Robert Estrin - piano expert

How Can A Piano With A Heavy Action Feel Light?

A dive into piano mechanics

In this video, Robert talks about piano mechanics with the concept of "heavy action." What is that about? Does that mean that you can't get a light feeling while playing?

Released on May 20, 2020

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Thanks for joining me here at I'm Robert Estrin. The subject today is how can a piano with a heavy action feel light? You might think that that's a crazy thing to ask. How could it even be possible? Believe it or not, we have discovered this to be true. Sometimes we get a piano in and the action just feels comfortable and light, and then when the technicians weigh it out, it's really high. Typically, you want somewhere between 48 maybe to topping out at 60 grams of down weight. There's up weight. There's a lot of measurements and of course the lower notes on a piano are harder to push down than the higher notes. The keys are longer, the hammers have more felt, so it's not one measurement throughout the piano, but generally a piano should be somewhere in that zone. A piano that has, for example, in the middle register, 65 or 70 grams of down weight. That is a heavy piano.

Yet, we have had some pianos that have had extraordinary actions with heavy actions that didn't feel heavy and you might wonder how can this be? Well, many things enter into it and the flip side is also true. Sometimes a piano feels heavy and it's not, and you feel like you're working so hard. It comes down to psychoacoustics. You see, the amount of energy you have to expend to get sowed out makes you feel like a piano is either heavy or light. So for example, let's say you're on a piano with a heavy action and it was a large grand in a small, very live room, and you play that piano and it was voiced bright. The room has a lot of echo to it. The piano is a nine foot piano. You play that thing and you feel like you barely touch the keys to get sound out, and that heavy action will feel light to you.

Now, the opposite can be true. Have a little piano in a big room that is carpeted, and drapes, and soft furniture absorbing all the sound, and you're working so hard to get sowed out, it feels heavy to you. So, there's more to action weight than you might think. Now, I will say this, get too heavy and you could possibly do hand damage, so you want to avoid actions that are out of that zone. Secondly, if a piano is really light, let's say in the low 40s, it's almost impossible to get really excellent repetition when you don't have any weight to work with. So, that's why there's a certain zone of normal, but within that range, there's heavy normal, there's a light normal, and the psychoacoustics are there through it as well, the piano is voiced and the space you put your piano in.

It's so important to match your piano to your room, to have the right playing experience. There's nothing worse than having a piano that you have to keep closed, no matter what you do, it's too loud, or the converse can be terrifying. You have a piano, let's say, in a school or a church and it's a little baby grand in a big auditorium, and everyone's pounding the heck out of it, trying to get the sound out, wearing out the piano and getting an ugly hearth sound. So, a lot to this subject. I hope you've enjoyed it. Again, I'm Robert Estrin at, your online piano store.
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