Notes from West London

A Dodgy E

For the last year, my life has been affected by a dodgy E. The consequences are felt most days.

I am referring here to a specific key on my Yamaha P-105 digital piano, the E that sits just over an octave above middle C. The piano is otherwise working just fine, although I had to replace the sustain pedal at the start of the year. Back then, pre-lockdown, a trip to the Yamaha shop in Wardour Street to buy a new one was a straightforward proposition. Well, the trip to town was straightforward, but the shop did not keep the required pedal in stock so it had to be delivered. I might as well have bought it online and saved myself the journey, but I am old-fashioned enough (and old enough) to believe that shops still keep things on the premises.

For some reason the dodgy key sounds much louder than it should. The keys are weighted, so you can play this one very gently and it sounds just about okay, but if you strike it normally it sounds louder than the rest. It’s difficult to play this single note softer than the others when playing chords, which is mostly what I do. I’m a rhythm keyboard player, and a rhythm guitarist: nothing too fancy, just my usual repertoire, heavy with UK #1 hits, and usually singing along.

To get around this dodgy E, this note that doesn’t play as it should, I have been playing in less familiar keys – C# and Eb rather than C and D. I am not a skilled enough musician to transpose most of my repertoire while playing, so I have resorted to transcribing the required chord sequences for many of the songs I have been playing recently. These include the Sam Cooke classic “Nothing can change this love” (which I have revived since hearing it again when Joe Wicks appeared on “Desert Island Discs” in the summer; I’d never heard it on the radio before), and “Don’t leave me this way”, a US #1 in 1977 (for Thelma Houston) and a UK #1 in 1986 (for The Communards). I have also been playing songs an octave lower than usual, or have simply avoided the rogue key when playing in the key of C or D.

It’s the kind of thing I used to do with the old Addison & Addison upright piano that I was given 12 years ago. It was a beautiful piece of furniture, at least 120 years old, and not too badly out of tune. Unfortunately too many of the keys played inconsistently: too loud, too soft, or not at all. It would have cost several thousand pounds to restore it to its former glory, so I gave it away and replaced it with the Yamaha eight years ago. In that time one of its 88 keys has developed a problem. If any others become faulty I’ll look into getting them fixed, but for now I’ll live with the consequences of a single dodgy E.



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