Pianotech

  • 1.  Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 14 days ago
    I have been taking some time to slow down and fuss with a couple of grand pianos in our university collection.  In working on the bench with these actions, I have been frustrated to some degree with the apparent inconsistency I have been dealing with from note to note as I have chased some kind of uniformity in the regulation.

    I am now working in the piano, and have for this project abandoned the use of a weight on the keys to determine consistency of key dip and aftertouch.  I am finding the experience much more agreeable.  The pianos in question are a 1977 Mason & Hamlin CC and a 1981 Baldwin L.

    I am starting by confirming (and adjusting, if necessary) key height and key dip.  I then dial in the hammer blow to a spec that emerges as workable in the process.  I really don't want to see anything less than 46mm.  (I'm accustomed to using .045" as my aftertouch spec, but on the Baldwin I've reduced it to .036 to achieve my desired hammer blow.) I then am refining the let-off so as to achieve what has been described in another thread here as ghosting - having the note sound softly when the key is played from a point where the jack has met the let-off button and the repetition lever surface has met the drop screw.  I'm not looking for something ridiculously close in terms of let-off, but I don't want to have to be really vigorous to get a sound either.

    Once these adjustments have been completed, I insert a let-off gauge under the key and see what I've got.  I don't want let-off to precede contact, nor do I want to press particularly hard to move the note through let-off.

    There is usually some fudging to be done, but I'm surprised at how much difference a little change can make.  Both actions have Crescendo punching at the front rail, so I've got a pretty steady point of reference.  I don't mind leeway of .005" in dip, but I don't want to see much more than that.  Again, I'm working with finger pressure rather than a fixed weight, so I suppose that is giving me a bit of leeway as well.  A bit of fudging can be done with let-off, but not much if I want the ghosting to have any kind of consistency.  The hammer line is also negotiable, to the degree that nothing is allowed to be obviously out of whack.  A little here goes a long way!

    To my delight, I have not needed to accept much variation in how let-off feels at the front of the key with the gauge in place.  There is a little, but once the gauge is removed, I am imagining that the difference in final tactile sensation is not going to be discernible by the pianist.

    I finished working through the Mason & Hamlin last Wednesday, and got halfway through the Baldwin today.  I really wonder if some of our other pianos are going to be as cooperative.

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    Floyd Gadd
    Regina SK
    306-502-9103
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  • 2.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago
    "I don't mind leeway of .005" in dip, but I don't want to see much more than that."

    Early in my carreer I attended a grand action regulation class given by the late Bill Garlick , former instructor at NBSS and at that time the technical service rep at Steinway. When we got to aftertouch, he said that achieving aftertouch is more important than keydip. He said a pianist is not going to feel the difference in key dip of up to .010, but will feel the lack of after touch.

    So if you want to cheat, and remove a .010 punching, or even .005 more, you'll get the results you're looking for.  I have done it many times, and have never had a piano player tell me the dip is too deep.   


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    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    St. Augustine, FL 32095
    Tnrwim@aol.com
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  • 3.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago
    I've also moved to prioritizing consistent aftertouch over key dip. Whenever I regulate a piano at the university now, I replace old punchings with crescendo punchings, and use a .045" gauge and the WNG key dip tool (without the float attached) as a consistent weight (eliminating the vagaries of inconsistent finger touch), and adjust punchings so that the key just achieves letoff. Wim (and Bill Garlick) are right, a pianist isn't going to detect minor differences in dip, but will notice if certain keys seem to stop a little short of the rest.

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    Adam Schulte-Bukowinski, RPT
    Piano Technician
    Glenn Korff School of Music
    University of Nebraska at Lincoln
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  • 4.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago
    Greetings,
       I use the aftertouch priority method, too. I normally use a .040" punching as my "stop" , which allows a slightly firmer finger pressure to take the hammer just through let-off.  I set let-off to be as close as possible without the hammer being in the excursion zone of the string.  This is done by putting the damper on the sostenuto, striking the key twice with a forte blow, and then as quickly as possible raising the hammer to the string. I find it faster to have previously set the let-off too close,(so the hammer will lightly block) then, in setting the final, I am turning the button only downward until I reach the "miss" point. This will leave slightly greater let-off in the bass. The upper notes can be set by feeling the hammer touch the string on a slightly faster depression of the key and then turning the button down until I can feel the escapement without any string contact.  This usually winds up with 3/32" at most, on the upper strings.  Once the let-off is set, the after-touch will give me my dip.
    A firmer punching and a firmer touch will both aid in consistency, and any of us that regulate often will have far more sensitivity here than a pianist.
    Regards,

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    Ed Foote RPT
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  • 5.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11 days ago
    I believe that learning to set key travel to correspond to consistent aftertouch is very good sensitivity training. I don’t use key dip blocks or weights to set aftertouch because I prefer to feel what’s happening on each key with an aftertouch gauge. This helps train the tactile sensitivity.

    The beauty of setting key travel by aftertouch is in its ability to overcome inconsistencies in parts wear, or manufacturing. The keys don’t have to be plate glass level, the knuckles don’t have to be precisely uniform, and the action ratio that will vary, even ever so slightly from key to key will end up feeling the “same.” Certainly, professional level skills require the best possible approximation of precision, but that is always an elusive game and will reach the point of diminishing returns before the illusion of perfection is obtained.

    I first encountered adjusting key travel from aftertouch in a class taught by Don Mannino, and admittedly, the concept and implementation eluded me for some time until I had a better understanding of aftertouch.

    The only time this method may be impractical is when there is no access from the front to the front pins (as in a glued in keyslip in uprights.) Though it could still be done, with ample patience.


    Joe Wiencek
    NYC




  • 6.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10 days ago
    Not quite addressing your issue, but does the Baldwin have all original parts on it? I ask because I often find that Baldwin grands can have 3/8" dip and still achieve 1 7/8" blow. I have seen some Baldwin grands innocently regulated with .400 dip and 1 3/4" blow and the aftertouch is enormous.

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    Marc Abram
    Highland MD
    202-468-8270
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  • 7.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10 days ago
    The action of the Baldwin has been modified.  I have seen various recommendations for aftertouch on this forum.  Adam has suggested .045" above, and Edward .040".  David Love in an earlier thread suggested a test spacer of .030" or .040".  The aftertouch spec I have chosen is definitely within the zone in view of these suggestions.  I could have, alternatively, opted for just a little more key dip, but I was happy to stick with the 10.3mm spec with which I began this project.

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    Floyd Gadd
    Regina SK
    306-502-9103
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  • 8.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10 days ago

    I'm not sure exactly how much aftertouch you want in this particular piano. I'm no concert pianist, but I can easily adapt to different pianos as long as they're consistent. The main thing about aftertouch, at least in my book, is that it is consistent. Honestly, I really doubt any pianist has the ability to tell the difference between 0.045" aftertouch and 0.040" aftertouch, as long as the whole piano is done evenly and consistently. 

    If what you have works and is within a "normal" range of 0.030" and 0.050" of aftertouch, I'd just go with that.



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    Benjamin Sanchez, RPT
    Piano Technician / Artisan
    (256) 947-9999
    www.professional-piano-services.com
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  • 9.  RE: Negotiating Aftertouch

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 9 days ago
    When I worked at the University of Nebraska I taught a course called Piano Design and Mechanics. Sort of a fancy name, but the administration wanted something more academic sounding than Piano Tuning and Regulation. Anyway....I was surprised at how sensitive piano students were. I would regulate an action model and have the students use the Yamaha touch method of feeling how a key works-index fingers on one key, two hands, slowly, carefully pushing the key through its stroke. I tell them to close their eyes and let the Zen moment in. Then, I'd take out a .010 punching and have them repeat their Zen exercise. They were surprised and sometimes shocked at the difference. I was always surprised right along with the students. The key felt different; the key movement looked different. The jack moved farther out from the knuckle. Checking was different. The damper went higher. And so forth.

    Having a clear and positive let off point is an elemental, and central point of communication between the piano and pianist. Where that point is in relation to what comes before, and what follows as after touch makes all the difference to pianists' ability to feel in control of an instrument. Add in the feel of the damper lifting, pedals, and finally with the release of all of that,  you start to grasp how pleased a pianist will be when everything works as it should. 

    Getting a good regulation does start with careful attention to specifications. But finishing the job requires some attention to how each key feels and looks in motion. Just as careful attention when using an ETD is important, attention to aural skills and how the piano sounds will refine and complete the work.

    Richard West