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Ivory vs Plastic Keys #1476443
07/18/10 07:49 AM
07/18/10 07:49 AM
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photo-pro-123 Offline OP
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For all the pianists out there, I was wondering what your thought was on Ivory keys vs Plastic keys. The latter does not sound as classy, but there is not much of a choice these days here in the U.S. unless you pay a heft premium.

Does anybody of any comments on the feel, the mechanics that you may have noticed is different? I will tell you that to me, perhaps it's a mental thing and granted different pianos, the Ivories even when restored feel more tactile, with more friction. Plastics feel more slippery and thus easier to play quick notes.

What are your thoughts?


PP

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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: photo-pro-123] #1476447
07/18/10 08:08 AM
07/18/10 08:08 AM
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"I will tell you that to me, perhaps it's a mental thing and granted different pianos, the Ivories even when restored feel more tactile, with more friction. Plastics feel more slippery and thus easier to play quick notes."

Same here. Ivory seems to even 'stick' to my fingers. I never played long on ivory but I can imagine that my finger skin would not like it. Not sure if it would be harder to play quick notes with ivory though.



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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: photo-pro-123] #1476448
07/18/10 08:12 AM
07/18/10 08:12 AM
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I greatly prefer new, good quality plastic key covers to most old ivory key covers. When Ivory is in like new condition, that is my favorite.
Most older ivory key tops feel dry and slippery, and nothing like the way they felt when in new condition. New condition ivory actually feels more like the synthetic ivory of today and less like old ivory.
Also, so many of those old ivory keytops are on short keys which bothers me even more. Measure the playing length of the naturals on older Steinways and Mason & Hamlins and you will find that they are significantly shorter than modern keys. Good piano technique requires use of the entire key, front to back, not just side to side, and I feel cramped on the older smaller keys which you often find surfaced with ivory. Most good players would happily destroy a perfect set of ivories, even if they prefer them to plastic, and replace them with plastic if it meant getting a full length key.


Keith D Kerman
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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: Keith D Kerman] #1476452
07/18/10 08:32 AM
07/18/10 08:32 AM
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Which pianos have "synthetic ivory"? The only one I know is Yamaha Ivorite but I think I've heard of others.

Is synthetic ivory really just plastic that's made to look and feel more like ivory than the typical plastic key tips?

For the pianos that have plastic(another name for acrylic?)key covers is there a big difference in quality/manufacturing process? I find no problem with the white keys on my new Mason, but my hands don't sweat.

Not that I'm planning to, but about how much would it cost to have plastic key coverings replaced with legal ivory? How much for one piece ivory?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/06/10 07:12 AM.
Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: Keith D Kerman] #1476453
07/18/10 08:34 AM
07/18/10 08:34 AM
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Keith,

Thanks for the reply. I am interested in purchasing a 1908 Hamburg Steinway O that had just been refurbished in Poland. They replaced the orginal ivories with plastic keys, which I was a little bummed about at first, but after playing another with ivories, those were the findings I noted. What you said about the shorter key length piques my interst. Would they replace it with plastic shorter keys than regular keys?

Also, perhaps I can pick your brain, but have you heard of any Steinway remanufactures from Poland? This guy is supposedly well known and is named Helmut.

Thanks,

PP

Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: photo-pro-123] #1476463
07/18/10 09:00 AM
07/18/10 09:00 AM
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You might want to start a thread - "Rebuilt in Poland?"


"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: Stevester] #1476477
07/18/10 09:30 AM
07/18/10 09:30 AM
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"Would they replace it with plastic shorter keys than regular keys?"

It's the key covers that are replaced, not the keys themselves.

"Is synthetic ivory really just plastic that's made to look and feel more like ivory than the typical plastic key tips?"

Compared to slick, plastic keytops it's a little more textured (so, not as slippery) and is supposed to absorb moisture from the fingers to an extent. And yes, it's more of an ivory color than the stark, white plastic tops.

"Which pianos have "synthetic ivory"? The only one I know is Yamaha Ivorite but I think I've heard of others."

Kawai has a proprietary 'Neotex' key cover on their nicer models. Some Roland DPs have an 'ivory feel' key cover. Some complain that Roland's material wears too fast and collects dirt too fast, but I couldn't say for sure; my personal experience is that it pays to wash the hands before I sit down to play, and to clean the keys off once in awhile. I know for a fact that ivory keys get dirty, too.

U.S. Customs does not allow the shipment of ivory-key pianos across the international border without special documentation that such an instrument was manufactured before the importation ban. Ivory key covers are stripped off before the instrument can clear Customs. The measure is in place because the poaching of wild African elephants has pressed the species toward extinction; it is intended to deny poachers a ready market.

There are keytops made from cow bone, or from walrus ivory, available as a specialty order.

Last edited by Jeff Clef; 07/18/10 11:41 AM.

Clef

Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: photo-pro-123] #1476494
07/18/10 09:57 AM
07/18/10 09:57 AM
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Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
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Originally Posted by photo-pro-123
Keith,

Thanks for the reply. I am interested in purchasing a 1908 Hamburg Steinway O that had just been refurbished in Poland. They replaced the orginal ivories with plastic keys, which I was a little bummed about at first, but after playing another with ivories, those were the findings I noted. What you said about the shorter key length piques my interst. Would they replace it with plastic shorter keys than regular keys?

Also, perhaps I can pick your brain, but have you heard of any Steinway remanufactures from Poland? This guy is supposedly well known and is named Helmut.

Thanks,

PP


In order to have modern length keys in a 1908 Steinway O, a new keyset with full length keys ( not one made to match the original ) should be installed. This is a huge expense, and requires a skill set well beyond simply recovering old keys.

I have not heard of Helmut. I have seen many Polish rebuilds at the NAMM show, and they usually look very good but don't sound or play very well. Also, the ones ive seen always keep soundboards that are well past being salvageable to any rebuilder with integrity. They do a really nice cosmetic job of repairing the soundboards and bleaching them, so they look great, it is just there seems to be more repair shims than original soundboard.
They do some impressive polyester finish work and veneer work though. They paint the plates really nicely as well. They seem to be for someone whose main concern is having an old piano that looks like a shiny new piano for a low price.
They are far better than the rebuild work I have seen coming from Mexico.


Keith D Kerman
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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: Keith D Kerman] #1476519
07/18/10 11:02 AM
07/18/10 11:02 AM
Joined: Dec 2008
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Melbourne, Australia
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I MUCH prefer the new artificial ivory keytops, such as the Kawai Neotex and the Yamaha Ivorite. I have experienced playing on both ordinary plastic keytops in which my fingers seem to stick to the keys and I don't have great mobility on the keyboard. When the finger tips have just a normal amount of natural sweat on them they will drag and stick to the plastic keys, but NOT on the Neotex or Ivorite keys. My RX6 and CVP505 have the Neotex and Ivorite keytops and playing these instruments is fantastic.

My Roland digital has ordinary plastic keys and boy, do I notice the difference. Even though it has an excellent action, the shiny, sticky plastic keytops make it harder to play music that is already hard enough to play!

Ivory, Neotex and Ivorite are definately better in my opinion. Now one thing is important - make sure you clean the keys often and wash your hands before playing - this makes a big difference. The new Neotex keys are always nice to play with no stickiness. The fingers just "glide" over the keys. But they must be cleaned to maintain the smoothness of touch. These keys are NEVER slippery either. They have a good natural feel and absorb any stickiness. I use Cory's keyboard cleaner which helps to keep them clean and smooth.

I would NEVER, EVER buy any piano with ordinary plastic key tops. And I know of one expensive brand of pianos that uses ordinary plastic on their keytops for some models and those are NOT cheap pianos! This is unforgivable!

I highly recommend buying a piano with the new Neotex or Ivorite keytops or the original Ivory. After all, one must remember that piano makers used ivory in the old days for a good many reasons - even if they HAD plastic back then, I'm sure ivory would have been the preferred material.

Congratulations to Kawai and Yamaha (and others that I am unaware of) for using the Neotex and Ivorite keytops!


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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: eightyeight_keys] #1476522
07/18/10 11:11 AM
07/18/10 11:11 AM
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United States
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As I see it, and maybe its just psychological, classic songs always sounds better on an old Ivory keyed piano...
It seems like the banned on Ivory products grew parallel to the transition from more classical compositions such as ragtime and Jazz to lighter, easy to play contemporary songs.... But yet again, maybe its just a feeling.

Whenever I feel like playing a classical composition, I feel sorry that I can't play it on Ivory keys, exactly as the original composers did....

At the end of the day, no animal is worth killing for the sake of music....

Always,

OnlinePianist

Last edited by OnlinePianist.com; 07/18/10 09:40 PM.

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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: eightyeight_keys] #1476527
07/18/10 11:26 AM
07/18/10 11:26 AM
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New York City
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Originally Posted by piano_mike
I MUCH prefer the new artificial ivory keytops, such as the Kawai Neotex and the Yamaha Ivorite. I have experienced playing on both ordinary plastic keytops in which my fingers seem to stick to the keys and I don't have great mobility on the keyboard. When the finger tips have just a normal amount of natural sweat on them they will drag and stick to the plastic keys, but NOT on the Neotex or Ivorite keys. My RX6 and CVP505 have the Neotex and Ivorite keytops and playing these instruments is fantastic.

My Roland digital has ordinary plastic keys and boy, do I notice the difference. Even though it has an excellent action, the shiny, sticky plastic keytops make it harder to play music that is already hard enough to play!

Ivory, Neotex and Ivorite are definately better in my opinion. Now one thing is important - make sure you clean the keys often and wash your hands before playing - this makes a big difference. The new Neotex keys are always nice to play with no stickiness. The fingers just "glide" over the keys. But they must be cleaned to maintain the smoothness of touch. These keys are NEVER slippery either. They have a good natural feel and absorb any stickiness. I use Cory's keyboard cleaner which helps to keep them clean and smooth.

I would NEVER, EVER buy any piano with ordinary plastic key tops. And I know of one expensive brand of pianos that uses ordinary plastic on their keytops for some models and those are NOT cheap pianos! This is unforgivable!

I highly recommend buying a piano with the new Neotex or Ivorite keytops or the original Ivory. After all, one must remember that piano makers used ivory in the old days for a good many reasons - even if they HAD plastic back then, I'm sure ivory would have been the preferred material.

Congratulations to Kawai and Yamaha (and others that I am unaware of) for using the Neotex and Ivorite keytops!
My guess that all "ordinary plastic" white keys are not equal. Does anyone know what kind(s) of "plastc" are used on the Tier 1 and Tier 2 pianos like Boesendorfer, Steiwnay, Fazioli. Bluthner, Bechstein, Estonia, Mason, Sauter, Grotrian, August Forster, etc.?

Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: pianoloverus] #1476534
07/18/10 11:38 AM
07/18/10 11:38 AM
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The Baldwin in my sig has ivory keytops. They get dirtier easier. There is always a feeling of immediate "novelty" when I play a piano that still has its ivories, but it wears off in a short time. I notice no difference from a technical point of view.

I would rather take care of the plastic keytops in the long run, as I hate spending time cleaning my piano.


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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: terminaldegree] #1476546
07/18/10 12:27 PM
07/18/10 12:27 PM
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Hamilton Twp, NJ
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Bosendorfer and Forster both use key frames and key sets made by August Laukhuff in germany. The key coverings for the naturals are made of a proprietary mineral plastic called Ivolan.
Fazioli uses standard Kluge plastic naturals and by special order keys can be covered in bone or mammoth.


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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: eightyeight_keys] #1476548
07/18/10 12:32 PM
07/18/10 12:32 PM
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photo-pro-123 Offline OP
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Mike,

Which brand is the expensive piano that uses ordinary plastic keytops?

PP

Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: curry] #1476560
07/18/10 01:06 PM
07/18/10 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by curry

Fazioli uses standard Kluge plastic naturals and by special order keys can be covered in bone or mammoth.


As of a couple years ago, Fazioli was using a ceramic key cover standard. Did they change?


Keith D Kerman
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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: Keith D Kerman] #1489132
08/05/10 10:32 PM
08/05/10 10:32 PM
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zowen11 Offline
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I prefer ivory, except when it is not maintained well. It's part psychological, but also technical. I think ivory feels better in general, more natural than plastic. A lot of plastic keys are too slippery and smooth. What I like about ivory keys is that they feel more natural, and are textured, giving you a good grip on the keys. At the same time, some ivory keys are dry, allowing you to stroke faster with the same speed, without the slipperiness that plastic has.

Although they probably are a pain to maintain, especially old ones, I still prefer them to plastic.

Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: zowen11] #1489173
08/05/10 11:39 PM
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Ivory keys are not natural. Ivory tusks are natural.


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Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: BDB] #1489182
08/05/10 11:55 PM
08/05/10 11:55 PM
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True, I guess, but do you kind of understand what I mean by "natural?"

Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: zowen11] #1489188
08/06/10 12:06 AM
08/06/10 12:06 AM
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The Kawai Neotex feels pretty good too me. It's not super smooth like plain plastic and doesn't stick when hands are damp. It has a slight texture that fees good yet smooth and not cumbersome. Neotex has something that takes out moisture so if I don't dry my hands completely my fingers do not stick like they did on my last piano. My hands don't sweat much so I usually don't take advantage of the moisture-draining feature. My hands are usually so dry that I could never open up the plastic bags in the supermarket produce section.

Ivorite in Yamaha and whatever Steinway uses have similar ideas.

Re: Ivory vs Plastic Keys [Re: zowen11] #1489202
08/06/10 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by zowen11
True, I guess, but do you kind of understand what I mean by "natural?"


No.

Something that is formed into the shape when it is produced is much more natural than something that is nowhere near the shape and is sawn, filed and pieced together after discarding the other 99+% of what it is made of. Especially when after it is worked into this unnatural state, it does not perform the job particularly well. There are any number of materials that are much more "natural" for keytops than ivory.

Even if you consider the process of making some plastics, the plastic may be more natural than ivory. It is likely to use fewer resources, have less waste, and do the job longer and under more extreme conditions without breaking, chipping, cracking or coming unglued.


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