Ones, Zeros, & 88 Keys: Maintaining a Digital Piano

Apr 13, 2016

blog - maintaining a digital piano

Continuing the theme of maintenance we’ve been exploring over the last few weeks, today we’re going to talk about an instrument that requires a lot less maintenance than everything else we’ve discussed: the digital piano, also known as an electronic keyboard or synthesizer.

The beauty and advantage of digital pianos is the fact that they lack all the moving mechanisms inside an acoustic piano that make it all work. Because digital pianos are electronic, they are usually thought of as “maintenance free,” and while it’s true they aren’t subject to most of the things that cause an acoustic piano harm, like humidity and heating ducts and elements, there are a number of things that require occasional maintenance or repair.

Treat Your Digital Piano With Respect

It may seem obvious that you would treat any expensive piece of electronics, or any instrument, with the respect it deserves, but unfortunately, it bears repeating. Any piano, digital or otherwise, that has been in a home for a few years starts to be treated like every other piece of furniture. Thing are set down on top of it, it gets bumped, nudged, and knocked. Drinks are rested and inevitably spilled. Crumbs are scattered. A wooden coffee table is made to weather this kind of abuse, but your digital piano is not.

The best way to protect your digital piano from the wear and tear the rest of your furniture puts up with is to find a safe location for it to live in. The best guidelines for an ideal location are pretty similar to an acoustic piano: avoid direct sunlight, heavy traffic areas, high heat, and water exposure. Once you’re piano is placed, just try to remember that it is a piano, and not a shelf, table, or chair.

Cleaning the Keyboard

As with anything you touch with your hands, your digital piano’s keyboard will require the occasional cleaning. Keeping your keyboard clean helps to prevent dust from building up between the keys, and keeping it looking great, but using the wrong cleaning technique can cause irreparable damage to the internal electronics.

First and foremost, never use water or a wet cloth, no matter what you read on the internet. Water and electronics do not mix well, and even though the computer bits of your digital piano are set back from the keys, the danger still exists. Water has a tendency to get into places you wouldn’t expect, and really don’t want it. Instead, consult your owner’s manual for your particular instrument’s recommended cleaning method. In between cleanings, you can keep the keyboard free of dust and finger oils with a wipe down with a clean and dry cloth.

Remember to wash your hands before cleaning, and more importantly, before playing. This is especially important if you’ve been eating or doing household chores.

Maintaining the Electronics

Unlike pretty much any other popular instrument, your digital piano is, obviously, a piece of electronic equipment. As such, you should observe the same proper care you would give to your television or computer.

Many problems with digital piano’s arise from faulty electrical outlets, or improper plugging. You can avoid these issues by making sure the outlet your piano is using is in good condition and isn’t overloaded by other electric appliances. Sharing the outlet with other devices is, as you’ve been told since you were five, a fire hazard due to the risk of short circuits. “Bah,” you might say, “I’ve got surge protection!” Well, even if you feel safe from fire, sharing the outlet can interfere with your digital piano’s sound quality and overall performance. They require a fair amount of power, and they can’t always get all they need from an overwhelmed outlet.

The next thing to consider for the health of the electronics inside your piano is the placement of the cord. Your piano’s power chord is probably more susceptible to damage than any other part of the instrument. Cords have a way of getting tangled up in chair wheels, sucked up by vacuum cleaners, tripped over, and chewed on by pets (any maybe kids). So it is in your piano’s best interest that you make sure the cord is out of the way, and out of danger.

Lastly, your digital piano should be turned off and unplugged when not in use. This protects it from any unforeseen surges or other electrical problems. When you finish playing, be sure to turn off the instrument, and then (and only then) unplug the piano, and place the power cord in a spot it wont be interfered with.

If you ever find yourself faced with malfunctioning piano electronics, do not, I repeat, do not attempt to repair it yourself unless you have experience with electronics. Your best course of action is to hire a professional, or send the unit back to the manufacturer.

Protecting Your Digital Piano

The reality of any musical instrument is that it will spend more time sitting than being played (even if you play every day, your instrument still sits around all night). Most instruments have the advantage of a hard case to keep them safe from bumps, knocks, and drops. Unfortunately, most digital pianos do not have this basic bit of protection, so it’s up to you to make sure you protect it when it isn’t in use.

Just like an acoustic piano, you should cover your digital piano’s keys when you’re not playing, but while dust buildup in an acoustic piano takes time, and slowly changes the piano’s action, dust in a digital piano can have a much more immediate effect. Dust wreaks havoc on most electronics, and because it is so small and ubiquitous, it can get in between your keys and to the electronics. The very first thing the dust gets to is the key’s sensors, and dusty sensors while have a hugely negative impact on performance. Dust only makes thing worse beyond that.

Of course, dust isn’t the only thing you should work to keep away from your digital piano. Pets can also cause problems. Even if you ignore the aesthetic effect bite and claw marks have, pet hair can get inside your piano almost as easily as dust, and can effect it in almost the exact same way.

Remember, if you encounter any problems with your digital piano it is always best to bring it to a professional rather than attempt repairs on your own. Not only is fiddling with electronics potentially dangerous, you could end up doing a lot more harm if you don’t have the necessary experience.