Piano Action Regulation
Updated: Jun 7
Regulation is restoring the proper touch on your piano using precise measurements and adjustments to your pianos mechanical action. I am referring to the efficiency and responsiveness of the piano action. As felt and leather parts in the action compress or wear over time they will become out of alignment and cause the action to become less efficient and harder to play musically. To keep your piano performing at its best you will need to have your piano regulated.
What causes a piano to go out of regulation? Don't they regulate the piano at the factory?
Manufacturers' treatment of a quality concert grands differs from models on the entry-level price spectrum. Preparation time from the factory along with better quality parts makes a quality piano feel better "out of the box". Even concert grand pianos will need a little attention before their first performance. Softer, less dense felt used to reduce the initial cost of an entry-level piano tends to compress and wear quicker.
The grand piano has many complex moving parts. When a note on your piano is played, your finger instantly puts a carefully balanced system of levers and springs into motion. Felt cushions at all contact points prevent action noise from intruding upon the music produced.
The primary reason that the action of a grand piano goes out of regulation is that the felt parts (over two dozen per note) which are so important to its functioning become worn and compressed with age and use. As this compression occurs, adjustments to the contact points which were made when the piano was new no longer are accurate. As this happens, a gradual loss of performance occurs. Lost motion in the action prevents maximum power from being transmitted from the keys to the strings when forte is called for. Early release of the hammers causes misfiring notes when subtle pianissimos are attempted. Although the change occurs over time, at some point it starts to become obvious that the piano is not at peak performance. Regulating your piano will go a long way towards seeing to it that whoever sits down to play will find it a truly satisfying experience.
If other repairs are needed, is it necessary to make them first?
It's highly recommended that all-important repair work involving the action of your piano be completed before the instrument is regulated. That way the work will result in the maximum benefit.
If a piano has not been maintained on a regular basis, it should be looked over carefully to determine what repairs are needed in preparation for regulating. Hammers may be badly worn and in need of replacement or shaping. Action parts may need repairing or alignment. Key bushings might need to be replaced or resized. Any repair which would have an effect on the regulation process should be accomplished first before the time-consuming job of setting adjustments is made. Otherwise, a great deal of backtracking might be necessary down the road when adjustments that were made once are thrown off by new parts or repairs.
Assuming I do decide to have my piano regulated, what will the job involve?
For a full scale regulation by Up to Pitch Piano Services the action of the piano is removed and important measurements are taken of the strings height inside the piano. The action by itself will be transported to the workshop for servicing where a specialized setup recreates the strings height based on the recorded measurements. Our regulation procedure takes into account guidelines now belonging to the Piano Technicians Guild requiring 37 steps. This includes friction reducing pre-regulation steps. We also draw knowledge based on certain manufacturer specification recommendations for their instruments. The regulation is performed in a cycle of refinement with the final touches done when the action is returned to the piano. Then you can enjoy!
Joseph Raville, RPT
Dallas Piano Tuner
Up to Pitch LLC