Piano First Aid
by Carol Beigel, RPT
Removing Foreign Objects. Many grand piano owners have discovered to their horror that the pencils on the music desk can disappear into the piano action. Not to worry as the key cover, or nameboard above the piano keys is removable. The brand of piano determines how easily this cover can be removed and then returned to its proper position. Upright pianos take a little more effort to insert foreign objects, but the cabinet pieces do open, and the front boards are removable. You can suspect objects have fallen into the piano action when groups of notes play when only one key has been pressed down, or there are clicks and noises when only some keys are played. Objects should be removed before damage occurs to the piano action parts.
Some common things that find their way into piano actions with troublesome results have been entire rings of keys, toys, pens and pencils, greeting cards, Christmas tree needles, sheets of music, leaves and seeds from plants, large grains of sugar that fell off cookies, and remote control units. When coins have been stuffed between the piano keys, a service call from the technician is usually required to remove them.
Critter Concerns. Should you discover small objects that look like grains of black rice in or around your piano, you may have a rodent infestation. This can be a very serious and expensive problem, so take care of it immediately. Mice will eat the action felts, chew the wood on the keys, build nests and have their young inside a piano. Their droppings get stuck between the piano keys and urine corrodes the metal action springs. When poisoned, pianos seem to be favorite places to die, so use traps instead. Peanut butter on a mouse trap set next to the piano usually does the trick. Although not as common as mice, squirrels have been know to stash food, especially the nuts from the candy dish inside pianos. Keeping the garage door closed usually keeps them out of your piano.
Moths and insects can be very damaging to pianos. Although all of the wool felt is treated with arsenic at the factory, significant key bushing cloth can be consumed before the intruders die. Although not very common in our area, pianos that have been kept further south or in storage can have termites in the pinblock.
Sometimes the family cat gets its foot caught walking across the bass strings. Should this happen, use a wooden spoon to gently push the strings apart to remove the offending paw. Unbelievable as it may seem, neighborhood cats entering the home through the "kitty door" have done enormous damage to pianos in the process of marking their territories.
Areas near new housing construction can be plagued by refugee critters looking for a new place to live. Should you hear "hissing" when you play the pedals, or hear a "rattle" that sounds very much like a locust, don't call me! You need the services of someone braver who is not afraid to peek inside and look for a snake. The local Animal Control Officer is a good choice for those not into do-it-yourself reptile removal.
Return to Ask Carol