Many conscientious piano owners have their piano tuned regularly however despite having the instrument tuned regularly eventually they notice a deterioration of performance. A tuning is only the adjustment of strings and pins that determines the pitch of each string. All pianos require servicing called regulation, which is the adjustment of the playing mechanism to the strings.
What is regulation and how does it affect my piano’s performance?
[The piano is] able to communicate the subtlest universal truths by means of wood, metal and vibrating air.” Kenneth Miller
A regulation consists of adjusting all of the mechanical parts of the piano due to the effects of wear, the compacting and settling of cloth, felt, buckskin and dimensional changes in wood and wool parts due to changes in humidity. The action of a piano whether vertical or grand is comprised of thousands of small parts all of which are adjusted to critical tolerances in order to transmit the nuance of expression from the fingers of the pianist to the strings of the piano.
If I Have my piano tuned regularly, why do I need to have it regulated?
Tuning corrects the pitch of your piano, as your technician I will do more than just tune, I will observe the overall condition of your piano checking the touch, responsiveness, tone and overall performance of your piano. My experience allows my to know the proper touch and responsiveness to expect from a particular piano however I will also remember the piano belongs to you. My concern therefore will be to make certain the piano plays and sounds correctly within the parameters set by you. We, you and I together will decide how you want the instrument to respond to your touch, with my suggestions and you making the final decisions.
Music is a complex vehicle for expression, reliant upon personal dynamics, extremely fine adjustments to respond to the pianist’s nuances and subtle shadings are necessary.
Do all pianos need to be regulated?
Yes, spinet, upright or grand wear and the settling of wool and felt parts is universal. How often depends on frequency of use, quality of the instrument and exposure to humidity changes. Another factor would be the age of the piano.
I’m frequently asked how often a piano should be regulated? I can only answer whenever it’s necessary. Some lesser pianos may require regulation more often just as some top of the line pianos will. The explanation is that the lesser pianos were not well regulated prior to leaving the factory and need it sooner. The high quality pianos are frequently owned by more demanding pianists or are in performance venues and may require some regulation prior to each use.
Other factors can be high usage as in schools, large swings in humidity also seen in schools.
What are the signs that my piano needs regulation?
If you play a key rather hard and the same key softly over several sections of the keyboard and there isn’t a significant difference in volume, it’s a candidate for regulation. If some keys are higher or lower than the rest, the touch is uneven or that the keys are sticking, the need for regulation is indicated. If the action is sluggish or you have deep grooves in the hammers this may indicate the need for reconditioning or repair. Call for an appointment for me to show you what needs adjustment on your piano.
Most if not all of us know of someone who began piano lessons as a child but didn’t continue, they usually express a wish that they had. I frequently wonder how many of them quit because they had poorly or totally unregulated pianos, pianos that were marginal as instruments, poorly tuned, if at all, with keytops missing keys that barely worked, pedals that didn’t.
Why is reconditioning or rebuilding of the mechanical systems sometimes necessary prior to regulation?
When I suggest a regulation, I will first have made a full assessment of the condition of your instrument. If badly worn parts are discovered, if excessive corrosion or moth damage are present, the piano may need repair and/or replacement of parts prior to regulation. This is known as reconditioning
Reconditioning is restoring your piano to good condition by cleaning, repairing, and adjusting the instrument for quality performance by replacing or reconditioning parts as needed. Occasionally some pianos have deteriorated beyond simple reconditioning and need to be rebuilt.
Rebuilding is the complete disassembly, inspection and repair with replacement of all worn or deteriorated parts. The piano is then usually refinished, restrung, fitted with new action parts as needed, new hammers, regulated and frequently looks like new and sounds and plays better than new.
Most pianos, with certain exceptions, are assembly line made. The materials used due to the manufacturer being concerned with keeping costs down are not top quality. As a rebuilder I am able to upgrade the materials used by the original manufacturers thus improving on the original.
For technical drawings of a Vertical and Grand Piano action click below: