Friday, April 5, 2013

Brain Dump: Dead or Sticking Keys on Yamaha Keyboards

(Update: A Yamaha rep has contacted me directly. Parts should be avail from repair shops - they should not be requiring customers to sell them only as part of a repair.)

Too many companies think their brand is their bottom line.

Turned around, too many consumers think they're a company's bottom line when they're not. What's the saying - your cheapest clients are also your most expensive?

I don't own the premiere model, nor am I an endorser. Should I have to be?

If Honda built great cars, their dealers would go out of business. Because like music instrument retail, car dealerships are not built on sales - they're built on service.

Built-in helplessness.

this is not a good paradigm, especially for musicians who are mostly DIY anyway.

Yamaha's "24x7" is most certainly not. On the day I needed someone, I called at noon only to be told that department was closed for lunch. When I called back an hour later, another recorded message indicated the department was closed for training. No coverage - no voicemail.

So here I sit - knowing *exactly* what I need, but without the precise part #, I can't fix my gear. A service center won't sell the part unless I pay them a 10x markup to put it in, too. Madness.

The premium I still have to "pay" is in time: I'm waiting for a part from a company that salvages used keyboards. Three days for a salvage rubber membrane.

The Problem:
Do you know what this is?

In Yamaha (and Korg) 88-key weighted keyboards, there is a rubber membrane underneath the keys. That membrane has small pegs that are capped with a micro-thin carbon cap. The cap is conductive, and when the key is pressed, the cap contacts the PCB, closes a circuit, and the synth plays a sound.

On one key, the carbon tab lost conductivity (micro fracture?) and didn't close a circuit any longer. It didn't take long to figure it out, thanks to YouTube.

A retailer up the street (Rainbow Electronics) refused to sell me the part, insisting that he also be paid to fix the keyboard, too. Ten day turnaround. In what world does this person live?

The local economy lost a sale AND a relationship AND a music show. These costs, while invisible, are real, and unfortunately, unmeasured, too.

Problem 2: Sticky Keys

On Yamaha (Korg) weighted keyboards, "sticky" keys can be a symptom of a few potential issues:
  • Warping in the keyboard's main bottom board
    • this can be caused by wetness or uneven placement
  • Debris between the counterweight and felt rests
  • Lubricant displacement / dirt buildup
    • Yamaha uses a specific grease that does not harm plastics. (UPDATE: The white grease is Yamaha part # V6274301)
    • Several places require lubrication:
      • Rubber absorbers/stoppers under keys
      • Keypost foot
      •  Hammer sliding mechanism
  • Displaced return spring
  • Broken hammer.
I hope this post helps you.

Today's Takeaways:
  • Salvage warehousing is a lonely trade.
  • Local economies are built on relationships
  • A policy that makes perfect sense internally (restricting parts sales to authorized repair centers) has reverberating consequences that are both invisible and non-intuitive.
  • Do NOT blow compressed air blindly between the keys. You'll blow grease all over everything. Just take a day and open the thing up and clean your keys.


elerouxx said...

Thanks for your post, it contains some very useful information. I'm struggling with a Motif 8 because of sticking keys.

My first advice to those who need to open a yamaha piano is to get an electrical rechargeable screwdriver. Phew!

I've tried everything but the problem always comes back. I think the black plastic on the joints of the keybed and the keys is worn out just enough to allow the key to slant slightly and create enough friction to hold the key down. I'll try to get that grease.

Unknown said...

I'm cleaning (and replacing some of) the keys on my 2nd hand Clavinova. I contacted Yamaha and they recommended the V6274301 grease that you mentioned for the contact point between the hammer assembly and the key itself. They also specified AAX90710 for the end of the key.
The V grease is about ten bucks. OK. But the AAX stuff is over $60! Do you know what these greases really are (like molybdenum or white lithium)? And if so, can they be picked up at my local hardware store?

Bairj Donabedian said...

I have the Yamaha CP-50, with a sticky middle B. Before I went for lubricating anything, I checked out the way your standard Y-frame supports the keyboard. It really does leave the middle vulnerable to downward warping. So I lifted the piano off the frame, and rigged up a full support across the Y using a length of industrial-grade Uline open-wire shelving, heavily padded. This mitigated the problem considerably. But of course it introduced another one, that of reducing the space under the keyboard for my knees. Btw the underside of the CP-50 is fiberboard. So folks, warping is to be expected. Pretty tacky build, to use such a non-rigid material in the one place nobody thinks to look before buying. In the long run, if you’re actually playing on the road, the best thing might be to swap out the fiberboard for a more rigid material. It would just mean some cutting and drilling.