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Hi Doug: dopamine is the crucial neurotransmitter for the neuronal mechanisms of learning, particularly for the brain monitoring of non-expected outcomes of actions, and for that reason is essentially an "after-event" mechanism.
This is certainly not the place to discuss the neurobiology of dopamine... Many of the things you say are correct, and the ones that are not (or the ones that you state as truths and that are still disputed or simply hypothetical) are not really relevant and are too technical. I will only highlight that there are 2 "types" of dopamine levels: the tonic levels (stable at short and mid-term, and that is different for each part of the brain) and the phasic levels (the short-lived sudden bursts in dopamine). None of them are "antecipatory", but a low-level of tonic dopamine is indeed a cause of lack of motivation. The main point is that dopamine phasic bursts (a feel-good rush) only occurs after a surprising event, and acts as a fundamental identifier of a learning opportunity for future repetitions. But for general drive and motivation, you cannot overlook the probably even more important roles of norepinephrine and serotonin...

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I think perhaps you posted in the wrong forum ...
Originally Posted by vagfilm
Dopamine is the crucial neurotransmitter for the neuronal mechanisms of learning, particularly for the brain monitoring of non-expected outcomes of actions, and for that reason is essentially an "after-event" mechanism.

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That is an habit of mine...

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I have reached to my conclusion the other way around. I have both digital pianos and grand piano action instruments and have noticed that the acoustic piano actions remove the springiness and are less tiring to play and then started analyzing exactly why that is. Even if I'm wrong in my explanations about those facts, they remain as facts at least for me.
You are not wrong. I prefer to practice on my acoustic upright than on my digital piano because it is less fatiguing, and I can practice for a longer session.

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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
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I have reached to my conclusion the other way around. I have both digital pianos and grand piano action instruments and have noticed that the acoustic piano actions remove the springiness and are less tiring to play and then started analyzing exactly why that is. Even if I'm wrong in my explanations about those facts, they remain as facts at least for me.
You are not wrong. I prefer to practice on my acoustic upright than on my digital piano because it is less fatiguing, and I can practice for a longer session.

I think some digitals are more fatiguing after longer hours of play eg, the PHA50 action is a bit more tiring after 4-6 hours of practice (as reported under testing:
) . However, there may be more than one reason why certain digital actions are tiring, with some digital actions being better for longer practice sessions.

If you are playing really long hours, you should definitely look for an action that supports that level of practice.


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The most important factor in all this wasn't addressed ... and it's almost never addressed.

The best or worst actions don't mean a thing if the player is using the wrong set of muscles. Playing, whether playing a musical keyboard, a computer keyboard, or swinging a golf club, must be done with the least amount of effort. These discussions about keyboard actions never address the actual approach to the keyboard itself.

Playing with the least amount of effort is not intuitive and needs to taught.

As a professional pianist, I would personally prefer to _practice_ on an upright piano action because I find that action more difficult to control than a grand piano action. I, of course, would prefer to perform on a grand piano action.

Playing an upright piano action, at least for me, is biking uphill into the wind, while playing a grand piano action is having the wind at my back. (This is a generalization - I have played grand piano actions that were extremely difficult to control.)

There were be more enjoyment playing on a grand piano action, a good, well regulated action, but if you're in training, you want to bike uphill.

My two cents, feel free to ignore.

As you were ...


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Originally Posted by CyberGene
The rebound is stopped by the backcheck and not by the leverage system. This makes it feel lighter and your fingers experience less stress. You’re still stopping the rebound with the key and your fingers but it’s less weight than what you threw due to the escapement and the leverage bypass. On a digital the weight is the same. I’ve even done this experiment (not recommended since you can break the action): deregulate the escapement so it won’t happen. The hammer hits the stop rail cushion as in a digital and stays there. And it immediately feels familiar: like a digital, springy feel at bottom, pushing against your fingers and ultimately tiring to play.

CG, I think you are both right, the backcheck will help to decrease the weight of the hammer, but the hammer is still there.

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Originally Posted by Dave Horne
The most important factor in all this wasn't addressed ... and it's almost never addressed.

The best or worst actions don't mean a thing if the player is using the wrong set of muscles. Playing, whether playing a musical keyboard, a computer keyboard, or swinging a golf club, must be done with the least amount of effort. These discussions about keyboard actions never address the actual approach to the keyboard itself.

Playing with the least amount of effort is not intuitive and needs to taught.

As a professional pianist, I would personally prefer to _practice_ on an upright piano action because I find that action more difficult to control than a grand piano action. I, of course, would prefer to perform on a grand piano action.

Playing an upright piano action, at least for me, is biking uphill into the wind, while playing a grand piano action is having the wind at my back. (This is a generalization - I have played grand piano actions that were extremely difficult to control.)

There were be more enjoyment playing on a grand piano action, a good, well regulated action, but if you're in training, you want to bike uphill.

My two cents, feel free to ignore.

As you were ...

I like the analogy. I assume many people are looking for the ‘best’ action when as you point out it isn’t black and white. The ‘best’ action is probably a room full of different pianos and sound proofed.

however, for many people this won’t be practical so if you can only have one which needs to cover practice *and* performance, people may tend to the one thats nicest to play even if that doesn’t necessarily exercise them as much?

then layer in the complexity of personal situations which is where hybrids/silent/digital comes in.

Assuming a digital is the baseline as so many people can’t accommodate an acoustic - would it be possible to develop a variable action such that you can change the resistance and other physical factors to play both like an upright and a grand when needed?

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Originally Posted by Dave Horne
The most important factor in all this wasn't addressed ... and it's almost never addressed.

The best or worst actions don't mean a thing if the player is using the wrong set of muscles. Playing, whether playing a musical keyboard, a computer keyboard, or swinging a golf club, must be done with the least amount of effort. These discussions about keyboard actions never address the actual approach to the keyboard itself.
Agreed

Originally Posted by Dave Horne
Playing with the least amount of effort is not intuitive and needs to taught.
I am not so sure about this. I think it is more a matter of playing on as many pianos as possible or, in the case of digitals varying the parameters such that you experience differences in weight, touch, etc.


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Originally Posted by pold
CG, I think you are both right, the backcheck will help to decrease the weight of the hammer, but the hammer is still there.
Well, I haven’t said the hammer weight disappears. The key, when held at the bottom after a strike, will apply less backpressure against your fingers compared to when it’s above the escapement and compared to a digital piano action. That’s because the hammer weight is not leveraged when caught by the backcheck. It’s a small difference but there is difference.

Last edited by CyberGene; 08/22/21 06:56 AM.

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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Originally Posted by pold
CG, I think you are both right, the backcheck will help to decrease the weight of the hammer, but the hammer is still there.
Well, I haven’t said the hammer weight disappears. The key, when held at the bottom after a strike, will apply less backpressure against your fingers compared to when it’s above the escapement and compared to a digital piano action. That’s because the hammer weight is not leveraged when caught by the backcheck. It’s a small difference but there is difference.

Yes, but in short you were both right.

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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by Dave Horne
Playing with the least amount of effort is not intuitive and needs to taught.
I am not so sure about this. I think it is more a matter of playing on as many pianos as possible or, in the case of digitals varying the parameters such that you experience differences in weight, touch, etc.

Often self taught players end up playing the piano using only their finger muscles. Hence their consideration when looking at action will be different from a classical trained pianist, eg. more emphasis on weight and fatigue considerations.

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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by Dave Horne
The most important factor in all this wasn't addressed ... and it's almost never addressed.

The best or worst actions don't mean a thing if the player is using the wrong set of muscles. Playing, whether playing a musical keyboard, a computer keyboard, or swinging a golf club, must be done with the least amount of effort. These discussions about keyboard actions never address the actual approach to the keyboard itself.
Agreed

Originally Posted by Dave Horne
Playing with the least amount of effort is not intuitive and needs to taught.
I am not so sure about this. I think it is more a matter of playing on as many pianos as possible or, in the case of digitals varying the parameters such that you experience differences in weight, touch, etc.

IMO, these points are key, no pun intended.

When learning, especially in progressing from a crude to a refined technique; effecient progress is maximised through deliberate and guided practice. More than this, every hand and body are idiosyncratic. Finding the right modifications to solve your specific issues on specific pieces etc, so limiting energy expenditure: that is the art of self-improving.

Whilst one can analyse different piano actions and note the pros and cons---even finding objective reasons for preferences---the focus should be on the total learning process.

That would include right attitude, right instructor, right focus, most optimal lifestyle, and most fitting priorities.

The OP might be wealthy enough to easily buy a top hybrid instrument. However, they should not expect such a purchase to majorly improve the development of the students learning on the instrument.

It should be noted, many sons and daughters of successful people do not likewise succeed despite all the advantages; whereas, with buy in from the student and right attitude, it is possible to make fantastic progress on a £600 beginner portable piano.

I'm not advocating buying a cheap digital; however, if you were to start with an intermediate portable, see whether the students are motivated to learn, then offer upgrade as reward for reaching grade 8....That would provide a positive mechanism to drive their practice.

Also, 5-10 years from now, today's hybrids will be nowhere near as good. Things move on pretty fast in this market. Depreciation is particularly steep after a model is replaced, then after it is replaced again.


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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Originally Posted by pold
CG, I think you are both right, the backcheck will help to decrease the weight of the hammer, but the hammer is still there.
Well, I haven’t said the hammer weight disappears. The key, when held at the bottom after a strike, will apply less backpressure against your fingers compared to when it’s above the escapement and compared to a digital piano action. That’s because the hammer weight is not leveraged when caught by the backcheck. It’s a small difference but there is difference.

I like your discussion, thanks for posting BTW!


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Originally Posted by vagfilm
That is an habit of mine...

I like developing knowledge of homeostasis, with focus on improving lifestyle habits---should be taught at school IMO. I'm was a cancer biologist (biochemist) and then later an immunologist working on T2-Diabetes, but neurophysiology fascinates me.

I have recently developed a nascent laymens draft article from a bunch of sources about dopamine, melatonin and serotonin, so your input is helpful. Seems to me that the brain is so complex that the understanding is a bit fragmented - - the scientific understanding - - - but often, so is one's own reading, so I'll definitely look for a scientific review to go a bit deeper in.


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Originally Posted by Doug M.
I am not so sure about this. I think it is more a matter of playing on as many pianos as possible or, in the case of digitals varying the parameters such that you experience differences in weight, touch, etc....

IMO, these points are key, no pun intended.

When learning, especially in progressing from a crude to a refined technique; effecient progress is maximised through deliberate and guided practice. More than this, every hand and body are idiosyncratic. Finding the right modifications to solve your specific issues on specific pieces etc, so limiting energy expenditure: that is the art of self-improving.

Whilst one can analyse different piano actions and note the pros and cons---even finding objective reasons for preferences---the focus should be on the total learning process....

It should be noted, many sons and daughters of successful people do not likewise succeed despite all the advantages; .....


DougM, you’re reasoning, on many counts, is easy for me to agree with based on my vivid albeit increasingly aged memories of growing up from as far back as 4yo .... especially when it comes to a youngster, any youngster, who by default entry into this world, has many life lessons to experience and, it is hoped, learn from some of them, to include learning how to adapt in general, moment by moment ..... day by day, to anything life turns up as it unfolds whether by its own natural volition or contrived or some combination.

.... whether or not it unfolds in a way that offers a child an opportunity to adapt and learn how to walk .... run ..... dress .... tie your shoes .... tie your buddies shoes and throw onto overhead wires ..... receive due punishment ......work/labor .... hold/use objects as tools ? or easier used as makeshift baseball bats or tennis rackets ? ... interact .... work / learn / play / fight with other young people OR figure out what to do with the strange, large object mother and or father placed in front of them ..... like economical OR expensive key actions 😄

All the quotes did not appear correctly but i also give thanks to OP, DaveH, Colin, CG, Pold among the others i want to thank ..... and might as well add thanks to the Commissioner, the King, her Majesty or other distinguished guests herein concerned😉


As to OP Curt-S .... i remember too his maiden PW post ....

Originally Posted by Curt-S
Hello,
My household currently does not have an acoustic or a digital piano. Our son, age 3, will begin learning soon. .....

My feeling was to get the top of range DP now and if our son really advances ......


Thanks!

Last edited by drewr; 08/22/21 10:54 AM.

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Originally Posted by CyberGene
I have reached to my conclusion the other way around. I have both digital pianos and grand piano action instruments and have noticed that the acoustic piano actions remove the springiness and are less tiring to play and then started analyzing exactly why that is. Even if I'm wrong in my explanations about those facts, they remain as facts at least for me.
I think this is most noticeable statement here at all. Thus, it is still subjective but might hold for the majority of pianists.
In the end it doesn't matter what mechanical thing like hammer weight or damper weight or whatever causes a real acoustic action to be less tiring than digital. But if it is really the upweight of the keys, this is something we can measure, isn't it?
Just press the key down and make a sound, then try to find out how much weight is needed to keep a sustain.

It really doesn't matter if this weight is caused by hammer, a damper, some levers with weights above or below the action. The only thing that matters for me as a player is much much force my finger needs to apply to hold that key down. This can be measured!

Same with how much force(weight/velocity) is needed to make a certain volume of sound for each key. This can also be measured. I don't care about the downweight that piano tuners cares about, to reach this 2/3rd of key distance. I only care about how much weight is needed to make a silent sound, to make a very loud sound, and all shades inbetween.

And I care about repetition speed. And again, one can measure this objectively. Same as how much a key has to be depressed before hitting it again makes a sound.
Originally Posted by Dave Horne
As a professional pianist, I would personally prefer to _practice_ on an upright piano action because I find that action more difficult to control than a grand piano action. I, of course, would prefer to perform on a grand piano action.
And this makes sense. An upright action is less forgiving, if one plays a bit sloppy. It doesn't make a sound. So it forces to play very precise. And for a performance it is of coarse better to play a piano that is more forgiving in this regard, because even if there would be a bit of sloppiness, the audience won't hear it. (With sloppy I mean to lift the finger not enough for a repeated key strike)


tl;dr; This discussion about mechanical details and how they affect the quality of an action is pointless. Only thing that counts is what you can measure. Or feel while playing.


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Thanks! I think I’m taking away that I don’t need to worry about a digital vs upright vs grand action making learning more difficult or more likely to develop bad technique.

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Originally Posted by Curt-S
Thanks! I think I’m taking away that I don’t need to worry about a digital vs upright vs grand action making learning more difficult or more likely to develop bad technique.

Yes, I think that's correct. You do develop nuanced technique later in the learning process which perhaps would benefit an acoustic action; however, I think that's a long way into the future for a complete beginner..

Look at it this way, formula one racing drivers all begin learning in carts: they are tailor made to provide a decent training platform with which to master the basic skills well. Later, when the cart drivers have mastered their art, they move onto more advanced series race cars, where different skills need to be learned.

I think that's a good analogy for piano.

Perfect practice makes perfect---this was (and likely still is) my piano teacher's mantra. The idea is that structured practice exercises are compiled and the student learns at their own pace---the pace which they can complete the exercise correctly at, thus not learn mistakes, which then have to be practiced out by corrective exercises.

The best teachers --- which you would want to employ --- maximize the development potential by minimizing learning mistakes and structuring the learning so that easy skills are mastered first, followed by progressively more difficult skills. In the past, teachers tended to be adverse to digital pianos. Modern digitals are so much better than those around in the 1980's and 1990's.

You still get the odd teacher who hasn't played modern digitals and still have some prejudices; however, most these days have no issue with the early years of learning being conducted on a digital. Given the pace of technological change, it's not a bad idea to wait till your kids have reached a good level before upgrading, as by then, the hybrid options might be well in advance of what's on offer now.

Last edited by Doug M.; 08/22/21 01:53 PM.

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Originally Posted by Doug M.
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
Quote
I have reached to my conclusion the other way around. I have both digital pianos and grand piano action instruments and have noticed that the acoustic piano actions remove the springiness and are less tiring to play and then started analyzing exactly why that is. Even if I'm wrong in my explanations about those facts, they remain as facts at least for me.
You are not wrong. I prefer to practice on my acoustic upright than on my digital piano because it is less fatiguing, and I can practice for a longer session.

I think some digitals are more fatiguing after longer hours of play eg, the PHA50 action is a bit more tiring after 4-6 hours of practice (as reported under testing:
) . However, there may be more than one reason why certain digital actions are tiring, with some digital actions being better for longer practice sessions.

If you are playing really long hours, you should definitely look for an action that supports that level of practice.
I passed on purchase of some otherwise excellent DP's for that very reason.

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