Ivory keytops

Ivory keytops

Ok maybe i’m a product of the 60’s… but the saying “no sweat” was a common one.  Well in pianos, hand moisture IS a problem! When you’re feeling nervous and performing in front of others the last thing you need is to slip and slide around on the keytops.  Enter ivory.  Ivory is a very interesting substance in that it actually is porous.  It absorbs hand moisture.  I asked someone the other day if they had ivory keys – the answer “i dunno… how can you tell?” Well, that’s the simple part – 2 ways – one is that every piano i’ve seen made out of ivory has a very faint seam line where the whites meet the blacks and second, you’ll usually be able to see the grain of the ivory, much like you would with wood.

Due to the necessary ivory ban in 1970, piano makers have made their keytops out of plastic.  Only problem is… there’s no accounting for the hand moisture.  Innovative companies have actually made realistic simulations – called ivorine.  As well, Kawai builds an antiseptic into the makeup of their keys.  Both of these substances look and feel more like the real McCoy.  Unfortunately, they only make these keytops on their very high end models.  Subsequently, plastic has become the benchmark for pianos.  Now don’t get me wrong, i don’t condone the killing of innocent elephants for their ivory but i must say that ivory is a very interesting substance and part of piano manufacturing history.  If you ever get a chance to, feel the keys on some old upright piano.  It’s unmistakable.