Adjustments to a piano’s action or “regulation” are often presented to us as a lengthy and costly process. Interestingly, there are a few adjustments that both “go out” more quickly and have the greatest impact on the feel of a piano’s action. Let’s look at a few of these adjustments and the short amount of time it takes to make a big impact on an action’s feel. A little bit of time devoted to these issues can make all the difference in the dynamic performance of your piano. Engage your piano technician with the idea of touching these items up during a tuning and your piano will return to you a much more inspirational experience.
1.Adjust the Blow Distance
The distance of the hammer from the string is called the “blow distance.” This is 1.75 inches on most pianos, and is easily adjusted using the capstan [screw] on each key. Thirty minutes spent addressing this can really smooth out the feel of the keys.
2. Check the Backchecks!
“Hammer checking” is the distance the hammer is held from the string by the backchecks when you hold the key down. Fifteen minutes here while you have the action can give the keys a more solid feel. Hammers are generally held half an inch from the string when you hold the key down. It is interesting how important this adjustment is and how often it is often overlooked.
3. Look at the Let Off
“Let off ” is the distance the hammer releases from the string. An hour invested here will help even out pianissimo or remove that pesky “double strike.” This adjustment takes a little longer due to the need for this refinement to be done while the action is in the piano.
4. Address the Drop
“Drop” works with “let off” to time the release of the hammer from the string. This adjustment regulates the timing of when the repetition lever stops moving upward with the keystroke. Fifteen minutes here, done after adjusting the “let off,” really makes a difference in the smoothness of the key.
5. Regulate the Repetition Springs
There is an art to the quick adjustment of the repetition springs. An experienced technician can run through these, presuming they are not newly installed, in 30 minutes. Working alongside “let off” and “drop,” the repetition springs affect every part of the dynamic range of the piano’s action as well as the “buttery” feel an action is capable of.