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As you play the piano or are thinking of buying a piano, you may wonder if there are any advantages to piano keys being heavy compared to if the keys don’t have any weight feelings at all. Or maybe while playing, you have a feeling that the keys are somehow too heavy, but are not sure if this is how it’s supposed to be.
Piano keys should be heavy to help develop strengths in your fingers and better touch control, which allows greater expressions when playing the piano. With that in mind, piano keys shouldn’t be either too heavy or too light, but a good balance between the two, since it can harm your playing.
In this article, we will go over more in-depth why piano keys should be heavy and why you should keep your piano keys in good balance, not too light nor heavy. Along with some other related questions like what gives the keys their weight feelings? Or why your piano keys feel so heavy and what to do to lighten them. Finally, if you’re looking for a digital piano, why it having weighted keys is an important factor to consider.
Should piano keys be heavy?
Heavy piano keys develop your finger strength
As mentioned above, the reason why piano keys have to feel heavy is to help develop strength in your fingers. A lot of piano pieces require you to hit certain measures loudly (called forte) and not having the proper strength means that you won’t be able to play it as loud as you want to or needed to be.
Greater touch control
Another reason for piano keys being heavy is to allow greater touch control when you play the piano. As you play a piece, there are sections that require you to play loudly, while others softly. Sometimes, only certain notes are played loudly or softly.
How loud or soft you can play depends on the speed that you hit the keys. Try this little experiment on your piano: hit the same key on your piano a few times, and alter the speed as you hit it from slowly to quickly. As you can see, when you hit the key quickly, it produces a louder sound compared to hitting it slowly.
This is due to the greater momentum present the moment you quickly hit the key. This momentum is transferred to the hammer, making it hit the strings faster, thus producing a louder sound.
What this means is that this system will only work if the keys are heavy since it can register and respond to how fast you hit the keys. If the keys have no weight then no matter how fast you hit the keys, all the sounds produced will have the same volume.
These two factors allow for greater expressions when playing the piano, you can imbue emotions in your playing and the sound produced will respond with being soft and soothing or maybe harsh and intense.
A happy medium is best
While it’s true that piano keys should feel heavy because of all the benefits it has, piano keys that are too heavy or stiff are not good since they’ll tire your fingers over time, making playing piano less rewarding.
Piano keys that are too light are no good either since keys being too light won’t develop proper strengths in your fingers and will damage your touch control.
This is why a happy medium between the two is the best since it allows you to play piano fast while also having great expressions.
With that said, if you do have to choose between either heavy or light keys, go with heavy keys because playing on light keys will make playing on any other piano more difficult. It’s similar to that saying: “it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed” but in a piano context.
What gives piano keys their weight?
When you press a key on an acoustic piano, mechanical parts inside the piano move with the intention to make the hammer hit the string, thus producing sound through vibrations.
Depending on how fast you hit the keys, the weight of the piano keys will tell the hammers to hit the strings either quickly or slowly, producing either loud sounds or quiet sounds respectively.
To understand more in-depth how a piano key work, check out his live demo on youtube:
Why are my piano keys so heavy?
The reason why you may feel that your piano are heavier than it’s supposed to be are due to a few reasons:
Dirt, dust, wear and tear
Over time, dust and dirt will be collected on your piano, in addition to natural wear and tear that comes with any object being constantly used, will change the specifications of the piano keys, making them feel heavier, sticky or sluggish.
To deal with this, regularly dust and clean your piano to keep dirt and dust off of it, while having a piano technician come to take a look and lubricate and regulate the action controls of the keys. This will restore the keys to their original weight and feels.
Humidity is the enemy
Too high, too low or a sudden change in humidity in the air can cause the strings inside the piano to rust along with swelling of the wooden components due to taking in moisture, causing the keys to stick and have that too heavy feeling.
This is why the spot you pick to place your piano has to have constant humidity. Here’s an article listing a few places in your home to avoid putting your piano at.
Out of alignment keys
When moving pianos to a new location or through the natural use of the piano over time, the keys will be slightly moved out of place. This creates unnecessary friction that causes the keys to feel heavy or stiff, making it harder to press down on them.
How heavy should a piano key be?
Ideally, you want to have a piano technician come take a look at the conditions of the piano keys and measure their touch weights. Average figures for a piano key are downweight being anywhere from 48-55 grams, while upweight being anywhere from 22-25 grams.
How to make piano keys lighter
Again, you preferably should have a piano technician come take care of this since these methods may be too advanced or risky for a non-technician to take. In the worst-case scenario, you might end up damaging your precious piano.
But for your information, here are a few ways to make piano keys lighter:
- Most pianos have brass capstans, but you can swap them to aluminium to drop a few grams
- A touch rail can be installed to presses down on the keys with springs.
- Friction in the pins for the hammers could be significant and contribute to a heavy touch, this can be reduced through lubrication.
Do I need weighted keys?
If you’re looking to get a digital piano or an electric keyboard, key weight is an important factor to consider because it makes keyboards feel similar to a traditional piano. This helps the eventual transition from an electric to an acoustic piano to be easier since you already had some experience with heavy keys.
Also, weighted keys can help make practicing piano more effective and develop finger strength, making them more dexterous.
If you can’t get a fully-weighted keyboard, get a semi-weighted keyboard instead, since you need to get used to the key resistance present on an acoustic piano.