Ebony and Ivory

I’ve been in a constant state of mild irritation for the last few weeks. “Thanks” to our lovely piano! It’s the highest E-flat key (or D-sharp if you’re so inclined, such split personality!) that somehow got a little stuck, I don’t know the hell why! Every time it’s played, it wouldn’t bounce all the way back up but remains half way down, until 267 hours later, or until I give it a little nudge. And usually I don’t touch those keys up the top end there, because I only play difficult songs that require extremely advanced fingering techniques, you know, like “Shoo Fly” and “Row Row Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars” (in my defence, it’s a Mozart, hello!)

But because these last weeks I’ve become a little (I use that word very loosely here) obsessed with “The Maiden’s Prayer”, composed by some Polish girl called Tekla Badarzewska back in the 19th century. (I had to google then copy-paste that name, so let’s just call her “Tekla Ba-something” from now on ok?) One day our housemate R. decided to play it for us, and I was so taken by it I had to listen to that Youtube clip about 386 times, and counting, (plus I also like those red candles the guy had on his piano) and had to pester R. for the sheet music so I can torture my neighbours some more. (yay!) So now you know why I need that E-flat key, and probably why it decided to stop working properly. Because it almost NEVER had to work before, that bludger! Grr…

Anyhow, so irritated was I, that the other day I decided to operate a little dissection on the poor piano, to see if I can fix that key and avoid forking out some 200 precious bucks for someone to come and tune the silly thing. I’ve opened up our piano at home (the other home, the one in Vietnam :)) a thousand and one times before. For the sake of clarification, let’s call them P1 (VN) and P2 (Melbourne) from now on shall we? So P1 has a G-sharp key that likes to silent itself every once in a while. Which can be easily fixed by pushing in a little bolt inside that has slowly come undone over time. Don’t ask me how I figured that out, I just did, must have been the engineer in me. *batting (non-existent) eyelashes* But P2, I’d never had to dissect it before. So I was a little nervous but here you are, the process:

1. The top panel came off.

Couldn’t see anything wrong. The springs and strings and all the other thingamabobs (technical term!) looked all fine.


2. The bottom panel followed:

Still couldn’t see anything unusual. (As if I’d know if there was!) Except a little dust so I gave it a bit of a clean.

3. Out popped the lid on the keys

Now before last Wednesday, I had never knew that lid could be so easily lifted off. Here I was, trying to peer into the back of those keys while telling my baby sister (aka The Cutest Sweetest Most Amazing Girl in the Whole Wide World, but that’s too long so I’ve shortened it to m’) how if I remembered correctly, all the keys are numbered. I still can recall that afternoon when we had P1 delivered to our old house, back in 1986; and these vivid memories of black lacquered panels everywhere, lots of bronze things, and a heap of black & white wooden sticks with numbers printed on them. All of which a gentleman had to manually and painstakingly assemble. I figured they must have had to take P1 apart, so that it could be taken up the few flights of stairs to where it was destined to live for a good part of the 80’s and 90’s. Right now I so wish I was older then, so i could take in more details of the part-reconstruction of a piano. (Because that’s what it is!) When else would I have another chance like that? Probably never. *sighs* However I don’t think the back panel with all the strings attached was pulled apart. That must have been a total destruction of the thing altogether. But can’t tell for sure. Now I wish for a video camera at the time. It’d have been wonderful to watch again.

Anywayyy. So this was a totally New and Exciting Discovery. After all that reminiscing, I decided to pull the lid up a bit and lo and behold, it came off! And that’s not all, that’s not all. Guess what? The keys are numbered! All 88 of them. Hah! So I do have a good memory. (Jiggy little happy dance ensued.) You wouldn’t imagine how excited I got. I was so hyper m’ thought she must have just given me 2 litres of the strongest machiato instead of a cup of artichoke tea.

Ok, this is how it looked half-naked.


4. And this is the guilty guy:

I was a little freaked out. That key’s number is 79, my birth year. (Damn, just showed my age there!) Luckily i don’t read too much into that kind of thing. But funny coincidence huh?


5. Another weird thing is that the serial number has my birthday in it: “712”. So that’s my birth date altogether. Is it totally uncanny or is it totally uncanny?! m’ said, so it was meant for you. I said, you bet! 🙂 The other 4 digits make “2102”, maybe that’s how long I’m gonna live until? Not bad at all, hehe.


6. A mysterious plastic thingo at the back of the top panel:

And it is a letter “T”!! So that’s settled, this piano, in its last life, must have owed me a hell of a lot of gold and secret martial art script books. (It’s ok, you need to be an Asian to get that.) This “T” is made of a half-soft plastic and attached to the panel at its 3 tips with tiny metal nails. Bear in mind that although it’s only been in our family for 5 years (gosh! how time flies), P2 is a refurbished one and is about 25 years old. Our P1 doesn’t have this “T” bit so it must have been added after manufacturing. Take a look at this thingo and if anyone can tell me what the heck it is and why it’s there, I’d take them out for a dinner and volunteer to clean their toilet for 2 weeks.


So that’s that. If you’ve managed to read this far, my hat off to you and thanks for loving me muah muah! 🙂

Oh, and nope, I still haven’t found out what’s wrong with that E-flat key! I picked & I poked & I even popped out a little spring. (Thank goodness I managed to push it back in!) All to no avail. It looks like I’m gonna have to either a/ stop playing that song, or b/ play that song and ignore that bit where it sounds all stupid because of a missing note, or c/ part with a big wad of my hard-earned cash to pay for a proper tune up. Oh, decision, decision, deciiiiision!



2 thoughts on “Ebony and Ivory

  1. Haha, sis, I thought you stripped off the piano and found “the” solution for “the” key after all that effort to narrate the story. So, I kept reading on and on. Thanks for the surprised ending. Fool me!

  2. hehe H., you should have seen how irate i was! But all the other little discoveries made it worthwhile. Even though it still irks me why that key is playing up. May have to poke around a bit more this arvo. Grrr…

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