Digital Piano Repair

Digital Piano History

Digital Pianos began appearing on the scene in the mid to late 80's as manufacturer's sought to compete with the home piano market. Technology that was being used in professional stage keyboards was adapted and packaged in a furniture quality cabinet to be used in living rooms and family rooms of consumers. Besides being able to make basic piano sounds digital pianos are able to make an infinite variety of additional sounds thanks to their digitally sampled sound technology. The also have a powerful microcomputer in them that makes them capable of playing multi-instrument accompaniments in a variety of musical styles. Most are also equipped with a floppy disk drive, USB slot, or other storage device to allow multi-track recording an playback to MIDI files.

Unfortunately, many digital pianos were sold on the basis of being maintenance free, ie. never needing tuning, and longevity do to the reliability of electronics. Customers soon learned that the contacts beneath the keys would foul, floppy drives would be damaged or die, and keys and pedals would break. Each of these items turned out to be unique to a particular piano and many of the parts were phased out after about ten years making it difficult to repair them beyond that point. Key contacts can usually be cleaned with satisfactory results put were most often changed outright resulting in rapid depletion of the supplies of replacement parts. Floppy drives look like standard PC floppy drives but are not compatible and supplies of many models have long since been depleted.

In the mean time new features and capabilities are added on a regular basis. The number of sounds continues to multiply. And the electronics has been reduced to fewer boards and fewer chips that are more densely packed on smaller boards. While this means greater overall reliability it also means more difficult and expensive repairs when they are needed.

Equipment Needed for Digital Piano Repair

The majority of digital piano repairs involves, broken keys and pedals, dirty key contacts, dead floppy drives, and other non-electronic issues. For this reason the most important tools for digital piano repair are those required for mechanical assembly and disassembly. A good set of screwdrivers, nut drivers, Allen Wrenches and a socket set are essential for the repair of digital pianos. Digital pianos tend to be bulky and sometimes heavy. An extra hand during the assembly and disassembly process can be very helpful. Dust removal is essential to maintain keyboard reliability. Micro fiber dust rags and a small canister vacuum can be very useful, especially an anti-static model. A basic liquid hand soap is good for contact cleaning. Denatured or anhydrous (water free 100% isopropyl)alcohol can be used for other cleaning duties.

For electronic repairs and troubleshooting a digital multimeter with a diode check setting is the main workhorse. Repair of the digital controller/generator board often require the use of a good quality oscilloscope. It should have a minimum bandwith of 100Mhz and dual trace is a useful feature. A grounding strap and a good understanding of static protection techniques can prevent inadvertent damage to the very expensive circuit boards that are the heart and soul of modern Digital Pianos. Also required for circuit board repairs is a good quality temperature control soldering iron, a hot air gun, a solder sucker or de-soldering station, dental picks, liquid solder flux, and good quality solder wick. A schematic diagram or service manual applicable to the particular model is also an essential element of troubleshooting.

Technical Knowledge Required For Digital Piano Repair

while many of the repairs that are made on digital pianos are simple mechanical procedures electronic failures are not totally uncommon. It is important to realize that mere mechanical aptitude will not suffice for the full range of repairs that might be encountered. A deep understanding of basic electronics is necessary. You should also be familiar with microprocessors, digital signal processors and digital to analog converters. Digital pianos require well practiced soldering and de-soldering skills to avoid damaging delicate integrated circuits and very fine pitched traces on the circuit boards. While the piano is under warranty most electronic repairs can be accomplish by board swaps. Later in the piano's life board repairs can be cost prohibitive or replacement boards may be unavailable. It is also very helpful to have connections to other professionals in the business since many of the repairs in the later life of a particular model are dependent on access to used boards and assemblies. An ability to read and understand schematics and to analyze potential modes of failure that might explain the known symptoms. An analytical mind is your most important tool.

Can I Fix My Own Digital Piano?

Safety, when it comes to repair of digital pianos, means protection from bodily harm and protection of the instrument under repair. Inside the digital piano is a localized point of 120-240 volt AC mains. It can give fatal shock if you are not careful. There are also sharp metal edges that can cause severe injury and need to be respected. Digital pianos tend to be bulky and often very heavy and assistance and safe lifting techniques should be employed. Finally, some of the chemicals that are used for cleaning are flammable or may pose other health hazards. It is important to know how they should be handled safely.

An even greater danger is the possibility of damaging the instrument. Digital pianos are a built into a fine furniture cabinet and serve a decorative as well as a practical purpose. Surfaces should be protected from inadvertent damage to the fine finish. Also the high level of integration in the circuitry used on the main board creates a fairly high risk of damage due to static discharge. Proper grounding and anti-static protection techniques should be used at all times. Risk of damage to the board is also high during soldering and de-soldering operations. Soldering techniques should be thoroughly practiced before ever attempting a boar level repair on the complex main boards that are the heart and soul of modern digital pianos.

Unless you fully understand the terms and the implications of the entirety of the above discussion, you should not even be considering working on your digital piano. Seek a repair professional to properly and safely repair your valuable and beloved instrument.

Where Can I Get My Digital Piano Repaired?

MITA technicians are tops in the field, with the training and experience to reliably repair your piano. Find the nearest MITA technician here for further consultation or a quality repair.