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So I've been playing the piano for about 13 years now and I've noticed the action of my piano getting worse and worse. There are actually several problems:

  1. On some keys the amount of force needed to move the keys (& hammers) is relatively high at the beginning and then after slight movement rapidly reduces, which in turn reduces the dynamic range of that tone since it either comes out too loud or not at all.

  2. As said, problem 1 only exists on some keys which completely messes up the general key weights. While the keys should usually just slightly increase in terms of weight towards the lower registers, on my piano you can find lots of adjacent keys where one of the two is ~40% harder to press than the other. Playing trills on two keys like this is just horrible, but even simple runs can throw you off completely when coming across* keys like these.

* It's about every third key I'm talking about so coming across them doesn't take long.

To counteract these problems I tend to hold down the soft pedal since that kind of evens out the problematic key weights, gives me back lots of dynamic range and brings the feel of my upright much closer to the Yamaha Grand Piano I had piano lessons on until recently. But this can't be the solution in the long run.

I should say that for the time I've had this piano (~10-11 years) it has never been adjusted and I believe this might be the reason. So would a simple adjustment do the trick or is there more to it? It would also be nice if anyone could tell me what exactly in the key mechanism is causing these problems.

  • How old is the piano? The fact that you have been playing it for 13 years is irrelevant if it was already 50 years old when you bought it! – user19146 Dec 6 '16 at 18:47
  • @alephzero It was brand new when we bought it. It's a Euterpe EU-121 M just for the record. – Keiwan Dec 6 '16 at 18:52
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I tend to disagree with the general advice about "regulating" the action by tinkering with things that look like adjustment screws, without understanding what's really going on and/or what is causing the problem.

If the problem is affecting "about one in three keys", most likely there is some underlying cause that in time will affect all the keys.

I would take a guess that the cause is something affecting the various felt pads that separate parts of the action, causing them to "stick."

One cause could be a change in the humidity and/or temperature in the room. A more serious problem would be the felts themselves becoming damaged. There could be several reasons for that:

  • They are simply mechanically worn out - that probably shouldn't happen to a 13-year old piano, but "Euterpe" brand name is the cheapest "beginner-level" piano made by Bechstein, and though Bechstein is a very well known name, the company did go through a rough period when it was on the "wrong side" of the Berlin Wall, so you may have inadvertently bought the piano equivalent of a Trabant!

  • The glue between the felts and the wood is failing for some reason.

  • The felt has become infested with mildew or fungus for some reason.
  • You have rodents living in your piano!

You really need to get a piano technician to look at it and diagnose the problem.

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Doubtless your piano needs 'regulating'. Which just means adjusting the action.

If you want to try it yourself, I don't suppose you can do any harm that a piano technician can't subsequently reverse! Here's a video

http://www.concertpitchpiano.com/WhatsRegulation.html

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    I'm not sure what that video is suppose to tell you - it doesn't explain why or when you should do those operations! And you could do a huge amount of irrepairable damage by "tightening every wood screw in the action" without knowing how tight is "tight enough." – user19146 Dec 7 '16 at 0:17
  • There's plenty more online material. I agree, if you don't have basic craft skills that tell you when a screw is being over-tightened, you should keep well away from this sort of job. But a blanket 'Hands off! Call a technician!' scare is also inappropriate. – Laurence Payne Dec 7 '16 at 14:31
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One simple fix that you can do yourself relatively safely is to make sure the capstans are adjusted to remove any play in the key where it makes contact with the rest of the action.

The capstan is the screw at the back of the key. You may need a wrench or channel-lock pliers to turn it. Make a small asjustment (~1/4 turn) and replace the key to test; repeat if necessary.

If the problem is in the action itself, I'd advise calling in a Piano technician.

Edit: After reading alephzero's answer, I agree that it sounds more like worn-out pads, in which case adjusting the capstans is not likely to help much. You probably need a pad-check/replacement and tune-up. I leave the answer as it may be interesting or useful to others with somewhat similar problems.

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This isn't really an answer but a way to start to diagnose the problem.

I have been watching YouTube videos by Roberts Pianos in Oxford UK. There is a lot of information about what they do when restoring pianos they sell and rent out, both upright and grand actions. I suggest perusing these to understand how different shortcomings manifest themselves in touch and sound. Some of the remedies they perform require special tools, materials, spares and plain old experience.

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