Robert Estrin - piano expert

Can you Replace Just one Ivory Key?

The answer to this question is yes, despite some difficulties

In this video, Robert tells you if it is possible to replace a single ivory key on your piano keyboard, in case just one is broken.

Released on December 17, 2014

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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, and welcome to and with the second part in a series about ivory. We had a viewer question from Theresa who asked can you replace just a couple of broken ivory keys.

This is a really good question, and there are a lot of issues with ivory as I discussed last week, but specifically about... You'd think that if you just had a couple of broken ones, maybe you could replace them. Well, maybe you can. It really depends.

A lot of tuners will carry around spare ivories from pianos that had ivories but half of them were broken so they took off the others and they put them in a box. They do that whenever they come across old pianos that have a bad set of ivories. They'll take the good ones just so they have spares. You might think it would be pretty simple, then. They must have spares. Try to find somebody who has spares, and you're done.

Well, it's not quite so simple, because since ivories come from elephants, there are no two that are exactly alike. One set of ivories might have a certain pattern, a certain size, or a certain color that is different from another. If you replace it with the wrong one, you might get one that is too short. If it's too long, maybe you could trim it. But, if the color is off, it'll just stick out if it's yellower or whiter than surrounding ivories. For a technician to be able to do this, they must have hundreds, or at least dozens, of ivories to have a good chance of finding a right match.

Eventually, this whole issue might become even more difficult as the laws regarding ivory are tightened. But, for now, if you find a technician who's got spares and you're just missing a couple, you probably can get somebody to replace those for you.

Now, if you have a whole bunch that are cracked or missing, it's really not practical to be able to replace that many. In that case, you want to get a job done to replace the ivory with plastic key tops which, incidentally, are pretty much the same as ivory. As a pianist, they're very close. I have a video on that subject you can check out, ivory versus plastic, not such a big issue. Some people have a strong feeling one way or the other, and I respect both opinions.

The good news is you can always put plastic on your keys if you don't like ivory of if you have a bad set of ivory. And, if you have a couple missing, ask your technician if they have spares.

Thanks for the great question, Theresa, and thanks, everybody, for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at living and
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