Over this past summer, I had the privilege of undertaking the re-designing of the piano action for a Steinway concert grand at UAA. The complaint had been that the action consistently felt sluggish and heavy, resulting in performers encountering difficulty when attempting to play complex passages and trills.
Personally, I have also performed numerous recitals on this very piano during my time as a college student, and like others, I too experienced the same challenges. Consequently, this re-design holds deeply personal significance to me, resembling a reunion with an old acquaintance.
The cause of the problems associated with the piano action stems from an occasion when the hammers were replaced, which also included a considerable amount of additional weight to accommodate other issues of the action. Without delving into the extensive historical background of the work done on this piano by numerous technicians, the piano action was not optimized in respect to the weight ratios, resulting in a slow and heavy touch.
Based on my analysis, I believe that the original action
designed emphasized on high leverage and low
hammer weight, aiming to maximize speed and facilitate the execution of intricate passages. However, this emphasis on speed came at the expense of power, or if power were desired, it would have resulted in a sacrifice of tonal clarity and dynamic range. This design philosophy is relatively commonplace in older Steinway pianos, which is one of the factors that draws many advanced pianists to them. In accordance with my understanding of the instrument's requirements and intended usage, I re-designed the action to possess a medium-high leverage with hammers of medium weight. This modification seeks to restore a significant portion of the speed and lightness of the action, while still providing sufficient power to accommodate the size of the recital hall as well as pleasant tonal clarity.
Regarding the tonal design, the objective was to achieve a sound that closely resembles a genuine Steinway. Hence, I opted for a specific set of high-quality western hammers,
constructed with felt that bears a striking resemblance to that of Steinway hammers (to explicitly clarify, these hammers do not share the identical design as genuine Steinway hammers). I introduced a degree of sharpness to the tone of attack and infused an overall warmth, thereby producing a sound that more closely resembles that of a contemporary Steinway piano.
I have subsequently received several commendations from professors and students at the University. It has brought me great satisfaction to dedicate my time to this project, and I as a Steinway & Sons technician, aspire to diligently preserve the piano's pristine condition for the forthcoming decades.