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MMD > Archives > March 2012 > 2012.03.12 > 05Prev  Next

Don't Pound the Player Piano Keys
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  Some might ask, "What's the different between FFFF and
pounding?"  If an adult raises his hands a foot above the keys, and
brings his fingers crashing down on the keys, how many pounds of
force are bring applied to the keys and associated action parts?
Frankly, I don't know the answer, but is it any less force than what
children might exert on those same components if they strike the keys
with their fists?

I've heard that Horowitz was brutal on pianos.  My 93-year old mentor
told me that as long as a child isn't hitting the keys with something
other than their hands, they can't hurt anything.

Naturally, a bit of common sense and understanding of the basics of
the piano should be considered.  After all, under the center rail and
the front rail of every key are pieces of felt.  "Repeated" pounding
will eventually wear the felt to the point where the keys will no
longer have the correct height or dip.  At the bottom of each abstract
is another piece of felt, and 'repeated' pounding will wear out that
piece of felt, creating lost motion.  There's also the buckskin on the
wippen that will get worn out over time, etc., etc.

Regarding Lee Rothrock's comments about a child pounding on the
keys and the two broken notes, a question that comes to my mind is,
'why didn't all of the notes break?'.  And, more specifically, did the
keys break, or did the hammer shanks break? (Or some other part/s?)

When I was ten, I was told by my mother and the piano tuner that
I would damage my mother's piano if I continued playing the same
notes over and over.  After I continued to practice boogie-woogie on
her piano, she finally put her foot down and told me I was no longer
allowed to play her piano.

Well, she came home from work early one afternoon and caught me playing
'that wretched boogie music' (she played only classical music and hymns),
and she made a statement she would somewhat live to regret.  Screaming
as she came through the front door, she said, "If you want to play
piano like that, go get one of your own GDI!"

So, a week later, having saved my paper route money for the previous
three years, I bought my first piano at the age of eleven.  I would
(in her words) "pound" on that piano just to annoy my mother (guess
I was a rotten kid...;-), but nothing ever broke.  I clearly remember
getting frustrated from time to time and beating on the keys with my
fists -- but still nothing broke.

So, while I learned later in life that playing a piano 'hard' does have
its consequences, I tell parents that it's highly unlikely that "Johnny
banging on the keys" will 'break' the piano, and I've yet to be proven

Personally, I believe the piano is one of the most resilient instruments
ever manufactured.  Like a Timex watch, "It takes a licking and keeps
on ticking!"

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

(Message sent Mon 12 Mar 2012, 13:11:35 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Don't, Keys, Piano, Player, Pound

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