A self-playing piano’s touchweight underlies both these totally contrasting scenarios: (1) This piano feels so light and easy to play, it’s amazing! (2) Wow, this piano feels so heavy … I have to work so hard to play this. But what actually is ‘touchweight’?
The literal definition is the amount of pressure required, in grams, to cause the piano key to go down or ‘fully depress’ and there are almost as many opinions as to what the perfect touchweight number is as there are pianists! In reality, the so called piano ‘playweight’ can vary hugely from the literal ‘touchweight’ of the piano. Despite this we still tend to discuss touchweight a lot as this is one of the easiet
MAKING IT PERFECT FOR YOU
Here at Edelweiss Pianos, we believe that the key element in a piano’s touchweight is ensuring your self-playing piano is set-up to be perfect for you. We all have different playing styles, we all prefer different piano sounds and we all prefer different action set-ups to suit our playing style and the way we choose to express the pieces we perform. Our technicians totally understand that, and our responsibility is to work with you to ensure your Edelweiss Piano is feels and plays just right for you.
PIANO SOUND & TOUCHWEIGHT
Even the sound of a custom piano can affect how the weight of the keys feel to play. A brighter sounding piano tends to feel lighter to play: the crisper sound meaning the individual notes are clear and distinct lending themselves to crescendos with less effort and more intricate trills and faster passages with less perceived playing effort (lighter touch) to achieve the notes and sounds we require. Conversely a self-playinh piano with an excessively muted or mellow sound tends to feel very heavy to play: each individual note sounds less distinctly and it can feel like we really have to play hard and ‘work’ the keys to produce the ultimate sound we are aiming for.
CUSTOMISING TOUCHWEIGHT TO YOU
Ultimately touchweight is more than just a measurement of how many grams weight are required to depress the key. Your Edelweiss piano is all about sound, and the effort required to produce that sound. Yes any piano’s touchweight can be increased or decreased as needed, but a Master Technician would always consider the overall action ratio before making any changes. For example, if you felt a lighter touch would work better for you with your piano there are three first steps that the Edelweiss Team would consider:
(1) HAMMER WEIGHT
A piano action works by causing a hammer to rise up and hit the piano strings. Lighter hammers require less effort from the piano player to play (lighter touchweight) than heavier hammers need. Consistency of hammer weight across the pianos action also results in a consistent playing experience across all the register; this is one reason why Edelweiss use Abel hammers in our pianos
(2) ACTION RATIO
The Action Ratio is an indication of how much leverage the pianist is able to exert on the hammer as it strikes the strings. To make your Edelweiss piano ‘play-weight’ lighter, our Master Technicians would also review your pianos action ratio and can make several refinements such as moving the capstan position or re-positioning the hammers to make your piano play lighter
(3) KEY WEIGHTS
One of the more obvious steps in customising touchweight is to adjust the number and size of the lead weights, or key weights, that are found in nearly every custom made piano today. Adding lead weights to make the key heavier actually reduces the touchweight, or force required to fully depress the key, on your piano. However adding key weights is a fine art that must be kept in balance. The heavier the key, the slower it rises back into position which can result in a piano having very light touchweight but a very sluggish action that is slow to play
PIANO EXPERTISE NEEDED
As this brief post sets out, ‘touchweight’ can be a very generic term that is often used out of context. When as pianists we talk about a piano being heavy or light to play it is a combination of the touchweight, the keyweight, the action geometry, the hammer weight, the voicing of the hammers and so much more! If you do feel your Edelweiss piano is too heavy/light, the essential first step is to consult with an Edelweiss Master Technician and we will work with you to understand exactly how you want your piano to play and feel before we start making any changes at all.
As a one sentence summary, Piano Touchweight and ‘playweight’ is a complex area: if you would like your piano set-up to support your specific playing style – please speak to a piano expert like Edelweiss Pianos!