Archive for the 'FAQ' Category

Few days ago, I had a piano teacher voicing out her problem to me, she always used to assume that there was a piano in the house when she signed up a new student. She never even thought to ask the question when a parent was calling to enroll their child. Then after a few weeks of struggle, she might stress again that they should be practicing at least 5 days a week. And she start to ask how they plan their practice time out of the day and ask them to fill out a practice chart.

Much to her surprise, every now and then, a student would tell her, they didn’t have a piano. They might say that a neighbor allows them to go over whenever they want to play their piano or they can play when they go to grandparents house. Believe it or not, once a student told her, “Well, I don’t have a piano, but I have been practicing on a PC keyboard.” I think at that time my jaw dropped to the floor. Infact she had the same reaction like mine, she told me when she got her composure back. She went into a long explanation of hand position, body position, learning where the keys are, touch and technique to the kid’s parents. And what about hearing the music they were producing? She always wondered why these parents wanted their children to learn. Needless to say, She asked this child to come back when she could find a piano that she could afford.

Now there is another problem to deal with. The electronic keyboard , digital piano or a synthesizer. Although it does have it’s purpose and is now considered a true instrument, unless a teacher knows what he or she is dealing with, it can be a problem. Yes, the keys look alike and they have the same names. And what about the damper pedal? If you have a professional model with the same touch as a piano it’s not so bad, but it still is not a piano. And most people buy the cheaper versions for their children to start on, thinking if the child shows promise, they will spend more money next time. But how will they ever know if he/she has promise or not since there really is no way to compare the two instruments? I think the wonder of the piano is that you can control the sound without electronics. What a concept!! Something foreign to the new generation. You must put your soul into the music and then miraculous sounds and feelings come out through your fingers. It’s just like caressing a baby’s soft, warm, head or touching the face of someone you love. The feeling is incredible. Unfortunately, in my opinion, you’ll never experience that through electronics.

So next time, you take on a new student, remember to ask if there is a piano in the house. If not, refer them to the nearest piano store. I might also suggest renting a piano for a few months until a decision is made. But after 6 months, a child needs the real thing, a piano.

Pianos are among the most durable of personal possessions. Admired for their fine cabinetry and treasured for their beautiful sound, pianos usually lead a pampered life in the best room of the house.

They’re often thought of as permanent family fixtures, passed down to children and grandchildren. Their large size and weight give them the illusion of being able to last forever.

While pianos do last a long time, remember they’re really just large machines made of wood, felt and metal. Over the years, seasonal changes take their toll, stressing the wooden parts and straining glue joints. Felt hammers are pounded flat after thousands of collisions with the piano’s strings and metal parts corrode and weaken. Years of friction wear out the one thousand felt bushings in the action.

There are at least four factors that determine the life span of a piano

  1. Original Quality
  2. Environmental Stability
  3. Use and Abuse
  4. Maintenance

A piano that was well made, for which the woods were carefully selected, dried, machined and joined, for example, will last much longer than one that received little thought or attention to these details. A piano located in an environment in which the humidity wildly swings seasonally from one extreme to the other without amelioration by humidity control equipment will perish much sooner than one in a more temperate climate or climate controlled situation. A piano banged on sixteen hours a day in a school practice room, or into which drinks are spilled and cigarettes are allowed to burn, will live a shorter time than one that enjoys a pampered life in a living room and a family in which nobody plays much. Finally, a technician who regularly services a piano, catching and correcting small problems before they become big ones, may be able to extend the useful life of a piano beyond what it would otherwise enjoy.

Here’s a sketch of the life cycle of a typical home piano :

First Year
The pitch of a new piano drops considerably, as the new strings stretch and the structure settles. If the piano receives the manufacturer’s recommended three to four tunings during this time, it will stay at the correct pitch, allowing strings and structure to reach a stable equilibrium. Without these important first tunings, any later tuning will involve a large pitch raise, leaving the piano unstable.

Two to Ten Years
The pitch stabilizes stabilizes, assuming that there have been regular tunings (and additional climate control devices if needed). The mechanical parts of the piano’s action wear and settle too. This causes two changes: first, the touch of the piano becomes less responsive as the parts go out of adjustment. Secondly, the tone changes as the hammers flatten and grooves develop from repeated collisions with the strings. Periodic regulation and voicing, important parts of a complete maintenance program, correct these changes.

Thirty to Fifty Years
After years of playing, the hammers and other action parts will be quite worn. Years of seasonal changes cause bass strings to sound dull and treble tone to lose clarity. Eventually, adjustment alone will not correct these problems, and some parts will need replacing to restore the original tone and touch.

Over Fifty Years
A few geographic areas with mild climates have older pianos still in good condition. Well built, well-designed pianos can still be playable at this advanced age if they’ve had good care and moderate use.

However at some point in a piano’s life, and important decision must be made: Should the piano be replaced? Is its life over? Should it be reconditioned or rebuilt (made functionally new again)? Should it continue to limp along with an ever worsening tone and touch? The needs of the pianist are the real variable in judging a piano’s useful life. Good performance requires a piano in good condition.

Older, high-quality instruments can often be rebuilt to like new condition for less than the cost of a new piano. Even economy grade instruments can often be dramatically improved by judicious reconditioning. Your piano technician can help you make this decision.

Eventually, it becomes less and less practical to continue maintaining a very old piano. The undeniable end of a piano’s life comes when the repair cost exceeds the value of the repaired instrument. Medium-quality old uprights reach this point sooner than do high-quality large grands. Rare and historically important instruments may never reach this point unless totally damaged in a fire or other disaster.

Happily, almost any piano that has received reasonable care will have served the art of music for decades by the time its days are over.

Why should I be worried about mice and moths in my piano?

Mice and moths love pianos. They provide a source of food and nesting material. Moths can eat the felts in your hammers and under the keys in one season. Moth balls are a cheap preventative. Mice tend to live in unused pianos. They will use the under-key felt for nests, chew up your wooden keys, and pee on the strings, instantly killing the bass strings. Mouse traps will save you a lot money.

I am often asked how do you find a good piano teacher? While there are many factors to take into consideration, experience, proximity to home, cost etc., the most important is probably personality. You should interview a prospective teacher and find the one that is right for you. Spending some time getting to know the teacher, in person or by phone, will benefit you both. Some questions to ask would include what kind of time commitment is needed each week, what is their recital schedule, how would the lessons be structured and can you have input on what types of music you learn. It is also a good idea to hear the teacher play the piano. While it is not necessary that he or she be a world famous pianist, they should be able to demonstrate the complex subtleties on the keyboard. And, if you like the way the teacher plays, you will have an instant respect for that person as a teacher.

So, if you are looking for a piano teacher:

Ask for recommendations from others you know that are taking lessons.

Attend some piano recitals to hear how some students are playing and then take the opportunity to meet the teacher or talk to students or parents.

Selection of Pianos for Board Examination

From time to time, I always encountered new customer asking me whether the piano is an “Examination Model“. That’s an interesting expression “Examination Model”. I suppose this “Examination Model” is built differently from the other type of vertical pianos like Spinet, Console, Studio and Upright model.

And not surprisingly, Associated Board also receives enquiries regarding the pianos used for the Board’s Practical examinations. Indeed they are sometimes asked to comment upon the ideal model of piano to use for exams.

Philip Mundey, the Director of Examinations from Associated Board, help to dispel a certain misunderstanding which has arisen amongst some music retailers, teachers, Associated Board candidates and their parents that such an ideal model exists. This is simply not the case : there is no one model of piano that can be recommended above all others for examination purposes.

The Associated Board works to ensure throughout Southeast Asia, where we monitor exams in a large number of venues, that the quality of the instruments selected for examination purposes is the very best available. However, this is not a matter of favouring any one particular brand or model of piano. The pianos selected will alwyas have an acceptable tone quality, a responsive touch and pedals that are operational and effective and such instruments are judged to be suitable for Associated Board piano examinations worldwide from Grade 1 right up to Grade 8.

For all piano examinations at Diploma level in Southeast Asia, the Associated Board makes every effort to supply good quality grand pianos. At this level of assessment we feel it to be appropriate that candidates should have the opportunity of playing on an instrument designed for concert performance rather than domestic use. However, once again there is no one examination model or brand that can be endorsed in the selection.

In fact, the ideal examination piano model is a myth, not a reality! Quality and suitability are always going to be the overriding factors.

A good musical standard is a piano that is in tune and well regulated for tone and touch, respectively. A piano which does not perform to good musical standards is essentially a recreation object.

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