- Max Kuehn
What Causes Piano Keys to Stick?
Reason 1: The keyslip binds the piano key.
The keyslip is a long piece of wood that sits directly beneath the keys. Swelling of the wood is possible, especially in high-humidity areas. A player leaning forward may cause the keyslip to push itself towards the keys.
A key may become stuck to the keyslip in any case. Simply grasp the keyslip and pull it forward to correct this. It may be necessary to unscrew the screws under the keybed and insert cardboard shims (easily made by folding business cards) between the keyslip and endblocks on occasion.
The goal is to make room between the keyslip and the keys.
Reason 2: Things get tangled up in the keys.
People frequently drop food or other small things on the keyboard, resulting in them being trapped between the keys. Children are sometimes the offenders, shoving pennies through the cracks.
Use an opening paper clip or a knife to remove an undesired object from between the keys, or use canned air to blast it out.
Reason 3: Stuff gets stuck behind the keys.
If a foreign object is found behind a key, the piano inside should be examined. The lid, followed by the music shelf, the fallboard, and the fallstrip, must all be removed. For this, you’ll need a screwdriver.
To avoid mixing up the screws, identify them as you remove the components. Look above and below the key for anything strange once it’s been disassembled. Holding the back of the key firmly, elevate the front end roughly 1/2 inch (12mm) with your other hand.
Gently shake it, then replace it in its original position. Reassemble the piano in the same sequence that it was taken apart.
Reason 4: Tight bushings
Metal pins go through two holes in every piano key, one in the center and the other at the front, which are hidden from the musician.
The balancing rail pin and the front rail pin are metal pins that aid to keep the key in position when it moves vertically. Thin feeling bushing fabric, commonly known as bushing, is attached to the sidewalls of the holes.
It’s possible that new piano owners have experienced resistance when pressing the keys. The problem is most likely caused by the weather; dampness might cause the bushing to expand.
Experienced piano technicians can readily resolve this issue by removing the key and compressing the felt with a specific tool. A screwdriver can sometimes be used to ease (adjustments). However, this must be done carefully, especially if the front rail pin is involved.
Older pianos have an entirely different set of issues than newer pianos. Years of playing wear the felt away from the rail pins in such instruments.
When looking at the key sticks, this issue is clearly obvious. Deep indentations indicate that the bushing should be entirely removed and replaced.
This technique is carefully carried out by experienced piano technicians. First, the worn-out bushings are removed. Then a new bushing is fitted, which is precisely sized to fit the pins that will pass through the holes.
The felt is glued with animal hide glue, and the new bushing is held in place with specially made cauls. It’s important to make sure there’s no excess felt protruding from the hole. If the foregoing has been done correctly, only minor softening of the new felt will be required in the future.
Rail pins that have corroded or worn out after years of service can pose complications. Replace the pins if necessary, or simply polish them to make them smoother.
Reason 5: Swollen keys
Piano keys are constructed of wood and, like felt, are prone to swelling when exposed to moisture. If a white key isn’t working, press it together with one of the surrounding keys and use a screwdriver to carefully separate them.
To avoid damaging the keys, use a screwdriver with a tiny point for this procedure. A bloated black key can be loosen with the same method. A black key, on the other hand, should be handled with caution because it is delicate.
Reason 6: Slow-moving parts
Your piano’s keys are connected to jack flanges, which are connected to hammer flanges. The sticker and whippen are raised when the key is pressed. The jack is activated by the whippen, which then pushes the hammer butt.
A note is produced when the butt moves the hammer towards the string. A middle pin is found on both the jack and hammer flanges.
The pins can get overly tight at times, causing in heavy actions and a delayed mechanical reaction. If this happens, you may need to replace the center pins.
Reason 7: Break in the balancing tail along the key stick
The balancing rail pin may fracture as a result of wear and tear. If the break is severe enough, the key stick may flex, preventing the rear of the key from rising as the front is pressed. It would be prudent to replace the complete key stick at this point.
How To Fix Stuck Keys On A Piano
So, yes and no is the answer.
If you’re having one of the issues described above, you can certainly repair it yourself, and I’ll show you how.
Other concerns, such as tight bushings (metal pins found inside the piano that pass through the key and hold it in place) or issues with the key catching the keyslip, might cause a piano key to stick (the piece of wood located below the keys).
This is the type of situation when a technician is required. You risk destroying your instrument if you don’t. However, I urge that you attempt the fixes indicated below first, and then call your tech if they don’t work.
Fix 1: Humidity has caused the keys to swell.
The simple solution is to wait till it is less humid in your area. The wood will contract as a result of this, and the key will not stick.
However, I recognize that this is not a feasible solution if you live in a humid climate all year. The best method to repair this is to figure out which key is causing the problem.
Press it, as well as the key adjacent to it. To detach the key, use a small, thin-tipped screwdriver. This should provide enough space between the keys to prevent the keys from sticking together.
If you reside in a humid environment, you may need to repeat this process every now and again, since the keys will expand on their own. You must be GENTLE when doing this; if you are not, the keys may be damaged.
If this becomes a serious issue for you, you might want to consider investing in a humidification system for your piano, such as the Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver system.
Just a warning: I’ve never used this and have no idea how successful it is, but if you have recurring humidity concerns, it might be worth investigating.
Fix 2: Items lodged beneath the keys
This is the simplest solution. It does, however, require some bravery because it involves removing the piano keys to get underneath them. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this (which I understand), you should contact your technician.
The wide rectangular section of wood beneath the music desk and the fallboard that covers the keys are usually easy to remove from upright pianos. The huge rectangular part is usually held in place by catches on both sides and can be readily removed.
Because the huge rectangular part normally holds the fallboard in place, it should simply lift out. All you have to do now is gently pivot the key and ease it out of its current position.
To view what’s underneath, you’ll need to remove a few keys. Remove whatever was placed there using a vacuum cleaner or your hands. Reassemble after you’re finished. The keys will normally have numbers on them that indicate where they should be placed.
If none of these repairs work, you’ll need to see a specialist to avoid destroying your instrument.
How Much Does a Piano Key Repair Cost?
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably tried the previous solutions and still have a stuck key. Even though you’ll need a technician, this is a really simple fix for them, and they shouldn’t charge you too much for their time.
If you can bear the stuck key for a short time, I’d propose waiting for your next tuning, because I know my technician would fix it for free if he was already at my house.
If you’re calling the tech out specifically to fix a jammed key, I’d expect to pay between $50 and $100 for them to do it. They’ll be able to explain how it got stuck, why it got stuck, and how to avoid it happening again.
When the technician arrives at your home, ask them to check for any other problems with the piano; ask if the action needs to be regulated, and if there are any other problems that could increase key-sticking in the future. You can avoid these issues this way.
One of the most crucial aspects of maintaining your piano is keeping it clean. As I previously stated, if you eat your lunch at the piano and drop crumbs or other items onto the keys, you are more likely to encounter key-sticking and other problems.
The majority of piano keys are now constructed of wood with a plastic casing. This makes cleaning them a breeze. If your piano is very old, it may contain ivory keys, which are more difficult to clean and will yellow over time.
However, ivory pianos are now quite rare. The cleaning procedure is essentially the same; all you need is a little moist cloth (not wet; water would destroy your piano) and a small amount of dish soap.
Don’t overdo it; a small amount will suffice. Clean each key separately and dry with a different towel.
Improper piano operation can result in a significant reduction in lifetime, among other things. As a result, it’s critical to keep your piano in excellent condition. Proper maintenance and use easily top the list of actions to do in order to accomplish this. You should have no big issues if you maintain your piano properly. This would also inquire about the possibility of sticky keys due to a build-up of dirt or debris.