There is Room for Music and Sports

Children can benefit from beginner piano lessons. So before you dismiss this as an alternative activity to sports, read this article.
The fact that simply listening to Mozart at a young age can dramatically enhance a young child’s intellectual capabilities is still in debate. But there is no question that learning to play Mozart on the piano can be exceptionally beneficial to young children. Many parents today look to sports as positive influences on their children’s motor and concentration skills, as well as their value of teamwork. But some children are not sports oriented, and good piano lessons provide many of those same benefits, if not more.
Learning to play piano will improve upon a young child’s coordination skills. Unlike many other instruments, the piano requires both hands to independently maneuver the keys. While the right hand may be playing a lilting melody, the left hand may be required to keep a slow steady beat. Not only do the hands work independent of each other, but so to do the fingers. The fingers on each hand must grab for the lower white keys, or the upper black keys to produce the proper harmony. At times, certain fingers will not press any keys at all. Good lessons will include many exercise books for the beginning student. Major and minor scales will teach the student to move each and every finger up and down the keyboard with precision.

Much like karate or tennis, playing the piano also requires concentration. If the child has never played a musical instrument, learning to properly read sheet music will be incorporated into the lesson. The black dots and lines representing notes and bars are like a foreign language. The child must learn to interpret the sheet music, then vocalize that translation through the keyboard. Piano teachers that are excellent with young children might approach the new music as a code the child must de-crypt using the piano keys. Most teachers will also set up a practice schedule with the student of perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes a day. With a new mission to de-code the piano music, many students might have no problem keeping to their fifteen minute a day regimen. Others might need reinforcement from their parents, but the benefits of requiring a child to stick to a piano study schedule are no different than requiring that a child attend basketball practice as promised

Music Makes You Smarter For Life

Do music lessons make kids smarter? Maybe. Studies report that musical kids perform better on tests of math skills, verbal ability, and even IQ. They may also have more grey matter in the brain. And a now a new study suggests that childhood music training helps people stay sharp as they get older.

So is it too late if you haven’t been sending your toddler to piano lessons? I don’t think so. The latest study hints at long-term benefits for kids who begin training around the age of ten.

Here’s a quick guide to the latest discoveries.

Musicians are smarter than mere listeners

The Mozart effect has been effectively debunked. Merely listening to music might make you feel a bit more creative, but it doesn’t seem to make you any smarter.

By contrast, there is mounting evidence that learning to play a musical instrument may shape the brain and boost your intelligence.

Studies of young children suggest that 4-6 year olds who play instruments perform better on tests of working memory. And older kids who play instruments have performed better on tests of general intelligence.

Are these correlations deceptive? Could it be that kids who are more intelligent are also more likely to get enrolled in music lessons? Maybe, but as I note in my Parenting Science review of the effects of music training, we have reason to think that music training makes kids smarter.

For example, one study administered IQ tests to 6-year-olds and then randomly assigned each child to receive one of four treatments:

• Keyboard lessons
• Singing lessons
• Drama lessons
• No lessons

At the end of the school year, the kids were tested again. Only the children who had received music lessons showed improvements.

As I note in the Parenting Science article, other research indicates that musicians have more grey matter in the brain.

And now a new study suggests that music training may help your kids stay sharp and cognitively flexible as they age.

When Brenda Hanna-Pladdy and Alicia McKay tested 70 older adults (aged 60-85), the researchers discovered a link between cognitive function and childhood music lessons.

The adults who’d had the most musical training—ten years or more—performed better than non-musicians on some cognitive tests. They had an easier time naming objects. In addition, they showed evidence of superior visual (nonverbal) memory and cognitive flexibility, or the ability to switch from one set of rules to another when the situation demands it.

There were also differences between non-musicians and people who’d studied music for less than 10 years. These differences weren’t as marked, and might be attributable to chance. But overall, there was a positive relationship between activity and cognitive performance:

The more years a person had spent playing an instrument, the better she did on the cognitive tests. And the musicians maintained their cognitive advantage even if they no longer played a musical instrument. This was true even though the musicians and non-musicians had achieved similar levels of education.

The results aren’t conclusive. Maybe the musicians socialized more, and the social stimulation is what kept them sharp. Or perhaps musicians are more physically active. As I’ve noted in an earlier post, physical exercise may benefit the brain too.

But this study is the first to examine the possibility of lifelong effects of musical training, and it will doubtless inspire more research.

Meanwhile, we should focus on this encouraging point: You don’t have to start music training very early in life to reap important benefits.

The musicians in this study weren’t professionals, and they weren’t child prodigies either. On average, they didn’t learn to play an instrument until they were about 10 years old.

Perhaps future studies will show that the cognitive benefits of music training are greatest for kids who begin earlier. But for now it appears that training can benefit kids who start in middle childhood. If your child didn’t start playing the violin in preschool, it’s not too late.

And besides, music is about much more than gaining a few points in IQ or preserving your mental agility. Learning to play an instrument is intrinsically rewarding. And new skills are valuable at any age.

children.

Seven Advantages of Adult Piano Lessons
1. Adults learn of their own volition. Children very often have to be persuaded to practice and attend piano lessons. Adults, on the other hand, don’t need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to their piano teachers. (Admittedly, I do know some teachers whose lessons I’d be kicking and screaming to avoid.) Adult piano lessons are thus almost invariably a pleasure for both student and teacher.

2. Adults have highly developed logical and critical thinking skills. It is often thought that playing music is a purely creative, right-brained act, but this is by no means the case. As the most emotional of the arts, music indeed favors the Dionysian right brain compared to the Apollonian left. Yet so much of interpreting music is a matter of basic analysis, of understanding music’s harmonic vocabulary and what the composer is doing with the musical material. Playing music without understanding these essentials would be like learning to pronounce syllables in a foreign language but having little or no idea what the words mean.

3. Adults can learn complex concepts much more easily and understand technical explanations. This makes it possible for adults to learn music theory and analysis far more easily than do children. The importance of being able to analyze and understand a piece of music from the beginning of study cannot be overstated. Nothing is more common than students who attain skill on an instrument but who have only a rudimentary understanding of the music, which severely limits their playing in ways they cannot imagine. I believe much of this state of affairs arises from children who learn notes before they are able to comprehend them, and their knowledge of harmony and theory never catches up to their finger skill. Adults, by contrast, are able to grasp the elements of music and musical structures quite readily, like a scientist who understands how the world works.

4. Adults have developed attention spans. Children’s attention spans, by contrast, are often limited to only a few minutes at a time. It takes careful concentration to learn the piano, and adults have a considerable advantage in this regard. Progress on a musical instrument is a matter of accumulating many hours of concentrated, careful practice. (Practicing without concentration is not only unproductive, it is outright destructive to your playing.)

5. Adults are emotionally developed. Music, after all, is the most directly emotional of the arts, and its wide spectrum of emotions can only be expressed and comprehended by those who have experienced those emotions themselves. Emotion in music has very much to do with musical vocabulary (harmony, or how tones combine) and how they extend in time and create musical forms. The former is music’s vertical dimension (notes in relation to one another at any given moment), the latter its horizontal (how notes relate to one another in the listener’s aural memory).

6. Adults are able to read fluently. By contrast, very young children can’t yet read letters or numbers, which necessitates more basic teaching methods. Note names, musical instructions and fingering numbers are not the only things that require the ability to read letters and numbers: the fascinating areas of music history and theory, so critical to playing music competently, do as well.

7. By definition, adults are fully grown, whereas children have as-yet undeveloped muscles. While the hands themselves can and should gain flexibility and strength from practicing piano (and the hand span can even increase), the fingers and palms of adults are fully grown. This simple advantage should not be overlooked in music education. Children who play string instruments, for instance, are forced to adapt to instruments of different sizes as they grow. The violin, for instance, comes in fully eight different sizes! The piano keyboard, by contrast, is only available in one size. (Steinway, however, once made a special piano for the diminutive Josef Hofmann, one with slightly narrower keys.) While only a very few composers (Alkan among them) consistently required large hands, fully grown hands make more music accessible to players.

Remember, it is never too late to learn music! If you’re an adult wishing to commence or resume piano playing, I encourage you to discover your true musicality. Adult piano lessons may be your path to musical fulfillment

Piano Review: Boston GP-163PE Grand Piano

boston_grand_piano_soundboard

The Boston GP-163PE benefits from Steinway & Sons’ design to create an unrivaled class and value instrument. This particular model has been further enhanced to create a Performance Edition. This features improved materials, specification and performance, which you are unlikely to find in a mid-price range grand piano.

GP163EPAt five-feet four inches, this smaller model of grand piano is perfectly sized to fit into most homes, while the wide tail design delivers the deep rich sound of a far larger grand piano. It features a duplex scale which has been adapted from the design made famous by Steinway & Sons. This adds a richness to the harmonics which cannot be emulated.

The Boston has a less tension in the springs than other models of piano. This reduction in tension facilitates a tapered and larger soundboard, allowing longer sustain and greater quality of tone. The GP-163PE benefits from a vast array of other engineering and design enhancements. This includes the optimal placement of the bridges, braces and ribs to accentuate the stability and tone.

The soundboard on the Boston has a larger soundboard when compared to pianos of a similar length due to the innovative design of a “wide tail”. This is a wider construction of case allowing for a greater soundboard area in smaller models. Boston quote that the wide tail design provides a soundboard area of a 6’2 piano within a 5’10 Boston. Overall, this creates a more powerful and rich sound which has creates the feel and experience of playing a larger piano.

boston_grand_pianoThe soundboard has been crafted from Sitka Spruce, which is widely believed to provide the greatest resonance. It is precisely tapered for freer vibrational movement. When operated in conjunction with the innovative and patented technologies of Steinway & Sons, it creates a sustained powerful tone.

The Boston GP163-PE does not merely provide a great quality of sound. The overall design and finish has been combined to create an elegant aesthetic which is available in walnut satin and polished, mahogany satin and polished and ebonized fine veneers. This creates an attractive and lovely finish which enhances the playing experience. The classic cabinet style is accentuated with these crafted touches and solid brass polished hardware.

This quality of finish and tone, together with the price range, makes the Boston GP163-PE a great choice for pianist of any skill level. It provides the perfect instrument for beginners or even more experienced players, offering a fantastic playing experience with the reassurance of Steinway & Sons design aspects. The rich sound will create the ambience of playing a far larger instrument, which can provide a deceptive playing experience. The aesthetic appearance makes for an attractive addition to any home, while the smaller stature makes it more practical to comfortably be accommodated within a domestic property.

 

 

Beware of Buying a Steinway Piano on the Internet

internet_scams

Dr. Smith (name changed) was a pretty typical prospective client. He is a successful physician practicing in the Midwest. He was shopping for a vintage Steinway Grand for his Marco Island, FL home.

Over the next few months, he shopped and shopped and shopped and finally, purchased a 1922 Model A (6’1″) on eBay. He was thrilled to have found a completely rebuilt and refinished piano for less than $20,000. This is very suspicious because the cost of properly rebuilding and refinishing a Steinway grand is more than $20,000.

The good doctor had heard about Pianomation II, the latest player piano system from QRS, so he contacted a Florida Steinway Dealer to receive and inspect his piano and install the player system. The seller reluctantly agreed to ship the piano to the Steinway Dealer, and about a month later it arrived. It only took 15 seconds for the Steinway Dealer to figure out that something was fishy. The legs on the piano were not from 1922! Things got worse, fast.
The finish was very cloudy with many deep surface scratches. Oversized pins were a hint that the pin plank had not been replaced and some of the cheap plastic key-tops were coming unglued. All the action parts were original and worn. Only 90 seconds into the evaluation, they decided to turn the piano over to their technicians for a full assessment.

“Maybe they just got the date wrong,” suggested the techs. Serial numbers are how pianos are dated, and they are stamped in ink on the piano’s plate. The new serial number on this particular plate disagreed with the shadow of the old serial number you could partially see through the new finish. There are other places on a Steinway to find the serial number, but on this piano, the serial numbers had been sanded off.

Now there are many reasons why someone would remove the serial number from a piano, car, or gun. But, none of them are good reasons.

An e-mail was sent to Steinway & Sons in New York City. They promptly wrote back that the serial number in question had been assigned to a Mahogany Model M (5’7″) sold in New York in 1934. This piano was an impostor.

The Steinway Dealer called Dr. Smith. After discussing the possibility of starting the restoration from scratch he said, “But I will still have a piano with a phony serial number.” By now he was feeling that he had been deceived; and, of course, he had been. A few minutes later the Steinway Dealer got a call from the seller who wanted to argue with them about their assessment and protest that he had not broken any eBay rules. The Steinway Dealer suggested that he review the e-mail received from Steinway & Sons. Eventually, after numerous phone calls and more broken promises, the piano was picked up by a guy moving pianos in a horse trailer.

Dr. Smith got most of his money back. But he has since been put off buying a piano.

Had the piano been delivered directly to his home, and the problems discovered over time, it is unlikely he would have been able to return the piano.

Why has the piano market failed to present reasonable offerings online, and thereby opened up a vacuum filled by these carpetbaggers, when industry segments like electronics and guitars have successfully offered products online? There are several reasons.

First, none of the major piano manufacturers will allow their new pianos to be sold online. Best guess is, if they thought it was a viable way to market pianos, they would do it themselves. Why would they need dealers, if they could sell their pianos from a webpage? Obviously, the absence of high quality, name brand merchandise opens up an opportunity for bottom feeders.

Next, pianos are heavy, bulky instruments that must be wrangled into place, wrestled into tune, and constantly serviced. It is almost impossible to move a piano any significant distance for less than $1,000 and it is impractical to service pianos more than an hour away from the seller. Since most used pianos are decades old, there are often problems. The dealer needs to be close by.

The drawback with used pianos is that there aren’t many good ones. Dealers are able to sell all the good pianos they get on trade to local customers without much difficulty. Why would we want to market them to the lowest-price buyer online?

Then there is the economics. With locals selling old consoles and spinets on Craigslist for $200, transporting one even across state makes almost no sense. Properly regulating and voicing a 20-year-old upright is so expensive that it’s not profitable. Most used grands are more than 25 years old, and need extensive action work to be appropriate for normal use. That can be a week’s work, plus parts, which costs at least $5,000.

And finally, the Internet can be a liars’ club. Posters are anonymous and unaccountable. We have serviced a half-dozen or so pianos people have bought online. None of them were great pianos and none of the customers got a particularly good deal. Some of them were nightmares.

Expensive acoustic musical instruments need to be seen and played before they are purchased. The bottom line is: A piano is a large, heavy, complicated instrument that requires constant service. It’s a once in a lifetime purchase. Saving a few bucks by buying one online is unlikely to get you a piano you will love forever. Do yourself a favor; let a reliable local dealer help you find a quality piano, and pay him a fair price.

Steve pic for google

Boston GP178 Performance Edition

The Boston piano features a duplex scale, adapted from the famous Steinway & Sons design, which adds a harmonic richness that simply can’t be duplicated by other instruments in a similar price range.

In comparison to other pianos, the Boston has less string tension. This reduced string tension allows for a larger, tapered soundboard, creating longer sustain, and more singing quality in the tone (as well as longer piano life). A wealth of other engineering enhancements, including optimal placement of ribs, braces, and bridges, also contribute to the Boston’s superior tone and greater stability.

The Boston grand piano offers a larger soundboard in comparison to other pianos of the same length, due to its innovative “wide tail” design. This wider construction of the case means that a 5’ 10” Boston grand has the same soundboard area as a typical 6’ 2” grand piano, creating the power, richness, and feel of playing a much larger piano.

Each Boston piano soundboard is crafted of Sitka spruce, long proven to be the most resonant material available. Boston soundboards are also precisely tapered, which allows them to vibrate more freely. In conjunction with a number of special technologies — unique patents of Steinway & Sons — the result is a powerful, sustained tone.

Fine veneers underlie the elegance of the Boston pianos — available in walnut and mahogany satin or polished finishes, as an alternative to the classic ebonized — all designed to delight the eye and enhance the player’s experience.Steve pic for google

TRADITIONAL PIANOS PLAYING THE BLUES!

Traditional pianos are playing the blues
Unless you have a Steinway, your grandmother’s much-loved black-and-white ivory keys are destined to join many others in the landfill.
By Bruce Kennedy Mon 6:58 AM
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Here’s some news you don’t hear often in our disposable society. It involves a U.S. company started 160 years ago that’s still crafting world-class products today that are much in demand. However, another part of this story is all too familiar.

Steinway Musical Instruments (LVB -0.20%), maker of perhaps the most renowned pianos in the world, is soon to go private after being purchased by private equity firm Kohlberg & Co. for $438 million.

Like other companies, Steinway struggled through the recession, reporting a 20% annual decline in its high-end grand piano sales between 2005 and 2008.

And while those numbers have come back with the economic recovery, they’re still being tempered by exports from China, Asia’s largest piano maker.

As Al Lewis recently blogged over at MarketWatch, one way of looking at Steinway is as its own biggest rival. How’s that?

“Because Steinway pianos are built to last for generations, a relatively large market exists for used Steinways,” said the company’s annual report. “It is difficult to estimate the significance of used piano sales because most are conducted in the private aftermarket. However, we believe that used Steinway pianos provide the most significant competition in the high-end piano market.”

According to Lewis, a good Steinway appreciates at a steady annually rate of about 4%, “better than some stocks, bonds and mutual funds — because the company raises its prices every year to maintain its renowned level of quality.”

Sadly, however, the steadily rising value of a used Steinway can’t be said about everyday, household pianos. Indeed, Steinway is one of the few companies anywhere bucking the trend of our current throwaway society. Once a staple piece of furniture in middle-class American homes, more pianos are ending up in trash dumps to be broken up and recycled for their wood and metal.

A number of factors are behind the decline of the traditional piano. Along with the required maintenance to keep them in tune, many are being replaced by lightweight and portable electronic keyboards or by less expensive wooden pianos from overseas.

So what do you do with a heavy, unloved and not particularly valuable piano — especially since the instrument’s lifespan is about 80 years and so many of them still out there are reaching the end of their time?

You dump them, of course — which has been a boon for piano movers and disposal businesses in recent years.

There’s at least one alternative. The owner of a New Hampshire piano-moving company has created PianoAdoption.com, a site whose mission is to find “a new home for all serviceable pianos before they end up in the local landfill.” Unless, of course, your piano happens to be a Steinwa

Piano Review: Roland HPi-7 Digital

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The Roland HPi-7 is a fantastic example of the type of Roland Digitals which Atlanta musicians have been enjoying for years. It allows the enjoyment and fun of creating music in your own home to even higher levels. It incorporates the technological advancements of  a color LCD screen, interactive visual lessons and great connectivity to provide an instrument which will encourage and reward anyone seeking to learn the piano regardless of their age and experience.

The Roland HPi-7 digital piano features an easy to read, wide color LCD display screen which enhances the unique Roland Digiscore notation and makes the interactive visual lessons easier to follow. The lessons provide a readily available music tutor with three programs for practice allowing music exploration for pupils of any age. The 128-voice polyphony feature together with the innovative key off resonance of tones combines to produce an authentic acoustic sound. This unique sound benefits from subtle tonal changes which occur when the keys become released.

roland_digital_pianoThe HPi-7 also benefits from the library of Roland stereo sampled sounds of the latest pianos. This creates a realistic and authentic piano samples which creates a rich resonance of sound. There are a number of nuances of acoustic pianos which have been cleverly emulated and integrated into the software of the HPi-7 including damper resonance, hammer response, string resonance and velocity sensitivity of the keys.

Roland has filled it to the brim with innovations including the Digiscore screen which has been built into the music rest for optimum viewing. This feature allows the display of notations for all internal songs, recorded performances, midi files and downloads. There is a “bouncing ball” cue which helps the musician keep time as you are playing, while the pages are “turned” visually on the screen. This makes it an excellent teaching piano. There is a split screen facility which allows for a metronome to be set while looking at playback notations, or show the lyrics and notations simultaneously.

NKB 05Connectivity is also impressive on the HPi-7. The ports for midi and USB together with two headphone jacks have been conveniently located for easy access on the front panel of the instrument. This makes it easy to play without the need for excessively long cords and cables.

The editing functions allow finger numbering to be added directly to the notations. It will also allow changes to song length and editing of individual notes within the music files. This can be easily accomplished while looking at the screen display of the music. You can even save notations to your music files as a bitmap, which can be transferred to your PC for sharing or printing.

info_02R_MRoland’s HPi-7 provides visual lessons which can act as a personal music tutor. The interactive lessons feature three courses which include independent music exercises and songs with variable difficulty levels together with check, practice and review screens. This provides an excellent basis for learning and can supplement formal lessons, or teach on an independent basis.

If you are looking for digital Roland pianos, Atlanta musicians should seriously consider the HPi-7. It provides the optimum balance of authentic acoustic sound with all the innovations of an interactive digital piano. Right now we have one that just came into our used stock. See the Used Pianos.

Piano for the Body-Mind-and-Soul

Piano for Body, Mind and Soul
There has always been a recognized trinity between the mind, the body, and the therapeutic qualities of music. And the piano, specifically, has been a long-recognized source of remedy for those seeking escape and creative expression. But recent years have also offered a wealth of scientific studies that demonstrate our instincts have always been correct: playing the piano offers proven benefits—from physical and intellectual to social and emotional—to people of all ages.

Let’s Get Physical
Who knew? Those piano lessons we took when we were young offered specific physical benefits to our developing bodies. And piano lessons and practice can also, it turns out, improve the physical health of adults and the elderly. Dr. Arthur Harvey, retired professor at University of Hawaii at Manoa, published a study through the American Music Conference that details the vast physiologic benefits generated by regular musical practice. One obvious boon of regular piano playing, Harvey found, is the sharpening of fine motor skills in children. But playing music, according to Harvey’s research, also “activates the cerebellum and therefore may aid stroke victims in regaining language capabilities.” Additional research revealed that group keyboard lessons given to older Americans had a significant effect on increasing levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which is implicated in slowing such aging phenomena as osteoporosis, energy levels, wrinkling, sexual function, muscle mass, and aches and pains.

The physical benefits of piano playing are even more far reaching. Mitchell Gaynor M.D., in his book Sounds of Healing, demonstrates that music has therapeutic physical effects including reduced anxiety, heart and respiratory rates; reduced cardiac complications; lowered blood pressure; and increased immune responses.

Keys to Better Thinking
In addition to the proven body benefits of regular play, piano practice can also boost cognitive and intellectual abilities. Playing piano, in other words, makes us smarter. Research through the years has demonstrated that musical training taps into similar areas of brain function as those used in spatial intelligence and even math. In fact, kids who continue their playing through their teenage years average about 100 points higher on the SAT. In 1994, research revealed, undergraduates who majored in music had the highest acceptance rate into medical school, at 66%.

In a study conducted by E. Glenn Schellenberg of the University of Toronto at Mississauga in 2011, researchers split 132 first-graders into four separate groups for after-school activities. One group was given singing lessons, one was given drama lessons, another piano lessons, and the last was offered no after-school instruction. All of the students’ IQ’s were evaluated at the end of the year. Those who participated in the piano lessons saw an IQ increase of 7 points, while the other groups saw an increase of 4.25 at most. The researchers concluded that the fact that piano education requires one to be focused for long periods of times contributes to the greater IQ gains in the piano-playing group.

Striking a Contented Chord
As if the physical and cognitive benefits of regular piano playing were not enough, studies also show that time at the keyboard offers emotional advantages, as well. In fact, research reveals that those who are involved in creating music on a regular basis experience less anxiety, loneliness and depression.

Barry Bittman, MD, of the Body-Mind Wellness Center in Meadville, Pennsylvania, created a study to gauge stress levels among 32 volunteers. The volunteers were put through a stress-inducing activity—attempting to assemble a difficult puzzle while incentivized by a monetary prize—and then were told to “relax” afterward using a variety of different methods, including reading magazines and playing keyboards. The volunteers also gave blood during the study, and the blood was tested for the activity of 45 stress-related genes. In the group that played keyboard to relax, the results showed a significantly higher reversal in the markers for stress-related genes than in the other groups.

“With ongoing research,” Bittman concludes, “recreational music-making could potentially serve as a rational stress-reduction activity, along with other lifestyle strategies that include healthy nutrition and exercise.”

Add to this data the other benefits that come from piano playing—increases in work ethic, diligence, creativity, self-reliance and perseverance—and the result is a veritable symphony of good news for your body and your soul. Ready to tickle the ivories