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Which Piano Action is the right one?

All types of action that can still be found today can be easily playable. The underdamped action, standardised since the beginning of the 20th century, is the most common today. The Renner company has been one of the best known since the 1920s - and was recently taken over by Steinway & Sons.

In our experience, Ibach and Blüthner overdamped actions from the period up to around 1920 are also very easy to play. Incidentally, underdamping was first used (for example, by Erard and Pleyel before 1850) - after that, overdamping was favoured in Germany due to its better playability and damping, only to be replaced by underdamping again later when action parts (especially spring steel) became more readily available. 

There were also different types of action for grand pianos, which in turn were realised differently by different manufacturers. A rough distinction can be made between the early bounce/shock action (including the so-called "Viennese action"), which did not allow fast repetition and had a more elaborate type of damping, and the later double-repeating action based on the inventions of Erard and Hertz (the so-called "English action").

In the double-repeating mechanism still in use today, the lifting link is moved via a pilote (connection between the end of the key and the mechanism). Some manufacturers also have a fixed connection between the key and the lifting link (abstract action), which allows for greater precision - but is more complex to renovate and adjust. Although a renovated instrument with a bounce action is of course also nice to play, we would always recommend the modern action form with underdamping for contemporary playing. One notable exception is the Blüthner patented action, which in good condition allows very light, controlled and fine playing and also repetitions wonderfully for high demands. The success of this type of action is demonstrated by the fact that although Blüthner also offered the Blüthner Erard action on request from the 1870s onwards, the patent action was increasingly used until the 1920s. 


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