When either first purchasing a piano, or having your piano tuned after many years, you may come across the term ‘regulation’. Many people confuse these terms with ‘tuning’ or ‘servicing’ a piano and whilst all three are works carried out by piano technicians up and down the country, they are not the same and each affects your piano in its own way.
This article aims to break down regulation, what it is, signs your piano may need regulating and what the regulation process entails. To learn more about getting your piano serviced, tuned or pitch raised, visit our technicians page here.
What Is Piano Regulation?
Despite having your piano tuned regularly (we generally recommend getting it tuned every 6-12 months based on how much you play), over time you may still notice some deterioration in your instrument’s performance, be this through its touch, projection or tone. This will be no fault of your technician’s and they will likely be able to tell you if they think your piano needs regulating.
Over time, based on how often, how hard and where the piano is kept, a regulation may be needed to counter your piano feeling a little ‘duller’ than usual. Where a tuning primarily reviews the strings of a piano and keeping them in tune with one another, a regulation instead reviews the mechanical parts of the piano, such as the action, the hammers, the dampers, the pedals and many other components. All of these factors may seem small individually, however across an entire piano’s register, can have a rather large effect on the piano’s overall sound and tone.
Regulating a piano is a highly specialist job and not something that we would recommend trying to do on your own. The process involves adjusting the delicate mechanics of the piano to help both compensate and adapt to the general effects of wear that many of your instrument’s components will face overtime. For example as the piano is played and the hammers are constantly striking the strings, the felt on the hammers becomes compacted and often develops small dents in the felts. This is easily fixed by asking your technician to rework the wool, but overtime and the longer the hammers are left, the more likely more severe work such as a hammer shaving will be required.
What Is Checked During A Regulation?
There are many things that a technician may check whilst regulating a piano, however the main areas that are checked are the action, the hammers and damper systems.
The action is the most crucial part of a piano’s touch and is what physically translates from the player pressing a key to the hammer striking the string across the piano, a piano action comprising over 9,000 parts across the instrument. With so many small, intricate parts working together, there is a lot of room for errors to occur here and even the slightest knock to a spring, lever or dowel within the action can dramatically affect the piano’s functionality.
The damper system is an equally intricate system on the piano that helps control the vibration of the strings, stopping the vibration when the pedal is not pressed and letting the string ring on when the damper or sustain pedal is pressed.
Alterations to these components will affect not only how your piano’s touch feels, but also its performance whilst playing. Talk to your piano technician if you are experiencing a particular issue with your piano that you would like to change or ask for their recommendation if you are not able to express from your instrument as much as you would like to.
What Are The Benefits Of Having Your Piano Regulated?
If you are satisfied with your piano’s performance and are not experiencing any issues with your playing such as sticking keys, your instrument being able to play what you want and with the level of dynamics and expression that you are happy with, then chances are, your instrument doesn’t ‘need’ a regulation.
If however you are finding that your instrument perhaps feels ‘duller’ than it used to, if certain notes are not responding as they should, or if you are generally feeling more dissatisfied with the instrument, when your piano is next tuned we would recommend having a conversation with your technician around regulation. After looking at the instrument, they should then be able to offer some further insight into the instrument and whether or not a regulation is needed.
One of the easiest ways to identify whether your piano needs a regulation or not is how it deals with creating a wide dynamic range, particularly in pianissimo passages. Another is that your piano will likely have a sluggish action and is not able to keep up with your level of playing. After regulation, the action should feel smooth and even throughout the register.
How Often Does A Piano Need Regulating?
All upright and grand pianos will need regulating at some point during their life, however this is largely dependent on the amount of use, any temperature changes the instrument may come into contact with, its age, quality of materials and general condition. It is also not uncommon for many new pianos to need regulating within their first year of being in a new home as the parts find their natural resting places after some use and adapt to the humidity and temperature of a room.
Ultimately how often you get your piano regulated is an entirely personal choice and something you should speak to your technician about as every instrument is different. For example a piano in a highly humid environment may require an annual regulation session, where others may require regulations perhaps once every 3-5 years without issue depending on the materials used in the creation of the instrument and the production methods used, for example some manufacturers will skip over the regulation process in their production in order to lower the costs of the piano.
No amount of practice can compensate for a poorly maintained action and if you are finding it harder and harder to play pieces on your instrument, if the instrument is not functional, it may have negative effects on your technique and learning. If you would like to learn more about either upgrading your piano or would like to book a piano tuning, contact our team today!