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Solving Delhi Harmonium Problems Page 1  

The most common problems with harmoniums are sticky keys, notes which play even when the key is not pressed, rattling noises and buzzy reeds. Leaks can occur as well, particularly in our dry Boulder climate.

Note that Delhi style keys have a diagonal line scratched into the back portion of the keys. If you have to remove some keys, use this line to get the keys back into the right place.

See the picture on the right.

Sticky Keys

If a key sticks down after being played, it usually is rubbing against an adjacent key. I have often found when moving from one chord to another if I drag my finger across two keys, I can end up pulling one key into the other and they stick together. They are a couple of solutions depending on the exact cause, but they are usually easy to fix. 

Sometimes the board above the stop knobs and in front of the keyboard (removed in this picture) keyboard is too tight and presses against one or more keys causing them to stick. Loosen the screws holding that board on a bit and see if that solves the problem.

If not, the picture on the right shows a larger screw I installed to space the board farther away that the existing screw could. On this harmonium I also added a screw on the far left and far right side to more evenly space the board so there was a larger gap and no keys stuck.


Stuck Notes

Sometimes a note will sound after the key is released, or even if you don’t play the key. This occurs when the far end of the key, which normally seals the holes above the reeds does not seal completely. Stop playing and GENTLY squeeze the bellows to maintain air pressure until you hear the note. When you start to feel any resistance in the bellows, stop squeezing as there is now enough air pressure in the system and you don’t want to add anymore and risk damaging the bellows. 

Play the keyboard until you find the offending note. Alternatively, you again GENTLY squeeze the bellows to maintain air pressure while lifting up on each front of each key to help the key seal in the back. This is not a solution, but helps you find which key needs work.


Sometimes when playing you here a rattling noise, or possibly a squeak. Most often the rattling is the top cover, either the whole cover or just the glass in the cover. Try removing the cover and see if the rattle goes away. If it does, then you’ve found the culprit. Hold the cover in one hand a gently tap the glass with the other. If it rattles in the cover you need to find a way to keep the glass from moving in the frame of the cover. Sometimes  small pieces of paper or business card placed in the slot where the glass is held by the frame can prevent it from rattling. Make the pieces small enough that you don’t have to look at them with the cover in place. To avoid damaging the wood finish, it’s best to avoid using glue or tape to hold the glass in place. 


One common cause of squeaks in a harmonium with side pumped (versus top pumped) bellows, is the pivot hinge rubbing on the metal corners of the bellows back plate. Sometimes the hinge rubs on the nails which hold the corners in place. Open the pivot hinge on the right side of the bellows (unless you pump it with your right hand in which case the bellows hinge on the left side), and wrap some electrical tape around the hinge on the top and bottom where it contacts the metal parts of the bellows back plate. I have also used thin foam insulation like what is used to insulate windows and doors. Cut two pieces about the height of each metal corner, removing the backing of the tape and stick it to each corner where the pivot hinge contacts them, then carefully push the pivot hinge back over the bellows so it rests on the foam tape. 

Buzzing or Dead Notes

If something gets stuck between the reed and its holder (frame), the reed may not vibrate at all, or will make a horrible buzzing noise instead of playing the desired note. Fixing this can be somewhat involved and requires gently scraping the edge of the reed or the reed frame. If it is not a constant problem, it can be helpful to me if you not only determine what key has the bad reed, but also whether it is the lower (bass) reeds or the upper (male) reeds. While playing the key with the bad reed, open the main (not drone) stops until you hear the buzzing (or don’t hear the dead note!) and make a note of it.

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