All pianos require periodic servicing called regulation. This is the adjustment of the mechanical parts that make up the action, keyboard, and trapwork, to compensate for wear in the cloth, and dimensional changes in the wooden parts.
Regulation ensures that a piano is capable of producing a uniform touch, fast repetition, and wide dynamic range. With over thirty-five points of adjustment per note in a grand piano and twenty-five in an upright, regulation is a skilled job that takes a considerable amount of time to complete.
A need for regulation may show its ways for many ways:
- Inability to execute fast passages or legato touch may mean your piano needs regulating, rather than that you need to practice more, and bubbling or blocking hammers can destroy the tone of any instrument.
- Dampers may stop their strings from vibrating at differing times after release of the keys and pedal, causing difficulties in phrasing.
- Uneven key heights and touch weights affect the sensitivity needed by the fingers to control the speed of the piano hammer.
An unregulated piano will not only perform poorly, but may have a shorter life span. Unnecessary and uneven wear develops as parts become misaligned and those that meant to push start to punch; and hammers break if they are unable to escape the pianist’s finger pressure before they hit the string.
How often a piano requires regulating?
It depends on the conditions in which it is kept, as well as on how it is use and how often it is played. Most pianos require regulation within six months of purchase, either from new or after being rebuilt, because of compression of the cloth and felts, which absorb much of the shock between one action part and another.
After this initial work, a domestic piano may only need regulating every five years. A piano that suffers extended and heavy use by a professional pianist should be regulated annually. Changes in humidity affect all of a piano’s wooden parts, not just the action and keyboard, but it is the dimensional change in these parts that is most likely to degrade performance.
As the wooden parts swell they exert pressure on the screws that hold them; as they dry they shrink, causing the screws to become loose. When this happens the action parts become noisy and fall out of alignment, resulting in uneven wear that future regulation cannot compensate for.
Most technicians make small adjustments to a piano’s regulation every time it is tuned, but over time and with continued use, a piano will require a full regulation to maintain the responsive and even touch it had when it was new.
Make sure to contact a reputable technician to regulate your piano.