Stiff and heavy keys are mostly caused by excess friction within the piano action parts. In particular the flange bushings. We will show you how to reduce the friction to the standard tension and to make the piano keyboard feels lighter.
Regulating the Let Off distance correctly will almost magically improve on the overall responsiveness of your piano keyboard. It is a tough concept for layman to understand, so I won’t go through the theory behind it, but just the how-to. Firstly you got to know how to measure the let off distance. Depress the key that you going to regulate very very slowly. The hammer will travel towards the string, but because of the soft and slow depression of the key, the hammer will not hit the string, instead it will fall back to rest position at some distance away from the string. That distance is the let off distance that you are about to measure. Now use a steel rule (like the one in the video), put the steel rule on the adjacent hammer of the one you’re going to regulate. Measure the let off distance. The optimum let off distance for a Kawai upright piano is about 2mm in the treble, 2.5mm in the mids and 3mm in the bass. Use a regulating tool to turn the regulating screw counterclockwise to shorten the let off distance, vice versa.
When you’ve finished regulating the let off, your keyboard will be much more responsive than before. You have to keep in mind that it is easy to know how this is being done, but the responsiveness of the piano keyboard relies heavily with other factors. To regulate the keyboard to its optimum responsiveness needs lots of experiences and patience.
When you need extra effort to execute a long trill or repetitive staccatos, probably your piano keyboard is lack of responsiveness. The number 1 enemy to that is the excess gap between the jack top and the buckskin of the hammer butt. We call it the lost motion, which basically means the distance traveled by depressing the key before the hammer was being moved. In this video, we will be teaching you the easy way to reduce the lost motion to the correct amount. Too much lost motion means unresponsive keyboard while zero lost motion may cause the jack not able to reset by itself. This will cause the note not able to sound after a ‘mf’ blow. Retain as little lost motion as possible so as to allow the jack to reset without obstruction.
An old piano doesn’t necessarily translate to bad piano. An old piano that had had routinely regulation and was carefully used is far better than a younger piano that’s been heavily stressed on (eg. used by a music school). What’s important is to look at the current condition of the used piano. All of our pianos come with a ‘birth card‘ which have detailed recordings of what this piano have come through. Eg, date of tuning and regulation. Such a documents can help you more easily determine whether the piano is worthy.
There are some cheap secondhand pianos for sale in Singapore which are much of an attraction to laymen. Many of these pianos were imported from China, Indonesia or Malaysia and had had very bad maintenance done. When some secondhand piano shops take in these pianos to their warehouse, all they do is simply vacuuming off the dust, shining the tuning pins and polishing the piano body. At this stage the piano looks excellent, but how about their playing mechanism, touch and sound? A professional piano technician will strongly doubt that.
Most often, the relatively more expensive second hand pianos in the market are usually refurbished to almost brand new condition. Most importantly, the fine parts and mechanisms have all been carefully regulated and adjusted. This includes essential adjustments like key dip, touch weight and special procedures like voicing. These used pianos are much more pleasurable to play on and have a much higher reselling price. Most importantly, they worth every penny that you spent unlike being ripped off buying cheaper used pianos.
At Pianos From Japan, our pianos are not the cheapest in the market. In fact, we only deal with high end branded second hand pianos. However, if you take into account of the quality and the craftsmanship of our pianos, I would confidently say that our pianos are the ones that really worth every penny that you spent on.
Be mindful when buying pianos at music schools
I used to teach in many private music schools and I know how poorly maintained most of their pianos were. There were no tunings, hardly any regulations. To put it more simply, would you want to buy an used and badly maintained taxi to be your family car? These pianos are being played on almost round the clock by teachers and students which translates to huge wear and tear on the piano mechanisms. If there is no refurbishment procedures and regulation be done after you purchase their piano, think twice.
Some cheap pianos might be huge ripoffs
Many years ago when I teach part-time in a private music school, I was always the one who helped the school choosing used pianos from some dealers for reselling purposes. The pianos were generally cheaper. They seem to be nice from the outside and occasionally some might just be your cup of tea. After visiting them many times I noticed that the way they ‘refurbish’ the pianos is no more than blowing off the dust, polishing the keys and shining up the exterior. A piano just got traded in in the morning can be sold to another parent in the early afternoon and was told that the piano had been fully refurbished and regulated. There was another time when a dealer just bought over a used white piano for S$100, he shined the exterior and sold it for S$2700. Sounds shocking? My advice is, no matter how cheap the piano is, if it’s not worth the money that you are paying, it is then very expensive and has a very low reselling value.
Buy from the shop owner, not from the sales personnel
Believe it or not, many piano shop owners were used to be in the field that is completely unrelated to the piano industry. They need to pay their sales personnels high commissions to help selling off the pianos. This means that a big chunk of the price you are paying for your piano will be the employee’s commission. Moreover, It is harder to bargain with the sales since they want to keep as high of the commission as possible.
If they claim that the pianos were imported from overseas, always ask for shipping invoices
I have a friend who told me her unpleasant story of buying a new piano and ended up found tons of junks and dirt inside the piano cabinet. The dealer told her that the piano was a brand new import from Japan. In reality, the piano was actually a local traded in and heavily used one. She then asked for the shipping invoice from the dealer who simply didn’t have anything to show, which says everything about this scam.
A lot of the times when the dealer claim that their pianos were handpicked and imported directly from overseas, you must be smart enough to ask to see their shipping invoices. If they really did import the piano from overseas, they will always keep the shipping invoice handy to show to the customers. If they lied, you would probably start to hear loads of excuses.