Console and Spinet Pianos can look almost identical from the outside case but what lies beneath separates them a great deal from one another.

Both spinets and consoles are upright-style pianos that are typically very short The fundamental difference between the two types of pianos are the actions.

Spinet Pianos

Spinet pianos have what’s called an indirect blow action (or drop action). The instruments are so small that they have to change the way the action works in order to fit them into the piano.

Compared to a typical piano action, spinet pianos have shorter keys and they have rods that connect each key to the rest of the action. This is why they are called indirect blow actions, because you don’t have a full length key that interacts directly with the action. Instead it drops down to the other part of the action.

Console Pianos

Whether it is short or tall, a console pianos have a regular style upright action where the key is much longer and connects directly to the action:

Pianos Today

Nobody makes spinet pianos anymore. At some point they lost favorability with consumers and have since been replaced by less expensive consoles that don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the actions.

Despite spinets having different actions, there were some higher quality models – the Baldwin Acrosonic being a classic example – that were decent pianos. The inherent limitations in console and spinet pianos lies more in the size of the pianos more than anything else. With a smaller soundboard and shorter strings, the pianos are limited in the amount of sound they can produce.

Generally console pianos are superior to spinet pianos because of the regular style actions and the slightly taller size of the instruments which offers a more rewarding sound.

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

What’s the Difference Between a Console or Spinet Piano?

Console and Spinet Pianos can look almost identical from the outside case but what lies beneath separates them a great deal from one another. Both spinets and consoles are upright-style pianos that are typically very short The fundamental difference

Today we are going to present a very important topic for all pianists out there: The Challenge of the Thumbs. The thumbs are your strongest fingers yet they propose one of the biggest challenges when it comes to playing the piano. We are going to talk about this today and I will offer some solutions for how to deal with these sometimes cumbersome, strong fingers.

If you place your hands side by side you’ll see that your thumbs are in the middle and your smaller fingers are on the ends.

This matters a great deal in piano playing because your thumbs are your strongest fingers and your fourth and fifth fingers are your weakest. Despite our anatomy, you want to delineate the melody on the top and the bass on the bottom which means that your weakest fingers must produce the most sound!

Without balancing your hands and letting your thumbs dominante you will get a muddy sound. This really is a cruel trick of nature since you want to bring out the melody and bass but we are stuck playing them with your weakest fingers. So how do you compensate for this?

There are a few ways to practice and train yourself to compensate for the strength of your thumbs. I recommend practicing with different phrasing by making the top and bottom notes legato and playing the inner voices with a light staccato from the fingers. This is a tricky thing to do but it’s something that you can apply to almost all your music helping to delineate melody and bass. Training yourself to play this way will certainly help you bring out the top and bottom notes on the melody and bass without having the thumbs dominate the sound.

Try practicing the melody and bass separately. Practice the outer notes with your pinky and fourth finger and playing them legato and then practice playing the inner melody with your thumb and inner fingers with a light staccato. If done correctly these can really improve the control in your piano playing.

I’d love to hear from everyone and learn your thoughts on this subject. Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

Piano Lessons – The Challenge of the Thumbs

Today we are going to present a very important topic for all pianists out there: The Challenge of the Thumbs. The thumbs are your strongest fingers yet they propose one of the biggest challenges when it comes to playing the piano. We are going to tal

These are two terms that have major similarities but they also have distinctly different functions.

Transposition is simply changing the key of a piece of music or section of music to another key.

Modulation is changing keys within a piece of music, often times coming back to the original key. There can be many modulations within a piece of music.

In the video provided with this article you will hear an example of modulation, where I go from C major, modulate to G major, and then back to C major. This is used frequently in pieces of music to add harmonic interest. Since most pieces end in the keys they started in, often times there is more than one modulation within a piece or movement of a larger work. Modulation is a compositional technique which is written into the score; it’s not something you would generally choose to do with a piece of music.

Transposition on the other hand is used to take something and then play it in a different key. For example, if you were to take a series of chords and then play them again just transposed up a half step, a whole step, or anywhere you would like. This is transposition. If you have ever heard a choir warm up, they might sing a group of notes transposing the series of notes up by half-steps to help the group warm up. This is a classic example of transposition.

Another real world example of transposition would be if you were playing piano with a singer. You want the singer to be comfortable singing in a particular range. Sometimes the songs are available transposed into different keys to put the music in a comfortable range for the particular singer. There are even keyboards now that have a transposition functions that make it simple to transpose your playing into different keys at the push of a button!

Modulation on the other hand is a compositional technique that allows a free flow of tone centers within a piece of music.

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

What is the Difference Between Modulation and Transposition in Music?

These are two terms that have major similarities but they also have distinctly different functions. Transposition is simply changing the key of a piece of music or section of music to another key. Modulation is changing keys within a piece of music,

Welcome back to our series on How to Measure Your Piano. Last time we covered How to Measure Grand Pianos, this time we will be covering How to Measure Upright Pianos.

Measuring an upright piano is a bit different from measuring a grand. Upright pianos are classified by height. The length and depth don’t differ much when it comes to vertical pianos, but the small differences may be important to you.

To measure the height of your upright piano you simply place a tape measure on one end of the piano on the floor and the other at the highest point on the case of the piano.

Upright pianos come in many different heights. Spinet pianos are the smallest and start around 36 inches. Console pianos are slightly taller, studio pianos are taller than consoles and professional upright pianos can be 52 inches or taller.

Upright pianos take up a certain amount of wallspace unlike grand pianos which can be placed at any angle and can even be tucked into a corner of a room. Typically you will want to place the piano with it’s back to the wall because it is unattractive since it is unfinished. This means that the length of the piano is important to many people. Like a grand piano, the width of all pianos are around 5 feet because of the 88 keys. You can measure the lid of the piano to get a good idea of it’s width and find the right place in your home to place it.

The depth of an upright piano might be important to you as well because it will be the distance that the piano sticks out from the wall. This measurement is not typically standard as some upright pianos have legs that protrude past the keys while others won’t extend much past the keys. To get this measurement you will want to measure from the back of the piano to the furthest point that the piano sticks out from the wall which is typically around 2 feet.

So, remember that the standard measurement of upright pianos is the height. If the depth and length are of concern to you, bring a tape measure to make sure that it will fit comfortably in your home. Upright pianos are designed to be placed in smaller rooms so you should be able to fit one in nearly any home.

Thanks for joining us for our ongoing series on measuring your piano. If you have any more questions please contact us directly: Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729.

How to Measure Your Piano – Part 2 – Upright Pianos

Welcome back to our series on How to Measure Your Piano. Last time we covered How to Measure Grand Pianos, this time we will be covering How to Measure Upright Pianos. Measuring an upright piano is a bit different from measuring a grand. Upright pian

You might have heard this term and wondered exactly what it meant. Is an art-case piano something that affects the sound or function of a piano – or is it just a cosmetic difference? Today we will discuss what makes a piano an art-case instrument and how they differ from other pianos.

If you see a piano that has intricate carvings on the case, the music rack, or the legs it would probably classify as an art-case piano. There are many different models and types of art-case pianos but they are all similar in that they have more details in the case including the possibility of intricate woodwork and carvings that differ from traditional design pianos.

Here are a couple different examples of art-case piano designs:

Steinway Louis XV

French Provincial Art-Case Upright Piano

German-made Feurich with Burled Mahogany

Steinway Model A Art-Case from 1893

German-made Blüthner Art-Case

Sohmer American-made Art-Case

As you can see, there are many different types and designs of art-case pianos. So you might be wondering, does any of this effect the piano as an instrument?

Art-Cases are made by many different manufacturers in addition to their regular case designs. They are usually exactly the same pianos internally, but with more intricate elements in the cases. They have the exact same parts as their regular piano models and are not compromised as instruments in any way. So for example, the Steinway model A art-case is the same piano as the traditional spade leg Steinway model A.

So why would you want an art-case piano? It’s all based on your taste in furniture. After all, a piano is one of the most significant pieces of furniture you invest in as well as being a musical instrument. Some people prefer the more intricate woodwork and others would rather have a basic piano design. Art-cases tend to be a bit more expensive, but it’s purely an aesthetic preference.

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

What is an Art-Case Piano? Piano Questions

You might have heard this term and wondered exactly what it meant. Is an art-case piano something that affects the sound or function of a piano – or is it just a cosmetic difference? Today we will discuss what makes a piano an art-case instrume

Welcome to our two part series on how to measure your piano. Today we are going to cover grand pianos and next time we will cover upright pianos. This might sound like an easy thing to do yourself but finding out the exact length of a piano is a little bit trickier than you might think.

The most common question I get from people when measuring their pianos is exactly what measurement to look for. Is it the length, the width of the keys, the height, what are you supposed to be looking for?

The width of grand pianos is pretty standard. The width of the keyboard is right around 5 feet. This may differ slightly with the size of the cheek blocks on either end of the keyboard, but it is roughly the same for all pianos. If you can’t fit something at least 5 feet in width, you will not be able to fit a piano in your home unless it’s a highly unusual piano with less than 88 keys.

When talking about the measurement of pianos we are referring to the distance between the very end of the tail to the edge of the key slip in front of the keys – the total length. For a detailed example please watch the video included with this article.

To get the exact length of the piano you will want to close the lid of the piano. This is much easier with two people but if you are alone you can still measure the piano with the lid open. If you measure with the lid open, you will need to add about an inch to your measurement since the lid hangs over the edge of the rim of the piano.

To measure the length of the piano place one end of your tape measure at the longest point of the tail. Place the other end of the tape measure at the end of the key slip (the absolute longest point of the piano). You will have to make sure that you stand right above the tape measure since the angle at which you look at the tape measure will alter the perceived measurement of the piano. Try to be as exact as you can but if you’re within an inch or so you will have a good idea of the length of the piano.

Something that is interesting with Asian and European pianos is that they use the metric system for their measurements and they actually name the models based upon the length of the piano. So for example, a model 152 would be one hundred and fifty-two centimeters. You can easily calculate that into feet which is just about 5’.

Stay tuned for our next part in this series on how to measure your upright piano. I’m Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

How to Measure Your Piano – Part 1 – Grand Pianos

Welcome to our two part series on how to measure your piano. Today we are going to cover grand pianos and next time we will cover upright pianos. This might sound like an easy thing to do yourself but finding out the exact length of a piano is a litt

This is a common question when it comes to dealing with your piano. Many aspiring pianists play their pianos a great deal. But the volume can be an issue (and there is no volume control on your piano!) Yet, you have to be considerate of the people you live with as well as your neighbors. Are there any ways you can quiet the sound of your piano? There are a number of things you can do to lessen the volume of your piano!

Closing the Lid

The most obvious solution to making your piano quieter if you have a baby grand or grand piano is to close the lid. There are two options for this – you can close the lid and keep the fly lid open:

Or you can remove the music rack and close the lid completely to make the piano even quieter:

This will do a lot to quiet the sound of your piano without compromising your ability to play it. If you like, you can pull the music rack out of the piano and place it on top of the piano. (You will want to protect the finish with a towel or other cloth first.)

Getting a Rug

Another technique is to place a thick rug underneath your piano. About half the volume of the piano comes from the bottom. So, placing a rug underneath it will absorb a lot of the sound. This can be a good solution if you have neighbors that live below you that are complaining about the sound of your piano. You can even get more creative and add foam or other insulation-type materials to the bottom of the piano to further dampen the sound.

A String Cover

Adding a felt string cover in the piano can lessen the sound somewhat as well. It’s not going to do that much to cover the sound but it will help.

Ask Your Piano Tuner

While covers, lids and rugs can dampen the sound of your piano, your tuner/technician can help as well. You can actually voice down the volume of your piano by having your tuner needle the hammers to make them softer.

Over time the felt on the hammers harden and make the piano sound very bright – this is especially true on many Asian production pianos because Japanese felt is harder than German felt. By having your tuner voice the piano down it will make the piano sound more mellow and lower in volume. You may appreciate the warmer tone as well!

Mute Rails on Upright Pianos

This feature is very common and available on many upright pianos. The middle pedal on some upright pianos functions as a “practice pedal” which lowers a piece of felt in front of the hammers and makes the piano extremely quiet.

This works surprisingly well and is the easiest solution for people with upright pianos.

Mute Rails on Grand Pianos

They aren’t as common but there are muffler systems that can be installed on grand pianos that function in a similar way to practice pedals on upright pianos.

Placing an Upright Piano Near a Wall

Most of the sound of an upright piano comes from the back – where the soundboard is located:

Depending on where you place the piano in your room you can dampen the sound of the instrument. Placing an upright piano right next to a wall will make it quieter because a lot of the volume of the piano will be absorbed by the wall. Better yet, put dampening material behind the piano. This will also lessen the amount of sound that travels through the wall to neighbors.

Silent Systems

There is new technology available that can completely turn off the volume of your piano! A felt covered bar is placed in front of the hammer shanks so the hammers don’t hit the strings at all. Optical sensors read the performance of each key and transmit it through MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) to a sampled or other virtual piano sound played through speakers at any volume, or even through headphones for totally silent playing!

The only downside is that you’ll be hearing a simulation of a piano and not your actual instrument. However, you can hear the sound of a 9-foot concert grand even if you are playing an upright! The other good thing is that it is possible for you to enjoy the feel of a real piano.

Treating the Room

The sound of a piano relies heavily on the room around it. You can add pieces of furniture or heavy curtains to absorb some of the sound if you feel the piano is a little too loud for the room.

We made a whole video about the best size piano for your home and how to treat the room in case it’s a little too loud for it’s surroundings:

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

How to Make Your Piano Quieter

This is a common question when it comes to dealing with your piano. Many aspiring pianists play their pianos a great deal. But the volume can be an issue (and there is no volume control on your piano!) Yet, you have to be considerate of the people yo

 

This is a very common question from piano owners. After all, the idea of calling someone in to tune your piano can be costly. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could learn to tune your piano yourself?

Every now and then I get comments from someone saying they are going to try to tune their own piano. They take out a pair of plyers or a locking wrench and think, “It can’t be that hard!”. Tuning a piano takes much more skill than you may think. Attempting to tune a piano in this manner can cause serious damage to your piano.

I personally learned how difficult it is to tune a piano when I was a young boy. I used to see my father touch up his piano in his studio and one day when I was alone there I thought it would be fun to try to tune one string on the piano just to see what it was like. I got out his tuning wrench and tried to tune one note. But once I struck the key I heard two notes coming out and I thought I had destroyed the piano! I sheepishly called him into the room and he very easily got the piano back in tune. If you have an interest in tuning your piano, I recommend that you acquire the right tools and try to tune just one string. You will gain a deep respect for your piano technician.

So can you tune your own piano? If you get the proper tools (tuning wrench, felt strip, rubber wedges) and appropriate software, you can attempt to tune your piano. However, only a good tuner is able to provide a tuning that will hold for a reasonable amount of time.

The Right Type of Tuning Wrench

1. The head should be removable since the best wrenches are built that way.

2. Make sure the tuning wrench has a hex head. A square head will go over the pin, but you will not be able to place the wrench in an ergonomic position in order to finesse the string. You absolutely need a hex head to properly tune your piano

3. You can buy a cheap tuning hammer that will fit your basic requirements, but you are much better off getting high quality tools if you plan on tuning your piano or even doing touch-up.

Software Can Help

Luckily we live in an age where there is software available to assist in tuning your piano. I have seen professional piano tuners utilizing software on their phones! Technology has come a long way. Years ago when seeing a piano tuner come in with a strobe tuner, you knew that they were hacks. But today, the best software models the specific piano you are tuning and can offer good results in the right hands.

It’s Not Just Getting a Note in Tune

There are many aspects that go into a proper tuning that only an experienced tuner or technician can learn through the process of tuning hundreds of pianos. Getting a note in tune is just the first step. If you watch a great tuner you will notice how they strike the same note over and over again at a very loud volume to make sure the notes will hold. There are many techniques utilized by fine tuners in order to be assured that the notes will hold beyond the first hard blow.

Every string has a tremendous amount of tension on it and setting the strings properly is a very difficult task. Strings have what is called speaking length and non speaking length areas to them, in between these sections you have points of tension. Setting a string requires you to deal with the tension points and how they will even out once you strike the string.

Once you strike the note the tension will even out and the string will immediately go out of tune. There is always a section in the back of the string where the tension is divided between another point of tension or point of termination.

As you can imagine, getting a string to set properly and hold tuning is a very complex task and is something that takes a true professional to finesse and get just right. There are also over 220 strings on most pianos, and every one will have to be set properly for the piano to stay in tune – it’s a very time consuming task!

Another thing to remember is that when you go up into the higher treble notes the sound will not last very long. So, it’s very difficult to hear or for a tuning application to register. Even an experienced tuner can have issues hearing the correct pitch in the extreme high and low registers on a piano.

Can You Do It?

If you plan on tuning your own piano you should be prepared for a lot of hard work and practice before you can reliably get your piano in tune. You will need to perform dozens of tunings before you start to become competent at it.

This article isn’t meant to scare anyway away from trying to tune a piano. But you should be aware that a piano tuner’s job is not as easy as it might seem. There is a lot of work and experience that goes into learning this craft properly and that’s why it’s both a time consuming and expensive process when done properly.

The good news is that you can learn to touch-up the tuning on your piano. This can prolong the integrity of the tuning on your piano. It is also a lifesaver if you ever have a broken string replaced since they need to be tuned 5-6 times before they hold.

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

Can You Tune Your Own Piano?

This is a very common question from piano owners. After all, the idea of calling someone in to tune your piano can be costly. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could learn to tune your piano yourself? Every now and then I get comments from someon

Last week we discussed the importance of sightreading and why it’s a required skill for many musician. This week I will offer some helpful tips and tricks to improve your sightreading!

As a personal note, as a child I progressed to a fairly high level on the piano. By high school I was playing Beethoven Sonatas, Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies, Chopin Ballades; overall very advanced music. However, even though I progressed to a high level, I always had something holding me back as a musician; I was not a very good sightreader.

My sightreading was on such a low level in high school that when the choir director came to me with a stack of music to accompany his choir when his pianist was unavailable, I had to decline. He probably thought I was being rude. But I simply didn’t possess the skills to get this done – I would have had to memorize all the scores and there simply wasn’t enough time!

So how did I change this? It really came to me in an “Aha!” moment. My father, Morton Estrin was set to perform the Tchaikovsky B-flat minor piano concerto at Carnegie hall and he needed to play the concerto with someone playing the orchestra part at the second piano. He handed me the score – which if you’ve ever seen, is a very thick book. I told him I couldn’t read it and I would end up missing half the notes.

I opened up the score to face a swarm of black notes splattered all over the pages; it was going to be a challenge for sure. I realized immediately that if I looked away from the page I would definitely get lost. So I decided to put my fingers at the starting keys and simply play what I could but never look away from the score. I counted like crazy staying with the party as best I could. We went through the entire concerto, all three movements, and I never got lost! Although I missed tons of notes, to my surprise it didn’t seem to matter. All my father needed was to run the concerto and that we did.

I learned something incredibly valuable that day. Keeping your eyes on the music and keeping the music flowing in time is critical to your sightreading success. But even more important is playing with other musicians and sight reading with them is essential for developing your reading. It will greatly improve your sightreading capabilities to perform as a group. Sure, you can practice every day by yourself (and you should) but it’s not until you actually start playing with other musicians that you will be forced to keep the music flowing.

With complex music sometimes it’s necessary to approach the score like a skeleton and flesh out the music. As your sightreading develops, you will realize more substantial elements of the score over time.

What’s more important than actually playing all the notes when sightreading is to keep the general character of the music going, keep the nuances of expression and timing; all of this is much more important than just playing all the notes. Especially when you are in a group setting, it’s more important to have a coherent, unified sound.

Practicing this way will enable you to become a much better sightreader over time. Practicing every day, playing with other musicians, and especially staying in time with the music will enable you to develop your sightreading. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin at VirtualSheetMusic.com

Tips for Improving Your Sightreading – Sightreading Part 2

Last week we discussed the importance of sightreading and why it’s a required skill for many musician. This week I will offer some helpful tips and tricks to improve your sightreading! As a personal note, as a child I progressed to a fairly high le