Robert Estrin - piano expert

Do Piano Actions Get Lighter with Age?

Learn more about your piano's mechanics

In this video, Robert gives you insights about your piano's inner mechanics, focusing on piano actions and how their performance can be affected by the age of your piano.

Released on February 24, 2016

  
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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

Hi and welcome to livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com, I'm Robert Estrin. Nelson asks, "Do piano actions get lighter as they age?"He noticed something on his Yamaha that it seems to get easier and easier and he's wondering do they make them differently, the older pianos? What's up with this? Well, you hit upon a very very good point. There isn't an absolute in this but there are certain fundamentals that you should be aware of. First of all, when you get a brand new piano, the felt bushings, that is whatever this friction in the hundred parts to each key, there's felt bushings and indeed they do loosen up over time. Well sometimes if a piano isn't played a lot, things can actually get kind of "gummed up."

A technician may lubricate things, then dust and the air mixes with the lubricant and everything gets gummy and things can stiffen up over time. But if you practice a lot or play your piano constantly, every day, it will actually get looser. Considerably easier to play over time. But there's another factor that will also make your piano easier and lighter. Actually the weight itself will lessen over time. How is this possible? Well, you know that a piano, as you play it, the hammers continue to impact the strings and they get grooves where the strings hit and that is hardened compacted felt. Eventually you get a brittle metallic sound and your piano will be serviced. A good technician will recommend filing the hammers to reshape them, to get the nice egg shape and get down to the virgin felt again. You can do this a number of times on a piano before you have to replace the hammers because there's no more felt to work with.

Well think about a piano that's been filed let's say four, five, six times over the years. There's considerably less felt, therefore the action will be lighter. You'll be moving less mass. So these are 2 reasons why overtime your piano can become lighter. Simply playing it can loosens up all the felt bushings and you might have less felt and hammers to overcome. The only reason why pianos may get heavier is lack of use, things not moving well, and even then a technician get things moving well again with lubricating. Now there are some exceptions to this. There are certain Steinway vintages, back in the 30's, where they were using a paraffin solution that eventually would get all gummed up. If you've ever played one of these Steinways from this era that has this condition called verdigris, you know that these instruments don't move well at all.

You can lubricate and it might help them move for a while but they'll gum up again and all you can really do is major work, either replacing center pins or better yet replacing major action components. Thanks for the great question Nelson. I hope this has been helpful for you and just remember that your piano will get lighter over time. So keep practicing. Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin at livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

John Roberts on February 24, 2016 @6:17 am PST
Very good tape. Your questions are some of the most interesting, no one never seems to want to ask, BUT we are all very grateful for all of your educational knowledge.
Thanks Robert,
John Roberts
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