Every piano tuner has his or her favorite stories about "UFO sightings." I've been tuning for over 30 years and have definitely seen my share of objects stuck inside pianos — some common household items are easy to explain, but other times I just shake my head in wonder.
Here are some of the typical (and some not so typical) items I've discovered over the years.
Common Objects Found Inside Pianos
Pens or pencils
I can always identify these kinds of UFOs right away: if a whole octave of keys goes down at once, it's a writing utensil. Unless they've been shoved in the action or the owner attempted to remove the pen themselves, these are usually fairly easy to remove. Not too problematic.
Staples and paper clips
Staples and paper clips are evil. When these little slivers of metal fall inside a piano action, they tend to get tangled up or fall into the tiniest cracks. I keep a magnet in my toolkit to retrieve these items.
Kids like to stick coins in between piano keys like it’s a giant piggy bank. Some coins like dimes and pennies can go all the way through and sit underneath the keybed, but sometimes they get stuck and cause a bigger problem.
Mail and sheet music
Mail, photographs, and sheet music slips inside the piano very easily. Some people use their pianos as an end table, so when they open the fallboard to play it, the paper disappears — just like a trap door. In grand pianos, the owner usually sees the paper and takes it out, but sometimes they won't know it's there, and the paper rides around on the back of the keys. It can be tricky to remove paper after it's worked its way inside the piano action. Uprights rattle or buzz when there's paper stuck inside. I recently took a scrap of paper with a list of hymns out of a church piano.
The last piece of jewelry I removed from a piano was a necklace. That one was tricky because the piano was an upright and the chain was long and thin. It got wrapped around a key and up by the capstans, but thankfully I was able to get it out in one piece.
Unusual Items I've Found Inside Pianos
Once, I was called to get a cell phone out of a piano. It was a grand and they had the phone propped up on the bass end of the desk. Somehow the phone just slipped over the end and dropped inside the piano. It was actually quite easy to get out; the owners just didn't know how to get inside the instrument safely.
Someone must have been practicing their putting in the living room! Grand piano actions have a break between the bass and the treble side, and things tend to slither down there and wedge themselves in. I guess the golf ball was sitting on the piano and slipped inside somehow. The owner never even knew it was there.
I once removed a rock from a second hand piano at a local church. No idea how it got there. As I recall, the rock sits in the piano bench to this day because they thought it was just so funny!
I've removed "unmentionable" items from pianos at popular clubs... and that's all I'll say about that!
Barbies, Legos, and other little toys get inside the piano and really jam things up. No surprise how they get in there.
A Spiderman action figure gave me a lot of grief. He found his way inside a grand and got into the action a little bit. The bottom two bass keys wouldn't go down to the rest position because Spidey's arm was holding the hammer shanks up. I think he fell inside, the kid couldn't reach him, so they decided to play the piano hard enough that he'd come flying out. That didn't work at all. He was really jammed in there. The way Spiderman was tangled up in the piano meant that the bottom two hammer shanks would catch on the pinblock and break. Sure enough, they snapped right off and I had to repair the piano, but I saved a superhero that day.