Telephone 020 8367 2080

Graham Howard editor Do You Want To Ask Graham Howard A Question About Piano Keys? (synthetic ivory, wooden key actions etc.) …

 Send your question to:
 Or chat to me online by clicking the link below:


Digital Piano Buyer's Guide

 Free Digital Piano Buyer's Guide:

"7 Things You MUST Know Before Buying A Digital Piano", by Graham Howard

 Click here to claim your free copy!




You get all this:

1) How to understand confusing terminology (Polyphony, graded hammer, etc.)
2) Common digital piano questions
3) The disadvantages of buying second hand versus new
4) 6 simple tests you can do in a piano store
5) The best digital piano brands: 1st) ? 2nd) ? 3rd) ?…

6) Top ten piano models: (a) under £500 (b) £500 to £1,000 (c) over £1000
7) Should you buy online or in a physical store?

 Click here to claim your free copy!   














"Is the ivory-feel keyboard porous and susceptible to dirt?"

Hi Graham

I’ve just subscribed to your digital piano guide and had a look through your website– fantastic resources which I feel very lucky to have come across.

I’m an experienced pianist, living in a very small studio, and am considering buying the Roland F120R, (largely because it is so compact but also because I quite like the tone).   One thing that pops up in various blogs is some claims that the ivory-feel keyboard is quite porous and susceptible to dirt etc.    Is this a common issue in your experience ? My studio is in central London so we get a fair bit of traffic dust etc…

Thanks so much for your help


Reply/ Hi Jane

I’m sure there are some isolated cases, but I’ve
not heard any great number of complaints
about the synthetic ivory key tops.

You should be OK with this in your London studio.
Just dust off the keys from time to time, and
keep the lid closed when you’re not using the piano.

Yours pianistically

Graham Howard

"My fingers slip off the keys. Do you recommend plastic or sythnetic ivory key tops?"

Many thanks for your note. Your 64-page report is very useful.

The dealers in my area sell Yamaha or Roland, and I am trying to decide
between the Roland 203, CLP 330 and CLP 340. I haven't seen or played the
340, but my budget might stretch to it. Before I received your report, I
tested a CLP 330. Today I checked out a Roland 203, and ran your report's
6 tests, which came off all right.

One other thing I tried which wasn't very successful was to drum 3 or 4
fingers successively and rapidly and on the same note (with fingering
usually written as 5-4-3-2). I remember playing finger exercises on that
'theme' on previous pianos I've had. This time I couldn't slide my fingers
off fast enough to make them sound, and (it may be my lack of practice or
finger strength) the action also seemed sluggish. Now I'm no virtuoso,
and what technique I may once have had is pretty well shot, but I expected a
better result. Maybe my fingers were too sweaty to slide quickly off the
key, or maybe the key wasn't slippery enough. (It wasn't humid in the shop
— it is autumn in Canada.) I wonder if other pianos would work better.
As mentioned, I tried a CLP 330 the other day, but didn't run that
test. Piano keys can be made of wood or plastic and your report says that
wood absorbs moisture, but the Roland 203 has plastic keys. Is it just me
and my poor technique and my rusty fingers, or are the keys at fault? If
the latter, are there more slippery keys on comparable pianos?

I don't know whether the above is just a problem with the way I currently
play or whether it is a real problem with the keys. I'd like to know your
reaction. I might consider going to a higher level Roland or Yamaha to
overcome this issue (if real).

I also see you recommend avoiding pianos with the 'escapement' and 'key
off' features. Of the three pianos mentioned, which avoids this feature?

Thanks again for your report, and I hope you have time to respond to this.

Cheers, Norman Treloar

Reply/ Hi Norman

I'm not sure what the problem is with your fingers
slipping off the keys…

To test this you should find a shop that has the
Roland HP-302 and the Yamaha CLP330.

The HP-302 has synthetic ivory key tops, the Yamaha
has plastic key tops. If your hands sweat a lot then
fingers can slip on plastic keys. Synthetic ivory
keys 'may' reduce this because they do absorb the
sweat, to some extent.

The piano I recommend for you is the Yamaha CLP340.
This has the sythnetic ivory key tops. The sound
and touch is also superb. It doesn't have escapement,
so you're not throwing money away on this feature.

You can read more about it here:

Yours pianistically,

Graham Howard

"How to remove permanent marker from piano keys?"

Hi – I'm a music teacher and one of my students has just written on the keys
my yamaha digital piano! She used a whiteboard marker and the mark won't
come off. I'm heartbroken! PLEASE do you have any ideas?????????

Reply/ Hi Sue

You can try windowlene.

If that fails then you can try baking soda
mixed with toothpaste (sounds radical, but I've
heard this can work on permanent markers).

Other things you can try are alcohol or hairspray.

Try not to let any liquid run down between the keys.

Good luck!

Yours pianistically,

Graham Howard

"Please explain why some digital pianos have 88 keys and some less"

Hi Graham

Please could you explain why some digital pianos have 88 keys and some less.
I'm a beginner and don't know what I should buy? I have read your 7 Things
you Must know and have found it very helpful.


Reply/ Hi Bryan

Most digital pianos have 88 keys. This is the same
number of keys that an upright piano has. Although
some older upright pianos have 85 keys.

There some digital pianos that have 76 keys. But
these are really more like keyboards than digital
pianos… their key touch is much lighter than
a typical digital piano.

I recommend going for a digital piano with 88,
fully-weighted keys.

The piano you get should also have touch sensitive
keys (minimum 4 levels). This allows you to play
4 different volume levels on each key.

A progressive hammer action is also worth getting.
Although not essential.

Yours pianistically,

Graham Howard

"Touch sensitivity question"

Quick question – i know you refer to touch sensitivity being the most important thing and want to make sure that I'm understanding the product descriptions correctly.  A lot of the descriptions talk about : Hard/Medium/Soft/Fixed – I'm assuming that this equates to a 4 level as detailed in your book?  Stupid question I know it just seems that fixed touch sensitivity seems to defeat the object really
thanks for your help

Reply/ Hi Jane

Hard/Medium/Soft/Fixed refer to the response
of the key touch. I would always leave this on
the default (usually medium).

Touch sensitivity levels on the piano refer to
the different volume levels you can get when
pressing individual keys down at different

Most digital pianos have 3 or 4 sensitivity levels.
The high end Roland, Yamaha and Classenti pianos
have 5 levels.

Yours pianistically,

Graham Howard

"My fingers slide off the keys of my Yamaha Clavinova"

Dear Sir,
please can you explain why when I have my piano lesson on a modern Yamaha upright piano with plastic keys I have great difficulty getting my fingers to slide on the keys however when I play my own piano with ivory keys I have no problem at all.
I have just purchased another piano with ivory keys and again my fingers can slide smoothly. My teacher says that no other pupils complain of her keys being sticky, can you offer an explanation?
Yours sincerely
Duncan Rye

Reply/ Hi Duncan

This is the first time I've heard of this problem.

I don' t know the exact answer, but It could be
a number of reasons.

Maybe your piano teacher's keys are dirty?

Maybe a sticky drink had been spilt on them
and they haven't been cleaned properly?

Maybe the sweat from hands is causing the

These are only suggestions.

If this becomes a real problem for you,
maybe you will have to get a teacher
to visit your home?

Personally, I do prefer playing on a piano
with ivory keys. The feel is much nicer than plastic.

Yours pianistically,
Graham Howard
UK Pianos

Further comments/

Hello Graham,

thank you for your reply, I have tried washing my hands thoroughly and hand
creams but nothing seems to help. I have suggested to Elizabeth, my teacher,
that it could be fear of her that is perhaps making my hands sweat!

Best regards

Duncan Rye

"I do not know how to get the ink off the keys without damage"

To the answer person,
I found you on line and am hoping you can help me. I have a Acrosonic built by Baldwin and it is quite old.
My daughter unbeknown to me decided to learn to play the piano from a beginners book she found. To help her, in her opinion, she marked the keys by number and note with a permanent marker pen. Needless to say I was/am quite upset but do not know how to get the ink off the keys without damage.
On a couple of other sights it said to use nothing but white toothpaste,which I tried on one key and it did take most of the ink off. I do not want to use it on the other 14 keys if I will ruin them. I have called several piano stores and no one so far can tell me what to do. So here I am on line again looking for HELP.
I would be deeply greatful for a professionals advice,
Sincere Thanks,
Mrs. Hale

Reply/ Hi Mrs Hale

This is a common problem I have come across.

It really depends if the keys are ivory or plastic.

You should read an article I wrote earlier this year.
It explains in detail how to clean your keys:

Yours pianistically,
Graham Howard
UK Pianos

Questions  Answers About

Portable Pianos
Secondhand Digital Pianos
Digital Piano Valuing
Digital Piano Dimensions
Piano Keys
Digital Piano Rhythms
Progressive or Graded Hammer Action
Digital Grand Pianos
Maintaining Digital Pianos

Questions About Brands


Read all digital piano questions