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Piano Etiquette

Having played hundreds of pianos over the years in various states of repair and maintenance, here are my top tips for taking care of your own piano and how to treat pianos that are not your own:

1. Wash your hands before playing. Even if you think your hands are already clean, it can’t hurt to wash your hands. Pianos are shared instruments. We don’t carry around our own piano like a violinist does. Therefore, washing your hands becomes a bigger issue to prevent the spread of germs and also to leave the keyboard clean when you are done playing.

2. After playing, consider wiping down the keyboard with a damp cloth (not dripping wet), especially if your hands sweat when playing. This will leave the keyboard clean for the next person to play. There have been a few times where I’ve gone into a church to play for a service and the last pianist had eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How did I know? The evidence was a sticky keyboard right around middle C.

3. Dust fine finishes, like the shiny black pianos, with a piece of flannel. This is a safe way to not scratch the piano.

4. No food or drink around or on the piano. There is felt underneath the keyboard and if it gets wet, it will compress, and the keyboard will warp. I witnessed this growing up. Upstairs a toilet overflowed and then dripped through the ceiling into the piano. I managed to get a bucket quickly to catch the water, but not before some water made its way into the piano and warped the keyboard. A technician had to come out and repair it.

5. No hard objects on the keyboard except your hands. The keyboard is designed for skin to touch the piano, not pencil tips or other hard objects.

6. Keep the piano free of other decorations, except for piano books or a pencil on the desk. Pianos will shake when played, especially at an intermediate or advanced level of playing. The last thing you want is a vase tipping over.

One church where I played, someone put an envelope on the top of the closed keyboard lid. When I opened the cover, the envelope slipped inside the piano, never to be found. Not until a technician came did the envelope get back out.

I’m sure over the years you will gather your own stories of playing different pianos. With all of the pianos you have the privilege to play, treat them well. The piano will thank you, and so will the next pianist who plays it.

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