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Key Balance In An
Upright Player Piano
-Question and Answer

Key Balance in the Upright Player Piano

The Keys in an Upright Player Piano must be properly balanced for them to move up and down as the player mechanism is playing the piano. The exception to this general rule is any player piano in which the mechanism that activates the piano action is located below the keys and strikes the keys from the underside. Also, the key lock MUST be in the OFF position if the unit is equipped with such a feature.

    At 10:47 2/5/98 -0800, you wrote:

    Mr. Tuttle,
    Our family enjoys a 1910 A.B. Chase Player Piano, serial #54549.

    This unit was restored several years ago and plays wonderfully. When playing a roll, the keys have a slight downward motion but are not fully depressed as I have seen on other players. Should the keys fully depress when playing a roll? If so, any ideas why this unit doesn't?
    Thanks for your help, I don't know who else to ask.

    The Knappert Family


    It must be understood at the outset that in an upright player piano, it is gravity that makes the keys move. They are not physically connected to the player mechanism or the piano action. Further, they only move in response to the fact that all the weight of the piano action (the parts associated with each note) is removed from the back of the key by the action of the player mechanism 'lifting' the wippen and associated abstract. Before an accurate solution can be suggested, the exact nature of the problem must be ascertained.

    My first test would be to remove the actions of both the player and the piano (in the upper part of the piano) to see if the keys fall forward on their own. If they don't, my next test would be to check the balance of the keys outside the piano. By removing a few keys and placing them one at a time on a simple jig, it would be easy to determine the dynamic balance of the keys. If they consistently fall forward then the problem would have to be the balance rail pins, the front rail pins or the associated key bushings. There are a variety of corrective actions or changes that can be employed to insure that the keys will work as you expect they should but selecting that action is totally dependent on the results of the tests described above.

    If the keys do not fall forward outside of the piano, the most common solution to the problem is to install lead weights on top of the keys just forward of the fulcrum.

    If they do fall forward outside of the piano, the problem is most likely rust on the key guide pins (front or center rail) or the key bushings are too tight and must be relieved by a professional technician.

    John A. Tuttle

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This page was last revised March 9, 2013 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
For The Accuracy or Validity of the Statements and/or Opinions
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Since "Player-Care" is an internet business, I prefer that we correspond via E-Mail (click here to fill out the 'Request Form'). However, if I'm not in the middle of some other activity, you can reach me at 732-840-8787. But please understand that during the hours from 8AM-5PM EST (Mon-Sat), I'm generally quite busy. So, I probably won't answer the phone. If you get the answering machine, please leave a detailed message stating the reason for your call. Also, repeat your name and phone number clearly and distinctly. By necessity, I prioritize everything in my life. And, if you call and just leave your name and number, and ask me to call you back, it might be a day or two before I return your call. Why? Because I don't know why you want me to call and I might not be prepared to assist you in an effective and efficient manner. If you leave me an E-Mail address (which I prefer), spell it out phonetically. The more you do to help me, the more I can help you in return. Don't rush. You have four minutes to record your message.

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