Leaping ivories

18th September 2016 | Daily Life, Musings | 1 comment

img_20160918_110731731_hdrThe weather has been extremely humid lately and my piano doesn’t like it. I have a little device which registers the temperature and humidity; for weeks it has been announcing the humidity as 75%.

I have an older piano with ivory key coverings (newer pianos have plastic or resin keys). When the air is damp, the thin ivories start to detach themselves from the wooden key surface and – still attached to the key surface at both ends-  ‘bow upwards’. When the strain becomes too great, the ivories can spring into the air, sometimes snapping as they do so.

If they detach in one piece, they can be glued back on. If they snap in the middle, it’s a more difficult matter and leaves a ‘scar’ (see photo). Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had to glue back several ivories. One of them has disappeared altogether. Sometimes I find broken ivories on the floor or elsewhere in the room, a surprising distance away from the piano. But this ivory has just vanished. I think it must have worked its way into the interior of the piano mechanism, where my tuner will have to find it.

Over the years I’ve read in travellers’ memoirs about pianos shipped out to the tropics, where excessive moisture in the climate has quickly ruined them. I’ve always been relieved that I don’t have to worry about such things, but now I feel I’m getting a little taste of them.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Cohen

    Have had awful problems with snapping violin strings this summer – even had bits of strings ending up inside the instrument. (But at least you can shake these out of a violin…)


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