I’m thinking of buying a new piano. I have a very old one and since all rehearsals are taking place online, from my home, there’s no escaping its shortcomings. Obviously, it’s quite an investment, but I’m sure it will repay itself, if only in terms of bringing back the pure pleasure of playing. Or as the English expression goes: tickling the ivories. Thankfully, piano keys are no longer made from ivory (which kind of makes the hit by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder obsolete although Stevie could still be ebony, but Paul would be acrylic… just saying). Tickling the acrylics produces as beautiful a sound as tickling the ivories, and it’s really good news for the elephant.
Another such expression is ‘playing the old joanna’. It comes from Cockney rhyming slang (old joanna – pianna in Cockney pronunciation). You would not use this expression to describe playing a concert grand, however.
You can tickle other things in English; something can tickle your fancy, for example, when it appeals to you. If you have a fancy man, or woman (a lover), well… you must be tickled pink (Dutch – in je nopjes, from the texture of new clothes).
And at high tea, wearing a hat, you might eat fancies (similar to cupcakes) while a pianist tickles the ivories in the background.