As your piano tuner Wilmington DE, I find that most people realize that a piano needs regular tuning, but few piano owners realize that the mechanical part of the piano, the action, needs periodic maintenance, also. The piano action consists of all the moving parts of a piano, from the piano keys up to the hammers which strike the piano strings. The action is made primarily of wood, but there are numerous other materials, such as felt and buckskin, which are prone to wear. The tolerances on a piano action are so small, that any wear on these parts will decrease the sensitivity of touch of the instrument.

The previous post discussed “lost motion,” one of the three most common adjustments needed by a vertical piano.  A vertical piano is one that typically stands up against a wall. This post will discuss “hammer blow” regulation, the second most common adjustment needed on a vertical piano. A little background is necessary to explain the importance of this second adjustment.

In order for a pianist to play a beautiful line of music, the piano must have a mechanical system that is very sensitive to slight differences in force applied to the keys. This sensitivity allows the pianist to control the volume of each note, so that the beauty of the music can be expressed. That sensitivity also needs to be uniform from one key to the next, so that the pianist can predict what volume will be produced when they play each note.

Since some piano keys are played more often than others on a piano, the felt and buckskin parts of the frequently-played notes will wear faster than on the less-played notes. When parts wear, then those notes get out of adjustment more quickly. As a result, the sensitivity of touch of the piano action becomes uneven, making it much more difficult to play a beautiful line of music under control.

Of the ten common adjustments needed by a vertical piano, the second most common is called “hammer blow distance.”  The is the distance that the hammers are set away from the string. The most common distance is 46 mm. As felt gets compressed with use, this distance tends to get greater.  When the piano hammer blow distance is greater than it should be, the pianist must use more force on that key in order to get the hammer up to the string. When that force varies from note to note due to uneven wear, then the piano becomes less pleasurable to play. As a result, there is less reward from playing and practicing, and the student tends to get less value from their lessons.

“Hammer blow” is easily corrected, which can make a significant improvement in the quality of music from your piano. If you have any questions about piano maintenance, be sure to ask Kenneth Keith Piano Services, your Wilmington DE piano tuning experts. We also provide piano services in Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey and the Eastern Shore Maryland areas.