Keyboards – Alex's Piano Service

Nalbantov Floppy Disk Drive Upgrades

I’ve recently started recommending customers with worn-out floppy disk drives upgrade them to so-called “Floppy Disk Emulators.” There are a couple of these on the market, but it looks like the easiest to use and most reliable is the Nalbantov USB Floppy Disk Emulator. I use these regularly in Yamaha Disklaviers, but they can also be installed in keyboards. I install these quite regularly.

Why Upgrade?

There are several reasons why you might want to replace an old floppy disk drive with a USB floppy disk emulator, including:

  1. Increased reliability: USB floppy disk emulators are more reliable than traditional floppy disk drives, as they have no moving parts and are less susceptible to mechanical failure. Most customers reach out to me after their floppy disk drive has failed.
  2. Compatibility: USB floppy disk emulators are compatible with modern computers, which may not have floppy disk drives built-in or may no longer support floppy disks.
  3. Speed: USB floppy disk emulators transfer data faster than traditional floppy disk drives, making it easier and quicker to transfer large amounts of data.
  4. Convenience: USB floppy disk emulators can be easily connected and disconnected, making it easier to transfer data between different computers or to store data.
  5. Cost-effectiveness: USB floppy disk emulators are often more cost-effective than purchasing a new floppy disk drive or repairing an old one.

I’ve found some floppy disk drives now cost more than the replacement USB emulators, especially if they’ve had minimal use. And hardly anybody knows how to actually repair a floppy drive—that’s a nearly lost art.

Operation

After the Nalbantov is installed, you can use a single USB stick to represent up to 1000 floppy disks. Because it’s a floppy disk emulator, the Disklavier actually believes you’re inserting a different floppy disk, so as you switch between virtual “disks” by pressing the arrows, you’ll see the display on the Disklavier behave as though you’ve inserted a new disk. Of course, if you have more than 1000 floppy disks, you can invest in another USB stick, although I haven’t run into this particular situation yet!

Installation

Some customers opt to install the Nalbantov unit themselves. Depending on the design, this is quite doable, although I don’t recommend attempting it with most Yamaha MX100II Disklaviers (see below).

With some generations of Disklavier (most notably some MX100II uprights), the floppy disk drives are mounted behind a shaped plastic piece. In these cases, you’ll need to cut away the old plastic facing (a pair of flush-cut nippers is helpful here), install the new drive, and put some kind of buffer around it. I’ve experimented with a few different choices for something functional and attractive. Purchasing neoprene strips is a cheap solution.

I have a 3D model in STL format of a floppy bezel that’s sized to fit around a Nalbantov. You can 3D print this yourself, or I can mail you one. I adhere it to the replacement Nalbantov with a little bit of hot glue, and then slide the whole assembly in.

For backing up your current Disklavier floppy disks to a format that can be stored on your USB stick, see my article on Backing up Disklavier Floppy Disks. They can then be moved onto a virtual “disk” with Nalbantov’s proprietary tool.

Digital Keyboard FAQs

One or more keys play at full volume even though I’m hardly pressing them!

Keyboards use very sensitive contacts to determine how fast your pressing the key (or the velocity). A keyboard with dirty contacts (such as the one pictured below) will misjudge velocity, and will cause the key to play at incorrect or, often, persistently loud volume. In the case of the picture below, that wood chip would cause a perpetually quiet key—if it moved to the depression directly above it, then it would cause a perpetually loud key. Cleaning is sometimes an effective option.

They can also simply wear out. If you play your keyboard for hours a day, the rubber itself will eventually degrade, as will the graphite pads on the button. In that case, they’ll need to be completely replaced, which is typically possible for keyboards that are less than ten years old, but becomes progressively more difficult with age. Replacement is usually the best option.

In desperate times, if contacts just aren’t available, you can swap contact strips from the ends of the keyboards to replace keys you play more often. There are products like Oak Tree Vintage’s Key Contact Repair Kit, but I view these as an absolute last resort. Direct rubber contact strip repair is usually a desperate measure.

Here are some typical keyboard contacts from a Yamaha Clavinova. There appears to be some kind of wood shaving in one of the contacts (toward the center of the image). This will cause misfiring.

One or more keys don’t play at all.

A common cause of silent keys are bad or damaged rubber key contacts. See above. They should be cleaned or replaced.

Another common cause of silent keys is a damaged or corroded key contact printed circuit board (PCB). These PCBs are, for late-model keyboards, typically available—particularly for Yamaha and Roland. They can also sometimes be repaired: In the case of the image below, some cleanup and a wire jumper fixed the problem.

If there’s sufficient corrosion on the contact circuit board, it will need replacement. In this case, I was able to add a wire jumper to bring life back to this particular board, and then coat the area to prevent further corrosion.

My keyboard doesn’t turn on!

There are many common reasons for this. The most common, in order, are damaged power cords or adapters, a blown fuses, a damaged power inlet (see below), or a damaged power switch. It can also be a sign of an electronics failure somewhere else in the keyboard.

Start by replacing the cord. That’s something fairly inexpensive you can do yourself. Try to find a direct manufacturer replacement. If you need any assistance in this, you can contact me or you can reach out to a local piano store. In the case of a power cord with an adapter, both the voltage and the polarity have to be correct.

Somebody broke off the power inlet on the back of the keyboard.

This is common problem. Nearly every pedal inlet for nearly every keyboard is available. I replace them quite often, particularly in schools where the cord might get forcefully pushed or pulled! Depending on the way that it was broken, there might be some collateral damage. For instance, a Roland I repaired recently had the fuse assembly ripped off when the power inlet, acting as a battering ram, scraped the electronics off the rest of the inlet circuit board. However, there’s nothing particularly complicated on there, and their story ends happily!

I’ve got a Yamaha Clavinova and some of the keys are sticking.

This is a very common problem in Yamaha Clavinovas from the earl 2000s. Unfortunately, the tails of the keys would crack, resulting in sluggish behavior. Then they would fully break, causing a sticking key. More than once, I’ve gotten a call after a rowdy child will walk up to the keyboard and spontaneously break a dozen or so keys—it’s not their fault! These keys can be replaced.

I typically don’t recommend doing them one-by-one unless you’re going to be replacing them yourself. It’s much better to replace the entire keyboard assembly or to replace all the keys. This is an expensive repair, but it’s much less expensive than a brand new Clavinova, and if the rest of the electronics are in good shape it’s worth considering.

I’ve got a Roland RD-xxx and one or more keys are staying down. They seem loose.

Roland RD keyboards from the 2000s and earlier used plastic hammers that crack and break. Unfortunately, Roland no longer manufactures these hammers. If you have such a keyboard, you’re at the mercy of used parts dealers and eBay. I maintain a small stockpile for customers, but this condition is usually terminal.

This is a very distressing situation for me, so if you have any further information that might assist in fabricating these or are aware of a stockpile of these, please contact me. At the moment, single replacements sell up to $100 on eBay.

Cracking Roland hammers. All of these are splitting, both horizontally and vertically around the encased lead weight. They are, unfortunately, irreplaceable.

I’ve got a Yamaha and it makes a clacking sound when I let go of or hit a key.

Yamaha Clavinovas and portable keyboards have a strike felt and a rest felt. In nearly all cases, rest felts will wear out within a decade. This causes keys will make a clacking sound when released. With heavier use, strike felts can also wear out. Both felts are relatively easy to replace. Both lead to a noisy keyboard.

This is a worn out hammer strike felt on a Yamaha Clavinova. (It had, in fact, already peeled off when I opened the keyboard and was resting on the hammers.) The keyboard rest felt is toward the bottom of the keyboard assembly. It’s the piece the metal hammers are resting on.

Nord Electro 3 Fuse Replacement and Voltage Change

In 2022, I had a customer ask me how to change the voltage on his Nord Electro 3 from North American to European. I made this brief write-up to help him.

This also includes how to replace the Electro 3’s fuse. If you’re a world traveler, this might be worth printing out and keeping in your bag—perhaps along with an extra fuse!

Casio PX-5S No Media Error

A customer recently came to me with a Casio PX-5S that displayed “Error: No Media” after booting, and which wouldn’t produce any sound.

The Problem

The customer had already researched the issue themselves, and they had determined they needed a firmware update. He’s not alone, and Casio helpfully provides the following message to those with similar struggles: “Well, we’re not 100% certain. […] Casio has worked very hard to try and replicate this problem on units that have exhibited this behavior and have never been able replicate it.” (See their post on Casio Music Forums.)

The Solution

The firmware can be downloaded from my MEGA directory here.
Alternatively, you can download the zipped archive from Casio directly. You’ll need to extract it.

Once you have the “update.bin” executable file, either by downloading it directly from me or by extracting their archive, you’ll put that file into the root directory of the USB stick. At that point, you can simply plug the USB stick into the keyboard, and the update will automatically begin. It takes about fifteen minutes.

Complications

However, my customer inserted the USB stick, and got a further error stating that the update file couldn’t be found. He tried multiple computers and USB sticks.

Various users on Casio’s forums have remedies for this problem, and it seems like they’re all hit or miss. The PX-5S is evidently quite persnickety about its USB sticks. I was able to get it to work using a relatively small and freshly formatted (FAT32) 4GB flash drive. If you’re encountering this error, make sure it’s freshly formatted. It might also be worth trying a smaller USB stick.