For a piano to sound and play well it is of great importance for it to not only be tuned, but for it to be Regulated and toned. Often the difficulties pianists experience with piano playing are not because of their bad playing but the fact that their piano is badly out of adjustment. I am lucky to have a Concert playing history that gives me a clear understand of the relationship between the Technique of Piano Playing with Piano Regulation and Toning.
To day all makes of piano action found in pianos will look virtually the same as each other, so why does one piano play better than another? The subject is highly complex, but we can narrow the main reason down to “Regulating”, and accuracy of assembling component parts.
Regulating is the process of adjusting thousands of parts in the piano action. It is of paramount importance that this process is carried out with detailed precision and deep understanding of the technique of piano playing.
A piano may be more than 75% out of adjustment, and it will still play, but under these circumstances it will be very difficult to produce the sound we would like.
I remember being in a fantastic music store in Finland. I played two new pianos that stood side by side. One had a top quality action but was a cheap piano. The other piano I considered to be the finest make of piano in the world. When invited, I leaped at the chance to play the very expensive piano first. It was horrible. It just was not possible to play soft passages, nor was it possible to make notes sing out with a beautiful singing tone. When it came to play fast repeated notes, I gave up. I then played the cheap piano. It was beautiful, “How could the cheap piano play better than the expensive one? This was a great example of the importance of “Regulating”.
Even if a piano is not played it will slowly keep going out of adjustment over a period of time. The keys sit on felt washers; the hammers rest on felt; felt dampers press against the strings. When the felt becomes compressed, the piano will be out of adjustment and it will be difficult to play. This will happen to all pianos. In this store in Finland, the very high quality expensive piano would have been in the Store for a long time waiting for a wealthy person to buy it. The felt would inevitably have compressed over that time and would have made the piano out of adjustment. This is an example of why we hear so often conflicting stories about the same make of piano. ”A piano is only as good as the way it has been regulated”.
Some manufactures of piano actions will use softer felt. Soft felt will make the action more forgiving and flexible to play, if it is perfectly adjusted. The draw back is that the soft felt will go out of adjustment quickly, and then the piano will not be nice to play.
One piece of felt can look like another, but the way the felt responds after three years of piano playing may be very different. Piano makers round the world will buy their felt from different suppliers. As an example China does not like buying materials from anywhere other than from China. Europe has over three hundred years experience of piano making Pianos.
Hundreds of nickel-plated pins become tarnished after a short space of time, particularly if the piano is not played very much. Tarnished key pins will cause friction, and make the piano heavy to play, and create sluggish repetition.
Rather like the example of different felt suppliers, we have the same example with nickel-plated pins. They may all look the same but a nickel-plated pin from a different supplier may tarnish twice as fast, or even worse become badly corroded.
There are thousands of very important adjustments to make a piano play well. One simple little thing that can be done to transform the way a piano plays is to take the finest nickel plated key pins; hand polish them; Teflon coat them, and very finely impregnated the felt with Teflon, the piano response will be transformed and the tarnishing problem greatly reduced.
Piano makers are able to able to specify the weight of the hammer to suite different sized pianos. The felt may be compressed to different pressures, for producing a bright or mellow sound, and for an even brighter sound, chemical hardener reinforcing agents may be added to the felt.
Under felt was used for the proper shaping of the top felt in the early days. This process and tradition, although not necessary today because of modern hammer making machines, has become standard on quality hammers.
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