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MMD > Archives > July 2001 > 2001.07.24 > 03Prev  Next

Servicing and Regulating Duo-Art Grand Pianos
By Craig Brougher

In my last posting, I should have referred everyone to an "88 note"
_upright_ player piano to be the subject of my example.  These are the
pianos I have found that few tuners in my area want to tune.

As far as tuners tuning any sort of reproducing grand piano, I have
never heard of an objection to them at all, seeing as how they are no
different than any other grand, in that respect.  It's the uprights
that scare some, seeing that big 'ol mysterious player mechanism facing
them.  But let's talk about the action regulation of player grands,
although that wasn't the original subject.

Regarding the piano regulation of Duo-Art grands (and it doesn't just
apply to Steinways, but all Duo-Arts), there are no regular piano
technicians _I know of_ locally who will tackle one to regulate it.
So when it comes to action regulation, the same thing applies to grand
players as applies to uprights.

The factory method allowed the removal of the tubed-in top action from
the keys with little difficulty in 30 minutes or less provided the
tubing is still supple, and then the rest of the operation of course
involves the control levers and connection blocks.  It still takes at
least an hour to free the piano action completely from the top action
and the piano, and another hour to replace it and retube it.  But this
is something that PTG members could learn, because their forebears
all had to know this if they were to tune even a small percentage of
the nice homes in their area.  This knowledge and experience was
expected of a knowledgeable journeyman tuner of that period.

They should also know that reproducing grand actions regulate a little
differently than their straight piano cousins, and that many of them
had additional damper lever springs-- which over half the time slipped
up out of their stuffed holes (Steinway) and are of no use until the
entire damper lever rail is removed, repaired, and reregulated.  Of all
the "tricks" to these actions, this is the main one.

Besides the additional springs in Steinway Duo-Art damper levers, you
also encounter much of the time broken glue joints throughout the
damper lever flange bar, which causes everything (flange included) to
move when the lever rises, negating the balance of that key completely.
All that's holding them from falling out is the wooden pin used to
stake the lever spring and flange together.  Most people are not aware
of this.  It is why so many can't explain why some rebuilt Duo-Arts
seem more even and are able to play more softly than the rest.

After a complete player restoration that tests out, then everything
hinges on proper and detailed piano regulation, but which is different
than regular pianos when it comes to the damper system.  This one small
change now forces other small changes in the action to be necessary.

Since the reproducing piano is constructed differently and softens
differently, then this requires a slightly different technique
throughout the piano regulation process to compensate it.  It should
stand to reason.  So it's just as well that regular piano technicians
don't want to regulate grand Duo-Arts, I think.  They would do it in
the regular way that they are familiar with, and would still miss the
fine points required for an evenly regulated Duo-Art action, anyway.
The same principles apply to all reproducing grands that use the hammer
rail lift as the mechanical soft pedal (and they all do).

It would be misleading to say that the player grand action is regulated
differently.  It is not, as far as the key height and drops are
concerned, including backchecks.  But just as you learn to "favor"
certain characteristics of the action for certain artists and regulate
for their likes and dislikes, so would you also do the same thing for
a good reproducing grand piano.  One very important adjustment for
instance is the jacks ("flys" for Steinway fans).  These are seldom
touched.  I could go into a treatise, but I won't.

That's the wisdom of a full restoration by a qualified player rebuilder.
He has to know the fine points regarding all the different actions on
regular grands and what tradeoffs you make with each, before he can
know what he's doing in a player and still come out with a touch that
feels exactly the same-- but with different regulation points for the

If the rebuilder knows about this facet of action regulation and also
knows what he is looking for and how to both regulate the springs as
well as the damper lift and jack compensation (because there is no
manual on it and that too is different than regular pianos), only then
will such a reproducing grand play to its maximum potential and evenly

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Tue 24 Jul 2001, 14:46:42 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Duo-Art, Grand, Pianos, Regulating, Servicing

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