Robert Estrin - piano expert

Can You Ruin a Piano's Finish Simply By Touching It?

If you care about your piano, you should watch this video!

In this video, Robert talks about how you should take care of your instrument and preserve its finish as much as possible. This is a very interesting video for any piano owner!

Released on February 11, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin here at and with a viewer question. Can you destroy the finish of a piano with your hands? Boy, this sounds like kind of a crazy question, but there is some tremendous validity to this and some important things you might want to know.

I'm standing in front of a classic American hand rubbed lacquer finish. These are very popular. Sometimes, you get fingerprints. The fact is this finish is porous, and sometimes you'll get fingerprints and you'll be tempted to use Pledge or some product on it. But, if you do, they will build up over time. It has to be professionally removed.

What can you do about that? Can it actually destroy it? Well, over time, if you don't clean it, yes. How do you clean it? Well, if you use just a soft cotton cloth and rub it, that usually will do the trick. But, if you get embedded fingerprints from the oils of your hands, if you take that same cotton cloth and just have it slightly damp, not wet, and rub always in the direction of the hand rubbed lines, you will see the fingerprints and other markings just eradicated no problem.

Now, we have another type of finish. We have the high gloss finish. When these finishes first came out, people were afraid that they were very, very susceptible to problems. At one of the trade shows when the Asian pianos first started coming out with these types of finishes, they actually lit it on fire and it looked very impressive. Well, can you destroy it with your hands? Actually, they're a sealed finish, it's plastic, so not so much. But, interestingly, if you were to take a music book and the lid was down and you just tossed it on the piano and it kind of swirled a little bit, it will make lines in it that are all but impossible to eradicate.

Each of these finishes is more susceptible to damage in different ways. How do you clean a finish like this? Believe it or not, you can use Windex on it because it's a sealed plastic finish and it won't hurt it. There are products made specifically for the finish, but Windex will not hurt it.

There are other aspects of damaging the piano with your hands. If you ever look at a piano from a very serious pianist who practices a great deal for years and years, you will notice not only marks in the fallboard, which you'll see on all pianos that are played, just from the fingers that hit the fallboard, but you will actually see it gouged out down to the wood. My father's pianos, he has a Steinway that his father gave him in 1939 that my sister now has, and you could see it's completely gouged out to the wood, and also his 1972 Baldwin SF10 you can see into the wood.

You might think... Every time I talk to a pianist about this, they go well my hands never hit the fallboard. Well, they actually do. Unless you're the most elementary player, you don't realize it, but your fingers are always hitting the fallboard. Go take a look at your piano. Catch the light the right way, and you will at least see lines on the fallboard from where your fingers or your fingernails hit them. That is one way your hands will damage your piano over time if you're a serious player. But, it's not such a big deal. You can always refinish your fallboard if it gets to be kind of an eyesore for you.

That's the long and the short of it. Each finish, the satin finish and the polyester finish, has its advantages and its challenges. The best thing to do is to not touch your piano so much around... You know, people are visiting you, and they're leaning on the piano all over the place. Realize that it's a real pain, particularly with a satin finish, to clean all that up. So, it's best to kind of restrict your touching of the piano to the keys, and you should be just fine.

Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on October 10, 2018 @5:25 am PST
This reminded me of an idea for a video: Could you explain how you choose a piano for a particular lesson?
Robert Estrin - host, on October 13, 2018 @11:34 am PST
We sell pianos and make videos of them for people out of area who buy pianos from us. We are the world's first online piano store and sell pianos all around the world. The way I choose which piano to use for different videos is simple - whatever piano is in place at the time!
Yvette Keller on February 11, 2015 @6:35 am PST
Now that I know how to clean and protect my piano, can you tell us what we should use to cover any chips in the high gloss finish? Thanks.
Robert - host, on February 11, 2015 @10:10 am PST
Hi gloss polyester finishes which are so popular today are extremely difficult to repair. Very few furniture touch up people are experienced or capable of working with polyester. It is definitely not a do it yourself job.
John raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on February 11, 2015 @6:13 am PST
Hi! usually, notes to be played in the G key by both hands at the same time, are shown one over the other, in the same vertical line. but sometimes, they are shown as if they have t be played one after the other, the notes appear not in the same vertical line. does this mean something in the way they should be played? and one more question, why in the same composition, the same note appears written in two different ways e.g. Bb and A#?
Robert - host, on February 11, 2015 @10:13 am PST
Composers try to indicate multi-part writing in which 2 voices land on the same note at the same time sometimes by double-stemming - one stem goes up and one stem goes down on the same note head. But if the rhythm is different for the 2 different notes, for example a quarter note and a half note, then 2 note heads are written right next to each other and are to be played as one note.
John Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on February 11, 2015 @2:19 pm PST
Thank you! your answer is exactly what I reckoned, but just wanted to be sure about it. As for the second part of my question, I suppose that the composer just chose to write the same note in two ways.
thank you for your help!
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