Common Problems - Sticking Keys

I get lots of questions about sticking piano keys. Most people think sticking keys means there is something very wrong with their piano, but in most scenarios, it can be resolved quickly, and sometimes in just a few seconds. Almost every piano I’ve ever sat in front of to service, has at least one key that returns a little slower than it should.

This goes for all types of pianos, and all ages of pianos. For several years, I was the first technician to address a piano after it had been unboxed and placed on the showroom floor, fresh from the factory. One of the first things I would do is check for sticking keys, and there’s almost always a few that could be improved.

I have a process for going over a new piano, to make sure everything is working and sounding as it should, and there’s always a few adjustments that need to be made. However, most new pianos, whether they come from Indonesia, Japan, or New York, are very close to being ready right out of the box, and this is good news for pianists of all skill levels and all budgets!

I have a similar process for going over used pianos, with slightly different approaches for different age groups and different use-case scenarios. When your piano is serviced every 6 months, sticking keys should appear infrequently.

There are exceptions of course, sometimes all of the keys stick, sometimes the piano needs to be completely restored, sometimes there’s verti-grease, sometimes a piano should be hauled away and recycled. But this is usually when a piano is being serviced for the first time in decades, or if the piano was “free”. Again, in many situations, a few slow keys are not an indication that your piano is junk, especially if you live in a climate that has big humidity swings throughout the year (like here in Chicago). One day with the windows open on a humid day, could be all a piano needs to start behaving badly.

Your technician should be checking thoroughly for sticking keys every time he or she is in front of your piano, and they should also be able to point out anything else that you should be aware of. Pianos are very technician dependent, but the payoff of a perfectly functioning piano is satisfying in a way that no virtual piano can ever be!

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