How Can A Piano With A Heavy Action Feel Light?

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Thanks for joining us here at LivingPianos.com. I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is, “How Can A Piano With A Heavy Action Feel Light?” How can that be possible? Believe it or not, we have discovered this to be true! Sometimes we get a piano in and the action feels comfortable and light, but when the technicians weigh it out it’s really heavy. Typically, you want somewhere between 48 – 60 grams of down weight. Of course the lower notes on a piano are harder to push down than the higher notes. The keys are longer and the hammers have more felt. So, the action doesn’t have the same weight throughout the keyboard. But, generally, a piano should be somewhere in that 48 – 60 gram zone. A piano that has 65 – 70 grams of down weight in the middle register is a heavy piano. We have had some pianos with heavy actions that didn’t feel heavy. The flip side is also true. Sometimes a piano feels heavy and it’s not. You feel like you’re working so hard to push down the keys. How can this be?

It comes down to psychoacoustics.

The amount of energy you have to expend to get sound out makes you feel like a piano action is either heavy or light. For example, let’s say you’re playing a 9 foot concert grand piano with bright voicing and a heavy action in a very small, live room. If you play that piano in that room, you will feel like you barely have to touch the keys to get a big sound. The heavy action will feel light to you. The opposite can also be true. Let’s say you’re playing a small piano in a big room that has carpet, drapes, and soft furniture absorbing all the sound. You’re working so hard to get sound out that it feels heavy to you! So, there’s more to action weight than you might think. I will say this: If your piano action is extremely heavy, you could possibly do hand damage. So, you want to avoid actions that are out of that zone. Secondly, if a piano is really light, let’s say in the low 40s, it’s almost impossible to get very fast repetition because you don’t have any weight to overcome the friction of the action. That’s why there’s a certain zone of normal action weight. Within that range, there’s heavy normal and light normal. Psychoacoustics play a role in that as well.

It’s important to match your piano to your room to have the right playing experience.

There’s nothing worse than having a piano that you have to keep closed because it’s too loud. Or conversely, if you have a small grand piano in a school or a church in a big auditorium everyone’s pounding the heck out of it trying to get the sound out. This will wear out the piano quickly, and the piano will produce an ugly, harsh sound. So it’s very important to consider the acoustics in your room, as well as the weight of the action.

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
Please feel free to contact me with any piano related questions for future videos!

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