Author Archives: piano2nr

Technology

Being born in a generation of baby boomers I have been very slow to embrace technology. Over the years I have acquired a very large collection of sheet music. Reading music has it’s drawbacks. Fumbling through filing cabinets looking for a particular piece of music. Trying to turn the page a quarter of the way through the song and many times back and forth through repeats and coda’s without interrupting the flow of the music is difficult at best. Struggling with poor lighting conditions. Music sheets, or books, falling off the music stand and countless other problems. For these reasons I have decide to digitize my music. I started by trying a lot of different apps and researching ways to approach this huge task. At first it was a slow process, but as I gained knowledge and experience I was seeing very pleasing results. Without going into a lot of details I discovered that the best app for me was by a large margin the app for ipad called forscore. I tried searching Microsoft apps and android apps as well, being I have both a Dell laptop and an android device. I’ve found Apple has a much larger selection.

Forscore does have a learning curve, and the first hour or so I couldn’t make any progress, but also has an online user manual that explains every detail of the program. I found myself frequently referring to it as I learned the program and I soon became a fan. I’m truly amazed at all the things I can do with this app. I can categorize my songs in many different ways. For example, I have created labels to separate the guitar music from the piano music and tags to add more detail such as songs with alternate tunings,or capo and special keys. I can also search by composer, title, or genre and assign a difficulty setting. The feature I most enjoy is called music binding. With music binding I can search my music and bind it to the sheet music so I can hear the music play while I’m reading the notes. I can also set a metronome to either pulse, click, or both, and slow the music to half or quarter speed, or vary it by increments. I can also vary the pitch by musical cents. I can crop or annotate the music and adjust the brightness and contrast. Importing songs into forscore is easily done with a scanner or by taking pictures of the music from the programs Dark Room feature. Finally, I purchased an airturn pedal and with Bluetooth I can pair the pedal to the app and turn the pages back and forth with the pedal so I don’t have to take my hands off the guitar or piano. I can also rearrange the order of the pages  making repeats and codas easier to navigate. There is a feature called set list which can be used for a gig or live playing. I can import the songs I’m doing for each set and page through them in the order I choose. Pretty amazing for a person who is technologically challenged.

 

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Climate Control

Pianos are affected by changes in humidity. A majority of the piano is made out of wood, which absorbs moisture when it’s damp and becomes dry when the humidity dips below 42% . The ideal humidity for pianos is 42%-45%. The closer to that percentage you can keep the room that the piano is kept in, the better the piano will sound, and will hold the concert pitch. The concert pitch is A-440 C.P.S. This is the standard pitch that all orchestras tune to. The piano was designed to be at this pitch and it’s extremely important that it be tuned regularly to keep it there. Realizing it’s next to impossible to keep a room at or near 42%, there is a solution.

I highly recommend installing a climate control unit directly into the piano. There are two different types of units. One adds moisture to the piano when it’s dry, and one dispels moisture when it’s humid. The climate in Florida is humid most of the year, which means most pianos only require a damp chaser, which is basically an adjustable 15 watt heating rod in combination with a humidistat. A humidistat is a switch that measures humidity and controls the heating rod. Some technicians install a rod without a switch. I don’t recommend doing that because if it does get to dry in the room the piano will be absorbing to much heat which can dry out the wood and crack the soundboard and pin block.

I have installed many complete climate control units in pianos and witnessed much success, especially in schools and churches which typically experience extreme changes in temperature and humidity. The pianos with climate control units stay in tune and hold the concert pitch much better than those without.

 

 

Music Lessons

Brenden, LaRon and Branden

Brenden, LaRon and Brandon

Shown above is a picture of three of my grandchildren, (I have eight) in my music studio. The following is a list of some of some of the milestones I’ve accomplished in my life, thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the talent He bestowed upon me. Learning to play guitar, learning to play piano, learning to tune pianos, making a good living, raising a family, and paying it forward to everyone I possibly can.

As significant as these accomplishments are, the biggest accomplishment (by far) in my life was raising a loving and successful family. I am so proud of my son and daughter and there spouses and children! Both my son and daughter have successful careers, a good worth ethic, and above all, are loving and devoted parents. It gives me great pleasure to spend time with them and their  families and I have a lot of fond memories of family gatherings and especially Sunday dinners, (usually homemade spaghetti and meatballs, a family favorite!) My wife is a great cook and she has been the glue that holds this family together. In our 41 years of marriage, she has shown unrivaled hospitality to my extended family, as well as hers, as witnessed by the frequent family reunions organized by her.

proud parents

proud parents Roy JR. and Grace

New Addition: Happy Family

New Addition: Happy Family

Proud Grandparents

Proud Grandparents

Joshua

Joshua

Happy Birthday Taylor

Happy Birthday Taylor

Brooke

Brooke

Jacob

Jacob

Rebacca and Nicholas

Rebacca and Nicholas

 

 

52 Inch Baldwin

WIN_20150630_101433

I recently tuned this new Baldwin full sized upright piano. The Baldwin Piano co. is now owned by Gibson Guitar Corp. since 2001. The Baldwin series pianos are manufactured in China with attention to detail by Gibson. The hammers are produced under high tension wrapping-press technology using Royal George hammer felt. The hammer core is Hornbeam imported from Europe. The strings are Roslau from Germany, the soundboard is spruce, the bridge hard maple, and the pin block 17 layer hard maple. As you can see, Gibson uses only the highest quality parts in their pianos. Gibson also uses the Accu-Just Hitchpins developed and patented by Baldwin. The bass section has a deep rich tone. The mid-section and treble section are pleasingly mellow, with just enough of a bright tone to balance the overall sound of the piano. I was able to do a very accurate tuning due to the extreme length of the strings and lack of built in inharmonicity. On a scale of 1-10 this piano is definitely a 10. I highly recommend it! This piano is for sale for the bargain price of only $5999.00

Spinet Pianos

 

People often ask me what is the difference between a spinet piano and an upright piano. The following picture is an upright piano, or direct blow. If you look closely you can see that the action assembly sits directly on top of the keys. This is a big advantage because there is no linkage and when you press down on the keys it immediately lifts the action which in turn drives the hammer forward to strike the strings. This results in a smooth and even motion with less pivot points decreasing the possibility of sticky keys.

Another advantage to this type of action is it’s easy to remove. Just disconnect three screws and the action just pops right out facilitating repairs and decreasing expensive repair bills.

Direct Blow

Direct Blow

 

 

The following picture is the action of a spinet piano appropriately named a drop action. As you can see, the entire action is dropped down inside the piano. Attached to each key is a long rod called a sticker which attaches to the action. When the key is depressed it pulls up the sticker which is attached to another lever which in turn moves the action up causing the hammer to move forward and strike the string. The disadvantages for this type of action are numerous. With all the added linkage there are many more center pins and pivot points. Every pivot must be pinned with a bushing to eliminate noise. All center pins go through the bushings with just the right tolerances. Over the years with numerous climate changes the wood around the felt bushings tightens and loosens causing sticky keys with high humidity, and noisy keys with low humidity. The action is extremely difficult to remove from the piano adding to labor cost for repairs. When playing a piano of this type you’ll notice a lot of uneven tension, sticky, and noisy keys!

The sole purpose for this type of action, despite its limitations, is to enable the manufacture to design a piano that is much smaller for people who have limited space. Personally, I’m not fond of these pianos and I’m glad they no longer make them, but there is a considerable used market for them and they’re reasonably priced.

Drop Action

Drop Action

 

Hamilton Upright Cabinet Grand Piano

action and harp revealed

action and harp revealed

ready to play

ready to play

Magnificent Cabinet

Magnificent Cabinet

I tuned this magnificent Hamilton Upright Grand Piano in Osprey Fl. on 5/23/2015. I was truly amazed at the condition of the piano, and it was even very close to the concert pitch! The action was a little stiff, but I’m sure I would be also if I was 115 years old LOL! This piano was built in 1900 and it could stand some T.L.C. Mostly it needed new strings, felts, and hammers. It sure was beautiful! It was made in Chicago, what craftmanship! They don’t make them like this anymore.

Playing By Ear

CHORD THEORY

As a result of playing guitar at a very young age, I learned a lot of theory related to playing by ear, guitar lends itself well for that. It’s fairly easy to learn a lot of chords and put them together in progressions. I’ve met a lot of piano players that started reading music at a very young age, and they can sight read almost anything, but take the music away from them and they can’t play. Apparently, they were never taught to play by ear. I’m posting this in order to help this type of piano player to learn by ear. I taught myself to play piano by ear using the following chord theory. I started playing piano as an adult and I found it easier and faster to play by ear. Everything on a piano is linear and chords can be constructed from the Major Scales. Chords that go together well are the Tonic, Sub-Dominant, and Dominant chords, or the 1st., 4th., and 5th. chords of the scale. Many blue songs, rock songs, and popular songs use this chord progression.

Major Chords are constructed using the 1st., the 3rd., and the 5th. notes of the scale. For example, in the key of “C”, the notes in a C Major Chord are the C, the E, and the G, or the 1st. note of a C Major Scale, the 3rd. note of a C Major Scale, and the 5th. note of a C Major Scale. This is called the Tonic chord, often called the root chord, or first chord.

The notes in a F Major Chord are the F, the A, and the C, or the 1st. note of an F Major Scale, the 3rd. note of an F Major Scale, and the 5th. note of an F Major Scale. This is called the sub-dominant Chord, often called the fourth chord, the “F” being the 4th. note of the C Major Scale.

The notes in a “G” chord are the G, the B, and the D, or the 1st. note of a G Major Scale, the 3rd. note of a G Major Scale, and the 5th. note of a G Major Scale. This is called the dominant Chord, often called the fifth chord, the “G” being the 5th. note of the C Major Scale.

Minor Chords are constructed using the 1st., the flatted 3rd., and the 5th. note of the scale. As an example, in the key of C this would consist of the C, the E flat, and G notes. This would be called the C Minor Chord.

As follows the “F” Minor Chord would contain the 1st. note of the F Scale, the flatted 3rd. note of the F scale, and the 5th. note of the F scale or the F, the A flat, and the C.

The “G” Minor Chord would be the G note, or 1st. note of the “G” Scale, the B flat, or flatted 3rd. note of the Scale, and the D, or 5th. note of the Scale.

ALTERED CHORDS

Major and Minor chords can be altered into 6th chords simply by adding the 6th tone of the scale. Major 7th chords would be played with an added 7th tone of the Major scale. To make a chord into a Dominant 7th you have to flat the 7th tone of the scale, however, this is almost never called a Dominant 7th., the Dominant is dropped, and, as an example, the chord would be called a “C7”, or “F7”, or “G7”, or “Cmin7”, “Fmin7”, and “Gmin7”. Diminished chords are flatted thirds stacked on top of one another or a C note, a E flat note, a G flat note, and an A note. Diminished chords are the only chord that can be named from every note in the chord, therefore every note is a root note. As an example the previously described diminished chord can be called a “C dim.”, a “E flat Dim.”, a “G flat dim.”, or a “A dim.” An Augmented chord has a sharped 5th note of the scale so a “C” chord would consist of a C note, a E note, and a G sharp note.

In order to play proficiently by ear all chords must be memorized in all keys. I would suggest to start either chromatically or practice the chords in the circle of fifths. Also learning to voice the notes in different order is an absolute must! By voicing the chord properly you can use a fake book and keep the melody in the higher register and fill in the harmony with chords. The left hand can be used mostly to play octaves, fifths, and occasional bass runs or arpeggios. Until you become proficient in all keys you can focus on the key of C which is the easiest key to learn because the “C” Major Scale has no sharps or flats. Speaking of scales, you must learn all Major scales backwards and forwards with both hands. It’s also advantageous to learn as many scales as possible including, but not limited to, minor scales, pentatonic scales, and blues scales.