Sometimes piano keys or notes sustain long after you release them. Have you ever wondered what to do about those sticking keys? How about those squeaks and rattles, or a “touch” that is too sluggish or too “light”? Other times you might hear an echo that results from a hammer striking multiple times with just one blow. So, what do you do?
Many piano problems require services of a competent technician. I have a local piano tuner in my area that can troubleshoot major problems that may arise with my acoustic piano. But there are things that I can learn to do between piano tuning visits.
To begin with, I think it is important to understand that the piano sounds are created by a number of separate, but very interdependent, components. So tuning a piano won’t automatically fix broken keys, make the action more responsive, eliminate buzzes, or change the quality of sound. There are a few things you can do to trouble shoot the problem.
Here are the main components of all pianos:
The Soundboard amplifies the vibrations of the strings and it’s usually made of spruce.
The Plate is found directly over the soundboard. It’s usually made of cast-iron. Its function is to rigidly support the structure of the piano, so it can withstand the pull of strings.
The strings are secured at the back end to the plate’s hitch pins, and at the front end to threaded tuning pins, which are embedded in the pin block or wrest-plank.
So, all problems concerning the general “feel” and responsiveness of the piano, and most malfunctions of individual notes can be traced to the action and keys.
The problem of sticky or sluggish notes, meaning when the note plays but returns slowly or only partway so that repetition is poor, is most noticeable when the sustain pedal is depressed.
There are many possible causes of this problem.
Keys can stick because:
• Something is rubbing against something else it shouldn’t be touching, so it’s getting “hung up.”
• A point of rotation or contact between a stationary and a moving part is too tight or somehow bound up or impeded, hindering free movement of that action part.
• A spring that is necessary to the return of a moving action part is broken or weak.
• A piece of action felt has become pitted or worn in such a way that the part that rides against it gets caught up.
I guess another reason would be letting your children play the piano with strawberry jam on their hands!!!
These four points don’t include all possibilities, but they certainly cover a lot of territory. So, if you still don’t know why the piano keys are sticking, please call your local piano tuner.
Here in California, piano tuning can cost around $75.00 for a tuning and then they go from there. I have heard that antique piano strings can cost $1000.00 per string... so sometimes looking for another piano is a better route than trying to fix broken strings and sticky keys!
Charlie Parker once said "Learn the changes and then forget them."
All the best,