What is a Harpsichord?

 

Ever since I started doing my Living Piano: Journey Through Time Historic Concert Experience – where I play concerts showing the development of the piano from the harpsichord to the early fortepiano and finally the modern concert grand piano in period costumes, one of the most frequent questions I receive are about the harpsichord. People are fascinated by it’s unique sound and interesting design. Today we are going to explore what makes the harpsichord special and how even though it’s related to the piano it’s a unique instrument.

 

It’s hard to imagine a time before the piano was invented, yet years ago the harpsichord and the pipe organ were the keyboard instruments of choice. The harpsichord that I perform on has two keyboards but this isn’t usually the case. Most harpsichords only have one manual or set of keys. Early harpsichords had the keyboards shifted in slightly different positions from one another, usually a fifth apart. Later the keyboards were designed with the keys on the two manuals in alignment with one another.

 

Harpsichords also evolved to have more features such as stops which could change the tone by striking different sets of strings or placing felt on the strings. Later, harpsichords had pedals to change the sound and tone of the instrument. These advancements were made because the harpsichord does not have dynamics by touch alone. This is because the strings are plucked instead of struck with hammers as in a piano. The fact is, no matter how hard or gently you press a key, it will always produce the same volume on a harpsichord – which is which is in sharp contrast to the piano. However, with the addition of stops and pedals the harpsichord is able to produce a variety of tones.

 

The harpsichord is a much more delicate instrument than the piano and it doesn’t produce nearly as much volume. It was used primarily during the Baroque era as the instrument of choice for performing because it produced more volume than other keyboards of the time. As time went on, instruments got louder which could accommodate larger performing spaces. Eventually the harpsichord lost favor to the piano.

 

Today harpsichords are rarely found. There are very few produced and there are scare technicians skilled in restoring them. If you play the harpsichord you will probably want to learn to tune to some extent since they are less stable than pianos.

 

If you would like more information about the harpsichord you can check out the video we produced on the Wittmayer Harpsichord we currently have for sale in our showroom and check out my Living Piano: Journey Through Time Historic Concert Experience video. Thanks for joining me. Robert@LivingPianos.com

  Ever since I started doing my Living Piano: Journey Through Time Historic Concert Experience – where I play concerts showing the development of the piano from the harpsichord to the early fortepiano and finally the modern concert grand piano in period costumes, one of the most frequent questions I receive are about the harpsichord. People are fascinated by it’s […]

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The Secret Steinway Sale

This sale is only for Living Pianos subscribers. Subscribe here. Steinway sales are a rare event. In fact on new Steinways the biggest sale event is at the beginning of the year to buy before prices go up!

 

This sale will end without notice as soon as several pianos sell since we cannot sell all of them at these prices. But since we have such a phenomenal selection, we are letting some go at lower than sale prices for a limited time.

 

Please contact us for more information: 949-244-3729 Robert@LivingPianos.com

 

Steinway Stretch A Grand Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: A3
Serial #: 222933
Build Date: 1923
Regular Price: $48,000
Sale Price: $35,999
SPECIAL PRICE: $31,999
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 6′ 4"

 

  
 
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Steinway Model O Grand Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: O
Serial #: 175535
Build Date: 1916
Regular Price: $32,600
Sale Price: 25,950
SPECIAL PRICE: $17,999
Color: Mahogany Satin
Size: 5′ 10.5"

 

  
 
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Steinway Model OR Grand Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: OR
Serial #: 150322
Build Date: 1911
Regular Price: $28,200
Sale Price: $22,795
SPECIAL PRICE: $15,999
Color: Walnut Satin
Size: 6′ 6"

 

  
 
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Steinway Grand Piano Model L

Company: Steinway
Model: L
Serial #: 441273
Build Date: 1975
Regular Price: $38,688
Sale Price: $30,300
SPECIAL PRICE: SOLD
Color: Walnut
Size: 5′ 10.5"

 

  
 
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CALL: (949) 244-3729
EMAIL: Robert@LivingPianos.com

1517 N Main Street. Santa Ana, CA 92701

 

Steinway Model M Grand Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: M
Serial #: 237615
Build Date: 1925
Regular Price: $40,100
Sale Price: $27,399
SPECIAL PRICE: $18,999
Color: Mahogany Satin
Size: 5′ 7"

 

  
 
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Steinway Model M Grand Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: M
Serial #: 370480
Build Date: 1961
Regular Price: $34,850
Sale Price: $25,995
SPECIAL PRICE: $23,999
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 7"

 

  
 
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Steinway Model M Grand Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: M
Serial #: 236573
Build Date: 1925
Regular Price: $33,500
Sale Price: $25,995
SPECIAL PRICE: $17,999
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 7"

 

  
 
Find out more about this Piano

 

 

CALL: (949) 244-3729
EMAIL: Robert@LivingPianos.com

1517 N Main Street. Santa Ana, CA 92701

 

Steinway Model A Art-Case Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: A
Serial #: 50738
Build Date: 1883
Regular Price: $44,600
Sale Price: $30,995
SPECIAL PRICE: $25,999
Color: Rosewood Satin
Size: 6′ 2"

 

  
 
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Steinway Model O Grand Piano

Company: Steinway
Model: O
Serial #: 103945
Build Date: 1901
Regular Price: $30,200
Sale Price: $24,999
SPECIAL PRICE: $19,999
Color: Mahogany Satin
Size: 5′ 10.5"

 

  
 
Find out more about this Piano

This sale is only for Living Pianos subscribers. Subscribe here. Steinway sales are a rare event. In fact on new Steinways the biggest sale event is at the beginning of the year to buy before prices go up!   This sale will end without notice as soon as several pianos sell since we cannot sell all of them at these […]

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Do Diet and Exercise Affect Your Musical Performances?

 

This is an interesting topic as it really does depend upon what instrument you play. Certain instruments are much more physically demanding than others. Obviously it’s in your best interest to keep yourself healthy with good diet and exercise, but can it affect the way you perform music?

 

In addition to playing piano I also play French Horn. When it comes to piano there are certain pieces (Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies for example) that I wouldn’t play when I am sick. However, I might be able to play a slow movement of a Mozart Sonata without any problems. When it comes to French Horn, this is not the case. If I am sick or exhausted there is no way I can even play a single phrase on a high level because it takes so much energy to produce a good quality sound.

 

In the case of an instrument like the French horn, diet and exercise are intrinsically important if you want to stay in performance shape. You wont be able to play much if you are easily winded. Pretty much any instrument that requires an extreme amount of energy (which piano certainly can) requires you to be in at least decent shape.

 

There is also the concern of longevity when it comes to playing and performing. The healthier your keep yourself the more likely you are to enjoy a long and fruitful playing career. There have certainly been out of shape musicians, but many times their lives or careers have been cut short due to chronic health problems.

 

Oscar Peterson was one of the great jazz pianists of all time. For many years he suffered from arthritis, but his weight problems were an even bigger factor in the quality of his health. As he got heavier he eventually needed to get hip replacement surgery which limited his mobility. After a continued decline in health he suffered a stroke that rendered the left side of his body weak. It took two years before he could recuperate enough to perform again. Although he played a few more years after the stroke, he was never able to get back to optimal health. Although, Oscar Peterson was such a monumental pianist, that even with a weaker left hand, he was still a great jazz pianist. There are dozens of other musicians who have faced issues in declining health which have led to their careers being cut short.

 

Beyond just eating right and exercise is the concern of your mental state. If you are constantly tired or stressed, it’s a great challenge to bring positive energy to your performance. It’s very important to be well rested and in a good state of mind whenever you have the opportunity to perform. So, while some musicians can offer amazing performances even when they are not particularly healthy, for consistent, high level performances over time, healthy diet and regular exercise can play a key role particularly when playing instruments that require a lot of physical energy.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin. Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is an interesting topic as it really does depend upon what instrument you play. Certain instruments are much more physically demanding than others. Obviously it’s in your best interest to keep yourself healthy with good diet and exercise, but can it affect the way you perform music?   In addition to playing piano I also play French Horn. […]

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Can You Learn to Play Piano from YouTube?

 

This is a great question and one that is becoming more and more relevant every day. Many of us simply search Google or YouTube to solve everyday problems; so why not do the same for piano lessons? Now it might seem like I have a vested interest in this subject, yet, you may be surprised at my perspective.

 

Someone came into the store recently and they were playing all sorts of repertoire – some of it extremely advanced. To my surprise, he had never taken any formal piano lessons; he couldn’t even read music at all. He had learned to play some complex pieces by simply watching his player piano at home and copying how it played!

 

I have also met people who have learned to play piano repertoire in a very similar way watching YouTube videos of people playing. They watch some videos where the player will film the keys as they play an entire piece. Some determined viewers will watch videos and simply copy what they see on the screen bit by bit. Surprisingly, this system can work. But is it really a substitute for piano lessons?

 

While this type of learning can help you learn a piece, it’s only one component in learning to play the piano. There is really no substitute for a great teacher and the wisdom they can impart. Learning to play the piano is a lot more than simply copying which keys are pushed down. More than that, being able to read and comprehend music can offer much greater efficiency in fully digesting a piece since you can access specific parts of the piece instantly instead of having to watch through sections finding what you need.

 

Even with private lessons, you won’t become a fine pianist by just taking lessons. You will need to practice, to listen to music, to see live performances, to live and breath it. It has to be an integral part of your life.

 

So can you learn to play the piano from Youtube? That’s really open to debate but you can certainly learn a lot by watching videos and practicing along with them. If you use YouTube videos in conjunction with other resources, you will benefit greatly.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a great question and one that is becoming more and more relevant every day. Many of us simply search Google or YouTube to solve everyday problems; so why not do the same for piano lessons? Now it might seem like I have a vested interest in this subject, yet, you may be surprised at my perspective.   […]

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HOW TO PLAY BACH’S FRENCH SUITES – (PART 2)

 

Welcome to our ongoing series covering Bach’s French Suites. Last time we covered the Allemande section of the 5th French Suite in G major. Today we will be covering the 2nd movement, the Courante, which is a very difficult movement.

 

The biggest thing I recommend is playing the eighth notes staccato and the sixteenth notes legato. Not only does this add more energy to the piece but it actually allows you to play the notes a bit slower – when you play the staccato short it gives the impression of a faster tempo than what you are actually playing!

 

This is actually a trick I learned from listening to Vladimir Horowitz many years ago. He would play notes so cleanly and detached that it sounded faster than everyone else. If you put a metronome to his music though you would realize that this wasn’t always the case.

 

So why is this technique so effective. One of the reasons is because it brings out the difference between the lines. With the sixteenth notes being legato they are distinctly different from the staccato eighth notes.

 

The biggest thing to mastering this piece – like any other – is effective practice. When it comes to this piece in particular you will want to practice it very slowly. During your slow practice you will want to exaggerate the difference between legato and staccato; so when you speed up the piece the difference will still be there.

 

You should really go through the whole piece like this and have the patience to practice it with the metronome. You should gradually bring the piece up to speed but only after you can absolutely master it at a certain speed before increasing it. It’s important to play it cleanly and relaxed. Do not make the mistake of increasing the speed before you are ready.

 

When it comes to ornamentation I like to use it to enhance certain sections of the piece. In the fourth measure there is an f sharp and I like to add a trill to it. You will notice if you listen that I always measure the trill; your trill must always be measured. While it might seem like free expression you will always want it to fit properly within the music and the tempo and it must be measured.

  Welcome to our ongoing series covering Bach’s French Suites. Last time we covered the Allemande section of the 5th French Suite in G major. Today we will be covering the 2nd movement, the Courante, which is a very difficult movement.   The biggest thing I recommend is playing the eighth notes staccato and the sixteenth notes legato. Not only […]

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Do Music Lessons Make You Smarter? The Mozart Effect

 

This is a very interesting topic that has been talked about and debated for years. Can music lessons really improve your thinking and comprehension? Can it really make you a better student?

 

A groundbreaking study from University of California, Irvine a couple of decades ago by Dr. Gordon Shaw and Dr. Frances Rauscher seems to support this theory. They took a group of young students and divided them into three different groups. One group took computer lessons, one group took piano lessons, and one group was the control group who did neither. They administered these lessons for a few months. Before the instruction began, they administered standardized testing for math and English. After the instruction period ended, they had them take standardized tests again. Surprisingly, the students who took piano lessons scored higher on their math and English exams. The students in the other two groups saw no change in their test scores.

 

Interestingly, it has been discovered that students who just listen to Classical music during tests score higher than students who don’t listen to music. This is referred to as, “The Mozart Effect”.

 

There has been some debate about the overall effect of listening to classical music to boost intelligence but in the end if you’re just getting to listen to Mozart and other Classical music, that’s good in of itself!

 

There have been a number of studies in recent years that have continued to support the theory that music lessons can help young people achieve better scores on their tests and increase their overall skills in critical thinking and comprehension.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com

  This is a very interesting topic that has been talked about and debated for years. Can music lessons really improve your thinking and comprehension? Can it really make you a better student?   A groundbreaking study from University of California, Irvine a couple of decades ago by Dr. Gordon Shaw and Dr. Frances Rauscher seems to support this theory. […]

Read More