Nigel Morton's Piano Page







ACTION           The striking mechanism consisting of interconnecting levers, jacks, hammers & dampers which connects the keys to the strings. Comparable to the "movement" of a clock, it can normally be quite easily removed from the body of the instrument. (Exceptions being most MiniPianos & a few older U/R Bechsteins.)

OVERDAMPER     An inferior method of damping (mechanism for stopping the sound as the key is released) common in pre-war Uprights. So called because the damper felts are positioned over the hammers. Easily recognized by the wide wooden beam running along the top of the action and obscuring the hammers (when viewed from above) or (when viewed from the front) by the foot long wire rods connecting damper bodies to levers: aka "birdcage action".

UNDERDAMPER   A more efficient damping action, universally adopted since the fifties, with the dampers positioned under the hammers (nearer the centre of the string) and having a strong spring to facilitate the return. When viewed from above, this type of action provides an un-interrupted view of the hammer felts.

OVERSTRUNG     System of construction common to all Uprights since the war, whereby the Bass strings run diagonally (from top left to bottom right) crossing OVER the steels running from top right to bottom left. Several technical advantages, chief of which is that the longer strings produce a richer more powerful sound.

STRAIGHTSTRUNG   An instrument having all its strings running vertically parallel from top to bottom.

A.440Hz ,CONCERT PITCH ,ORCHESTRAL PITCH  - call it what you will, this is simply the agreed pitch of note "A4" for all music making in this country.

PITCH-RAISING.   As it is only possible to move the overall pitch of the piano a small amount(20 cents max.= one fifth of a semitone) before the Tuning becomes unstable, a Pitch-raising (involving tuning the instrument TWICE) is the preferred, and certainly the most cost-effective option for getting a piano up to A.440 and in a stable condition. There is no limit to how far the pitch can be raised - I routinely raise the pitch of old pianos by as much as 3 notes. The two tunings should be carried out as close together as possible because often after the first one [tuned slightly above pitch to allow for it dropping] the intervals in the treble may appear more "out of tune" than before! There is of course an increased risk that strings may break, but in my experience if all the 'C's, 'F's and 'A's come up OK the rest of the piano should  as well.