Fixing Piano Regulation Problems

Grimm playing pianoA truly enjoyable instrument not only sounds good, it feels good when you play it. This is the difference between piano tuning and regulation. Regulation encompasses a number of adjustments to the piano mechanism, or “action,” that makes it more responsive and easier to play.  Since I have played piano all my life, I am very sensitive to this area of piano work.

Most importantly, the keys should move freely without any friction or drag. The keyboard should be absolutely level, and all the keys need to go down to a fixed, prescribed depth. If one key goes down further than another, it becomes very hard to play a scale with any evenness.

The hammers need to start moving towards the strings as soon as you start pushing the keys. The hammers also need to be the right distance from the strings, so that they have good let-off.  What, you may ask, is let-off?  If you push down a key very slowly, the hammer should approach the string, and get very close to it, and then fall backwards. This retreat from the string is called the let-off.  If the hammers are too far away from the strings, or the keys don’t go down far enough, then there is no let-off. This gives the piano an awkward, stiff and unresponsive feel.  If the hammer never retreats from the string, it may also hits the string twice, or “bobble.”

Grand pianos need to be regulated more often than uprights and spinets, since the let-off on a grand, with time, will inevitably disappear. This is because the hammer is not supported by the hammer rail but hangs above it in mid-air. Over time, gravity makes the hammer descend to the rail, and this increases the distance of the hammer head to the string. This causes two problems. First you lose the let-off, and secondly, in the playing the piano, you have to lift the hammer further you should,  making it feel heavy and unresponsive.  This is easily remedied with regulation.

Regulation makes the touch lighter, more even and more fun to play.  There are many other fine points of regulation, but the most basic elements are free key movement, key leveling, key depth, hammer travel, and let-off. If these are taken care of, the piano will play a lot better.

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(505) 995-9972

Full Service Piano Repair for the Santa Fe Region