Fixing Inconsistent Touch

Inconsistent touch is some­thing that both­ers many pian­ists and, while there are a mul­ti­tude of things that can be done to improve the feel of play­ing, one I often go straight to is the fric­tion with­in the mech­an­ism par­tic­u­larly at the bal­ance rail.   As the name sug­gests the bal­ance rail is the ful­crum point for the key and is often enough the centre of the prob­lem.

A nearly 20 year old Yamaha 6‑footer recently crossed my path and I did my stand­ard check to see if the fric­tion had been looked at.  This involves gently pulling the key­fronts up and see­ing if they fall back down.

Uneven piano keys

More than half the keys stayed up so I knew that the bal­ance rail pin and the key hole con­nec­tions were not mov­ing smoothly.   The piano own­er had moved from dry Northern BC down here to the wet coast a few years ago, and the piano was in stor­age for a while.  The dif­fer­ent humid­ity had caused everything to swell slightly and start to bind.
The fit for the bal­ance pin and the key is crit­ic­al as the slight­est fric­tion can add sev­er­al grams to the weight needed to set the ham­mer in motion.   If you really want to delve into touch­weight this fel­low has done a lot of work on the sub­ject. Stanwood Piano

Remove the keys from the frame, turn on the com­pressor and get rid of the dust bun­nies and shoot a blast through the key bal­ance rail hole since it gath­ers down the cav­ity and will cause fur­ther prob­lems if it con­tin­ues to grind between the pin and the wood for anoth­er few years.

A little lub­ric­a­tion for the bal­ance and front rail pins and that will often fix many of the sticky ones, but a fur­ther test of remov­ing each key and let­ting it sit on the pin reveals a deep­er prob­lem.   On the the­ory that a pic­ture is worth a thou­sand words, here's some pic­tures.

(It's a video; hov­er over the image if you don't see the con­trols to play it.)

This rel­at­ively inex­pens­ive pro­ced­ure can res­ult in a sub­stan­tially smooth­er piano to play gen­er­ally serving to even up touch­weight across the key­board.
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Stuff Found in Pianos

Never ceases to amaze me the things I find in pianos.   There were the 27 pen­cils and pens in one upright, a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica in anoth­er, and sev­er­al dead rock crabs in an upright near the sea shore.  My favour­ite is still the dried pea­nut under the frame of a small grand that nearly drove a cus­tom­er mad.  Finding that was akin to pulling a thorn from a lions paw.

James Lithgow tuning at MusicFest

I added to my list of stuff this past sum­mer while look­ing after the piano for MusicFest.

Vancouver Island MusicFest had a couple of artists this past sum­mer for whom the digit­al appli­ance is wholly inad­equate. Randy Newman wouldn't sign unless he had a real piano. Newman is a Steinway artist and Tom Lee Music has those kind of pianos lying around.

A Model 'B' showed up on stage for the first of sev­er­al tun­ings dur­ing the week­end. Ah, the great out­doors, pianos just don't get out­side much.
I opened up the lid, took out the music desk and removed the fall­board, sat down to play an arpeg­gio and in the bass there was this weird flut­tery sound.

Cowichan Music Festival Ribbon

A par­ti­cip­a­tion rib­bon for the Cowichan Music Festival. The piano was on a tour of Vancouver Island this sum­mer.
Anyway no harm done with the rib­bon and it is serving duty as a book­mark presently. Thanks anonym­ous par­ti­cipant in the 62nd Annual Cowichan Music Festival!

Tucked away in the back corner of the MusicFest stage I was able to tune and do oth­er tweaks in rel­at­ive peace. Early in the morn­ing the worst thing to con­tend with are the deliv­ery truck back up alarms.

So, it's now late on Saturday after­noon, I've just fin­ished touch­ing up the tun­ing for the Holly Cole Band and Randy Newman. Last uni­son settled and there's a clunk in the action. I peer down inside and there's a large piano tuner's mute sit­ting between the ham­mers an octave or so below middle C. A very long one, and not one of the type I use.

Piano tuning mute
I can ima­gine the frus­tra­tion of arriv­ing at the next job to dis­cov­er you are miss­ing a mute. I've now got an extra one! Thanks anonym­ous tech­ni­cian.

Randy Newman at MusicFest 2011

Piano soun­ded pretty good I thought as Aaron Davis with Holly Cole and later Randy Newman gave it a run.

Showed up the next day to start over again with tun­ing and found Randy Newman's set­l­ist taped to the music desk. No indic­a­tion wheth­er it is in his hand or one of his hand­lers' hands.

Randy Newman's Set-list

Thanks not so anonym­ous Randy Newman.

Shame he didn't write his name and thanks for mak­ing the piano sound nice but, such is the nature of a job that you only really get noticed when you've made an error.


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