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How to make a heavy action lighter (Read 7579 times)

Offline hermerik

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How to make a heavy action lighter
« on: December 27, 2015, 08:00:30 PM »
Hey Folks,

I have a grand piano (Sauter Delta) which is wonderful in tone, almost new grand,
but has quite a heavy action I noticed after I bought it.
I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about this problem (some threads I started here and some are on PW). Used some teflon stuff to reduce friction, which made the downweight to go down from 56g to about 52g in the middle. Upweight is over 30g. I also measured the action ratio to be 5,51 (2nd C, one octave up from middle C). However, it still feels rather heavy.
Which is best to do now;

1. Insert lead rather close to centerpins to reduce DW
2. File the hammers (the wood and/or the felt)
3. Touchrail?

There is actually not so much lead in the keys. My pianotech said it is possible to insert lead;  however, I still doubt that it is the right way to go; because of INERTIA problems.

Would be grateful for your responses.

Best regards,
Hermerik 

Offline ted

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Re: How to make a heavy action lighter
«Reply #1 on: December 28, 2015, 12:13:48 AM »
Any special reason you want a lighter action ? My Weinbach was always heavy, but after I had it rebuilt it became heavier still. At first I experienced difficulty but after a few months my technique adapted to it, possibly with the help of my Virgil Practice Clavier, and now I really enjoy the extra musical control of a heavy action.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline indianajo

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Re: How to make a heavy action lighter
«Reply #2 on: December 28, 2015, 03:32:32 AM »
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Offline indianajo

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Re: How to make a heavy action lighter
«Reply #3 on: December 28, 2015, 03:38:46 AM »
Due to personal characteristics I view the actions of 3/4 of the grands i have played on as too heavy.  I'm sorry I'm not a Prussian or Russian, but there it is- i like playing piano but am not built to play a full concert grand in a 2000 seat hall. I'm built native Am. - built to run deer to exhaustion with a spear over wet rocks, not plow fields with an ox or reef heavy sails.  
I was talking to a local minister who had the same problem:  she is a 50  kilo female, previously the church musician, and received as a donation in a previous parish a Steinway grand that was too heavy for the purchaser.  It was too heavy for her, too.  By contrast, I played a store brand grand last week that was fine.  So they do make grands with tolerably light actions.  
Within limits it is possible to swap whole actions in minutes.  Pianostreet has an article on a grand at a NYC venue that comes with two actions available for different artists.  
I wouldn't monkey with modifying a new very expensive name piano action like a Sauter.  I'd buy some other lesser known grand, throw away the case and swap the light non-professional action in.  That way if you have to resell due to downsizing or moving to more expensive city, the original action can go back in.  The piano for sale would be original, with the original action.  
There is a $300 grand for sale near me that would be a perfect donor for this sort of graft. It is a no name brand from 1937 , there is no market for it, but it has low hours and works fine. The tone is a little bland I imagine.  
You have to take careful measurements of the action mount points to prove this is doable but a tape measure should suffice I would think.  
Your tech may not like this idea, with dreams of sugar-euros in his head, but It is a lot more of a  sure thing than adding lead to lighten a professional action up.  After all, you get to play the action in the donor grand, before you scrap it out.  

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How to make a heavy action lighter
«Reply #4 on: December 28, 2015, 12:04:27 PM »
I view 50-52grams at around middle C as normal down weight. I wonder if the action doesn't exhibit more so drag than actual weight. My Kawai digital is closer to 60 and I'm very used to playing it that way and switching back to my grand which is just under 54 ( I weighted my grand that way because it was too light previously @ well under 50 grams). Too light is no good, the keys fall away under your hands and you alter your technique for that, then when you play a normal piano it feels all too heavy. And a heavy action piano feels ridiculous.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline indianajo

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Re: How to make a heavy action lighter
«Reply #5 on: December 28, 2015, 04:53:44 PM »
The keys of my 1982 Sohmer 39 console and the 1941 Steinway 40 console both begin to depress at 8 USA quarter dollar coins or 45.4 grams the mint tells me.  That to me is a "normal" weight.  About the same weight are various Baldwin Acrosonic and Howard consoles, also some Wurlitzer consoles and a Grinnell Bros console I play in various churches.  The Willis grand piano I played at one church two weeks ago was about the same weight; pleasantly surprising since all previous grands have been much heavier.  I can play pianos of that weight a couple of hours and feel mildly fatigued in the forearms. 
I can play Moonlight mvt 3 about quarternote =130 MM any day on those consoles, with 4 note trills. Faster on some days. 
The Hammond H110 organ take 9 coins or 51 grams to begin to depress. But the inertia of the electric action is much lower to this keyboard is less fatiguing to play for hours.  It is my plan to gravitate to organ if the arthritis gets a lot worse. 

Offline hermerik

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Re: How to make a heavy action lighter
«Reply #6 on: December 28, 2015, 10:12:13 PM »
Well, it is not just all about DW; INERTIA is the problem here I suspect..

Offline iansinclair

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Re: How to make a heavy action lighter
«Reply #7 on: December 29, 2015, 12:29:01 AM »
Well, it is not just all about DW; INERTIA is the problem here I suspect..

There are three different elements involved here: down weight, inertia and friction.  You must distinguish between them (rather carefully!) or you will wind up making matters worse.  Sometimes much worse.

First thing to do is to make sure that your friction is as low as possible.  Everything must move freely.  One possible way to check this is to place enough weight on the key so that it will move -- slowly, very slowly, on its own once you get it started moving, and then stop it.  It should start to move again when you release it, or at worst with a gram or two of extra weight added.  This is trick and subtle.

Then... if the down weight is still greater than your liking, you can add a bit of lead at the touch end of the key.  As has been said, don't over do it or you will wind up with a touchy action which is really hard to play well.

Inertia?  Unlikely.  You might see this, I suppose, though I never have.  Even tracker organs -- which have, relatively speaking, very large moving masses don't usually show inertia effects (they are heavy, though, and friction can be a real problem!).
Ian