What is Piano Regulation?
“Piano Regulation” is a term that is used to refer to the intricate adjustments to the action of a piano (the part between the keys and the strings that makes the piano work) to make it play and feel the way it should.
Pianos need to be regulated in order to keep them in good working condition (just like tuning!). Over time, the wood, felt, metal, and buckskin in the piano settles and compresses. Regulation re-adjusts these parts so the piano will perform optimally.
There are an average of over 9,000 parts in a piano, regulating all the minute intricacies help the piano perform in the best way it can.
Often times a pianist will say, “my piano doesn’t feel right” or “when I push the keys I lose power” or “this piano is difficult to play quietly on”. These are all most likely regulation issues, and can be solved by having a qualified technician regulate your piano. We once heard another technician say, “If tuning is like changing the oil in your automobile, consider regulation the 60,000 mile check up.”
What exactly is regulated in a piano?
All kinds of things! Below is a link to the technical drawings of the inside of one note of a piano action (a piano has 88 of these!). Nearly everything that you see can be adjusted up or down, in or out, etc. by twisting small screws, adding and removing thin paper punchings, and slightly bending metal parts.
The black arrows show some of the main points that are adjusted during regulation of a grand piano. There are similar adjustments that can be made on upright piano actions.
The goal is to achieve consistent touch from one key to the next for optimal playability and control.
Achieving this goal is not always as simple as it may seem. First, although any piano regardless of age can be regulated, fine piano regulation assumes that the action parts are in good working order and not overly worn. By fine piano regulation we are referring to piano regulation with a high degree of precision and accuracy. Pianos with extremely worn and/or old action parts can be regulated, but not to a fine degree.
In the majority of cases, older piano or those with extremely worn action parts can be improved through a series of adjustments that take into account the wear and age of the parts. Results of piano regulation on newer pianos—or even older pianos that have been regulated and maintained over the years—can be quite impressive.
Signs that Your Piano Needs to Be Regulated
The need for piano regulation does not just suddenly show up one day when you sit down at the piano. It is important to understand why a piano needs to be regulated. First and foremost, piano regulation is needed to account for the normal wear on internal action parts. Wear and tear typically takes place over a period of time, so it may not even be obvious that your piano needs to be regulated. Also, some pianists favor a particular “feel” at the piano. How a piano plays can be influenced through piano regulation and adjustment.
Signs Your Piano Needs a Piano Regulation:
- Piano seems difficult to play
- Piano seems to lack “power” as felt at the keyboard
- It is difficult to play repetitions (trills, etc.) on your piano
- Piano sound is weak or lacking
- Your piano keys are not level
- Notes continue to “ring”long after you’ve released the key
What about Upright Pianos? Is Piano Regulation only for Grand Pianos?
Upright pianos can be regulated in much the same way as a grand piano can. The action in an upright piano is quite different from that of a grand piano, so regulation of an upright is carried out using slightly different methodology that grand piano regulation.
The black arrows on this diagram show some of the main regulation points that are adjusted during regulation of an upright piano. Note: this is a diagram of a spinet piano action, but the regulation items are the same.
The diagram at left shows a typical upright spinet piano action. Notice the black arrows which point out some of the key areas adjusted during the piano regulation process. As you can see, the action of an upright piano is quite different in design from that of a grand piano.
Many people pose the question: what is the real difference between the action of a grand piano and the action of an upright piano? This is an excellent question. Very simply, the mechanism of the action differs in a grand piano—in a positive way. Positive in that a grand piano action is capable of much faster note repetition due to the double-escapement design of the action. This does not mean that repetition is not possible on an upright piano—it is very possible. A properly and correctly regulated upright piano can and will function and play very well.
How Frequently should my Piano be Regulated?
The answer to this question really depends upon a few factors. First, how much and how often do you play your piano? How consistent is the temperature and humidity where the piano is kept? What type of music do you play most often?
Pianos that receive a lot of play will require more frequent adjustment. Also, pianos that are subjected to fluctuations in temperature and humidity will need regulated more often.
Our rates for piano regulation work vary depending upon what the piano needs and the time it takes to get there. Typical piano regulation includes tightening all action screws, lubrication of moving parts, adjustment of hammer blow distance, key height and leveling, adjusting let-off, adjusting key dip, and optimizing the dampers and pedal operation.