Is It Me? Or the Piano? – Piano Regulation

Why can’t I get this passage?

So you’ve been practicing for hours, you’ve slowed it down, split it up, and started piecing it back together. It still doesn’t sound right. Even when you step away and come back to it later, the section still doesn’t flow properly.

Now pay close attention to what you’re doing and how the piano is responding. There’s a good chance your fingers are moving evenly but the strings aren’t reciprocating.

A piano in this condition must be regulated. A poorly performing instrument breeds bad habits because the performer must make adjustments in their playing. There are also limitations on the artistic nuances possible, most obviously the dynamic spectrum. If your instrument will not allow satisfactory pianissimo and fortissimo then you are being forced to work too hard and it will be heard by your audience.

Regulation will fix this problem and make your piano play like new. However, with your instrument being comprised of no less than 12,000 parts and more than 90% of them within the action, this is not a task for the impatient. Lucky for you, you have a skilled piano technician.

When your piano is properly regulated, each of the keys will be the exact same height, measured to the hundredths of an inch, and they will dip to the exact measurement as well.

The friction within each key should also be uniform, possible through polished steel pins, brass capstans and clean felt at each friction point. Each task performed no less than 88 times, felt key bushings and pins no less than 176!

The most complex and important piece of the piano action is the repetition. Books have been written on the functions of piano repetitions. This directly controls hammer movement. At rest, the hammers should be a specific distance from the strings,

called the “blow distance.” When the key is depressed slowly you should be able to witness a ‘kiss’ between the hammer and strings, or almost anyhow.

The hammer just barely misses the strings in a quick pecking motion you can feel in your finger tip. If you play mezzo-forte, the hammer checks at a preordained height.

This is the easier part of regulation, but still very time consuming.

Because the repetition is so complex, there are numerous points within which contribute to how the piano plays. Springs must be strengthened or weakened, screw tightened or loosened, buttons raised or lowered – all so the touch is uniform. The amount of weight both down and up are important in determining the feel for a piano player.

Finally, the hammers are shaped and voiced for contour and density giving your piano its glorious sound.

A thorough regulation requires these tasks be done 3 times.

Often you can expect this kind of labor intensive work to take more than a few days, but when it is done your piano will sound like new. Or better 🙂

C.J.’s Pianos
Chris LaBarre

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