Posts tagged keyboard

Hammer Shaping

Recently i’ve had the opportunity to work on a church piano – an older Chickering. But i must say, this piano was an interesting one to tame. I use the word tame because it was out of control. The touch was not only uneven but INCREDIBLY difficult to play. Most fine pianos have a touch weight of about 50-55ish grams of weight at the key. This one was a whopping 80+ !!! First things first… chase down the friction. That blog will be for another day though. After friction was in the ballpark, i was still faced with a piano that had a touch of 65ish grams. Time to consider putting this piano on a diet. Yep. You heard me. This piano was overweight and i was about to transform the touch.
So where does weight come from? Many months ago i wrote a blog on piano weights. It can simply (and yet so difficult at the same time) be measured in 2 forms – static weight where we are doing a dead lift – the hammer has yet to move. The other is created by rotational inertia. The hammer has started to move… how much effort is required to continue to move the mass of the hammer. The former mainly deals with soft playing… we’re not concerned about velocity but simply getting the hammer in motion. The latter however deals with everything above soft playing and truly is the more important factor. Static weight can be counterbalanced in the key like a see-saw. Rotational inertia however can really only be changed through the mass of the hammer itself. Because static weight again really only affects soft playing, when i sat and just played the piano (after friction was removed), it still felt heavy and burdensome. So it was time to trim the fat – reduce what i could on the hammer without compromising either structural integrity or tone. How does one leave the strike point of a hammer the same and yet reduce dead weight? Take a look at the pics. The one on the left is the original. Square and bulky. The one on the right – the more parabolic shaped one is one i adjusted. The tapered ‘shoulders’ of the hammer offer insignificant contribution to tone… if any. And so i spent the next 3 hours shaping hammers. Take a look at the two ‘tails’ – the end parts of the hammer. On the left – one that is tapered while the right, original. The net result? Reduction in about 1.3-1.5 grams of fat. One point three??? Perspective here… a nickel weighs 5 grams. You ask “How does anyone get excited about 1.3 grams of weight?” Ahhh therein lies the magic. Every piano has an ‘action ratio’ meaning one gram at the hammer accounts for usually around 5 grams at the keyboard. OK so do the math… this piano has a 5.5 action ration. 1.3 gram reduction x 5.5 action = 7.1 gram reduction of touch weight – the exact amount i needed to make this piano feel dynamic and alive. I’m so happy! ūüėÄ

Rotational Inertia…Kinetic Energy

rkeI’m the first to admit, i’m not into physics – not to say i don’t enjoy it, but i’m untrained in the area of advanced physics.¬† What i AM interested in though is the practical application of physics – more specifically the touch of the piano.¬† A few years back i had a Yamaha C5 in my shop.¬† Beautiful instrument.¬† It was apparent however that the touch was simply ALL WRONG.¬† It had been monkeyed with.¬† So i applied usual regulation specs and it turned out nicely.¬† However, there was one niggly thing sitting in the back of my head that just wouldn’t go away… and that is that the instrument felt somehow sluggish.¬† At the same time i had been looking over some ideas on key weighting which is the concept of adding/removing lead weights into the keys to achieve a more balanced keyboard.¬† For those who are unaware, key weighting is a common practice in MOST pianos.¬† The key weighting is part of the balancing of the equation to achieve a certain initial weight at the outset of the key.¬† (And if you don’t believe me, next time you’re near a grand, press down a key and look at the neighbouring keysticks – you may just catch a glimpse of a circular led weight inserted into the key.¬†)¬† Anyhow, for kicks i thought that i would key weight this C5.¬† Sure enough the touch improved dramatically.¬† End of story? Nope… i was still bugged by that same sluggish feel.¬† So i rechecked my¬†work and i must say that at soft playing, the piano was EXCEPTIONAL.¬† It wasn’t until you hit the fast notes that i noticed the problem.¬† Well… the piano¬†ended up selling but that problem lingered¬†in the back of my head.¬†

Fast forward 3 years.¬† I have a client who is an engineer.¬† We were speaking about physics, touch of the piano… and he¬†just so happened to mention Kinetic Energy.¬† I had a small epiphany…¬†i thought to myself…¬†IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER HOW MUCH KEY WEIGHTING HAPPENS BECAUSE¬†THAT ONLY REPRESENTS¬†THE HAMMER AT REST POSITION.¬† AHA! No wonder that piano felt great at soft volumes –¬†there was little inertia and the key weighting was ‘closer’ to the¬†‘at rest’ weight.¬† So…¬†the ONLY way then to affect touch is to change the mass.¬† Ok¬†gears turning here… if i could measure the velocity of the hammer in travel (ie radar, infrared beam etc) and the weight of the hammer i can measure… then i would be able to calculate the Kinetic Energy.¬† What that means then is that one could ‘reverse’ model the ‘feel’ of great pianos.¬† The rotational radius is similar as pianos have become more standardized.¬† The combination then of calculated KE and key weighting would make for¬†an undeniable touch don’t you think?¬† So if KE=1/2MV2… we know mass… if only i could determine velocity… hmmm… thinking thinking… could i borrow my cop friend’s radar gear? lol.

Countries of the World – Piano Book

 

Truth be told, i’m a jack of all trades master of none.¬† Over the years i’ve had the opportunity to play in so many different styles and genres – everything from country to hip hop to rock to jazz.¬† If i were to say that i have a speciality, it’s analysis.¬† One of my few awards in my life was for analysing scores of music and finding patterns¬† (Believe it or not, there are awards for such things…lol)¬† and although my formal training is¬†in classical music, the methods of analysis are the same regardless of style.¬† So in my younger years, i¬†used to¬†do radio and television advertising – y’know the jingles – the tunes of the ads.¬† In this one agency they would say “we need it to sound like…” and they’d give you some name of some piece of music.¬† Well off i’d go – assignment in my hand and analyse the piece of music – all the while picking up on the components that make a certain ‘sound’.¬† Over the years, i have become well versed in many styles.¬†¬†So without further adieu, this book is a compilation of fun songs written in various styles from around the world.¬† They’re stereotypical.¬† So the french song sounds like a¬†musette in Paris.¬† The¬†cuban song – with traditional cuban rhythm.¬† The¬†american country tune – like a southern ballad.¬† This book is designed as a ‘sampler’ of ways of¬†trying out different styles without having to know¬†anything of the culture.¬† It’s all there in print.¬† Enjoy!

Repertoire:

  1. South African Sun
  2. Antigua!
  3. Cuba
  4. Irish Luck
  5. Mexican Moon
  6. Turkish Coffee
  7. Spanish Guitar
  8. American Serenade
  9. French Musette
  10. Jamaica, Man!
  11. Tango Argentine
  12. Ukraine
  13. Scottish Pub

Secret Agent – Piano Book

 

I have two boys that play the piano.¬† Only problem is… piano music for boys is not exactly exciting.¬† When you’ve done about 3 year’s worth of music, what’s left to do but (insert yawn here) is 19th century Minuets; boring little doo-dad songs that sound unimpressive, uninspiring and are completely irrelevant to boy’s minds… how do i know this? I’m a graduate of 19th century minuets… yep – true story.¬† Despite the fact that i finished 2 degrees in classical music, i still find the early years in piano a complete GRIND.¬† So.. for the fun of it, i started writing music for my boys – things they would like to hear – things they would not only find challenging but interesting.¬† This book is all about spies… morse code, getaway car, super powers, headquarters – very James Bond, very stealth, very hip ‘n groovy… ok ok ok… i know my kids have told me not to use the word groovy…but, if the shoe fits…. well, you know what they say.¬† The songs will soon be made available online for purchase.

Repertoire:

  1. Espionage
  2. Chase
  3. Getaway Car
  4. Mission Accomplished
  5. Super Power
  6. Spies
  7. Covert Action
  8. Close Call
  9. Morse Code
  10. Headquarters
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