As your piano tuner Wilmington DE, I am occasionally asked if pianos need other maintenance besides tuning. Usually any maintenance that a piano needs involves the “action.” The piano action is all the mechanical portion of the instrument, from the piano keys, up to the piano hammers which strike the strings. It also includes the dampers, which stop the piano strings from vibrating. Our last post discussed the two most common adjustments that piano actions need. There are eight other major adjustments needed for the piano action to function properly. These eight do not need adjustment as often as the first two.
The next most frequently needed adjustment to a piano action is called “let-off”. Let-off is the distance from the string that a piano hammer “escapes.” A piano has what is called an “escapement” action. If you push a key extremely slowly, you may note that a hammer never reaches the string. The mechanism that pushes the hammer toward the string changes position, or “escapes” when the hammer is very close to the string. This mechanism allows the hammer to strike the string of its own momentum, and then rebound, to allow the string to vibrate freely.
The let-off distance is adjustable. The closer to the string that the let-off occurs, the more control the pianist has over dynamics, especially soft playing. On a grand piano, this distance is typically 1/16″, and on a vertical piano 1/8″. As a piano action wears with use, the let-off distance typically gets greater, resulting in less sensitivity to dynamics, including less ability to play softly. The change occurs so slowly over years, that the pianist usually does not realize that the action is out of adjustment. The result, however, is less satisfaction in creating beautiful music, leading to less piano playing and practicing time.
It is important, therefore, to have a trained piano technician Wilmington DE examine your piano action at each regular tuning, so that you have the best possible support learning and playing this wonderful instrument. If you have any questions about pianos, please let us know. Kenneth Keith Piano Services is your Wilmington DE piano tuning experts, and we also proudly serve Philadelphia, Southern NJ and Eastern Shore MD.