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Piano Fallboard, Should It Be Shut? What It Does & More

Piano Fallboard, Should It Be Shut? What It Does & More

People often wonder, should I close the lid (or fallboard) to protect the keys on my piano? Well, the truth depends on your keys and your personal taste!

In this guide, we will go over what the piano fallboard is, what it does, and whether you should keep it closed or open. The truth may surprise you!

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What Is The Fallboard?

Nearly every piano ever made comes with a fallboard. The fallboard is the lid for the keys. Just pull it closed over the top of the keys, and there you have it. The fallboard!

There are two kinds of fallboards used in modern pianos. In most pianos, the fallboard is a simple hinge system that closes when pulled, and may even fall into place.

On some modern pianos, they make “slow-close” fallboards. These are on a slow, spring hinge. This allows the fallboard to close slowly, thus preventing any damage to the piano or to fingers that may be in between.

What Is The Fallboard Used For?

The fallboard has a few uses. Primarily, it is used to keep dust off the keys, and potentially prevent food or drink from being spilled in the keys and causing damage.

The fallboard is also closed to prevent youngsters from messing around with the piano and causing noise or damage. I would rather have kids drawing on the fallboard than on the ivory keys!

Pianists and organists will shut the fallboard in between songs to prevent themselves from accidentally hitting a key and disrupting whatever else is going on (a church service, musical theater performance, etc.).

That said, the actual utility of the piano fallboard is up for debate.

Should The Fallboard Be Open or Shut?

Prevent damage from piano keys

Your piano almost definitely has a fallboard. Should you use it? Should the fallboard be open or closed when you are not playing?

This all depends on your piano, the keys on your piano, and your situation at home.  

If you have expensive ivory keys, you might be tempted to shut the piano fallboard to protect them. But this may not be the right move.

Keeping the piano fallboard shut on ivory keys will actually speed up the yellowing process of the ivory. Keeping your ivory keys exposed to natural sunlight will keep the ivory white for longer.

If you have plastic keys, it may be wise to keep the fallboard shut, because sunlight can degrade plastic over time and cause premature aging.

Either way, sunlight on the keys is not the main reason for a piano fallboard. Most people use the fallboard to prevent dust from settling on the keys and to prevent food and drink from spilling on the keys.

The piano fallboard will prevent dust from settling on the keys. Instead of dusting the keys, you will have to dust the fallboard, which may be easier. If that suits you, use the fallboard.

That said, dust settling on the keys of the piano is not something to be worried about. Once the dust falls off the keys and into the spaces in between the keys, you don’t need to worry. There is a lot of space there and dust will not affect the playability of the piano.

If dust does become a concern when it falls between the keys, you can easily use a vacuum to suck or blow it out next time the piano gets serviced.

Depending on your situation at home, there might be some legitimate reasons to keep the piano fallboard shut while it is not in use. For example, if you have young children, you may not want them constantly messing with the piano or potentially spilling liquids or foods on the piano.

If you have a pet cat and don’t want the cat climbing on the keys, that would be another valid reason to keep the fallboard shut.

Some people simply prefer the look of the fallboard shut when the piano is not being played, and the ritual of lifting the fallboard when they sit down to play.

Is The Fallboard Necessary?

After learning this information, you may be wondering if the fallboard is really necessary at all – and that is a good question!

The fallboard has become a part of the piano from centuries of piano building, and at this point nobody is asking if it is necessary. I would argue that we could do without fallboards and be perfectly fine, but some people would likely miss it.

The only real reason to use the fallboard is if you are worried about damaging the keys. Otherwise, it is probably best to keep it open. It will prevent aging of the keys and I believe that you are more likely to play a piano with exposed keys.

Do You Need A “Slow Close” Fallboard?

Slow-close fallboards are a modern invention. They prevent the fallboards from slamming down on the piano or worse – slamming down on the fingers of the person playing the piano.

If you are in a piano showroom, a salesman might try to sell you on a slow-close piano fallboard. They will claim that it prevents damage to the piano and prevent injuries from the fallboard landing on your hand.

In my opinion, you do not need a slow-close fallboard. People have been using normal fallboards for ages, and there are very few reports of injuries due to the fallboard. The only time this would happen is if somebody purposely shut the fallboard on your fingers. Ouch!

After some research, I have not found any reports of pianos being damaged due to fallboards being shut. Obviously, you should not slam your piano fallboard down on the piano. This goes without saying! But on the whole, you shouldn't have a damaged piano on your hands because of the fallboard.

Slow-close fallboards are a neat innovation, but they're not a selling point.

Final Thoughts On The Piano Fallboard

Keeping your fallboard open or closed comes down to personal taste and choice. If you are worried about damage, spills, or aging of plastic keys, keep it closed. If you want nice white ivory keys, keep it open.

If you simply prefer the fallboard be open so that the piano is inviting to play, that is a good enough reason to keep it open!

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