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Great answer, Ed!

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Originally Posted by oldMH
Great answer, Ed!

Thanks so much, Ed, for such a thorough, clear explanation.
This should have a permanent sticky as it is a frequent question; I hope the plan of Changing the touch is not a frequent buying error.


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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Just don't do it. It is a mistake to buy a piano with the expectation of making it what you want it to be,(unless you do the work yourself and know what you are doing). The far better route is to continue playing pianos until you find the one that you feel is right for you, not the one that "might" be right after a lot of work and expense.

I wish this was the advice that I had been given when I was looking! In fact, I was told the opposite by a very respected technician, and unfortunately I took it to heart. Now I'm in the process of putting huge work and expense into my piano and am hopeful. I don't dare be anything more than hopeful lest I be disappointed. At least I'm sure the touch will be "better" as we're replacing a worn action.


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If the touch of your piano does not suit you, the first thing you should do is have it regulated. You cannot really tell what a piano feels like until that is done. Often that is all it needs.


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Human beings are quite adaptable. For a new well prepped piano, if the touch weight is a bit heavy or a bit too light, a few weeks of short practice sessions and the pianist can and will adapt. If the piano is used, after having a full regulation done by a piano technician, and the pianist loves everything about the piano except the touch weight, the pianist can decide to adapt themselves to playing a slightly heavier or lighter action. I did this myself for two of the 4 pianos I owned. It also prepared me to be able to do auditions and recitals. It’s a good skill for piano parties too. Just my thoughts.


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Originally Posted by j&j
Human beings are quite adaptable. For a new well prepped piano, if the touch weight is a bit heavy or a bit too light, a few weeks of short practice sessions and the pianist can and will adapt. If the piano is used, after having a full regulation done by a piano technician, and the pianist loves everything about the piano except the touch weight, the pianist can decide to adapt themselves to playing a slightly heavier or lighter action. I did this myself for two of the 4 pianos I owned. It also prepared me to be able to do auditions and recitals. It’s a good skill for piano parties too. Just my thoughts.

Very true. I've played other pianos, besides my own, and it seemed more of a challenge to play, in more ways than one. We do tend to get used to playing our own piano(s) and become accustomed to the specific feel and touch. Hence, it is good to get out and play other pianos when the opportunity presents itself (post pandemic, of course).

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Apart from carrying weights in your pocket, are there useful quick measurements of "weight"? I was thinking that a fast trill might be one-- at different dynamic levels, perhaps. But what are the other hot-buttons that induce opinions?

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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
Apart from carrying weights in your pocket, are there useful quick measurements of "weight"? I was thinking that a fast trill might be one-- at different dynamic levels, perhaps. But what are the other hot-buttons that induce opinions?
That and playing a piece at presto gives me a great way to judge a pianos action. An important point for me is that the action feels creamy smooth.

In that, the Estonia has me completely spoiled. Sorry, there I go again talking about my piano. wink


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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
Apart from carrying weights in your pocket, are there useful quick measurements of "weight"? I was thinking that a fast trill might be one-- at different dynamic levels, perhaps. But what are the other hot-buttons that induce opinions?
From what I understand, measuring the downweight does not necessarily indicate how and action will feel because it does not measure the initial amount of force necessary to start the key moving. Hence, some earlier comments indicating that some pianos with a greater than standard downweight can feel light.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
From what I understand, measuring the downweight does not necessarily indicate how and action will feel because it does not measure the initial amount of force necessary to start the key moving. Hence, some earlier comments indicating that some pianos with a greater than standard downweight can feel light.

I agree downweight does not tell the whole story. For example, the downweight on my Kawai digital is 60g, and on my Petrof grand it was around 52g. Yet my Kawai digital feels much lighter to play. I believe the reason is inertia and static friction: there is less inertia in the digital because the mass of the wippen is lower, and there are no corresponding leads in the keys. Static friction (the initial amount of force necessary to get the key moving) is also less on the digital because it doesn't have all the felt and leather parts resting on wood parts to create the static friction an acoustic has. Therefore unless you only play very slow pieces, it's the inertia in the keys that makes things feel heavy more so than the downweight.

Like BDB says, however, it all starts with a good regulation. That in itself may lighten the action enough. Plus, there are adjustments that can be done during regulation that will make the action feel lighter, like easing any tight key bushings, reducing the hammer blow distance, delaying damper lift, installing cut balance rail punchings, and overall lubrication. My guess is that in most pianos, just doing this will lighten the action enough. If not, however, there are more expensive action optimization protocols like Stanwood and Weightbench that can further adjust touch. Another option is the Pitchlock Touchrail which I used to further lighten my piano's touchweight. If interested, you can read about it on this thread.

But, get it regulated properly first!


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I am convinced that my Bechstein (rebuilt model V grand with new hammers) is lighter on colder winter days than hot summer days. I assume it must have something to do with humidity and wood shrinkage or something. So I can't really comment on whether it's light or heavy as it seems to vary other than I like it better when it feels lighter. My wife curses me for keeping the living room temperature down in winter, I'm not sure she would believe me if I told her why!

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Originally Posted by Jack Knuckle
I am convinced that my Bechstein (rebuilt model V grand with new hammers) is lighter on colder winter days than hot summer days. I assume it must have something to do with humidity and wood shrinkage or something. So I can't really comment on whether it's light or heavy as it seems to vary other than I like it better when it feels lighter. My wife curses me for keeping the living room temperature down in winter, I'm not sure she would believe me if I told her why!

I agree with this theory. I have also noticed that the brightness or mellowness of an acoustic piano can be slightly different, although very subtly, from early morning to late evening on the same day.

Hence, I do believe that temperature and humidity changes, even very slight, can affect the feel of the action and the piano's voice. I call it the pianos personality, and they all have one, though some are more stubborn than others... smile

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Just noting that the OP hasn't commented since her initial post. Gotta wonder if we've helped her - or not.


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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Originally Posted by weinstay
Which leads me to a question to those in the know, esp any techs reading: when buying a new, lightly used or rebuilt piano, what is the procedure that would need to be done if an owner would prefer a lighter touch? How cumbersome and expensive would this process be?

Greetings,
None at all. Just don't do it. It is a mistake to buy a piano with the expectation of making it what you want it to be,(unless you do the work yourself and know what you are doing). The far better route is to continue playing pianos until you find the one that you feel is right for you, not the one that "might" be right after a lot of work and expense.

"Light" is a term that refers to the perception one has, not a specific quality of a piano. . I have seen two pianists call the same action heavy and light simply by a change of room. A lot of the problem is that the perception of resistance is gauged, in no small part, by the brain's comparison of the work the finger has done and the signal that the ear received. Because a louder piano changes the ratio of work:return, it will feel lighter, even though the keys offer the same resistance on both pianos.

Add to this the ear's increased sensitivity to higher frequencies, and we see that a "brighter" piano will sound louder and again, feel lighter. I have seen it happen numerous times when I have lacquered a set of hammers to bring them up, the owner felt the piano was so much easier to play. We unconsciously expect a certain return on our effort, and a dull sounding piano will often be exhausting to play, regardless of weight. An overly brassy piano forces a significant amount of attention be paid to restraining the raucous and trying to voice passages often feels like walking on ice.

As to the original question; "touch" can be changed by adding or removing lead from the key, doing the same for the hammer, softening or hardening hammers, reducing a friction problem, changing regulation specs or action ratios. It can be changed by removing the carpet in the room, becoming dehydrated, or lack of sleep. Too many variables to think that a piano can be altered to suit your personal touch unless you are intimately familiar with the mechanics of the particular instrument. A good tech can do all the above things. A great tech will listen to you well enough to understand what you want and know how, if possible, to get there.
Regards,

Cheers, Ed. Thank you for the thorough response. I will definitely heed this advice when it comes time for me to finally buy.

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New to the forum!! I agree totally with Rick and Jack! I have a 1908 Bush & Lane Baby Grand and it has the most beautiful sound and light touch; my mother bought this piano for me when I was 6, 51 years ago!! I have never played a piano that sounded as beautiful or has the action that this piano has...even with all the Steinways, Yamahas, Baldwin's, etc. I have played during my lifetime. Humidity definitely makes a difference and I found I have to tune mine more frequently since I moved to the "deep" south. I also agree that the piano you learn on has something to do with your preference but in my personal opinion a lighter touch makes the music flow more beautifully and you can float your fingers over the keys like a butterfly, so responsive and quick! I love to see all of your responses as they are very interesting and I can appreciate all of them. Lovely group of folks! Thank you!


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"I agree with this theory. I have also noticed that the brightness or mellowness of an acoustic piano can be slightly different, although very subtly, from early morning to late evening on the same day".


I agree also. I have noticed the same thing on my piano some days. And that is with a Damp Chaser system on the piano and a stable reading on the hygrometer.

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Originally Posted by Lynne G
New to the forum!! I agree totally with Rick and Jack! I have a 1908 Bush & Lane Baby Grand and it has the most beautiful sound and light touch; my mother bought this piano for me when I was 6, 51 years ago!! I have never played a piano that sounded as beautiful or has the action that this piano has...even with all the Steinways, Yamahas, Baldwin's, etc. I have played during my lifetime. Humidity definitely makes a difference and I found I have to tune mine more frequently since I moved to the "deep" south. I also agree that the piano you learn on has something to do with your preference but in my personal opinion a lighter touch makes the music flow more beautifully and you can float your fingers over the keys like a butterfly, so responsive and quick! I love to see all of your responses as they are very interesting and I can appreciate all of them. Lovely group of folks! Thank you!

Hello, Lynne G, and welcome to Piano World! Glad you could join us!

I enjoyed reading your comments here as well, and not just because you agreed with me! smile

We don't always agree here on PW, but it is still a nice place to hang out and talk about pianos!

Also, welcome to the deep South! I'm from Georgia (west central) and never lived anywhere else. Wrote a song entitled "Heart of Georgia Boogie". Thought it would be a big hit, but I guess not smile

Your story about your Bush & Lane grand piano was so interesting!

Rick


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When the humidity rises, wool and wood both take on moisture. They become more massive. This slows the feel and damps the strings more because an increase in mass of the hammers increases the time they contact the string and the force needed to move the keys.


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My 9' Bluthner is in the ballroom as many of you know. I am too poor to heat the ballroom unless I am having a party. Here in Bulgaria it can get pretty cold in the winter. I think on a cold day in the unheated ballroom the touch is lighter. Of course on such a day I am more inclined to play the others which are in heated areas.


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