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Hello,

I am practicing on a Yamaha YDP-S51 (Arius) digital piano with a Graded Hammer (GH) action and I would like to know how this compares to the action of a real (acoustic) upright and grand piano.

How would you rate the Graded Hammer (GH) action as well as the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action which is used on the less expensive Arius models?

Is the Graded Hammer (GH) action closely modeled after the action of a real piano (upright, grand or both) or is it completely different?

Would I have difficulty adapting to the action of a real piano after practicing for a long time on my Yamaha YDP-S51 or would it immediately feel natural to play a real piano?

Can I hope to acquire solid piano technique (touch, tone, velocity, trills, ...) by practicing on my Yamaha YDP-S51 or should I consider switching to an upright acoustic piano?

Thank you for your advice and sharing your thoughts on this topic.

Jan

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Hmm Ive been wondering just what Graded Hammer action is! What does it mean, graded?


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Graded means that their is a slight difference in the weight of the hammers depending of the pitch (lower pitch = heavier hammer, higher pitch = lighter). It is an attempt at replicating the fact that, on a real piano, the hammers (and more so the dampers) are of different weight and size depending on their location. On a good acoustic piano everything is done to minimize the difference in pressure needed to play a low A or a high C but you can still feel it. That's what the "graded" part attempt to replicate.


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Graded (or progressive) means that, like on a real piano, the lower notes are slightly heavier to play whilst the treble end gets lighter and lighter. But as members of piano forums have said many times, this is a very small feature of authenticity compared with the fuss that is made about it by the marketing departments of these DPs.

Much more important is how the main hammer action feels and responds. However, most DPs have 'graded' action, probably because its easy to implement and it sounds impressive in the sales brochures. The feature is minimal in practice and most people say they hardly notice it.

Also, ironically, some makers of fine grand acoustic pianos try to eliminate this 'graded' effect because it is regarded as a fault, not an advantage.

Last edited by toddy; 03/17/13 07:07 AM.

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Originally Posted by Jean-Luc
Graded means that their is a slight difference in the weight of the hammers depending of the pitch (lower pitch = heavier hammer, higher pitch = lighter). It is an attempt at replicating the fact that, on a real piano, the hammers (and more so the dampers) are of different weight and size depending on their location. On a good acoustic piano everything is done to minimize the difference in pressure needed to play a low A or a high C but you can still feel it. That's what the "graded" part attempt to replicate.


Ah I see now, thanks!


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The GH feels much better than the GHS. I wouldn't want any GHS-based piano. It's worth the extra cost.

The P155 slab has GH, under $1000. So does the YDP-16x series of consoles, $1400-$1800.

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Originally Posted by JanVan
How would you rate the Graded Hammer (GH) action as well as the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action which is used on the less expensive Arius models?


I'm not a big fan of GH action. I feel it unnatural, but this is just an opinion, I know people who like it. I like way more GHS as it is very responsive. The down side of GHS is that it is very lightweight so when you switch to an acoustic piano (or a heavier digital) you may find it tiring as you got
accustomed to a very light action. Anyway we must have in account that the same action may feel different depending on factors like amplification, speakers, sound engine, dynamic layers...

Quote
Is the Graded Hammer (GH) action closely modeled after the action of a real piano (upright, grand or both) or is it completely different?


It tries to mimic the gravity drop of grand actions but using some workarounds such as being the hammer under the key. A real piano key is a long fulcrum. Yamaha GH, Roland PHA, Kawai RH and the like are different. This is a GH action picture:

[Linked Image]

An this one is a real action:

[Linked Image]


Quote
Would I have difficulty adapting to the action of a real piano after practicing for a long time on my Yamaha YDP-S51 or would it immediately feel natural to play a real piano?


It's hard to tell as every acoustic piano, even same make, model and year, feels different. Also a perfectly maintained and tuned piano feels different than the same out of tuned and not regulated. There are infinite variables. Anyway I think that for a person who only plays on a digital piano it's at least disconcerting as you get a lot of resonance and harmonics that no digital piano (even the best ones) can imitate. Also the touch makes a difference.

Quote
Can I hope to acquire solid piano technique (touch, tone, velocity, trills, ...) by practicing on my Yamaha YDP-S51 or should I consider switching to an upright acoustic piano?


I think that if one wants to become a serious player, sooner or later must have an acoustic piano. The ideal is owning a grand piano but a tall upright can also do a good job. You can keep your digital piano as it is a wonderful tool.

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Originally Posted by CarloPiano

I think that if one wants to become a serious player, sooner or later must have an acoustic piano. The ideal is owning a grand piano but a tall upright can also do a good job. You can keep your digital piano as it is a wonderful tool.


In my opinion as a 'serious player', most acoustic upright actions are inferior to high end digital pianos such as the Kawai CA95, which, crucially, are simulating the action of a grand, not an upright.

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Originally Posted by debrucey
Originally Posted by CarloPiano

I think that if one wants to become a serious player, sooner or later must have an acoustic piano. The ideal is owning a grand piano but a tall upright can also do a good job. You can keep your digital piano as it is a wonderful tool.


In my opinion as a 'serious player', most acoustic upright actions are inferior to high end digital pianos such as the Kawai CA95, which, crucially, are simulating the action of a grand, not an upright.

That is both right and wrong
Right in terms of "easiness" to play: high end DP are much closer in that way to grand piano
Right in terms of controls also
Wrong in terms of "feeling" the actions
And also you have to take in account other points: if you have to practice or take lessons on an upright, you will have hard time coming from "High end DP"..the action is far "too easy"
Everything depends on what you are looking for, or on what you get used to play


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I spent most of the day yesterday in a big piano showroom and ended up playing all the pianos there - including the 20 or so uprights (some new, some reconditioned, but all regulated and tuned) as well as the several grands ranging from baby grands to concert grands, plus a couple of old reconditioned Steinways with ivory key tops. I normally stay away from verticals these days, but I had a lot of time to kill between a masterclass and a concert...

And the exercise (a rather pleasant one, I should add grin) brought home to me again what a huge range of actions there are among acoustic pianos. And the heaviest weren't the grands but the uprights. The grading also varied enormously. But the easiest to play on were the big new grands, with very swift action, minimal friction, and fairly low inertia. And unobtrusive grading.

But common to all is the 'notchy' feel (to a greater or lesser extent) to the key action, which (as I've mentioned before in other threads) is unavoidable because of the escapement action, but which Yamaha has seen fit to ignore in their current DP lineup, reserving it for their AvantGrands and NU1.

As to whether it would be easy to play on an acoustic after practising exclusively on the Arius, I think it depends on whether you have had prior experience of acoustics, and how long for; maybe also on how good a pianist you already are (i.e. how developed is your current technique). Personally, if I was in the OP's shoes, I'd try to play on acoustics as often as possible - and as many different pianos as possible, if you want to be able to adapt easily to playing on different acoustic pianos.


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Find a store that has the Yamaha P95 or P105 (GHS), and the P155 (GH), and some acoustic pianos.

. . . Take headphones with you, and try them.

My impression, when I did that, was that the GH action felt close to an acoustic piano (grand or upright), and the GHS action was lighter and less "piano-like".

But people, and opinions, differ. So you should really do this yourself.

. Charles

PS -- bias -- I have a PX-350.


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Originally Posted by enzo.sandrolini
Originally Posted by debrucey
Originally Posted by CarloPiano

I think that if one wants to become a serious player, sooner or later must have an acoustic piano. The ideal is owning a grand piano but a tall upright can also do a good job. You can keep your digital piano as it is a wonderful tool.


In my opinion as a 'serious player', most acoustic upright actions are inferior to high end digital pianos such as the Kawai CA95, which, crucially, are simulating the action of a grand, not an upright.

That is both right and wrong
Right in terms of "easiness" to play: high end DP are much closer in that way to grand piano
Right in terms of controls also
Wrong in terms of "feeling" the actions
And also you have to take in account other points: if you have to practice or take lessons on an upright, you will have hard time coming from "High end DP"..the action is far "too easy"
Everything depends on what you are looking for, or on what you get used to play


Well if you take this to the logical extreme, you may as well by the worst piano you can find, so that it's not too easy for you to play.

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if you have to practice or take lessons on an upright, you will have hard time coming from "High end DP"..the action is far "too easy"

Seems a bit perverse to actually avoid a piano/DP action because it's too easy, though. As Bennevis says above, high end grand pianos are relatively light and easy to control compared to a cheap upright piano. So if you followed the above reasoning, you would never buy a concert Steinway, for example, because it's 'too easy', and you'd not be able to play on another piano if you had to.

It is true that this is a problem for working pianists and for piano pupils taking exams and so on. But I doubt any of these people would buy themselves a poor piano because they might, one day, have to play on one elsewhere...


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In terms of action, we all have our preferences, and they matter because if you buy a digital, you will spend nearly all your playing time on it for a long time. Most of us spend very little time performing outside our homes.

In terms of whether you can acquire good technique on one action vs another, there is a ton of variety in both acoustic and (to a lesser extent) digital actions. As long as the keyboard is fully weighted and reasonably responsive you can acquire the techniques you need for all but the most advanced piano playing. If you are looking to hone your techniques for giving a serious concert, you will want to play high quality acoustic grands, which are what you will perform on.

As a pianist, you have to adjust from one action to another. It's just a fact of life. As long as the action you are practicing on is not an outlier (super light, super heavy, super shallow, etc.) the adjustment to a new piano is no big deal. Most digitals are not outliers in this respect.

Anyway, get the action that most pleases you because you will be playing on it a lot, not because you believe that it's necessary to use a particular action in order to improve as a pianist. Concentration, time spent practicing, techniques practiced, lessons taken, and many other things are more important than the particular variety of action you practice on.

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I agree with enzo and bennevis. That notch, engagement and disengagement of the hammer, on an acoustic is currently not replicated on high end DP's, even those claiming to have 'escapement', and this makes those DP's easier to play. IMHO. Whether you as a player like that or not is your own choice. I also agree with Dave Horne's philosophy of practising on an action slightly heavy, or clunky, as after that it's all downhill when you encounter a piano or DP not your own. Until pianos become redundant, or replaced by DP's, or I have no desire to play piano and just my own DP, my preference is for an action that is similar to a piano, and DP's currently don't give you that (except for hybrids). This in not an argument for one or the other, you as player make the choice, and no doubt the more experienced you are the easier it is to adapt.

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Originally Posted by debrucey
Well if you take this to the logical extreme, you may as well by the worst piano you can find, so that it's not too easy for you to play.


If you take everything to the logical extreme, you are an extremist, not a rationalist.

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Much more important is how the main hammer action feels and responds.

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Originally Posted by debrucey
In my opinion as a 'serious player', most acoustic upright actions are inferior to high end digital pianos such as the Kawai CA95, which, crucially, are simulating the action of a grand, not an upright.


While I do think that action is very important, I also think the sonic response to that pressure over the action also it is. I think that upright actions are been discredited in some circles, sometimes unjustifiably. While it is true that real grand actions are the best ones and the gravity drop is important for the piano technique, there are very good upright actions that can be perfectly playable.

I don't think a fake digital grand action substitute is superior to a nice upright action placed, for instance, on a Yamaha U1. Of course, if we take into account other factors such as resonance, "authenticy of touch", etc, the digital pianos only "win" when compared to the lousiest acoustic uprights.

This is my personal list of preferences about pianos ordered from best to worst (sorry for stating the obvious):

- Concert grands
- Grand pianos (170 cm minimum)
- Tall uprights (Yamaha U1 as a minimum)
- High end digital pianos
- Baby grands (most of what I played are awful, wannabe instruments)
- Cheap digital pianos / short uprights such as B1
- Awful uprights

Yamaha's hybrids aren't on that list as long as I still didn't try them frown

Last edited by CarloPiano; 03/18/13 05:41 AM. Reason: correctien ehrrors...
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Originally Posted by CarloPiano
Originally Posted by debrucey
In my opinion as a 'serious player', most acoustic upright actions are inferior to high end digital pianos such as the Kawai CA95, which, crucially, are simulating the action of a grand, not an upright.


I don't think a fake digital grand action substitute is superior to a nice upright action placed, for instance, on a Yamaha U1. Of course, if we take into account other factors such as resonance, "authenticy of touch", etc, the digital pianos only "win" when compared to the lousiest acoustic uprights.


I totally agree, Carlo. Of all the DPs I've played, I still find that my Yamaha U3 has a better touch than any of the "miniaturised" hammer action keyboards. Now perhaps some of that is my vast preference to hearing real strings on a real soundboard, but I find my U3 more real and more responsive to my input.

Quote

This is my personal list of preferences about pianos ordered from best to worst (sorry for stating the obvious):

- Concert grands
- Grand pianos (170 cm minimum)
- Tall uprights (Yamaha B1 as a minimum)
- High end digital pianos
- Baby grands (most of what I played are awaful, a wannabe instrument)
- Cheap digital pianos / short uprights such as B1
- Awful uprights


I fully agree with this list. It has been my exact experience.

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Originally Posted by debrucey
Originally Posted by CarloPiano

I think that if one wants to become a serious player, sooner or later must have an acoustic piano. The ideal is owning a grand piano but a tall upright can also do a good job. You can keep your digital piano as it is a wonderful tool.


In my opinion as a 'serious player', most acoustic upright actions are inferior to high end digital pianos such as the Kawai CA95, which, crucially, are simulating the action of a grand, not an upright.


A good upright piano still beats even high-end digitals in terms of dynamics and responsiveness. Digital action can be faster though.
I do not like the action of many entry- to mid-level uprights, but a fine upright gives much better experience.
To play some advanced repertoire, I struggle to get the dynamics I want but easily get it from a fine acoustic.
Well, I can beautifully play Tchaikovsky 'Autumn Song' on my digital, but it is easier to do on a good acoustic (and I had an upright piano before).
I would say you can learn on a digital, but closer to mid-high intermediate level you need to practice from time to time on acoustic if the goal is to play acoustic.


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