piano action: hard versus soft

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Believing (perhaps erroneously) that a hard action would strengthen my fingers, and give me more confidence when playing an unfamiliar piano, I had the keys of my Steinway Model M grand weighted from the original 45 Grams to 60 Grams. After about 10 minutes of warm up time, I can usually play with ease most of Chopin's Opus 10 etudes, some Scriabin and Rachmaninoff, all legato when indicated, and at a reasonably fast speed. However, when asked to pay on an unfamiliar piano, my fingers stiffen and feel like they're wading in quicksand. Am I damaging my technique with this heavy action, or is my problem lack of confdence and performance anxiety?

-- richard rotella (rytt@aol.com), November 29, 2002


I'll give you my opinion as there seem to be several schools of thought on this topic.

First, I will define two terms. A heavy touch weigth, and a heavy action.

A heavy touch weight would be what you have purposely created. Your technican must have REMOVED weight from the the keys in your piano. By removing the weight you are required to push harder on the keys to get the hammer to hit the strings.

However, what you have simultaneously done is removed weight (or inirtia) from the keys,and thus, from the entire action. Thus the overall inertia, or mass, you must overcome to play the piano is lower than usual. So, anyway, I define a heavy action as one where the touchweight is normal, such as the 45-55 gram range, but the amount of weight in the keys or the hammers is so high that the piano feels heavy, sluggish,or sticky. (Note: THis is the problem I have with my Steinway).

So, to answer your question, I think that the lighter the action, within reason, the better. If I could get a touch weight on my piano of 45 grams, with relatively little lead in the keys, I would be happy. A lighter weight should, in gneral, increase repetion and ease of play. Also heavy actions have a habit of causing injuries and tiredness etc.

Just wondering why you would have changed the weight in the first place. Was the action not to yourliking at 45 grams?

I don't think a hard action will improve your stength or technique. Playing the piano well does not take any strength at all. Ask any six year old.

As far as playing on an unfamiliar piano, I have found it takes me about 0.5 hours on a new piano to get my bearings anyway. So I don't think that increasing the weight on a piano will make you any better on any other piano. Horowitz took his piano with him to concerts. I am convinced he did this because he knew his own piano, and not just because he could afford it.

Hope This helped.

-- Fred (fred@nowhere.com), December 04, 2002.

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