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#382484 - 11/13/07 03:19 PM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
GoatRider Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/07
Posts: 460
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
Anybody know how many keys you can get per tusk?
- Benton Jackson. Permanent piano novice.
Kawai RX-2 #2555861 in Satin Walnut
Kawai ES6

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#382485 - 11/14/07 08:34 AM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1277
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Most of these comments deal with ethics rather than function. Putting ethics aside for a moment, my preference is plastic keytops. I have played both over a long period of time and find absolutley no problems with them. That being said, I have no copious sweating problems as others have opined, so it comes down to a durability and cosmetic thing rather than anything else. They look fantastic and to me anyway feel fine. I certainly do not lack traction in any of the demanding literature that I play.

#382486 - 11/14/07 11:04 AM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
Steve Chandler Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 3218
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Thank you John for bringing the discussion back to functionality. I've had the opportunity to play a few Kawai's lately and they all seem to have this sticky stuff on the keys called Neotex. At first I didn't like it, but it did give a higher degree of traction and I was able to play faster and better with fewer mistakes from fingers slipping off keys. I won't claim to have gotten used to it, it's still sticky stuff on the keys, but I have experienced the benefit of it.

My limited experience with ivory is that it was very comfortable with slightly more traction than plastic depending on the humidity. If it's hot and humid fingers will sweat and get slippery on plastic. In a dry climate the opposite happens, the skin gets dry and slippery on plastic keys. The Neotex is an improvement over plain plastic, the stickiness of it is a bit uncomfortable to me on fast notes, but the stickiness of it also offers a stability on held notes that I did like. I would be very interested in trying ox bone, it seems to me it could share many of the benefits of ivory without the ethical issues attached.

#382487 - 11/14/07 01:21 PM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ethics is the issue. Functional issues are trivial in comparison.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

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#382488 - 11/14/07 01:41 PM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1187
Loc: Cornwall, England
Originally posted by tomasino:
Ethics is the issue. Functional issues are trivial in comparison.

Tomasino [/b]
...and hang your heads in shame those who think otherwise!

Steve Chandler, not very 'comfortable' for the original owner of the ivory, was it?


#382489 - 11/15/07 04:06 PM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
eJohn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/07
Posts: 129
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Absolutely no excuse to kill another elephant for its ivory. The ethical solution is to use synthetic materials that simulate ivory, or use recycled ivory. I'm sure no one on this forum actually advocates elephant hunting just because it leads to more "comfortable" piano keys. Let's tone it down a bit.

#382490 - 11/15/07 10:12 PM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1277
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Forum members, harvesting ivory is illegal. We all know it. No one here is advocating it. The question is which keytop is preferred, by whom and why. This has absolutely nothing to do with the ethics of harvesting animals for their tusks. I'd be the last to advocate using it in this day and time. THE TOPIC IS NOT ETHICS!!! And for that matter no one is denying that ethics are all important. If any lister is implying that keyboards should not be restored using existing already harvested and generally well-used old ivory, they need to spend more time practicing and less time typing. Enough of the posturing already.

#382491 - 11/16/07 01:42 AM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24814
Loc: Oakland
Actually the original statement was that if plastic had been around 500 years ago, nobody would be using ivory for key tops. Nobody would ever have used it, so nobody would know what it feels like.

So maybe the question is: if you had always played on plastic key tops, nothing else, would you want something else?

Incidentally, you could easily get enough old ivory to cover the keyboard on your computer. Have any of you who claim it makes a difference ever done that? If not, why not?
Semipro Tech

#382492 - 11/16/07 01:48 AM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
Prospero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/07
Posts: 305
I showed the elephant photograph to my ethics class at the university. A student in the front row raised her hand and said, "What, does this guy think you can settle a complicated question like this by showing a picture of a dead elephant?" The class burst out laughing. I said her comment was interesting, and that I did not think that is what the PW poster meant by it.

I still think the question is difficult.

If we just stop buying Ivory, we might not see any more dead elephant pictures, because there might not be any more elephants left anywhere to photograph, which would be terribly sad. A picture does not prove otherwise.

Of course perhaps we should stop buying Ivory. I think it is difficult to know one way or the other.

Another student said, "I think some people enjoy feeling self-righteous and angry, so they simplify complicated things. That way you can have black and white, bad guys and good guys, and they can just hate the bad guys. They want life to be simpler than it really is."

I said her comment was interesting, too, but I doubt very much that the PW poster really wants life to be simpler than it is.

I certainly do not claim to know better than anyone else. All to the contrary, I am skeptical of those who claim to know better than me.

Many people who know a lot more about this question than I do say that they are unsure just what should be done to save the elephants as a species. They have been studying the problem for years, they have gotten grants, they have traveled, they have researched, they have been at it much longer than I have--and they still are uncertain what to do.

On tough questions like this, I wonder sometimes where people can find certainty. I do not see it.

Maybe it is easier to be certain if you know that nobody is really going to take action based on what you say.

But what if people are looking to you for guidance? What if your opinion is going to influence people who make policy?

What if you blithely say, "Yes, reject the proposals to legalize Ivory trade," and people listen, and they say "trust him," and they take your advice, and they act accordingly?

What if then, many years down the road, you live to see the extinction of elephants, and it comes back to haunt you that those magnificent creatures might be still alive in abundance if you had been a smarter person?

Well, then, you might want something more solid than pictures before you give people your advice.

#382493 - 11/16/07 11:27 AM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
I've played on ivory as well as plastic, and to be honest, the ivory does feel nice, but I'll stick with plastic. To me the plastic is the modern replacement for something that was unavailable 500 years ago.

Ivory natural keys became popular once the trade opened up to Africa and India during the 19th-century colonial expansion by Great Britian and other European nations. So in my opinion, if the material was difficult to get all along, then alternatives would have been used such as wood surfaces, bone, and shell.

It is interesting to note, that prior to the 19th century, that not all keyboards were covered in bone or ivory. Ivory and other white materials were very expensive so were used only on the very best expensive instruments, or used sparingly.

In many cases, the keyboards were made with wood veneers, or painted with only the smallest amounts of bone or ivory used for the sharps, or perhaps as details on the arcades (key fronts) for example. My Italian virginal has boxwood naturals and oak sharps just like the original that it was based on. My clavichord has black painted naturals and bone sharps. (reverse keyboard). The natural keys are extremely smooth on this instrument, and you can't tell that they are painted or not.


#382494 - 11/17/07 03:11 PM Re: Ivory versus plastic tops
Bassio Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 2480
Loc: Alexandria, Egypt
And try playing glissandi on those ivory tops ;\)

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