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Wooden keys or plastic? #667991
08/29/07 11:12 PM
08/29/07 11:12 PM
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eJohn Offline OP
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Perhaps someone can explain why wooden keys are better than plastic. I've heard several Yamaha and Kawai aficionados speak favorably of wooden keys in their high-end digital pianos.

The only thing that should matter is the distribution of mass relative to the pivot point of the key. If you can get the same distribution using plastic, metal, concrete or whatever, the player shouldn't be able to tell the difference.

It seems to me that wooden keys convey only a psychological or marketing advantage.

The surface material of the key - which your fingers actually touch - is another story. I think this is one reason the Roland HP-207 feels so realistic. It's simulated ivory gives a surer grip than plastic, especially if you have sweaty fingers.

Anyway, just wondering...

-Eric

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Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667992
08/29/07 11:38 PM
08/29/07 11:38 PM
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MarkL Offline
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I think everything you said is right, but there's two other things I can think of. The density of the material has to also be the same as wood, so it accelerates the same when your finger applies the same force. The flexibility would also have to be the same, or your finger would probably pick that up. For example, dancing on a wooden floor feels very different than dancing on a concrete floor, because even through a pair of shoes your feet can feel the difference in the flexibility of the two materials. Fingers of people who play really well (I wouldn't know) probably can discern the subtle differences between materials with different densities and flexibility.

I agree with your conclusion that for the majority of people it's mostly psychological and marketing. Beethoven could probably tell the difference.


Yamaha P90, Kawai GL-10
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667993
08/30/07 01:18 AM
08/30/07 01:18 AM
Joined: Feb 2007
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Cairns Australia
Mike Warren Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by MarkL:
Beethoven could probably tell the difference.
I don't think so. I heard he no longer plays the piano. laugh


Digital Fake Book
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http://mike-warren.net/digitalfakebook/
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667994
08/30/07 01:42 AM
08/30/07 01:42 AM
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signa Offline
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it has something to do with the mass of the material. i'd assume the weight/mass of plastic and wooden material are different somehow (although may not drastically different).

actually even acoustic pianos with wooden keys the keys are still wrapped with plastic surface now, which i think is better because pure wood surface would get really bad when a piano gets old.

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Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667995
08/30/07 08:23 AM
08/30/07 08:23 AM
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AJB Offline
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Some people say that wooden keys (I am speaking about Yamahas here, about which I have seen this written) are less susceptible to breakage than the plastic ones.

However, I agree that key weight and feel is what matters.

Some people perceive wood as being of superior quality, though I would agree that this plays into the hands of the marketing department.


Currently playing 2017 C212 with carbon fibre soundboard, WNG action. Working on Bach, Beethoven, Grieg mainly.
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667996
08/30/07 12:14 PM
08/30/07 12:14 PM
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Eternal Offline
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I insist on using elephant trunks exclusively as a material for my keys.

Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667997
08/30/07 02:16 PM
08/30/07 02:16 PM
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I prefer to hit a baseball with a wooden bat.
A plastic bat will transfer energy back to the hands and wrists . The wood absorbs a little more of the shock. I would think this could apply to drumsticks and piano keys.


Talking about music is like dancing about art. If the truth will set you free, what do prunes do?
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667998
08/30/07 10:09 PM
08/30/07 10:09 PM
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Spain
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andgold Offline
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Nice point, Paul.

Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #667999
08/31/07 03:29 AM
08/31/07 03:29 AM
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Montreal, CAN
bachmaniac Offline
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I strongly agree with Paul here, although the way in which you use the wood means a lot more than the mere material itself. The keyboards of Yamaha's GTs and Kawai's CAs are superior not only because they are made of wood, but because their keys constitute long hammer-driving levers much like those in acoustic pianos. Conversely, the CLP280/CVP309's wood-filled keyboards are so insignificantly little different from regular GH3 keyboards that the manufacturer gets away with inlaying only their white keys with wood, while the black keys remain all-plastic. Nobody has ever commented that the black keys feel any different from the white ones on these keyboards, and it is really funny to hear people praise such "wooden" (!) keyboards as being significantly better than Yamaha's plastic ones...

Claude


K. Kawai KG-2D grand, Kawai MP8 digital, Kawai CA7
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668000
08/31/07 03:22 PM
08/31/07 03:22 PM
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San Francisco, CA
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eJohn Offline OP
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Claude, andgold, Paul,

The baseball bat issue is valid - for baseball bats, hockey sticks, hammers, etc - because of the significant issue of vibration damping. But I contend that it is essentially meaningless when you are talking about the forces used to play a piano key.

Claude makes an excellent point when mentions that no one complained about the difference between Yamaha's plastic black keys and wooden white ones.

What matters is the moment of inertia of the key (i.e. the mass distribution about the pivot point, which is easily duplicated with a variety of materials including plastic, metal, etc). That is what the player feels, along with the surface material on the key.

I still think that wooden keys are used primarily as a marketing tool, perhaps to distract from more significant deficiencies in the piano's action, responsiveness and sound.

-Eric

Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668001
08/31/07 05:45 PM
08/31/07 05:45 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
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San Francisco
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FogVilleLad Offline
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Quote
eJohn posted,
What matters is the moment of inertia of the key (i.e. the mass distribution about the pivot point,... along with the surface material on the key.
Yes, regarding the initial setting into motion, but I think that both mechanism and keybed affect players' perceptions.

Yammy's keys have a quick return, which facilitates repetition, but for some people the keys are too springy. Kawai fans praise the simplicity of their design, but some folks find them to be a little sluggish.

Players also feel the way that keys bottom. For this Yammy fan (P80 and P200) the hard bottoming of the graded hammer boards' keys made it a good idea to take a break every forty-five minutes or so. I haven't seen Kawais criticised for that.

Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668002
08/31/07 07:04 PM
08/31/07 07:04 PM
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Posts: 129
San Francisco, CA
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eJohn Offline OP
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Thanks FogVilleLad,

Those are all very good points. I might have oversimplified. There is a lot going on in both real and simulated piano actions (apart from the wood/plastic issue).

One more more factor for digital piano makers to consider is the feel of the escapement mechanism, which gives the slight extra resistance midway through the key stroke. I know the high-end Roland digitals try to duplicate this. Do Yammys or Kawais have the equivalent?

-Eric

Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668003
08/31/07 08:53 PM
08/31/07 08:53 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
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San Francisco
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FogVilleLad Offline
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Looked briefly at Clavinova specs, didn't see escapement.

When I got a Bachmann digital grand with the action for an acoustic upright (hammer felts replaced by weights), I could A/B it against a P80. The first thing I noticed was that pressing on a Bachmann key produced a feeling of setting a mass into motion - there was a slight resistance at first. The Yammy felt like I was pressing on the end of a lever. I hired a tech and he lubricated the action and repinned a few keys. That feeling was still there. It's the mechanism - the action.

There is also a subtle extra resistance, just as you described, tho I only experience it in "auditioning mode." This probably tells you as much about my pathetic excuse for technique as it does about escapement;-)

DavidH

Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668004
09/02/07 03:07 PM
09/02/07 03:07 PM
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 410
Montreal, CAN
bachmaniac Offline
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guys,

please remember that escapement is a necessary evil on acoustic grands (the actual term being "double escapement"), the perception of which piano manufacturers have been striving to minimize as much as possible for more than a century now. The better the key mechanism, the less you are supposed to feel it. And recently in DPs, it has become the "in" thing! How ridiculous...

Best,

Claude


K. Kawai KG-2D grand, Kawai MP8 digital, Kawai CA7
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668005
09/02/07 06:56 PM
09/02/07 06:56 PM
Joined: May 2004
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rintincop Offline
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or me there is an important benefit to escapement. As a pianist, there are times I do not want to play my finger strokes down to the bottom of the key bed, for example when playing fast and light or when playing softly. Escapement helps a pianist control playing in that shallow upper half of the key stroke.


Casio PX-360 digital piano, Mojo 61 digital organ, 1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668006
09/02/07 07:04 PM
09/02/07 07:04 PM
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rintincop Offline
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I do suspect that wooden keys provide healthier shock absorption than plastic keys.


Casio PX-360 digital piano, Mojo 61 digital organ, 1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668007
09/05/07 06:02 PM
09/05/07 06:02 PM
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Northeast
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Kenny Blankenship Offline
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Northeast
What about aluminum bats??


Kenny Blankenship
Selling anything anyone will buy as the "Walmartizisation of the industry continues. (Still making a fair living and still having clients like me)
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668008
09/05/07 06:46 PM
09/05/07 06:46 PM
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K.B: Aluminium bats are 'not cricket' and are banned.
If wood isn't potentially better, why doesn't Steinway use plastic?


Bechstein C 1890, Rebuilt
Bechstein V 1888, Project
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668009
09/05/07 08:57 PM
09/05/07 08:57 PM
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Montreal, CAN
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interesting...

call it vanity or snobbery, very often wood is used where plastic would much better excel and vice-versa. DP manufacturers that argue for plastic keyboards will snub wooden actions such as Kawai's, while in acoustics, Kawai is again snubbed for using plastic (ABS) parts in its RX-series grands' mechanisms (and more recently in many other models) because plastic is simply lighter, tougher, more durable, precise and generally better than wood for certain specific applications. Yamaha, Steinway, and others shun that, insisting on a purist "all-wood action" for their acoustics, all for the sake of art, while also shunning the same wood in DPs. Pathetic......

Aren't wooden keys best (I mean long levers) for ALL pianos, DP or acoustic, with critical micro-parts better made out of modern materials, aluminium, ABS, nylon, plastic or whatever? C'mon! Carbon fiber doesn't dry out or warp where wood does sometimes in intricate mechanical parts. This is the 21st century. Let's make sense, sometimes?

Cheers

Claude


K. Kawai KG-2D grand, Kawai MP8 digital, Kawai CA7
Re: Wooden keys or plastic? #668010
09/26/07 03:15 PM
09/26/07 03:15 PM
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Im going to buy my clavinova digital piano later this week (clp-270 or 280). Im ~500$ short on the 280 and the salesman on the phone told me there was really no difference with the 270 as the keys have the same weight and articulation.
Basically, he said its just a gimmick to sell some piano 1500$ more with the fine finish.

So I think for me the clp-270 will be fine as its mostly composing and teaching tool (not for performance practice - Even if I still want something realistic with a good sound). I hope I dont get there and there and find out there is a huge difference between the 2 models... wink

I'll keep you updated wink


"The quantity of intelligence carried by the sounds must be the true criterion of the validity of a particular music." Iannis Xenakis
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