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Grand Piano Issues: Maintenance Tips

04 Oct 2023

Pianos have been a beloved instrument in many households since their invention in the mid-1700s. They serve as decorative pieces and provide a means for people to keep music in their lives. However, like any instrument, grand pianos require regular maintenance, especially as they age. It’s important to be aware of common piano problems and their symptoms. By recognizing these issues, owners can take the necessary steps to prevent minor problems from escalating and ensure their piano remains in optimal condition. This article will explore common piano problems and discuss how to address them.

Stuck or Sticky Keys

When the keys fail to return to their original position, it’s clear that there’s an issue. While some keys may only require a slight wiggle to slide back into place, it’s crucial to consult a professional technician to examine the root cause of the problem. Various factors, including physical blockages, humidity issues, tight key bushings, or a warped key slip, can cause sticky keys.

Physical Blockages: Pianos should always be kept away from food or other crumbly substances that can cause obstructions and jam the keys.

Humidity Issues: Moisture can harm pianos, causing the keys or front rail to become bloated and misaligned. It’s essential to maintain the climate to avoid temperature or humidity fluctuations.

Tight Key Bushings: If the felt bushings that cushion the balance pin and guiding pin are too tight, the keys will not move freely and may stick or move slowly.

A Warped Key Slip: A warped key slip can cause friction between the key and the slip, preventing it from returning to its natural position

Damaged or Dirty Keys

Over time, keys can become damaged or dirty, affecting appearance and functionality. The oils from human hands can trap dirt on the keys, causing discoloration. Lack of light can also lead to yellowing of ivory keys. It’s advisable to cover the keys when not in use to slow discoloration, but ensure that ivory keys receive adequate light. After playing, wiping the keys with a soft, dry rag can help remove dirt and oils. However, it’s important to discuss general piano maintenance with a technician before attempting to clean the keys.

Using alcohol wipes or soapy water may seem like an intuitive solution for cleaning the keys, but these can cause more harm than good. Moisture can damage the instrument, and cleaning agents can chip or crack the ivory or plastic casing covering the wooden keys. If the keys are discolored beyond a simple wipe-down, it’s best to consult an expert for the most appropriate cleaning method.

Rattling or Buzzing Sounds

Rattling or buzzing sounds can be bothersome when playing the piano. These noises can indicate underlying issues with the instrument. Loose or damaged internal components can cause rattling or buzzing sounds. It’s recommended to have a professional technician examine the piano to identify the problem’s source accurately. They will check for broken or misaligned hammer mechanisms, broken or torn strings, or tuning issues that may be causing unwanted noises.

Out of Tune

Proper tuning is crucial for the optimal performance of any instrument, including pianos. While regular tuning is necessary, a well-maintained piano should not fall out of tune as frequently as other instruments. However, environmental changes can cause the pin block to swell or shrink, affecting the tuning stability. Additionally, touching the strings or tuning pins with bare hands can lead to oxidation and rust, compromising the strength of the lines. It’s essential to have a skilled technician regularly inspect and service the piano to prevent costly and intricate repairs in the future.

Notes That Don't Sound Right

When specific keys fail to produce sound or exhibit inconsistent sound quality, addressing the issue promptly is essential. This problem is often caused by string or hammer-related issues. However, diagnosing the exact cause can be challenging, as other factors may contribute to the problem. Seeking the expertise of a professional piano technician is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate repairs. They will check for broken or misaligned hammer mechanisms, broken or torn strings, and tuning issues that may affect the sound production.

Sustain Pedal Isn't Working

The sustain pedal is an essential piano component, allowing notes to sustain and resonate even after the keys are released. If the sustain pedal fails to function as expected, it can negatively impact the overall performance. The issue is often related to the sustain pedal or the attached lever. Adjustments to the pedal action or realignment of the lever may be necessary to rectify the problem. In some cases, the lever may be misaligned, requiring attention from a technician.

Piano Sounds Muffled

A muffled sound can indicate poor voicing of the piano. While the notes still play and may be in tune, they lack the clarity and harmonic tones that contribute to the piano’s distinctive sound. Two common causes for a muffled sound are hammer displacement and action alignment. The density and resiliency of the hammer’s head can affect the instrument’s sound quality. If the hammers are too dense, they can be replaced with more dense.

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