Whether you have a traditional piano or an electronic keyboard, someone has paid good money for it and it is important to look after it and keep it in good condition. Pianos in particular are built to last for many decades (there are plenty of pianos still going strong after a hundred years or more) but they will only remain in playable condition if you follow some simple guidelines and pay attention to maintenance.
A piano is made out of wood and metal. These natural materials give a great sound, but they can be affected by the environment around them.
The biggest danger to the condition of a piano and the stability of its tuning is changes in humidity and, to a lesser degree, temperature.
If a piano is in a damp atmosphere and then dries out, it can warp the wood and badly affect how the keys work, how it resonates, and the tuning. Big changes in temperature can affect tuning as the metal strings expand and contract, and as the tuning pegs move in their sockets.
To avoid these problems, keep your piano in a room which is at a fairly constant temperature, away from any sources of direct heat (like a radiator) and preferably not against an outside wall. Some pianos have a little gadget inside for keeping the case humid – if you have central heating it is probably a good idea to keep this topped up with water.
Pianos go out of tune eventually so you need to get into a routine of calling in the piano tuner regularly. Yearly is recommended unless you are playing the piano a great deal or it’s in a room where the temperature and humidity changes a lot, in which case it might have to be looked at every 6 months. The piano tuner can also check for any other problems, fix sticky keys, and generally make sure your precious instrument stays in good condition – think of it as protecting your investment, if you look after it, your piano shouldn’t depreciate nearly as much as your car!
The traditional material for the white keys on a piano was bone (it used to be ivory on expensive pianos many years ago, before people realised that elephant tusks looked better on elephants). Bone is another natural material, and although it starts out white, it can go yellow if exposed to sunlight. If you have bone keys, keep the lid closed when you are not playing it. This will also keep the dust out. However clean you think your hands are when you play the piano, eventually you will find a layer of dirt building up. It is important to keep the keys clean, and I have found that the best way is to use a microfibre cloth wrung out in some plain water. Make sure it is only slightly damp, not wet.
If you or anyone else playing the piano catches a cold, it is a good idea to spray a piece of kitchen paper with Detox or similar anti-bacterial spray and give the keys a wipe down after practice. Make sure the paper is not wet.
The case of the piano can usually be kept clean with a duster or, again, a slightly damp microfibre cloth.
If you are using an electronic keyboard, you will not expect to have to maintain it in the same way as a piano. It will not require tuning, and it will not be so badly affected by humidity and temperature changes. However, like any other electronic gadget, it will last considerably longer if it is not exposed to extremes of temperature, and certainly not to damp. Once again, do not keep it against a radiator.
You will need to keep it clean, and here the microfibre cloth wrung out in clean water will work very well. It is essential to disconnect it from the electricity supply before you start cleaning though. If you have a portable keyboard or stage piano, it is a good idea to get a cover for it to keep out dust. Some of the fancier electronic keyboards designed for home use come with a keyboard lid similar to a traditional piano – use it!
As with any other electric machine, make sure that you check the cable from time to time to make sure it is not damaged. If any repairs are required, you will need to take it back to the dealer as there is generally nothing you can fix or maintain yourself.
Be careful if you use an x-frame stand for your keyboard, making sure that the instrument is seated securely and any screws are tightened properly to avoid accidents.