Saturday, February 8, 2014

Another broken piano story

About a week ago, on the day after my normal Tuesday lesson, I was working on some Bach two-part inventions, and it wasn't going well. I could feel myself getting depressed, then frustrated. I decided to switch to some Oscar Peterson etudes, as they were less strenuous and could keep my attention better. For whatever reason, however, I was unable to play them either. Even with the easier pieces, it was like I had never seen them before. To quell my growing frustration but to keep sitting at and practicing the piano, I decided to just work scales and arpeggios, but even such simple exercises proved to be unmanageable. Nothing was going right. I kept taking deep breaths and starting over, but for whatever reason, I couldn't play more than a few notes before my fingers turned to cabbage and wilted haphazardly all over the keyboard.  I thought maybe a break would help, and to expel some energy, without thinking much about it, I just stood up as quickly as I could. Normally, my piano bench would slide backward on my chair mat, but this time, one leg caught in front of the mat, forcing the front of my thighs to hit my piano. Before I even knew exactly what was happening, my piano was toppling over right before my eyes. It crashed down on top of the light and music stand, right into the floor.

Not good.

The inside of a Yamaha P-70 digital piano
I recomposed myself and stood my piano back up. Everything looked okay and the keys still played. There wasn't even any noticeable damage to the light (a floor standing model), or the music stand (poly-carbonate attached to the piano). I looked at the back of the piano and noticed that the sustain pedal was still plugged in but seemed to be hanging loose. I pulled it out of the jack and watched the jack slip down into the piano. The two MIDI connectors right next to it were still connected, but they were loosely hanging too, and I could tell I wasn't going to be able to plug the pedal jack back in. I figured I would have to stabilize the jack from inside the piano, meaning I’d have to open it up, meaning I’d have to separate the outside parts of the piano from the inside parts of the piano, so, I pulled the MIDI plugs. The card and connectors dropped completely out of sight.

Not good.

The next morning, I set about disassembling the piano. Usually, on an electronic device like this, there are a set number of screws that hold the frame to the insides, with the remainder of the screws holding things to the frame. Not on a Yamaha digital piano, though. Every screw is holding the frame against the piano guts. I removed them all and was finally able to open the piano. I immediately spotted the jack board, still connected but floating free. Underneath it, some plastic bits that obviously held it in place were broken. I’d have to come up with a way to stabilize it. I wanted to see if connecting the sustain pedal made it actually work again, but when I moved the jack board, I noticed a corner of it had chipped off. I fished around and found the corner and it had little bits of metal and circuitry on it. It was obvious that the two MIDI connectors and sustain pedal jack, all located so close to each other, had jammed into the jack board when the floor forced them up inside the piano. It was that force that caused the board to shear and crack, separating it from the piano and frame and damaging the circuitry.

Definitely not good.

The results of my piano falling over: a shattered DJack board and a broken mounting post (far left)
So, obviously, that board would have to be replaced. I attempted to remove it and only succeeded in chipping bits of the connector with my needle nose pliers. I pulled on the connector cord itself and extracted it, finally, though I’m still not sure if I extracted it from the connector, the connector solder, or the board itself. (We’ll find out when we connect the replacement part.) Upon further examination, there were lots of little broken pieces, so I took them all out and placed them in a bag for safekeeping. I won’t go into details of ordering the part from Yamaha. Suffice to say, they’re used to dealing with dealers and not random guys who are unafraid of opening their seven year old digital piano because they lived through a square grand piano conversion. I managed to get the part ordered and on the way – with free shipping no less – even with the surly, impatient, “sigh, my life sucks” SOB phone operator.

Not bad.
The replacement part, fresh out of the bubble wrap 

The lingering question is: Can I really fix my piano just by replacing a $77 jack board or will I have to fork over $1K for a decent replacement piano prior to obtaining my grand? We’ll soon find out.

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