Have you ever had your piano key stick? As a Piano Tuner I have unstuck hundreds of sticking keys. In the following I will tell you how to unstick your piano keys, the major reasons why your keys are sticking, and when its just time to just call your local piano tuner. As a disclaimer this article will be discussing specifically upright pianos. Grand actions are designed very different, they are harder to access, and usually much more difficult to resolve. You also run the risk of damaging your piano action if your remove it incorrectly. My advice, if you have a grand piano with a sticking key, is to call your local piano tuner to set up an appointment. It would be much cheaper to pay a professional to fix a simple problem then to have them replace a hammer or a damaged action.
Why are my keys sticking?
There can be many reasons why your keys are sticking; weither it be multiple keys or a single key it is always frustrating when a key sticks especially in the middle of a piece that is particularly fast. The important things to look for when diagnosing your sticking key is to notice what is exactly happening when the key is pressed down. Is the key itself not coming back up? Does the key not go down at all? Do multiple keys stick next to each other? Does the key come back up but does not make a sound when pressed again? I would say that these are the primary issues when it comes to sticking keys. Of course each one of these problems can have multiple causes, but I am going to disscuss on the typical reasons of sticking keys.
The key does not go down/ multiple keys are stuck
Both of these problems are usually related when it comes to a key not going down at all. Usually this is a simple fix. There is something blocking the key from accessing the action or there is something wedged between the keys. Start by opening the lid and removing the music desk. Once this is done you have full access to the piano keys. You usually will be able to see immediately if something is stuck in the keys. If it is between the action and the keys, nine times out of ten it is a pen or pencil. I have gone to so many appointment where that was the only fix needed. So please do all piano tuners a favor and check to see if its a pen before calling us! Another reason for sticking keys could be that a guitar pick is stuck between the keys causing them both to stick. This is a simple as removing the key and letting the pick or other blocakage out. Again an easy fix that almost anyone can do!
The key in not coming back up
When it comes to a keys responsiveness the usual culprit is humidity. Because so much of the piano is made of wood the piano will swell and shrink depending on the season. In the summer there is extra water in the air so the wood in your piano expands and in the winter because it is so dry, especially here in the Midwest, your piano wood will shrink. Not only will this potentially effect your keys but will effect your piano tuning, If interested I disscuss this in length in another article I wrote here. But for the intences of your piano key usually the key is sticking at one of two places. If you open your lid and take the cover off you should be able to access your keys. Usually there is a couple screws that must be take out in order to access this. Once you have taken off the music desk and cover you will be able to remove the key and see where the key is attached to the balance pins and front rail pins. In both of these locations there are felts to make the key slide with ease on the pin. In theory you can take a flat headed screwdriver and gently press on the felts to each side, then replace the key. If the key still does not respond repeat the above process. Out of all the issues with the sticking keys this would be the one I would highly recommend calling a piano tuner on. If you press too hard you could damage the felts then have to have them replaced by a piano tuner. A professional tuner will be able to know when is too far and has speicalized tools to help them ease the keys effectively. So to avoid a more expensive fix just call your local piano tuner. If you live in the north east part of Indiana that person would be me! So go to this link and schedule your appointment.
The key moves but no sound is made
This is a more tricky fix as it deals more with the action of the piano then the actual key. Multiple things could be happening with your action hammers usually they are sluggish or hitting their neighboring hammer. No matter what the case you need to call your local tuner on this one. They will have to either lubercate the pins, repin, or move the hammer over. For all of these fixes you need specialized piano tuner tools. Please do not attempt this fix on your own as you might cause much more damage then the original problem that could be easily resolved by your piano tuner.
In conclusion, there are a few things you can do yourself when it comes to fixing your piano. Could be blockage or swelling but in any case it may just be as advantageous to call your local piano tuner and ask them to help your diagnose what is wrong with your piano. Let's hope that it is as simple as removing a pen, but if not good luck trying to diagnose what is wrong with those sticking keys!