What Are Piano Keys Made Of: The Surprising Answer
If you are in conservatories or music schools, the question "what are piano keys made of" is among the things you will probably encounter.
Some of you might think that this is a little inquiry. However, this is a matter still worth discussing. In this article, we will give answers to this understated topic. Read on.
What Are Piano Keys Are Made Of?
Pianos have been linked to scrupulous hunting of ivory. We know that this shady activity involves the illegal killing of elephants.
As the world became more environmentally protective, the construction of piano took a different turn. Plastics have become a good alternative. They are cheaper and easier to use compared to their counterparts.
As a result, many piano manufacturers already embraced the use of plastic. Despite this, there are still some brands who are making piano keys out of ivory.
Advantages Of Ivory Piano Keys
In the 1930s, most of the piano key sets are made from 100% ivory. The value of the ivory piano keys is still preferred by professional pianists. Comparing to the plastic materials, the qualities of ivory is superb.
For example, ivory piano keys are more responsive than plastic. Moreover, they are good to touch. Your fingers won't also feel any stickiness even in extended use.
If your hands are prone to perspiration, then an ivory piano key can benefit you. This kind of material absorbs sweat and other liquid. As a result, they can provide "enhanced" feel to the pianist.
Disadvantages Of Ivory Piano Keys
The only known drawback of ivory keys is that they are prone to cracking and chipping. Usually, the damage starts at the end of the keys. On the other hand, plastics and resins are immune to such detriments.
Moreover, the ethical issue of using ivory is one of the major concerns of the music industry today. The process of obtaining ivory involves animal killing. Therefore, the use of them is now discouraged.
In fact, the United States is already embracing a total ivory ban. Despite this, the illegal hunting of ivory persists in some parts of the world.
If you have a piano that has ivory keys, you should take care of it. In the future, plastic keyboards will certainly dominate the market.
Ivory keys are also prone to discoloration. When you don't expose them sunlight, their color will slowly turn to yellow. As a piece of advice: put them in an area where there are windows. Doing this can make your old piano look brand new!
Moreover, do not expose an ivory piano to excessive heat. It can cause the glue that holds the key top to melt. As a result, cracking and warping can happen.
Advantages Of Plastic Piano
The use of plastic keys started in 1929. Since the industrial revolution, plastics have been progressing.
The main selling point of plastic keys is their inexpensiveness. The manufacture of plastic is not that complex. Therefore, working with them does not involve pricey operational cost.
In fact, the Great Depression in 1929 testified to the economic advantages of the plastic. Most of the surviving piano manufacturers turned down the use of ivory. Instead, they resorted to plastic so that they can make this instrument affordable.
Moreover, because of their enhanced properties, plastic are less susceptible to damage. Constant usage and external factors such as temperature can be deleterious to the keys. Fortunately, plastics can withstand them.
As of today, plastics is the king of piano keys. Most of the piano makers today see plastic as the material of choice. Since they do not cost too much, they will always be the affordable option.
Disadvantages Of Plastic Piano Keys
Some of the high-end brands today are already offering piano keys made from resin. They are way better than plastic, especially of resistance towards chipping, cracking, and coloring. Of course, resins are more expensive than their counterpart.
Despite their advantages, both resins and plastics are still prone to "crescent moon" chipping. This kind damage usually happens at the end flange or the area.
Moreover, cheap plastic keys are also susceptible to yellowing. Unfortunately, there is no remedy for this.
How To Determine If Your Piano Key Is Ivory Or Plastic
There is an easy way to distinguish the two materials from each other. Most of the plastic key tops today closely imitate the ivory. You can notice this to the reproduction veins of their surface. Specifically, their feel and luster are almost the same as ivory.
However, there is one significant difference between plastic and ivory. Ivory keys consist of three pieces: key, front, and stem. Meanwhile, plastic keys have only two parts: the front and the top.
There is also another way to examine the material used in a piano key. First, observe your keyboard carefully. If you can see a fine line between the stem and the key top, then your keys are made from ivory.
Ethics VS. Preferences
Have you heard of the Bechstein story? This real event caused a mass outrage after it was discovered that the 160-year old piano of Queen Victoria is using new ivory keys.
Also, it is important to highlight that 17,000 elephants are slaughtered yearly just for their tusks. Sadly, some of these materials will be for the construction of piano keys.
Because of these events, many of the most pragmatic pianists around the world refused pianos with ivory. The music industry also made a stand against animal cruelty.
Brands like Steinway and Baldwin are among those who actively campaign for this advocacy. Despite their ban on ivory, their pianos are still useful and desirable.
What are piano keys made of? The choice between plastic and ivory is still in your hands. If you want to the authenticity and the classic feel of ivory keys, then you should start searching. Finding antique pianos takes time. Moreover, their cost might rip your budget.
Regardless of the reason, it is still important that you know the material used in your piano. In this way, you can learn how to be comfortable with your instrument. If you are conscious about animal cruelty, then you remain keen on this aspect.
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