Missing, broken or chipped keytops not only affect the appearance of your piano but can also affect the playability of your instrument. A key with a missing top will not sit level with its neighbours and will prove to be a hindrance for a new student learning to play the piano and also for an accomplished player trying to achieve proper dynamics in a piece of music. Broken and chipped keytops can be sharp and hard on fingertips.
Keytop replacement is a relatively easy repair but requires the proper glue, clamps and patience to do a professional job. Matching thickness and size is important for the playability of the piano while matching colour is important for the aesthetics of the piano. Replacement keytops for most plastic keys are readily available. Many older pianos, however, have keytops made of real ivory. Real ivory keytops can be identified by the visible grain in the keytop, similar in appearance to growth rings in wood. Matching ivory keytops can be a challenge. Ivory is no longer used for keytop material, and rightly so. It may be possible to replace missing ivory keytops with parts salvaged from another old piano.
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Sticking keys is a problem that many people experience with their piano from time to time. A key that fails to return to its proper rest position or will not respond to quick repetitions of a note can be very frustrating to a piano player.
There are many possible causes for a sticking key. One common cause is foreign objects that have been dropped into the piano. Conditions of high humidity can result in swollen felt and wood in a piano’s moving parts. Excessive humidity can also result in accumulation of dirt and corrosion that can hinder a piano’s playability. Broken action parts and weak springs can also lead to sticking keys.
After inspecting the piano and identifying the cause of the sticking key, repairs can be effected by either cleaning, lubricating, sanding or adjusting the problem area of the piano. Problems of humidity can come and go with the seasons. For a more permanent solution, the installation of a Dampp Chaser Climate Control System will protect the piano from humidity changes.
Pedals or “Trapwork”
Pianos have two or three pedals. The pedal on the right hand side is the sustain pedal and functions to lift all of the dampers from the strings in unison so that the notes played can ring freely and the rest of the piano can also reverberate until the pedal is disengaged and the damper is returned to the strings, stopping all vibration. The middle pedal on a grand piano is the sostenuto pedal which functions to allow individual selected notes to sustain while subsequent notes played do not. The middle pedal on an upright piano performs a variety of functions depending on the manufacturer. Usually it serves to sustain only the bass notes but sometimes it operates a muting felt which, when engaged, allows for quiet practice. The pedal on the left hand side is a soft pedal. On a grand piano the soft pedal moves all 88 keys to the right causing the hammers to hit only one string in a bichord (a note in which two strings are struck in unison by an individual hammer) or only two strings in a trichord (a note in which three strings are struck in unison by an individual hammer) thus creating a quieter sound in the piano. On an upright piano the soft pedal lifts the entire hammer rail (a horizontal rail inside the piano on which all 88 hammers rest), moving all of the hammers slightly closer to the string decreasing the velocity of the hammers and subsequently the volume coming from the piano. If a piano only has two pedals, the right pedal will be the sustain pedal and the left pedal will be the soft pedal.
Pedals can suffer from problems such as sticking and squeaking, slow response (lost motion) or failure to function at all. Problems with pedals can often be corrected with minor adjustments and lubrication or replacement of worn felt and rubber bushings. Badly worn trapwork and/or dampers can sometimes require much more extensive restoration work. Properly functioning pedals will make for a much more enjoyable piano playing experience.