Over the years several customers have asked about finding a piano teacher either for themselves or their children. It never fails that these conversations turn to stories about childhood piano teachers. For example; "When I was a young child my mother made me take piano lessons. I had this horrible teacher that used to hit my hands with a stick if I played a wrong note." After I hear stories like this I think there must have been a "piano teacher school" years ago that advocated hitting hands when wrong notes are played because I've heard that same story over and over. Here's another common one; "I used to hate piano lessons. My mother used to make me practice and not let me go out and play unless I practiced for at least a half hour." I get the same stories of regret over and over too; They wished they had applied themselves more. Everyone I speak to would like their children to enjoy learning the piano. This seems to be the consensus today. Make the whole experience more enjoyable, as it should be, that's what I say.
Keys To Finding The Right Teacher
Talk to other parents who have children taking successful lessons.
Look for a qualified teacher. Check the MTNA for a certified teacher.
Have a heart to heart with your child or yourself if your the student and discern the needs of the student to decide how those needs can be met in a teacher.
Don't expect too much from the student or teacher. The student may not be cut out to play the piano and the teacher can't work miracles.
Start lessons at the correct age for the person. Some will do well at quite a young age and others need to be a little older.
Allow the student to be involved in other activities they enjoy. A balanced person is more apt to discern what they can accomplish or want to accomplish.
Allow the student to move at a comfortable pace. Not everyone learns at the same speed.
Never force a non-essential activity. Food, clothing and shelter is what we need. The rest is negotiable. I know some musicians will disagree....until their on the street. Wait, some are already out on the street playing. Artists............ pht.
Is this the joy of music???
The Right Teacher
If you find the right teacher for yourself or child then practicing may come much easier. If all you have to look forward to is a bad experience at the lesson, well, who is going to want to practice for that nightmare. On the other hand, if the teacher is kind and encouraging who wouldn't appreciate that. Now, if the student really enjoys music as well, you have a win win scenario and success is on the horizon.
I'm having a party and I want to hire a piano player. Is there anything I should keep in mind? Yes there is. Have a list of questions ready for your prospective players. If your pickings are slim for a player then your list will be shorter or unnecessary. Be prepared to pay a good performer well. Here are some options to find a player::
Options For Finding A Piano Player
Check the yellow pages under musicians, performers etc.
Call the music departments of any colleges or schools in your area. Music majors could probably use a little extra income.
Ask friends that play piano or have children that play. Pay the children, the friend well, how good a friend are they?
Check the MTNA (Music Teachers National Assoc.) You can find the website on our Links page. Find local piano teachers and call them to see if they or any of their students would be for hire.
If you know of other piano teachers give them a call.
Questions To Ask Piano Players
What style of music do you play? Find what you like or need.
If you want singing---Do you sing? Have them send you a demo CD of their live performance. If they do not have one, ask if they could stop by and play a couple of tunes so you can hear them.
Do you have a song list. Have them fax, email or snail-mail it to you.
If you want percussion, bass etc, ask if that is possible. If so, ask about sound equipment placement and the room needed for the equipment and players. Also make clear your volume requirements.
Ask how the player will dress and make any desired requests in that area.
How much will it cost and the amount of time they will play along with any breaks taken. What type of payment be accepted. When is payment required, before or after performance.
If your going to have a party and hire a piano player by all means prepare the piano for them. Hire your favorite technician to tune it, and, if you can afford it, have him check the voicing, regulation and foot pedal (trapwork) for adjustment. While your at it have the case and belly cleaned too. Impress your guests with a quality musical time.
The Right Party
When planning a party and the music to go along with it, the match is everything. Would we play rock for a tea party or serve chili and beer with Opera? Some would say those suggestions are fine and perhaps they could be. However, if you are going to hire a piano player, bear in mind that the music he plays will have a great effect on the atmosphere of your gathering.
Hiring a piano mover is much like hiring any other service professional. Out of all the the things you could move in your house, a piano poses some unique characteristics:
It's very heavy
It's pretty furniture
It's a machine (moving parts)
It's not uncommon for a piano owner to move their own piano. It's also true that many times a piano will end up fallen to the ground or street in parts or with some serious damage because of inexperience. .Experienced movers on rare occasions will spill a piano too. Every mover I know has had an accident at least once. Usually that is enough to learn some difficult lessons and make sure you have good insurance. With this in mind, below is a list of important mover qualifications.
Piano Movers Should Have
Insurance Some pianos are worth over $100,000.00. In moving a piano, damage could occur not only your piano but also to your home ( floors, doorways etc.)
Proper vehicle or trailer for transport. A pickup can work if done properly but is not preferred.
Piano moving equipment There is special stuff.
Enough personnel One man can move a piano in most cases if done properly, Two is better. Sometimes three or four are needed.
Experience Other moving experience is good too.
Touch-up service Sometimes little things happen in moving as we all know.
Friendly manner We should expect someone we are hiring to be polite, considerate and professional.
Pride In workmanship This will add to the quality of work someone does. You should be able to determine this from a few questions.
Questions To Ask Piano Movers
How long have you been moving pianos?
Are you insured? Would you send me a copy?
How will you accomplish my move? Refer to above list. Tell them details (Value you place on your instrument - both financial and emotional, any steps from street to piano, which floor, type and size of piano, distance of travel to your home etc.) Pride in workmanship should come through with this question.
What is the cost? (compare to others)
Are your personnel insured for injury?
What type of vehicle will you use?
What precautions do you take to avoid damage?
Do you have a touch-up service?
Do you have references?
Any other concerns you may have.
Moving Pianos Yourself
If you decide to move your piano yourself, keep the following points clear in mind.
Pianos are very heavy and can cause serious injury to people, property and themselves when they fall, or tip over.
Grand pianos require unique skills in moving anywhere but across the room.
Grand piano legs can break off when moving across the room. If the wheels catch on anything like tile grout lines etc. great stress is placed on them. Protect your floor too (see below moving vertical piano.)
If a small child or for that matter, any person or animal is under a grand piano and a leg or legs fail, serious injury or death could occur. Under a grand piano is no place for children to play.
Because of the weight of pianos, the required power to lift and move them is beyond those with little strength or those with physical restrictions.
If ever they are used, proper lifting techniques are a must for piano moving.
And finally, hiring a mover is cheaper than a hospital stay or repairing your damaged piano.
Moving a Upright or Vertical
If you need to move your vertical piano away from the wall, across the room or to the next room keep these points in mind.
Never push or pull toward the top of the piano. Pianos tend to be top heavy and will tip easily and cause some really bad things to happen.
Always push or pull at the vertical mid point or lower and use the handles on the back if it has them.
Piano casters especially older metal ones can cause bad damage to floors. Protect with heavy rugs, carpet, cardboard etc. After moving it a few inches, check for floor damage before continuing.
There are few questions to consider before you decide to refinish your piano.
How much can you afford financially....then....
Who will do the work - a professional or yourself?
Would a new or "newer" piano be a better choice?
Is the piano worth the investment? (Sentimental value is only valid to a certain point, unless you just want it to sit there and look prettier than it was.)
It may have a pretty face after the work but what is it like inside?
If the finish is currently dark, what will the wood look like after the old finish is removed?
And the practical considerations of.................
What color or shade do I want?
What type of finish do I need? Laquer, Shellac etc.
Should I do repairs to the moving parts as well?
Will the work increase the value of the piano?
The list can go on.
Professional Piano Refinshing
Refinishing a piano or any other wood furniture is a dirty nasty business filled with repairs, smell of chemicals, messy tools, sanding, sanding and more sanding, having the right tools, the right products and enough time and energy to finish the job etc. etc. Experience and pride of workmanship is what makes this work turn out well. People who do this all the time are prepared and experienced for what comes with this commitment. They deserve every penny that they charge for this work and we should be thankful that somebody is willing to do this for a living.
Questions To Ask Refinishers
How long have you been doing this?
Are you insured? Would you send me a copy?
How will the work proceed and what time frame are we to expect?
What is the cost? (usually per foot of piano)
Do you do the inside work as well or will I need to hire another company for this?
How will payment proceed? (1/2 down then balance on delivery or full payment on delivery etc.)
How will I choose the color or shade of stain? (They should be able to provide a sample board with different choices.)
Do you offer any type of warranty on your work? (This is not always the case. If the references are good a warranty should not be so important.)
Do you have references?
Any other concerns you may have.
Refinish It Yourself?
If you decide to refinish your piano on your own then be prepared for a battle. We won't go into color choices, tools, techniques or products here because the choices are far too complex. I will mention a few things I have noticed on do-it-yourself projects that could have been avoided.
Piano case parts come apart fairly easily and you can make the job much more easy my disassembling the piano as much as possible. Look for screws, hooks etc. that detach parts.
Below are parts that come off quite easily look for the screws
Keyslip the piece right in front of the keys
Cheeck blocks the pieces to the right and left of the keys
Fallboard the piece that covers the keys
Music desk (rack or board) the part that the music rests on and what it is attached to
Lid usually connected by hinges or catches
Legs often screwed to the keybed (where keys set)
Bottom board piece right above the foot pedals usually held in place by some sort of catch
Supports etc. pieces that support or attach to other parts - look for the screws
After disassembly, be sure to cover the keys and all inside parts with plastic or heavy paper to protect the strings, metal plate, keys, action etc. from damage.
If your brave number the keys with a pencil in small numbers on the top, then remove them for cleaning or polishing. You will need to lift on the action parts to remove and replace them. If your piano is a spinet, the keys will be connected on the back with some sort of rubber grommet and clip or screw. The rubber could be brittle. Be prepared to hire a piano technician to do any key removal or work if you are unsure or uncomfortable with this.
If there is veneer that is loose, broken off or damaged this is the time to repair it before you apply any stain or finish. Veneer can be patched on with normal wood glue and clamps.
Take your time, use patience and follow all safety precautions on all the products and tools you use.
Man is better, however, man built the machine so... the machine is the son of a man and thus speaks for the man. If we don't have the man then we can have the machine. And if we have the machine of a man we can come to know the man from his machine. If we come to know the man from his machine then we are a better man for coming to know another man....through a machine. Thus it is better to know another man through a machine than not know him at all. If music is from man and a machine can give us music, well then, let's get to know one another through each others music played on a machine or in person.
The Future Of The Piano
How would Beethoven react to the developments in piano technology as of late and into the future? It gives me a chuckle to see professional musicians expound about the way we should interpret and treat the works of composers from the past. It's as if the composer was there watching and one wrong slur or note would mean your privilege to play is taken away. So, to have a machine play a piece of music with little attention to every little nuance of the music seems a sin indeed. Yet to the average listener of music this seems of little concern. If the melody is noticeable and the rhythm and harmony seem to work, then it's pleasurable. Debate over interpretation seems futile when the listener for whom music is written enjoys the result however incorrect the playing may seem to a player. I have heard audio engineers complain that certain portions of their work were incongruous or not up to their standards and yet these very parts where the success of the song. It's when we leave our pursuit of so called perfection and stray into the unknown that true creativity begins. Let us not forget the bravery of past composers and music professionals who boldly stepped into unknown territory and gave us some to the most wonderful art we have. Beethoven was one of these. An afternoon of research will tell you just how bold this man was with his work. I have no doubt that if Beethoven where alive today he would be at the forefront of music development, striving to give us something fresh and bold. He seemed to love dynamics and would sure have a full palette of sounds from the electric guitar plugged into a 200 watt Marshall to a Casio keyboard whispering little square waves. A player piano can give us the work of Beethoven in the privacy of our own home. How cool is that?