Counting to 100: #21

(If you're new to this series, I am writing about my tuning journey, counting my first 100 tunings. Check out previous posts here: 

How to Spot Drop Action Pianos

Tuning #21 was back to a house with a drop action piano. I've written a lot about drop action pianos, so this time I took some pictures to show what I mean. Knowing the difference between a drop action piano and a standard action piano is actually pretty important when you are shopping for pianos.  

The keys of your piano don't stop where the ivory (ok, plastic) ends. They extend all the way back into the piano. If you take off the front board (behind where the music sits), you should see keys extending inside the piano.

Now for some terminology: all the moving wooden parts in the piano are call the ACTION. 

The keys that you play actually extend all the way back into the piano and make the action move. However, that action can be placed above the keys (and connected with little dowels), directly on the keys (pictured left), or below and behind the keys (pictured right). The two pictures were taken right above the piano looking in, to show where the action is located.   



For the standard action, the parts sit right on the keys. 

For the drop action, there is a big drop and lots of wooden pieces going further down into the piano. The action is all hidden down behind the keys.

<------------- This is another picture of a standard action. The camera is sitting right on the ends of the piano keys, and you can see that the action is located directly on top of the keys.  

There are two basic problems with drop action pianos:

Something Breaks

Something that could be a simple fix on a regular action is much more difficult in drop action simply because there is very little room to work and it is all hidden down in the piano. Some technicians will actually charge more to work on drop actions.  

Sound Quality

Drop action is usually only put in pianos that are really short. These short pianos (called Spinets) are convenient because they are easier to move and fit into a home. However, a shorter piano means less space for strings, and that means poor sound quality. If you care about having a bass (lower end of the piano) that doesn't sound muddy, avoid a short piano. 

There is something else to consider: Not all short pianos have drop action. Spinet refers to the height of the piano (36-39 inches). I have a very short piano, but it does not have a drop action. It is a Console piano, and is 40  inches high. I bought it on purpose because I needed something that we could get into our apartment, but did NOT want a drop action to work on. So, if you don't have a lot of space, there are alternatives! That 1-4 inches makes a difference in what piano manufacturers can do inside a piano. 







<------------------ Here's another problem with this particular drop action piano

I can't leave the lid to the keyboard open all the way and see inside to tune the piano. If I open the lid all the way, I can't see the hammers hitting the strings to know which note to tune. If I close it to see the hammers, I can't press the keys. It winds up being half open the whole time so that I can access the keys and see the hammers at the same time. (I could avoid this by taking off the entire cover, but that is more work that it is worth.)