Primary Piano Resources

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The term piano resources could be interpreted in many ways. In this article, the focus will be resources that enable you to better understand the history and different types of pianos available. The latter is useful information for anyone wanting to purchase a piano.

Some of the more common brands of pianos
include the American company
Steinway & Sons (http://www.steinway.com/),
Bösendorfer  (http://www.boesendorfer.com/),
Bechstein (http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://bechstein.com/&ei=1_wjTuK-KY-Utwf2z4CbAw&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CGcQ7gEwAA&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dbechstein%2Bpiano%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1T4TSCA_enCA396CA396%26prmd%3Divns)
and Yamaha (http://www.yamaha.com/).

Bösendorfer and Steinway & Sons are older pianos, having
been found in 1828 and 1853 respectively. Bechstein was founded closely after
in 1856. Other great manufacturers include Baldwin and Heintzman & Co.
Ltd., with founding dates of 1862 and 1866 respectively. As for Yamaha, its
first piano saw the light of day in 1900.

For a list of the many different sizes of pianos to choose
from, you should check out  http://www.pianolessons101.com/grandpianos.html
for a list of grand piano sizes, and http://www.pianolessons101.com/uprightpianos.html
for upright sizes.

Once you’ve picked a piano, start creating your own resource
and reference lists. For example, a piano tuner of quality is essential. Pianos
should really be tuned annually or even more frequently than that, depending on
how much they’re played and where they are located. Most of my colleagues pick
their tuners by word of mouth. In the final analysis, an effective tuner has a
comfortable blend of efficiency and affordability.

The same can be said for piano movers. These companies
usually specialize in moving pianos and are able to even disassemble and
reassemble pianos for a move to a tight fitting area (like a basement). Again,
asking around is essential, as a careless mover can cause damage to both your
piano and to your home. Usually, a retail dealer will offer shipping of a piano
in the price of the purchase. However, you have to do your own research when,
for example, moving to a new house or location.

There are websites that explore piano brands and their
merits, although picking a piano is a very personal choice. Your best bet is to
find a piano that you believe is beautiful, both in tone and appearance, and
then hire a trusted tuner or piano technician to come with you to determine if
your ‘dream’ piano is in good condition. By the way, if you’re interested in
some sites that discuss different brands, here are some links:

  1. http://www.concertpitchpiano.com/BuyingaNewPiano.html
  2. http://www.marthabeth.com/piano_brands.html
  3. http://www.pianoworld.com/brand_opinion.htm

Finally, make sure that you have enough room in your home to
accommodate your new piano. It would not be a pleasant experience if you found
out that your newly purchased baby grand piano didn’t quite fit into the corner
of the living room like you thought it would! You really have to use a tape
measure and carefully calculate whether or not a particular size of piano will
fit within a certain area. Aesthetically, you also want to make sure that a
piano does not overpower a room, both look-wise and sound-wise.

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Piano Courses for the Offering

Mécanisme à pilote: mécanisme des premiers pia...

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There are so many piano courses out there. This makes it awfully difficult to pick and choose, especially when it comes to beginner piano courses. One of the main things to consider is that any piano course can be greatly enhanced by a positive attitude and a willingness to learn, both from the students and the teachers.

Here are some of the more popular courses for beginners:

1. Leila Fletcher piano courses offer fun repertoire and are good at introducing different skills and knowledge over the course of the entire series. The books have been around for a while and are still quite popular with kids. Here’s a link:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=leila+fletcher&x=22&y=22

2. John Thompson editions offer a wide range of books and courses for both kids and adults. The books often exhibit photos of where the hands play on the keyboard. The repertoire is diverse and my students seem to enjoy this series. Amazon has a large number of these books:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=piano+thompson#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=john+thompson&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Ajohn+thompson

3. Alfred offers a nice range of products for beginners, late beginners and adults. They also have books that cover theory, thus attempting to fill in any gaps and questions that may arise from a student attempting to learn piano completely on their own:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+beginner+piano&x=8&y=14

4. If you’re looking for a completely adult course to guide you through piano learning, here’s a link that gives you a wide range of publications, including Hal Leonard:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+beginner+piano&x=8&y=14#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=adult+piano+books&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Aadult+piano+books

Many online courses promote their products as complete courses that require no weekly lessons from teachers. As a creator of two piano learning e-books, I can tell you that although there may be some truth to this, e-courses tend to work much more effectively as a supplement to traditional piano lessons. Between the two, you have an extremely solid foundation and an abundance of knowledge and information to work with.

It is often argued that online courses allow you the freedom to learn completely on your own without the pressure of weekly lessons. You can practice within your own schedule and save a ton of money by not having to dish out substantial fees four or five times a month. This may be true for some. However, in my decades of teaching experience, I have found that most students require a healthy amount of weekly pressure as an incentive to practice. I’m not talking about practicing in fear, but about inspired practice and wanting to impress a mentor. In the end, no matter which piano course you choose, your dedicated work ethic and the piano teacher that you choose are both of the utmost importance.

In conclusion, it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Within this mindset, a demonstration from a live teacher is absolutely invaluable in understanding all of the online and hardcopy piano material that you accumulate. Have fun with whatever piano course you decide to take and remember that no matter what, you still have to practice effectively to get far.

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A Plentitude of Piano Equipment

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Piano equipment…? Who needs equipment when you have a piano? Isn’t a piano all of the equipment that you need? These are good questions that are easier to answer if the type of piano that you own is considered.

For an acoustic piano, the only supplement piece of equipment that you need is a bench to sit on. This usually comes with the piano purchase. As well, good lighting is always a must, so a supplemental lamp should be part of your piano ensemble. Apart from that, all is taken care of provided the humidity levels and natural lighting in your house or studio are adequate.

For a keyboard, you often have to buy supplemental equipment (including a bench). Many keyboards have a jack for a sustain pedal, with the actual pedal not being included in the kit. This extra purchase is important if you are using your keyboard for concert performances of complex jazz and classical works. Even complex solo pop repertoire often requires a pedal if you are planning on using your keyboard in a concert venue.

If, on the other hand, you are merely using your electric instrument as a supplement in an ensemble (like an electric bass sound substituting for a band’s tuba part), then you most certainly can get away without purchasing a sustain pedal.

Keep in mind that keyboards that substitute for absent orchestral instruments in school bands do not necessarily have to be fully weighted or full-sized. However, if used in a solo capacity, it is advantageous to have a more expensive weighted keyboard (keys that feel like the resistance found in an acoustic piano) for control purposes.

Keyboards often do not have enough volume to permeate a larger concert hall. In this scenario, a patch chord and amplifier (and possibly a microphone) would be needed in order for the synthesizer to be heard and/or balanced with the other instruments of a band or orchestra.

The stand that a keyboard is mounted on is another expense that you should be prepared for. However, this is not a large monetary purchase and is necessary, especially if you are taking your instrument on the road to perform at different venues. These stands generally can be adjusted to an optimum height, which comes in handy when deciding whether you will be standing or sitting when performing at a particular function.

Finally, most modern keyboards can be used as a midi device in a home studio. In other words, the output of your keyboard can be recorded into a computer program. As exciting as that sounds, it means that you now have to purchase a whole bunch of equipment in order to record your instrument. The same is true with an acoustic instrument. Condenser (or dynamic) microphones can record directly into a computer for quality sound tracks. Many find it advantageous to purchase a multitude of recording equipment for their piano or keyboard to offset the cost of a recording studio. If you record often, this is most certainly a viable purchase.

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Evaluating Piano Tabs

A keyboard shows the different intervals betwe...

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Are you a fan of piano tabs? If you are, then you are probably not a big fan of reading music notes. The question is: which of the two options gives you more range and capacity as a pianist? The obvious answer: the ability to read music notes.

Piano tabs tell you which note to play by indicating the letter rather than the notated staff note. The octave in which the note is placed is also given, usually in a side column. For more details on how this is done, you can visit http://www.tabnabber.com for a full explanation.

The above type of tab has its limitations. Fingerings for complex passages, as well as rhythmic details, are not readily incorporated into these types of tabs. Not knowing which finger goes where is detrimental to memorizing a piece of music. Even if rhythm and fingerings were somehow placed in piano tabs, the result would probably look more complex then simply notating music on a traditional treble and bass clef staff.

Tabs are fun if you are just beginning to learn a keyboard instrument. However, I encourage my students to learn traditional notation as quickly as possible. Charts and computer generated keyboards that show notes of a scale and/or chord have their place as a supplement to notation. There are many programs that allow you to select a particular scale or chord. Once selected, a graphic keyboard displays the notes that will give you the chord or scale that you have picked to add to your repertoire. Here’s a link to one such program:

http://www.pianoworld.com/fun/vpc/piano_chords.htm

Even with cool screen options like the one just mentioned, fingering is omitted. If you want detail in terms of fingerings and chord voicing, notation is still your best option. No doubt, you could make the argument that you are a visual person and you need charts to effectively learn. I have had many students that flourish with chart use, but ultimately they learn notation as well. It may take these types of students a bit longer to grasp note naming and timing, but they eventually come around.

At this point you may be asking why it is so important to focus on fingering. Notation gives you the option of drawing numbers over notes that you are playing in order to display which finger plays which note. This type of meticulous detail allows both professional and amateur pianists to learn pieces consistently. Touch and muscle memory are the most effective ways in which pianists and other instrumentalists memorize.

On a final note, skilled note readers should be fluent in reading and identifying chords. Anyone who has aspirations of playing jazz or improvising effectively should become accustomed to both classical and popular chord symbols. Popular chord symbols are a staple in hit tunes. Knowing chord symbols is one way of breaking away from the written score and creating your own improvised version of a song. Let the fun times begin!  

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Piano Sheet Music Mania

Sheet music of "Indiana". Page 2 of 2.

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If you’re a serious pianist, you need some good sheet music. Come to think of it, you need sheet music regardless of what type of pianist you are. These days, you have many options for obtaining this valuable commodity.

Most all music stores have a sheet music department with a variety of styles of music. Classical, jazz, rock, pop and educational materials can usually be found and categorized in hardcopy form. Typically single compositions, especially in pop music, tend to be displayed near the front of the store. These latest hits are hot selling items but rather pricey. Buying one piece of music is certainly not as price-friendly as purchasing an entire book of latest hits. Even if you only like four or five in the book, the price most certainly comes out less expensive on a per song basis.

Online sheet music is a nice option to have, either through websites that mail you sheet music or websites that offer downloads. An example of a fairly large organization that offers and mails hardcopy music is: 

http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/

Here’s one that sells downloads:

http://www.musicnotes.com/

The obvious advantage of downloading music is that you immediately have access to the music that you have just purchased. In seconds, you can view and begin learning your favorite piano works. Of course, having a bound copy means printing out the score (provided it is allowed by the seller) and binding it at a photocopy shop. This often still comes out less expensive then purchasing a prepared copy from a traditional music store, although you should carefully do the math before committing to a download.

As for purchasing from a website that delivers a hardcopy to you via mail, this is very convenient provided you have the patience to wait for the parcel to arrive. Often times, a seller will give a discount on your purchase, both for the shipping and the music when buying more than one item. Keeping this in mind, it is usually quite worthwhile selecting more than one desirable item as repertoire from this type of retailer.

There’s a lot of free music available on the internet. Sometimes it’s decent and often times it is not. Usually you get what you pay (or don’t pay) for. Music that has an unedited look to it is probably just that; unedited. If you are buying free music that is a recent pop hit, the music most likely has not been cleared for sale by its rightful copyright owner and is probably a second rate transcript.

When adding to your repertoire, you really should be seeking out quality publishers, either by doing some research, or by speaking to colleagues and receiving recommendations from them.

On a final note, if you are a fan of pop and rock music, determine if you are a pianist or a pianist/singer. If you are the latter, then the right (and occasionally left) hand of your purchased music does not have to contain the melody line. However, if you have little intention of singing your newly acquired popular piece, you should have a transcript that includes the melody in the piano arrangement.

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