Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sticking Keys

Have you ever had a piano whose keys stuck down when you played them?  This annoying little behavior is often quite easily resolved.  If you look at the front of the key, as you can see in this picture, you will notice the key front appears to be scratched.  Sometimes you will see color, other time just faint lines, on this piano you can see the transfer of black paint to the key front.
Rubbing key slip causing cosmetic damage to key fronts.

Key slip laid face down. A spline has been attached
to the back for correct placement in the piano
When you play the piano you should never rest your thumbs on the keyslip seen removed from the piano and resting face down.  This manufacturer has installed a spline to the back of the keyslip which provides the proper placement when installed and gives the screws a place to hold the keyslip.

Stuck Key

If your keys stay down and you notice the keyslip rubbing the key fronts follow the directions below to correct the problem.

Keyslip screw

1. Remove the keyslip (uprights).  Look under the keys searching for screws, you should see something like this:

There will likely be 3-5 screws, remove these and set them in a safe place.  I like to put them on the keys just above where the screw was removed.

If you have an grand piano you may need to remove the cheek blocks in order to remove the keyslip. Some pianos (Steinway, Baldwin, etc) may require no screws to remove the keyslip, just slide it up.

Keyslip removed exposing the dado and spacer

2. Remove the keyslip, on most pianos uprights and grands you will slide the keyslip up.  On this piano (Kawai) you will need to pull it away from the key fronts.

Look at the picture to the right and notice the half round spacer. This was placed there by the manufacturer to help prevent the issue in the first place, however, they did not use a thick enough material.  I use various different materials,, depending on what I have in my travel kit.  For this repair, I will use a rubber "donut".

Rubber Donut

3. Put a dab of glue on one side of your selected spacer and place it between keys # 44 & 45 which is the center of the keyboard.  FYI this is between E4 and F4 (E & F above middle C)

Donut Glued

Donut set in place

Now it is time to replace the keyslip and test your spacer.  I suggest placing the keyslip in place and adding the screws on at a time checking the notes that were sticking as you go.  If the keys continue to stick, remove the keyslip and add a thicker spacer.  Ideally you want to have a gap between the key fronts and keyslip that is uniform and not bowed out, however it is perfectly acceptable to allow the keyslip to have a bow to prevent your keys from coming into contact with the keyslip.

Check for space between the key front and keyslip.
They should never touch!
Congratulations! You've successfully taken care of your sticky keyslip.

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