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Differently weighted keys on piano - why? (Read 5026 times)

Offline xvimbi

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Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
« on: March 29, 2004, 11:57:29 PM »
Why are the keys on an acoustic piano weighted differently? I can't see a technical reason. Is this designed to be able to control the dynamics in the bass better? If so, I would expect a decent pianist to be able to control the loudness of any note when a uniform key weight is used, as long as it is heavy enough. Is there a historic reason?

Offline G.Fiore

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #1 on: March 30, 2004, 03:25:11 AM »
Xvimbi,The keys are weighted with lead to achieve a specified touch weight across the keyboard,tapering in weight from bass to treble.Why?Because the  :)hammers also taper in weight fromm bass to treble.If you were to look at the keys from the side,you would see that the keysticks in the bass have more lead,and this lessens as you get up into the treble.We must also consider another part of the equation,upweight.We not only balance for a specific downweight,but also for a target upweight,usually 20 or more grams,also tapering from bass(less) to treble(more).A well balanced keyboard gives the pianist the necessary control over dynamics and repetition.
George Fiore /aka Curry
 Piano Technician serving the central New Jersey area

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #2 on: March 30, 2004, 05:50:49 AM »
I didn't know the hammers had different weights. They look the same, i.e. no little lead pieces there like in the keys. It makes sense then. Thanks.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #3 on: April 01, 2004, 02:18:50 PM »
That's a great reason but really not effective.

Yammies have the graded hammer touch.  I play on a baby grand yammie.  I hate it.

Steinways don't have that feature, at least not on those concert grands.  Those are light touch keyboards.  I love it!  Baldwins don't have the feature either and while the action feels mushy, the light touch is so much more preferred than on my Yammie.

The graded hammer touch makes the key so heavy to press that it requires a lot of strength press.  On fast passages where you can't press the key hard enough so the hammer strikes the keys, that could be a problem.  Another thing, because the keys are heavier to press, they don't come back up as fast so two successive notes is more difficult to play.  Try playing a note successively on the bass and the treble.  The treble will be so much easier because the key comes back up faster!

Another problem with this touch is the increased difficulty in playing light and pianissimo passages.  Since it requires more strength to press, the strike of the strings is more difficult because it can't be determined how much strength to press so it will strike.

This problem is compounded by the fact that it's lighter touch the higher the key on the keyboard.


So on my Yammie, I sometimes prefer to play an entire octave higher because the keys are lighter and I can play passages much more delicately.

Another problem is the fact that most people's left hand is weaker than the right meaning it is slightly more difficult to play the same passages at the same speed as the right.  This difference is compounded by the fact that the bass keys are heavier to press than the treble - slowing down the hand.


Many Jazz pianist play on Yammies - the graded touch, cheaper and more accessable.  The graded touch is probably great for them as they don't play delicate passages as found in classical music.  The bass notes are usually the chord progression that doesn't require delicate touches.

The graded hammer touch is very ineffective for classical pianists -  unless the only piano you've played was one.  Then you wouldn't know about the significant difference in keyboards.  I actually preferred the Yammie to the Baldwin because that was what I was accustomed to.  Then I discoved how much easier it was to play on light action keyboards.  Now I wish I had a light action keyboard.

Offline Axtremus

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #4 on: April 01, 2004, 10:48:11 PM »
faulty_damper,

Which model of Yammie do you own, how old, when was it last regulated? It might be worthwhile to discuss with your tuner/technician about doing some regulaton work on your piano if the touch bothers you so much. (My experience has been that the Yammies, the C-series at least, are usually lighter than Steinway grands.) Furthermore, Steinway's Model D concert grand should also have lead-weighted keys (most decent pianos have them anyway)... press a white key down, say, an E key, then lift the adjacent F key up a little to see if you can see the lead pieces in the key. ;)

Sure hope you can have your action's problems resolved. It can be frustrating working on a piano with objectionable touch!

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #5 on: April 02, 2004, 11:50:53 AM »
The yammie is a GH1 model baby grand.  It was bought new in the early 90's so it's more than 10 years old but less than 15.

This model does have weights in the keys.  I know that the older yammies do not have those weights and the touch of those pianos were/are mushy.

By the Steinway I made reference to, it was a 7 foot concert grand.  Very light touch - so light it scared me at first as my fingers just sunk upon contact.

I was thinking about removing those weights to see if that does anything to help but that could end up being expensive should I break something. :'(

Offline Joffrey

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #6 on: April 05, 2004, 11:52:08 AM »
If you remove the lead your piano will only play heavier. the leads in the keys help you push the key down. If you remove them.. well.

Offline Axtremus

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #7 on: April 05, 2004, 09:15:50 PM »
Quote
The yammie is a GH1 model baby grand.  It was bought new in the early 90's so it's more than 10 years old but less than 15.

This model does have weights in the keys.  I know that the older yammies do not have those weights and the touch of those pianos were/are mushy.
(


Those lead weights add innertia, but more importantly, I think that's regulation issue, not necessarily due to the lead weights. Think back 10 year ago: were the keys that "heavy" to play back then? The lead's weight does not change. If it was not heavy 10 years ago, then it's not the lead weight issue. Have you moved from a dryer environment to a high-humidity area? (If so, the wood might have swollen.) I'd say find a really good technician who knows action work and see if he can regulate the action back to factory spec. Granted the GH-1 might not excatly be Yamaha's top-line model, but still, the action should be quite playable. (When people complain about Yamaha, action is usually not the culprit, and when they do complain about the action, the complain usually is that the touch is TOO LIGHT. This is why I suspect your's might have regulation or humidity  issue.) Just my two cents. Good luck.

Offline ahmedito

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #8 on: May 15, 2004, 03:46:13 AM »
YEs, for a long while i had to do most of my exams on a Yammie with that horrible heavyness.... whenever I audition and get a light weight Steinway I Feel in heaven.... and play that way too.
For a good laugh, check out my posts in the audition room, and tell me exactly how terrible they are :)

Offline CPS_Pianotek

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Re: Differently weighted keys on piano - why?
«Reply #9 on: May 18, 2004, 12:24:17 AM »
Just to let you guys know.. all good pianos (including Steinways) have leads in their keys. The only pianos that do not are really cheap pianos - often poorly designed spinets and consoles.  The idea behind the weights is to set a uniform touch weight by using the leads to compensate for the weight of the hammer. Also in order to even out the touch between the sharps and the naturals which have different pivot points in relation to their key stick length.

FYI - Another reason that Steinways are usually more responsive/lighter than Yamaha's is that the fulcrum the keys pivot on in a Steinway are rounded (this is what they market when they talk about their patented "accelerated action") as opposed to Yamaha's and pretty much everybody else's flat balance rail.

Also, someone said above that Yamaha's are often lighter than Steinway's. I wouldn't make that generalization - as I worked at a Steinway/Yamaha dealer for years and have played hundreds of both makes.  It is usually a timbral-responce/voicing difference that is percieved by the player as a touch-weight issue...

Talk to you later.
R. Cromwell