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(800) 738-8633 (800) RE-TUNED

The Largest Piano Tuning and Service Organization in the Western United States Exceeding Your Expectations Since 1976

  • An association of piano technicians, working under the guidance of Shawn Skylark, a highly acclaimed concert tuner with over 36 years of experience
  • The only piano service to offer a money-back, 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Whatever type of piano you have, whatever level of service you require, we have the right technician for you!
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Regulation

What is regulation?

Regulation is the general term that refers to any work that keeps the mechanism, (or action), working properly. When a key is played, a felt hammer strikes the strings. This is accomplished through a complex assembly of levers and springs which can be adjusted with extraordinary subtlety. When working at it's best, the piano can achieve an enormous degree of responsiveness.

When properly adjusted, the key only travels down a small distance, (approximately 3/8"). While that small motion occurs under your fingers, a lot is happening inside that enables the instrument to be played tenderly and expressively, or with power and passion; with either lightning speed or smooth "legato." A well trained tuner is more than a tuner, he or she is a piano "technician" with extensive training in the skills needed to achieve and maintain the correct functioning of the piano mechanism and pedal systems.

Why do keys stick on my piano?

We have found that clients refer to a few different problems as "sticky keys." Do you mean that the key actually stays down when it is played? If so, it is always due to excessive friction, either in the key itself, or deeper in the mechanism. It can be as simple as a tight key slot, which can be fixed in five minutes, or a symptom of tight pins that may require considerable time to correct, especially if the problem exists throughout the instrument. It can be something simple, like a bit of debris lodged between the keys, or the front of the key rubbing on the case rail. However, it may be a response to an excessively humid environment that will need to be addressed before any solution can be found.

Do you mean that when you hit the key repeatedly no sound is heard? If so, usually the part inside the mechanism that pushes the hammer into the strings (the jack) is not properly aligned, either because it is broken, or has become unglued, or is too tight. Usually this is not too time consuming to fix, unless it is happening throughout the keyboard.

Do you mean that when you strike the key the sound "keeps going" even after you take your finger off the key? There is a damper that lifts off the strings when the key is struck, allowing the strings to vibrate. It is supposed to return to rest against the strings when you lift your finger. If it is too tight, or not properly aligned, the note will not be dampened properly. Again, sometimes this is a quick fix, sometimes not.

If you have an older Steinway grand and the entire mechanism is slow and heavy, it may be experiencing a problem specific to Steinways built in the 1920's and 1930's. This syndrome is called "verdigris" and results in excessively tight felt everywhere inside the mechanism where one part rotates inside another. Although some lubricants can sometimes make this problem a little better for a little while, there is usually no solution other than replacing the affected parts. Give us a call and we can discuss this further.

Why do my piano keys feel so heavy, or light?

The force it takes to push the keys down can and should be measured, and is referred to as the "touch-weight," or "down-weight." Although there is no absolute industry "standard," usually this number should fall somewhere around 50 grams in the middle of the keyboard; a little more in the bass, a little less in the treble.

If the weight falls too far outside these guidelines, there are usually only two likely reasons. The most common is that the action has either gained or lost friction in the moving parts. Too little friction, and the action feels loose and sloppy, and usually noisy. This is less common in our area, but more likely to develop in excessively dry conditions.

Excessive friction will make the keys feel heavy, sluggish, hard to press, and slow to return. Sometimes they get so tight they just stay down causing the most common of all complaints, the notorious “sticky key!" (As mentioned above, in some old Steinway grands this friction is the result of a condition known as verdigris, which renders the action virtually unplayable. If you have an old Steinway with VERY sluggish keys, call us and we will explain in greater detail.)

If friction is not the problem, then either the piano was poorly designed, or improperly reconditioned. In most pianos, the manufacturer uses lead plugs in the keys to establish the proper feel, once the action is assembled. Sometimes they fail to do this properly, or with enough care. Also, if a technician puts new hammers on an existing piano, for instance, and that hammer is one gram heavier than the one it replaced, the key can measure 5 grams heavier to press. Be wary of action work that promises to change parts without mentioning work to re-establish proper touch weight!

Can you make the keys on my piano feel heavier or lighter?

Absolutely, but the time and costs involved vary dramatically depending on the cause of the problem. If the action is heavy because of excessive friction, often 1/2 day repining and lubricating will make the keys considerably lighter. If the action is light simply because it was designed that way, we can add weight to the back of the keys to increase the resistance. If the touch weight problem is the result of many interrelated factors, the solution may be time consuming and expensive. Let us have a look, take some measurements, and we can make some recommendations.

Also, the technology exists to replace the lead plugs found in the keys with magnets, which allow the weight to be adjusted as needed. This is a procedure that can only be performed by a shop that specializes in high-end piano customizing, and is never done except as part of a larger action reconditioning and upgrade, such as when the action is being redesigned with the Stanwood method, discussed below.

What is the Stanwood TouchDesign?

This is a patented and revolutionary approach to action rebuilding, whereby the action of a high quality grand piano can be evaluated and redesigned to vastly improve it's responsiveness and sensitivity. This is an extremely specialized area of piano technology, previously unavailable, and requires a well tooled and "accredited" shop staffed with experienced technicians. The Bay Area is extremely fortunate to have one of the best such shops right in our own "backyard" in Alameda.

When a client of ours requires this type of service, we work closely with our associates to guide our client through this process and make sure they are nothing short of thrilled with the results! This technology has been utilized by some of the worlds finest concert pianists.

We Specialize in:
  • Bosendorfer
  • Steinway
  • Petrof
  • Schimmel
  • Yamaha