VR09 keys

Key surface and shape

The keybed of the VR09 is a special Roland design called ’rounded shape’ which means that the top of the black keys is not flat but slightly rounded and keys are narrower than standard piano keys.
Some people have problems of slipping off or even missing those black keys.

A way to improve is by flattening the black keys top surface with sandpaper, also adding roughness for more finger grip. Optically, the mod makes the keys look like ‘real’ piano keys with a ‘ebony texture’.
Take 80 grain sandpaper, fix it on a wooden (or metal) block and slowly grate the keys in length direction from the rear to the front, Pressing the block onto 2-3 keys at the same time helps for horizontal adjustment. You can take off some tenth up to 1/2 mm from the keys

The surface of the white keys can also be modified by soaking a kitchen paper towel with acetone and carefully wiping off the white keys. The acetone slightly dissolves the surface of the white keys – after ‘drying’, they offer more grip and look a bit like ‘ebony piano keys’. As said, the procedure must be done with a lot of care: give each key a wipe, let the plastic recover, then give another wipe,… until the surface of each key looks a bit like marble.

The picture below shows the black key ‘sandpaper mod’ (uncleaned). The (diffuse) white key ‘acetone-mod’ cannot be visualized on photos

 

 

Key weights

This mod adds key weights to each key: this reduces the down force (‘touch weight’), changes the ‘rebound behaviour’, adds ‘inertia’ to the keys – and slightly changes the noise of the keybed (to the dark side…)
First we analyse the down forces of the original keybed by stacking ‘motorcycle wheel rim balance weights’ or cent pieces on the front end of a key and measuring at which weight (in grams) ‘keybed actions’ happen:

action white black
‘let off’: key stops a little when it touches the contact rubber strip 55 gr 45 gr
note trigger for organ (quick fire) 57 gr 45 gr
note trigger for piano or synth 67 gr 71 gr

Ca. 70 grams ‘down force’ for triggering a piano note is a lot – especially as the keys have no inertia that helps with acceleration. For sure this is ONE reason why the VR09 keybed is not very appreciated by players

To reduce the down force, tests were made with different weights added to black and white keys:

weight key personal impression of the author
10g white + black too heavy: down force and the feel when ‘accelerating’ a key is very nice for piano but the rebound is definitely too slow. The keys become too inert: don’t do this
5g white + black nice feel for piano. Feels a little bit slower for synth sounds compared to the original ‘synth’ keybed. Rebound is ok. Rebound-noise gets a bit louder
2.5g white barely any difference to original.
2.5g black strange: noticable change in ‘feel’ (in oposite to 2.5gr on white keys). The (ultra-light) black keys feel more ‘substantial’

Conclusion:

5g for black+white keys are nice for playing piano, EPs etc but feel a tiny (really tiny!) little bit slow for fast synth solos compared to the unweighted keybed
5g for the white and 2.5g for the black could be a compromise for a more ‘synth’ orientated keybed

Test&Trial:

If you think adding key weights do tests before irreversibly glueing weights into each key: use (removable) duct tape to provisionally glue the weights on 2 octaves, each octave with different weights (e.g. one with 5g, one with 2.5g) to ‘feel the difference’. Play the keys without sound to get the pure feel. Try with both hands.

Modding

If you decide that it’s worth the effort and you’ve found your ‘personal weights’, open the VR and remove the keybed as described in Open VR09.
Remove the keys (it’s quite easy): take the spring off and pull the key slightly to it’s front side.
If you remove-modify-remount ‘octave by octave’, you avoid a big pile of lose keys (BTW: there is NO NEED to note key numbers: every octave has the same set of key types).

Fixing the weights in the keys: ‘rim weights’ (see below) have a strong adhesive layer on their back side that should fix the weights for many years. Otherwise use epoxy glue. Don’t forget to de-grease the keys where the weights shall be placed with alcohol.

Note that the total weight of the VR09 increases a little bit: ca 300 grams with 5g weights, ca. 150g with 2.5g weights

Weights

Maybe the easiest way is to buy a pack of ‘balance weights for motorcycle rims with adhesive tape’: cheap (ca 5 Euro/USD for 61 weights), easy to get (ebay) and easy to mount.
Our VR friends from France had an even more simplistic solution: steal nuts !

5g + 2.5g lead weights
5g ‘coated steal’ weights (larger than lead weights)
Placement of the weights.
On the white keys, you have 2 possible positions.
On the black keys, the smaller lead weights can be put in the front side of the key. The bigger steal weights must be placed more backwards or they’ll touch the key guide domes of the keybed frame