01/W Keys & Buttons

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rev: 2011May15
Keyboard Keys Buttons
What are Sticky or Slow Keys?
  Who can fix it
  How long will it take
  How much could it cost
Spilled drinks on keys/buttons
Preventing impaired keys
Mechanical Problems
  External Fixes
  Internal Fixes
Grease Problems
  External Fixes
    Compressed air
    Contact cleaner
    Silicone spray
  Internal Fixes
Broken keys
Key out of line
"Clunk" elimination
Other Resources
Replacement parts
Cleaning the keytops
Button problems
  M1 button fix

What are Sticky, Slow or Stiff Keys?

By "keys", I mean the black and white things you press to play music (like middle-C), not the "buttons" you press to control the 01 (like COMBI, PROG, or the numeric buttons).

There are two type of problems: Mechanical and/or grease.

Spilled Drinks on Keys and/or Buttons

You can imagine the feeling of panic when someone spills a drink on any keyboard, be it your 01, computer, mixer, whatever. Especially bad are drinks that dry sticky, like cola. The liquid flows into inaccessible joints, gumming up the works when it dries.

There are urban legends of quick-thinking engineers who immediately pulled the plug (power) from the wall, then poured lots of water over the endangered area. This diluted the offending liquid and washed it down to the bottom of the chasis, from which it could be drained. The unit was then left open to the air to dry out, for days if necessary. All was well and a multi-thousand dollar mixer was saved.

I absolutely do not recommend this! While this MAY work with certain keyboards, it takes a professional to know which is which. For example, pouring water over wooden keys in a weighted keyboard may warp the keys, ruining the unit. (With a cheap computer keyboard - who knows. You may have nothing to lose.) I only present the legend for your amusement.

Once the liquid has dried, repair may be a simpler than cleaning individual keys. One user said he got a can of contact cleaner in a spray can, opened the 01, then sprayed "the contacts under the keys". This seemed to work.

Who can fix problems with keys?

Several users have reported success at doing this themselves. Fixing keys is a purely mechanical procedure - no soldering involved. You will, however, have to deal with lots of screws and connectors. The job requires organization and patience. Otherwise, consult your local Korg repair shop.

If you do it

total time: 3-4 hours (including key-cleaning time)

Repair Shop Cost

Reported costs:
$50-$60 to clean and lubricate a key, including about 1 hour of shop time
$150 (1997),  $100 and $125 (1999), £85 (UK, 2000 July).

Preventing impaired keys

Keep your keys covered whenever you're not playing them. This minimizes dust, smoke, and spilled cola penetration. A lint-free towel is fine. I would avoid plastic covers because some may not let air circulate, which could cause moisture build-up in some situations.

Smoke-filled rooms are as bad for your 01 as they are for you. Smoke particles build up in the lubricant, which tends to dry it out or turn it to sludge.

I get the sense that Korg may have used inappropriate grease in some of the earlier units or different models, grease that didn't age well, or dried out in environments unlike Japan's. In that case, covering your keyboard won't help - the grease simply has to be replaced.
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Mechanical Problems


A mechanical problem is usually caused by a key spring slipping off its guide. This seems to happen when you repeatedly hit the key(s) hard, down, and away from the body of the 01, towards yourself as you're playing. Over time, this seems to pull one or more keys slightly out of position, and this mis-alignment causes something to rub on the key internally.

A Korg repair guy in Asia sent the following:

"Strange that it may sound that although the Yamaha DX series, the Korg M1, Korg T2-T3 and other keyboards all use the Yamaha Keystrip. It is only the 01/w series which suffer from Sticky Keys.

The main reason which I observed is the rubber bushing under the keys whose main function is to make sure that the Keys do not have a horizontal play I usually trim this rubber bushing which solves the problem." [98Jun01]

I haven't heard any mention of "rubber bushing" problems from anyone else. Whether no one noticed, or whether this problem is unique to Asia (weather, manufacturing, etc.) I don't know. If you have your 01 open, you might take a look.
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Mechanical Fixes

External Fix

The first thing to try is simply pushing the key back into position. Put your thumb on the front of the problem key, as though you were going to push the 01 away from you. (You can rest your other fingers on top of nearby keys.) Now gently press the key towards the 01, perhaps wiggling it a bit from side to side. It may help to move the key vertically (depress it a bit). Pressing firmly, you may be able to move the problem key back in place.

This easy fix seems to work most of the time. If it doesn't, you may need to open your 01. Before you do that, take a look at external lubrication fixes just in case your problem isn't mechanical.

Internal Fix

Causes of sticky keys are commonly dirt and/or mis-positioned springs. Correcting the cause(s) means opening the 01 and removing the keyboard. At that point it's relatively easy to remove and clean the keys.

The "spring" that returns the key back to resting position is actually a flat piece of metal, about 2-1/2" long by 1/8" wide. It is forked at one end, the two fingers straddling a small plastic post molded in the bottom of the key and rests against a notch.

Closely examine the position of this spring both before and after repositioning. A spring can pop out if you're not careful.

The position of this spring is crucial for smooth operation. The fork may slip off the notch. In some cases, the notch is said to become worn. In that case, one user reports shaving the molded post slightly helped.

If re-positioning the spring doesn't fix the problem, try flipping the spring over (turning it upside down) and re-installing it. One user said he got improved action by flipping all the springs upside down.

You may have to remove a key to re-install the spring. You can test the key immediately to see if it's moving smoothly.

There is some grease on the pivot-point of each key. This grease should not be removed (accidentally cleaned) if the grease is still good.
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Grease Problems


Sticky keys are usually caused by dirty and/or aging grease. Over time, dust, smoke, and general crud may build up around the pivot-point of a key. This has been fixed in some cases without opening the 01 by spraying around the pivot point with various substances. Spraying substances (see below) range from compressed air to unspecified cleaners. If this doesn't work, you'll have to open the 01 up and clean the keys manually.

External Fixes

Some users have reported fixing the problem by spraying compressed air or perhaps some lubricant between the keys, without opening the 01.

Compressed Air
Compressed air is clean air (or other inert gas) in a can (much like any aerosol spray, but without the solution). It's good for blowing (blasting?) dust and small objects out of tight places. It can be bought at most stores that sell computer or electronic supplies. In my opinion, compressed air can't hurt, but it's unlikely to help unless something fell between the keys and you can physically blow it out.

Spray Lubricants
Two popular lubricants are WD-40 and silicone spray. These are available in hardware stores or departments. Sometimes they can be found in the automotive section. Spraying a lubricant from outside is a sloppy way to get things working, but it may help if some spray happens to seep where it's needed.

WD-40 Risks: You don't know what else the spray may land on inside the 01 and whether or not that could cause problems. WD-40 isn't intended for precision movements like expensive electronic keyboards. I had one user report that WD-40 dissolved the plastic keys on his Roland synth. I've heard no such reports about the 01, but this should be a warning that WD-40 should not be used randomly.

Contact Cleaner
Contact cleaner is a little like alcohol in a spray can. It is a chemical cleaner designed to dissolve corrosion off electrical contacts. Contact cleaner typically does not have any lubricant in it, so it leaves a clean, dry surface. In keyboard mechanisms you want clean, but you don't want dry. The pivot point has surfaces that rub together and grease is needed for smooth operation and reduced mechanical wear. WD-40 is a contact cleaner with an oily lubricant included, but we prefer to avoid WD-40 (see WD-40 Risks) and use grease in the 01. You can find contact cleaner at electronic supply stores like Radio Shack.
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Internal Fix

I've never done this, so this procedure may contain errors. I encourage you to let me know how to improve these procedures.  Click here to e-mail questions/comments to Ken Westover.

Other Resources

Some excellent pictures are available on other websites that can help with internal repairs. These must-see sites will make repairs easier to understand.

The easier fix for slow keys is to apply oil with a needle without complete disassembly. Pictures and instructions for this approach were put together by Robert Viands at his NoGodForMe site. My only (trivial) suggestion is to perhaps use a higher quality oil, in part because I don't like the smell of the household oil that was used.

For pictures and instructions on complete disassembly to grease the keys, visit http://hajo.kessener.net/electronics/korg-01w-sticky-keys-repair/.

Disassembly & Reassembly

The general procedure for opening the 01 is on a separate page.
Click here to visit the Disassembly page.
Come back here for specifics on fixing keys.

NOTE: Several users highly recommend completely removing the delicate activator strip before doing any work. This takes more time, but activators are easily damaged while working on the keys.

Julian van Eyken described his experience:
"Just one warning though that I learned and might save someone (like me!) a bit of bother: It's well worth removing the strip of metal contacts from underneath the keys on the keyboard unit before you remove/replace individual keys. It's easy to do, comes away in one section when you undo the screws holding it in (although it's all mounted on circuit board so a little fragile, but no problem if you're careful). It's just that it's very easy to bend the contacts with the key posts otherwise, which is very awkward to fix." [99Oct08]

When you reassemble the keyboard, be careful that the key springs don't slip off the guides, which will cause another sticky key. Test all the keys for smooth action before final re-assembly.

Gregory Winer said it best (he's been there):
"The problem is most commenly (though not always) caused by a slippage of a metal retention spring that returns the key to position. On the back end of each key, there is a small plasic lip. Due to over-exuberant playing or normal wear and tear, this lip can become damaged and throws the key off kilter getting it stuck on the adjoining keys.

"Unfortunatly, this is not an easy repair, since Korg had the great wisdom to put the entire key assembly underneath the motherboard. You must remove nearly everything except the power supply and the front panel buttons (which are behind the keyassembly to get at the keys).

"Assuming you get the keyassembly out, place it with the front of the keys facing you, face up. Remove the white plastic retention strip across the back length of the keyboard. It should come up quite easily, as it resebles a piece of decorative weather stripping. This piece keeps the keys from slipping back and popping out the springs.

"Start with a black key - they must come out before the white ones will, and you may need to start near a C# and remove half an octive to get to a particular key. Push the key back (you'll feel some resistance) and up in back (put some downward pressure on the front of the key to make it easy) and it should pop out making a little *ping*. If you inspect the rear lip of the key, you'll be able to tell if it's cracked off or not. Some ingenuity may be able to rescore the lip, or just purchase a new key.

"Don't loose the little metal piece of sheet metal underneath the key. This is the retention spring. To reassemle the keys, place the retention piece under the little plastive bridge on the underside of the key , with the divit in the retension spring inside the key and the flat end out gently and resting on the little "tower". You'll notice a slot on the key assembly where the flat part of the retention piece fits in. This can be a little aggrivating, so be patient: Place the key just slightly in front of where it's supposed to go, and gently slide the key backwards. You should feel some resistance as the retention spring lifts off of the "tower" and slides into it's groove. Gently hook the rear lip of the key over the key assembly, an viola! you're done. Replace the plastic retainer and reassemble. This fix should work on Wavestations and 01/W's." (from a mail list posting on 95Oct06)

Replacement Parts
Some of the parts used in the key mechanism section (individual keys, flexible strip, etc.) are available from www.korgparts.com.
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Optional Supplies for Working on Keys

Korg originally used white or brownish grease (both colors have been reported). This grease can dry out and become sticky. You'll want to replace the old grease with new grease (not oil or other lubricant).

My first choice would be to use grease that is normally used on keyboards (like the grease from Yamaha ). I am not knowledgeable about grease (e-mail me if you are), but the wrong kind of lubricant can react with material it comes in contact with. The result could range from the lubricant soon gumming up to attacking plastic parts. I haven't heard of any 01 damage, so don't get nervous. Just don't grab any old can of grease (like axle grease for car bearings) and start slapping it on. Learn a little first.

Types of new grease recommended by 01 users are:
Disassemble the problem key. Use the alcohol and swabs to clean the key, guide post and inset tab. Put new grease in all the places you cleaned out old grease, using toothpicks as necessary.
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Fixing Broken Keys

Replacement keys for unweighted keyboards are available for $8.00 each from www.korgparts.com. This site says "Keys, For use on M1,Trinity,Triton,01/W, Wavestation, and i30. If you need keysprings, contact strips, or keys for any other keyboard, please call us at (800)590-0014". [2003Feb11]

The keys are reportedly the same as those used in the Yamaha DX7. You might check into using a DX7 key from a local Yamaha repair shop.

Presumably you would follow this same Dis-assembly/Re-assembly procedure to replace a broken key.

User report: "I've been able to fix any broken key with a glue known as "Polyzap". It's an extra strong super glue that can be found in hobby or RC modeling stores. I've used spare broken keys to cut the material I need and then glue them to the key I'm working on. I then shape them with a file." [2001Mar04]
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Key Sticks Above Other Keys

Live performers have somehow managed to whack the bottom of a key while swinging a hand upward. This sharp, upward movement of the key can break off a small "stop" in the keyboard assembly. The result is that the key with the broken stop rises above the other keys.

Pevo of Australlia wrote:
"If you are game take off the back cover. You will find that the key has a piece that acts as a stopper preventing it from lifting higher than the other keys. It "stops" in a felt bar. In my case this had broken off. I found the piece that had broken off in the keyboard's workings and glued it back on clamping it in place over night. It worked." (from a mail list posting 96May21)
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"Clunk" Elimination

01 user "Bob" e-mailed me several excellent suggestions (those dated 2001Mar04 on this page). Among those was this for improving your 01:

"Another step I do when refurbishing the keys is to remove {I think Bob meant "replace". kw} the felt strip that the keys contact when they are at rest with a strip of hi-tech weatherstripping (nylon fabric surrounding a foam core). This eliminates the "Clunk" you normally get when you release a key during normal play and makes playing more enjoyable." [2001Mar04]
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Cleaner for keytops

You may want to clean the keytop (playing surface). The manual is of little help here, suggesting only a "clean dry cloth". It does say to avoid "liquid cleaners such as benzene or thinner".

Some people like spray cleaners, like Fantastic, 409, or whatever. I think you're probably okay with any "mild detergent", like warm soapy water. My only concern with spray cleaners is a soapy/waxy coating it sometimes leaves behind if you use too much and don't rinse. There is also the possibility that whatever is in the spray may seep into the key mechanics, where it can build up and/or react with the grease, making it gum up. To reduce this possibility, don't spray the keys directly - spray the cloth.

User Report: "Try using just a damp cloth first as water is a good solvent. When I need something stronger I use a general purpose cleaner in a mild form. In other words, I dilute it with water. NEVER spray a cleaner directly on a keyboard. ALWAYS spray a small amount of cleaner on a damp cloth, then apply to the keyboard." [2001Mar04]
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Button Problems

By "button", I mean one of the push buttons on the top panel of the 01. (COMBI, PROG, numeric buttons, etc.) These are small, individual, self-contained pushbuttons that are soldered onto a PC board.

There hasn't been a lot of talk about button problems. This suggests that good design and materials were used, considering there are some 40,000 01s out there with years of accumulated abuse. That's the good news. The bad news is, if you're reading this, we don't have much experience to learn from.

The symptom is that one or more buttons gets more difficult to use over time. You may have to push harder, wiggle it, or push multiple times before it works. (It's unlikely, but possible, that you stumbled on an obscure computer bug - see below.)

The two most common causes are:

Either way, it seems the only fix is to go inside the 01 and clean or replace the offending buttons.

External Fix

Some home-repair types may be inclined to spray WD-40 (a popular spray lubricant) in the gaps around the buttons. I had one user advise strongly against this. The 01 buttons are said to be covered with a plastic sheet, so the chemical would only run off the plastic and pool somewhere and possibly cause problems. This is in addition to other WD-40 Risks.

Internal Fixes

Getting to these buttons is reported to be extremely difficult. One guy who tackled the problem said it took him three hours just to get to the buttons. He said there is a plastic screen protecting the buttons. This screen is held in place with two-sided tape that can be CAREFULLY separated with a small knife. Once inside, you can clean and maybe spray the button(s) with WD-40.

User Reports

"The best fix I've found, although a little labor intensive, is to desolder the switch from the circuit board and soak them in denatured alcohol while actuating the button many times. This really does a nice job of cleaning the internal contacts." [2001Mar04]

"'GC BATH SPRAY' works very well when spraying through into the keys- it is a PC board clearner. GC Bath is EXTREMELY flammible so be careful. You can get it from most electronic surplus stores." [2001Mar04]

Buttons Stop Working

If some or all of the buttons suddenly stop working entirely, it's possible you slipped into a bug (problem) in the 01/w operating system. For details, visit my ROMs page.

M1 Button Fix

A VERY industrious M1 owner found and installed replacement buttons in his M1. I don't know if the 01/W uses similar switches (and I'm not about to disassemble mine just to find out). However, if any 01 owner wants to try this repair, here are the details (let me know how it goes).

Buttons were ordered from Mouser Electronics, Inc. at http://www.mouser.com.
Toll free: (800) 346-6873. e-mail: sales@mouser.com
Button part number 688-SKHHAP.
Description: 6.0 x 6.0 x 9.5mm  160gf
Manufacturer: Alps Tactile Switches
Cost: 20 (US) cents each when 50 were bought.

These buttons are rated for 1,000,000 operations. A dust-free button is also available (part number unknown by me) which is rated for 200,000 operations.

An 01 owner in Italy reported these buttons are common - he found some at a local electronics store.

Buying the buttons will be the easy part. Dis-assembling and re-assembling your 01 is a chore but can be done by anyone who is patient and organized.

However, unsoldering the old buttons and installing the new is a job only for those experienced in soldering. De-soldering is tricky - if you get careless you can burn or otherwise damage the PC board. You will need a good solder-sucker, or know how to use solder-wick (or old stranded wire). (Tip: While melting the old solder joint, apply a good bit of new solder to create a nice glob of liquid which will help melt the old solder faster and more completely.)

After carefully removing the old buttons, clean the pads and solder in the new.

The M1 owner's local Korg repair shop quoted $500 to do this repair. To do it himself cost under $25. He estimated it took him 4 hours for desoldering plus 1/2 hour for soldering plus 2 hours for disassembly/assembly = 6.5 hours. [our thanks to Ron Allen for sharing his work. 2003Jul31]

E-mail me if you have tips in this area.
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Copyright ©1998-2003, 2009, 2011 by Ken Westover at Cliff Canyon Publishing Co. All rights reserved.
This material may not be distributed without the written permission of the author.
E-mail questions or comments to cliffcan@indra.com.

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