely see any gap between the dampers and the strings. It seems to me this also affects the ability to half-pedal the dampers. Shouldn't they lift a bit higher than "just" clearing the strings?

Last edited by Pianosearcher; 09/18/20 12:11 PM.
Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026374 09/18/20 12:26 PM
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Pianosearcher:

Since yours are technical questions, I think you might do well to post them in the Piano Tuner-Technicians Forum, although there are also knowledgeable members here, too, who might be able to respond.

Regards,

Last edited by BruceD; 09/18/20 12:26 PM.

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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026380 09/18/20 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
I think you might do well to post them in the Piano Tuner-Technicians Forum

I was reluctant to post there because it has been made clear the Tuner-Technicians Forum is "for the professionals to discuss their techniques and ask EACH OTHER questions." (See the Patience and Kindness post there.)

Last edited by Pianosearcher; 09/18/20 12:37 PM.
Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026401 09/18/20 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Pianosearcher
1 - As I slowly depressed keys to look at the hammer checking distance I saw that it was uneven from hammer to hammer. Some checking distances were short, maybe only 1/4", others longer perhaps 1/2" or greater. I suspect that this uneveness will show up in variability in repetition from key to key (is that correct?) and assume this can and should be adjusted so that it's even from key to key (is that the case?). I discussed this with the technician; his reaction was that I was asking for concert-level regulation. I wouldn't have thought of this being some extra-high degree of regulation.

You can then ask for "concert-level regulation" as a condition of sale, since it obviously bothers you, though I should warn you that there are certain regulation parameters that can be taken so far on the knife's edge of perfection that the difference between "perfection" and "malfunction" are day to day, and require constant checking and tweaking by a technician. Does the piano's action play and repeat well to you when you're playing (instead of measuring) it?

Originally Posted by Pianosearcher
2 - The sustain pedal had an extremely short "travel distance." Is this something that can be adjusted? I like some degree of control over lifting the dampers (half-pedaling, if you will) and couldn't do it with the short travel in the pedal.

There is typically either an adjustment capstan or block of felt that can be trimmed if you want additional pedal travel, in addition to the adjustment of the pedal rods for finding the right "bite point".

Originally Posted by Pianosearcher
3 - Speaking of the dampers in this case they lifted just barely enough to clear the strings. Notes sustained but I could barely see any gap between the dampers and the strings. It seems to me this also affects the ability to half-pedal the dampers. Shouldn't they lift a bit higher than "just" clearing the strings?

The sound of dampers not clearing the strings is pretty obvious, and the ability to half pedal is also pretty obvious. What did you find when you actually played it? There are easier, harder, and maddeningly fiddly damper adjustments...


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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
terminaldegree #3026408 09/18/20 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
Does the piano's action play and repeat well to you when you're playing (instead of measuring) it? ... What did you find when you actually played it?
Thanks for replying.

The action is new and the piano played quite well. I didn't encounter any problems playing, in fact it was a sweet experience. I didn't have any trouble with Albéniz' Prelude from Cantos de Espana. Now that I think of it perhaps that was a pretty good test of repetition. It was only afterwards when I was going over the piano that I noticed the irregularities in the checking distance. Some minor irregularity is probably to be expected; it was the wide degree of irregularity that got me thinking.

The shallow travel of the sustain pedal was annoying, it felt like flipping a light switch - either on or off.

I'm going to look at the piano again, and will pay more attention to repetition.

Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026412 09/18/20 02:25 PM
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Pianosearcher, feel free to ask on the technician forum. I'm there asking questions all the time and so far they haven't kicked me out. So long as it's a techy question, I think everyone's fine with it.

As for the damper pedal, is it that the travel on the pedal is short, or there is a normal amount of travel, but the dampers aren't lifting until the very end? Also, when you depress a key without the damper pedal, the damper should start lifting when the hammer is about half way to the string. Damper timing should be easy to adjust, and the techs can give you more detail.

Another option is to hire an independent tech to check out the piano, and he or she can let you know what it would take to address these issues. Hiring a tech is a good idea whenever purchasing a piano that is not new.

Last edited by Emery Wang; 09/18/20 02:26 PM.

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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026420 09/18/20 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Pianosearcher
Originally Posted by BruceD
I think you might do well to post them in the Piano Tuner-Technicians Forum

I was reluctant to post there because it has been made clear the Tuner-Technicians Forum is "for the professionals to discuss their techniques and ask EACH OTHER questions." (See the Patience and Kindness post there.)

The header on the Tuner-Technicians forum also states:

"Also, the place to post technical questions about the piano." It seems that your questions eminently qualify to be discussed on that forum - as well as here, if you so choose.

Regards,


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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026427 09/18/20 03:04 PM
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>>1 - As I slowly depressed keys to look at the hammer checking distance I saw that it was uneven from hammer to hammer. Some checking distances were short, maybe only 1/4", others longer perhaps 1/2" or greater. <<


if you "slowly" depressed the keys, you may have not put some of the hammers into check. If hammers are checking at such various distances, there is no regulation in place. Playing a chromatic scale of five notes at a time, at mf, will tell you more about the checking. They should all be the same distance from the string or you will have a variety of maximum repetition speed among the keys. The closer a hammer check, the faster the repetition. You will also want to evaluate an action by slowly depressing a group of keys together and ascertaining that all the hammers, on their drop screws, are at the same height. Another valuable approach is to play hammers firmly enough to insure they have checked, and then very slowly release the key so that you can view the amount of spring, (how fast the hammer rises to its drop position). They should all be the same, and you should not be able to feel much "recoil" in the key when the hammer rises. If they don't move, but just begin falling as the key is released, you don't have regulated springs.

>>2 - The sustain pedal had an extremely short "travel distance." Is this something that can be adjusted? I like some degree of control over lifting the dampers (half-pedaling, if you will) and couldn't do it with the short travel in the pedal. <<

When the damper pedal is depressed, the damper heads should rise to the same height as they do when the key lifts them. On Steinway the under levers are mounted to the damper trays on a different rotational center, so when the pedal moves the tray, the under lever flange moves upwards. Because of this, there must be free-play above the damper head when the key is held down. You can check this by holding a note down and gently lifting the damper head. When the pedal is depressed, this free-play may disappear, but it is good practice to have the slightest amount of freedom for the heads to move upwards when the pedal and key are both depressed. this margin of error insures that you are to trying to compress the unstop rail at the bottom of the key stroke.

>>3 - Speaking of the dampers in this case they lifted just barely enough to clear the strings. Notes sustained but I could barely see any gap between the dampers and the strings. It seems to me this also affects the ability to half-pedal the dampers. Shouldn't they lift a bit higher than "just" clearing the strings?<<

See above. Dampers should begin to move when the hammer is 1/2 way to the string. The pedal should bring all dampers to the height that the key lifts them, (plus maybe 1 mm more). If you have depressed the pedal, and then observed damper heads jumping up when the keys are played, the pedal is not lifting the dampers high enough and the touch will have an unwelcome impact in it.
Regards,

Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026450 09/18/20 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
is it that the travel on the pedal is short

The travel is very, very short (imho practically none) and the dampers lift immediately when you begin to press the pedal. That's why it just feels like it's "on or off."

I'll look more closely at how the dampers lift when keys are depressed but I didn't encounter any problems when I played the piano.

Originally Posted by Ed Foote
if you "slowly" depressed the keys, you may have not put some of the hammers into check.

I followed my own technician's instructions about depressing the keys, but maybe I did it too slowly. I will follow your suggestions next time I see the piano. (Five note scale at mf, group of keys, check & release, spring.)

After my return visit and assuming I continue to like the piano, I will have my own technician examine it.

Last edited by Pianosearcher; 09/18/20 03:56 PM.
Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026465 09/18/20 04:21 PM
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Checking distance is with a moderate blow.

The dampers should not lift more than about 1/16" more than the height they are at when the key is fully depressed. There is a rail to stop them from going any higher, which often gets knocked out of place.


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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026589 09/19/20 01:58 AM
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Besides the degree to which the dampers rise, the geometry of the pedal and trap work affects the feel of “off and on”. It is possible that the pedals were replaced or that at the year of manufacture a different length was used by the maker. You didn’t say what year this piano was made.

Some pedals have multiple fulcrum points to choice from, allowing some adjustment, but typically this is not changeable.

I suspect a rod adjustment will get the results you seek.


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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026766 09/19/20 12:58 PM
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Since it is a technician selling it, have you asked the seller about it?


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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026857 09/19/20 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by WBLynch
You didn’t say what year this piano was made.

It's a rebuilt 1929 Steinway B. Like-new condition overall. Reportedly the original soundboard (reconditioned) with all new action including hammers & dampers, pinblock, tuning pins, strings, bridge cap & pins, keytops. I have no way to know for certain if it's the original soundboard but all the rest was clearly new. It was a dream to play.

For the price, I expect it to be in excellent regulation, which is why things like the irregular hammer checking distance, minimal damper clearance & extremely short sustain pedal travel are of interest. My original post was mainly intended to learn about these things so I can be more informed (intelligent?) on my return visit and discussion with the seller.

Checking distance - shouldn't it be consistent from hammer to hammer? Even if some variation is to be expected, variation from 1/8" to 1/4" to more than 1/2" among adjacent keys seems to me, well, excessive.
Damper clearance - there is probably some spec for this although I haven't found it. Even so, it seems to me the dampers should rise more than "just the bare minimum" to clear the strings.
Sustain pedal travel - the travel is so short it's almost nonexistent. While it does what it's supposed to do, the extremely shallow movement is annoying and I hope it's something that can be adjusted.


Originally Posted by BDB
have you asked the seller about it?

Yes, I asked the seller/technician about it (the minimal pedal travel). His answer was, unfortunately, unclear and noncommittal.

Last edited by Pianosearcher; 09/19/20 05:14 PM.
Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026885 09/19/20 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Pianosearcher
Originally Posted by BruceD
I think you might do well to post them in the Piano Tuner-Technicians Forum

I was reluctant to post there because it has been made clear the Tuner-Technicians Forum is "for the professionals to discuss their techniques and ask EACH OTHER questions." (See the Patience and Kindness post there.)
I have found that if one asks intelligent questions on the Techs forum, they are usually very generous with their responses.

Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026887 09/19/20 06:37 PM
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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3026952 09/19/20 10:24 PM
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Did you test the sostenuto pedal? If the damper lift is too late and/or too little it is next to impossible to regulate the sostenuto properly.


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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3027881 09/22/20 02:04 PM
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“The action is new” sounds strange based on your questions you would think it would have been fully regulated when installed, but your questions make me think it needs regulation. Did someone prove to you it was new?

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 09/22/20 02:05 PM.

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Re: A couple of grand piano regulation questions
Pianosearcher #3028214 09/23/20 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
“The action is new” sounds strange based on your questions you would think it would have been fully regulated when installed, but your questions make me think it needs regulation. Did someone prove to you it was new?

I took a close look at the piano during my visit. I'm not a technician, but do have a fair knowledge of pianos. The seller claimed the action was new and by all visible aspects it certainly appeared new - hammers, shanks, flanges, dampers, etc. I visualized as best I could with a strong flashlight but without actually pulling the action so I did not get a good view of the assembly beneath the hammer shanks; next visit I will ask to have the action pulled so I can see it in its entirety.

The piano must have been regulated to a fair degree, otherwise it wouldn't have played nearly as well as it did. I suspect the regulation was "just good enough," however, but not as thorough as I believe it should be.

Last edited by Pianosearcher; 09/23/20 12:31 PM.

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