In today’s post, you’ll learn how to fix a dead key on your keyboard. We’ll take a look at how to open a keyboard and all the necessary steps to make your instrument sound like new again!
So, how do you fix a dead key on a keyboard?
A short answer to that question is:
To fix a dead key on a keyboard you should open up the case. As you avoid messing with the electronic components, identify the unresponsive key and remove the entire octave. Draw with a pencil on the metal pads below the rubber strip. Clean up the keyboard to avoid the gathering of dust among the components and close it up.
Sometimes it can be a significant electronic problem and you may have to call customer support to get it fixed. But as you can see, sometimes it’s a simple DIY job.
Whatever you’re going through, this brief article will help you get your electronic or MIDI keyboard back in action. Let’s dive right in!
What Tools Do You Need to Fix a Dead Keyboard Key?
Fortunately, to fix a dead key on a keyboard, you won’t need many tools. You’ll probably find everything at home. For a quick fix, you’ll only need a screwdriver, a pencil, and a vacuum cleaner. Your keyboard’s make and model will determine whether you’ll need a Slot- or Phillips-head screwdriver.
Always choose long-bladed screwdrivers, as you never know how far and deep the screws can be. Moreover, this kind of screwdriver lets you make a smaller effort to unscrew firmly attached screws. As for pencils, any regular, school-like, B, or HB pencil will work. You’ll only use the graphite at its tip to stimulate conductivity since it helps renew the conductive coating on your keyboard’s mainboard. In this case, it doesn’t matter how dark or hard the graphite is. When it comes to vacuum cleaners, you’ll want to use the same attachment you’d use to clean a room’s corners or any tight spots. It’s called the Crevice Tool, and it has very likely come with your vacuum’s extension set.
The Crevice Tool. Source: Lowes
Additionally, if you’ve spilled coffee, milk, or any sugary liquid on your keys, they’re probably unresponsive or sticky. In this case, you’ll also need alcohol, a Q-tip, and some paper cloth.
How Do You Open a Keyboard?
To open the keyboard, make sure to take out the batteries and detach the power cord. Identify which screws hold the bottom to the upper case. They are most likely accessible from underneath. Place the instrument with the keys facing down over an even surface and unfasten only the necessary screws.
Some keyboards have side pieces that hold top and bottom together, while others are very simple and straightforward. Similarly, if you have a dead key on an electronic piano, you might be looking at an extensive set of screws. While opening up your instrument, the goal is to make sure the electronics are not compromised, so be gentle while unscrewing the case. The top case may be the one holding the circuitry and most of the electronic bits. Therefore, leave it in place and flip the bottom case to make the keys face up again. Be extra careful not to detach any cables because damaged electronics will require service from the manufacturer.
As you open it up, you’ll notice that the keyboard itself is made of groups of layered keys. Some keyboards allow you to remove an entire octave without affecting the ones nearby. This includes black and white keys in the same group. Other instruments may require you to remove two sets of white keys before accessing the black ones. However your keyboard is laid out, these layered sets are united by a few screws located at the keys’ top end. You mustn’t mix these screws with the ones removed at the opening of the case, as they may be different in size and shape.
Identify the dead key’s octave or octaves if the problem happens in multiple keys, and unscrew it. Keep the screws together somewhere they won’t get lost. Some keyboards let you detach keys very easily, while others have a lock-in-place mechanism. In case your keys are from the latter kind, you might need an extra tool, like a butterknife, to help you click the lock and make the keys come out. Touch-sensitive keyboards will probably have an entirely different mechanism. You might find springs holding the keys’ backs or metal weights underneath them. To detach these, carefully study their functionality. Also, take pictures of the process if you feel like reassembling could be difficult. Whatever you need to do to remove the keys, be gentle and, when possible, hold the entire octave together as you remove it.
How Do You Clean a Keyboard?
To clean a keyboard with a dead key, remove all dirt living between the keys and the electronics. You can blow compressed air underneath the keys, but a more definitive approach uses a vacuum cleaner. If your keys are sticky due to a liquid spill, a Q-tip with alcohol is the best alternative.
With the Vacuum
First, assess how dirty the insides of your instrument are. Perhaps your problem isn’t so much dirt as it is simply conductivity. We’ll get to that in a second. If your keyboard is filthy on the inside, which happens in a few models after some time, vacuum it up completely. You might have to repeat the disassembling process with the other octaves to ensure the entire unit is free from dust specs. As you vacuum inside the keyboard’s case, be careful not to pull any loose or broken pieces as you might need them later.
In case some beverage or sticky liquid was spilled over the keyboard, grab some rubbing alcohol and a few Q-tips. The alcohol you’ll find at home most commonly is a mixture of 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% purified water. Remember, you’re dealing with an electronic device, so water is not very welcome. So, you’ll have to let the keyboard dry up before reassembling it. Unless you have access to 99% isopropyl alcohol, which is best for cleaning electronics, if there’s still some liquid by the time you open the keyboard, dry it with a paper cloth. Use the Q-tips to very carefully clean the keys and electronic components where the liquid was spilled. Clean it very thoroughly and let it dry for at least an hour.
If your problem was the dirt, it is most likely solved by now. But there’s another step you can take to make sure you won’t need to open the whole thing again. This will ensure key conductivity is effective. It is vital if you had to rub alcohol over the keyboard’s mainboard.
How Do You Fix Key Contact in a Keyboard?
You can easily renew the conductivity of dead keyboard keys by drawing over the contact with a pencil. Identify the unresponsive keys, remove the rubber strip and slowly fill with graphite the area where the board and the rubbers meet. Take your time to avoid causing damage to the circuit board.
The rubber strip is connected to the circuit board through several incisions, which you have to detach one by one. Be careful not to rip the rubber apart, especially on older keyboards. After you remove it, you’ll see two metal pads per key. You’ll find similarly shaped tips inside the rubber strip. All these must be drawn over with a pencil. The goal here is to create a graphite coat for every connection. Do not blow the excess away because it will help with the contact between the two different materials.
The rubber strip. Source
If you have a large set of unresponsive keys, consider applying this process to the whole keyboard. This will ensure you get an even response from the entire instrument. Just be careful and don’t rush the process because a sloppy move can mean a scratch or dent on the board.
If you’ve come this far and you don’t see any broken keys or electronics, you can reassemble the keyboard. To do so, follow the steps inversely. Reconnect the rubber to the mainboard, layer the keys, and screw them back in place. Align both the top and bottom cases and tighten up the screws. If your instrument is dry, plug it to power or insert the batteries. Your keys should be ready and functional again.
In case they’re not functional, call customer support or the local music store. They’ll assist you in finding a specialized technician to solve your keyboard’s electronic issues.
How Do You Replace Broken Keys on a Keyboard?
Sometimes your keys get stuck because they’re broken. In this case, you’ll need to buy replacement keys. To replace broken keys, identify the mechanism holding them in place. You might need a screwdriver and a butter knife to get them out. In a layered set of keys, replace the entire layer.
If you can’t find the exact replacement keys for your instrument, look for pieces with the same specifications. If you’re not sure which is the best model to buy, visit your local music store. Whatever you do, do not attempt to glue the pieces back together. A badly revamped key may cause nearby keys to malfunction, resulting in a bigger problem.
Dead keys are a nightmare for any keyboard player. Not even expensive instruments are totally free from giving you this kind of headache. After all, sometimes all it takes is a bit of carelessness—a spilled drink, a hit too hard, or maybe just some time without playing it.
Whatever the reason, we hope this article helped you save some repair money! Just remember to put all your screws back in their correct places and to let your keyboard dry for as long as you can before connecting it back to power. Also worth noting, do not attempt to reconstruct broken keys.
Pedro Nascente is an artist, record producer, and mix engineer, currently operating his own studio and working with his band, Yellow Boulevard. Believing that music should convey experiences and feelings, Pedro is known for applying design thinking to his workflow to achieve different sounds and deliver the right messages.