The History of Chickering Pianos

  Chickering & Sons pianos is one of the oldest, American piano companies going back to 1823. In 1850, Henry Steinway attended a concert featuring performance on a Chickering grand piano. He was entranced by the experience and it provided inspiration to start Steinway & Sons pianos.   In the mid 1800’s Chickering was the largest piano manufacturer in the […]

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Are Music Skill Levels Important?

 

If you were a music student at one time or have a child studying music you might be familiar with the popular numerical grades for music students. In the past I’ve had parents from potential students contact me and reference the student’s grade level. What do these grade levels really mean and are they important for students and parents?

 

The truth is that on a whole these grades don’t really mean much. In certain contexts they can be beneficial but they aren’t some gold standard to adhere to when it comes to studying music. Grade levels can be arbitrary, they are not universal when it comes to institutions. For example, the MTAC (Music Teachers Association of California) provides grade levels for their teachers and students but these are not universal grades used by other institutions. In different countries they have different grading systems and even in different states within the USA there are different grading systems within different organizations.

 

So why do we even have these grading systems? They do provide a good use for competitions. Teachers are able to better place their students in competitions when they use the grading system because they will have a good idea of where they fit in and what level will give them the best chance to win. Grade levels can also help teachers identify repertoire for students quickly because they will have a good idea of their skill level when searching for a new piece. If you are part of a music teacher’s association they often publish lists of repertoire and the corresponding grade levels that go with them making the search for a new piece very easy.

 

Beyond grade levels, musical scores have such a deep and complex nature to them that a number can’t really justify whether it’s a good fit for a student or not. For example, have you ever heard a student play a slow Mozart movement well? It’s very unusual to have a student who can play with the poetry required to play one of these deceptively simple pieces correctly. Just because it’s easy to play the notes doesn’t make it easy to play the piece correctly. Grade levels really don’t take into account the individual characteristics of a student.

 

Different students excel in different skill sets and these grade levels are really only a rough guideline for a teacher to see how advanced a student is. Any good teacher will recognize the individual characteristics of their students and can probably help select a good piece for them by using both their knowledge of the student and their graded level.

 

This is a very important and deep topic and I’m sure everyone has their own opinion on it. We would love to hear your comments and suggestions for this video or any ideas you might have for future videos. Thanks again for joining us Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  If you were a music student at one time or have a child studying music you might be familiar with the popular numerical grades for music students. In the past I’ve had parents from potential students contact me and reference the student’s grade level. What do these grade levels really mean and are they important for students and parents? […]

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How to approach Bach’s Two Part Inventions – Part 3

 

Welcome back to our multi-part series on Bach’s two part Inventions. In Part 1 of our lesson we talked about how to understand these pieces as well as the importance of understanding counterpoint when approaching the inventions. In Part 2 of our lesson we discussed some techniques for Invention #8 – The F major invention.

 

Today we are going to discuss Invention #4 – the D minor invention. Again, we are going to discuss the importance of delineating the subject and countersubject in these pieces. I will take the subject and countersubject at the beginning of the piece to demonstrate how phrasing can help bring out the most in this work:

 

Here is the subject

 

 

And here is the countersubject

 

 

By delineating the phrasing in this section you will be able to make the structure of this piece clear. How do you achieve this? You will want to play the 16th note subject legato and the 8th note countersubject staccato. By doing this you will be able to hear every note clearly, yet they combine beautifully together.

 

As you continue to advance through the inventions you will be able to experiment with your own phrasing. The key to getting these pieces to make musical sense is to delineate the lines to create clear counterpoint. You will bring out the individual lines and allow them to bounce off one another creating a wonderful sound!

 

I recommend these pieces if you are starting out with playing Baroque music or want to expose yourself to brilliant counterpoint. After you learn these pieces and go on to learn more pieces of Bach or other Baroque composers, you will encounter four or even five voice fugues. Learning to delineate two voices will bring you a long way towards learning how to handle even more complex scores.

 

Thanks again for joining us at Living Pianos. If you have any questions about this subject or any other subjects please contact us directly: info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Welcome back to our multi-part series on Bach’s two part Inventions. In Part 1 of our lesson we talked about how to understand these pieces as well as the importance of understanding counterpoint when approaching the inventions. In Part 2 of our lesson we discussed some techniques for Invention #8 – The F major invention.   Today we are […]

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Dealing with a Bad Smelling Piano

 

This might sound like a silly topic – and it kind of is – but this is a surprisingly common problem a lot of people encounter. Maybe there is a smell that develops over time but in most cases this is a problem with used pianos bought from a private seller.

 

Many things can contribute to a bad smelling piano. The most common occurrence is with cigarette smoke but there are many different things that can cause a piano to carry an unwanted odor. Situations vary, but you should be aware that smells can be very tricky to get rid of.

 

There really is no easy answer when it comes to smelly pianos. In all cases you will want to have the piano thoroughly cleaned – and this means removing the action. You will absolutely want to have a professional do this; you should never attempt to pull the action or touch fragile parts of the piano without the help of a technician.

 

Any piano you buy that has sat around for years could probably use a thorough cleaning – there is an incredible amount of dust that can accumulate over the years as well as some other interesting items. The next time you have your piano tuned you should ask your tuner what the strangest thing they ever found in a piano; you will probably be surprised with the answer!

 

Sometimes you might be able to mask a smell more than you can eradicate it. For example, when it comes to cigarette smoke, there is almost no way to completely get rid of the smell – it’s next to impossible! After thorough cleaning, one thing you can do to alleviate the problem – and this comes recommend from technicians – is to mask the smell with a perfume or something similar (many times it will be able to cancel out any lingering smells).

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert@LivingPianos.com

  This might sound like a silly topic – and it kind of is – but this is a surprisingly common problem a lot of people encounter. Maybe there is a smell that develops over time but in most cases this is a problem with used pianos bought from a private seller.   Many things can contribute to a bad […]

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How to Get Jobs Playing Music

 

When it comes to making money as a musician there is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some general tips that can help you find work actually playing music.

 

It’s always important to remember that the music business is a business. A lot of times people will feel complacent towards the business end of it and that can be a recipe for disaster. Many times students will practice in conservatories for hours every single day hoping that if they are good enough someone might “discover” them. Sadly, this is not the case.

 

There are always more musicians available then job positions out there. Without proper networking nobody will ever know you even exist. You have to get yourself out there, you should find other musicians to play with and talk with. This is not just a suggestion; it is really something that all musicians should do.

 

When you are around other musicians you will quickly realize that most of them are looking for that person who has the jobs. Don’t be afraid to be that person. It’s actually easier to start your own musical group then to go find others to hire you. Jobs are scarce in this world and many people who are becoming successful are the entrepreneurial types who create opportunities and unique business models on their own.

 

If you’re starting out on your own with a group of musicians you have to make sure you do your part in advertising yourselves. Definitely utilize social media but beyond that you need to network within the field you are interested in. For example, if you want to have a group of musicians who plays weddings you should not only have your social media presence but you should network with fellow professionals. Go to wedding planners, floral shops, dress shops, photographers, videographers, caterers and any other businesses you can think of that are involved with weddings. Make a point to meet with them and ask if they have anyone they recommend for music. Maybe they do but maybe they don’t. Give them your business card and tell them you would be happy to recommend them to any potential clients you come across. You will find that many people are very receptive to this idea and if you actually get them any referrals they may very well try to return the favor.

 

You have to remember that separating yourself from the crowd is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to business and networking. People love working with or recommending someone who can benefit them as well. If you are offering someone the opportunity for more business, you will most likely have their attention right away.

 

Another great thing to do is to find networking groups of musicians and meet with them. You can find these online or sometimes through schools; a great place to start looking is meetup.com and seeing if there is a local group in your area.

 

You should also see if there is an opportunity to perform at charity events. Donate your time and talent to something worthwhile and people will see you as someone who is important in the community. This can also be a great opportunity for networking as well because you will place yourself in front of a new group of people and get to perform for them. Every opportunity there is to get your name out there and in front of potential clients should be seized upon.

 

And remember, this is an ongoing process. You absolutely have to work at this every day of your life. You should be on the phone, sending emails, and doing whatever you can to further your business and name throughout the community. And don’t be afraid to try something new!

  When it comes to making money as a musician there is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some general tips that can help you find work actually playing music.   It’s always important to remember that the music business is a business. A lot of times people will feel complacent towards the business end of it and that can […]

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How to Sit at the Piano – Best Piano Sitting Position

  How you sit at the piano is extremely important for several reasons. It offers you the most ergonomic position for tone production and technical fluency. It also assures that you can practice for long periods without causing injury. Wind players are accustomed to focusing on embouchure (lip position) on their instruments for optimum performance. How you sit at the […]

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