Where are Pianos Most Popular?

 

Despite the declining industry in the United States, the piano is one of the most popular instruments in the world and nowhere is it more popular than in China. I was fortunate to attend the recent Music China convention in Shanghai and it was an eye-opening experience on just how vast the piano industry is there.

 

Many of you have seen Chinese manufactured pianos in local piano stores, but this is such a small portion of the industry and what is currently going on there. Consider these facts:

 

There are more companies making pianos in China than there are piano stores in the USA!

 

The largest piano manufacturer in China (Pearl River) has three factories in China, any one of which produces more pianos than all the new pianos sold in the USA each year. The difference in the size of the industry is staggering and the innovations are remarkable.

 

 

Pianos with touch screens on the fall boards, pianos with butterfly lids that open in both directions, pianos that are made out of plexiglass and even pianos with two keyboards, one on each end for a dueling piano!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chinese have taken to the piano like people did in this country over a hundred years ago. It’s an exploding market and it’s incredibly popular with younger generations. The Chinese purchase ten times the number of new pianos than Americans and that’s why the export market is only a small fraction of their output. Most of the pianos produced and sold are uprights like in the rest of the world because of smaller homes than in the United States. However, they produce plenty of grands and even concert grand pianos.

 

To put things into perspective, the biggest show in North America (The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show in Anaheim, California) has only one main room upstairs full of pianos easily covered in about 20 minutes. The Music China show has over three huge field houses full of pianos; I didn’t even have enough time to see all the instruments in the course of several days at the show!

 

So why is the piano so popular in China? Western culture wasn’t widely available to the Chinese until after the cultural revolution in the 1970’s. Today, the emerging consumer class in China are enriching children with piano lessons by parents who never had the opportunity to learn themselves. Every time I would sit down at a piano at the show, dozens of people crowded around me taking videos because it was a spectacle to see someone my age performing the piano!

 

I will be returning to China for performances, masterclasses as well as being an industry advisor. I hope to share the enthusiasm they have for the piano there to people in the U.S. and around the world.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions about this topic or any others, please contact us at: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Despite the declining industry in the United States, the piano is one of the most popular instruments in the world and nowhere is it more popular than in China. I was fortunate to attend the recent Music China convention in Shanghai and it was an eye-opening experience on just how vast the piano industry is there.   Many of … Continue reading Where are Pianos Most Popular?

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What are Whole Tone Scales?

 

Welcome back to my ongoing series on music theory. Last time we covered Chromatic Scales – scales involving all half steps. Today’s subject is Whole Tone Scales.

 

If you’re wondering what a whole tone scale sounds like, you’ve probably heard them in Impressionist era music. They have an almost eerie quality to them.

 

As far as the scale itself, it’s actually very simple. While the Chromatic scale is all half-steps, the whole tone scale is simply a series of whole-steps (two keys together with one key between).

 

Much like the chromatic scale – which has only one iteration, considering it’s all the same intervals – the whole tone scale has just two possible versions. Play the scale, play it a half-step higher, then when you play one more half-step higher, you are back to the first scale again!

 

Next time we will cover diminished seventh scales.

 

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

  Welcome back to my ongoing series on music theory. Last time we covered Chromatic Scales – scales involving all half steps. Today’s subject is Whole Tone Scales.   If you’re wondering what a whole tone scale sounds like, you’ve probably heard them in Impressionist era music. They have an almost eerie quality to them.   As far as the … Continue reading What are Whole Tone Scales?

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Fake Ivory Piano Keys?

 

Years ago virtually all piano key tops were made out of ivory. Ivory, as many of you already know, is made from elephant tusks. Eventually, the ivory trade was outlawed in the U.S. In the 1970’s in the United States, and into the 1980’s in Europe, the use of ivories on piano keys ceased. Today, almost all piano keys are made out of composite plastic. So, you might be wondering, where fake ivory key tops fall into this story. This is something you should be aware of.

 

Some pianists feel that ivory keys are superior to plastic key tops. While you can’t get a new piano with ivory key tops, many pianists still want the feel of ivory keys. In attempt to satisfy this crowd, some companies have developed “fake” or “imitation” ivory keys that are made to look and feel like ivory. Do they succeed?

 

Unfortunately, most of these attempts to simulate ivory keys are not very good. There are a lot of cheap imitations that add a textured look to the keys. However, they don’t feel any different from other plastic key tops and worse yet, they look fake!

 

Yamaha has used an imitation ivory key trademarked as, “Ivorite” that is an attempt at creating a synthetic ivory. It is a plastic key top that has a closer look and feel to ivory than traditional plastic key tops. Not all Yamaha pianos come with these key tops. So, is there really a benefit to this?

 

If you like the touch and feel of ivory and want a new piano, then this might be a possible solution for you. Something to keep in mind though is that if you are performing on other instruments, they are very likely to have plastic keys. So, it’s important to be comfortable playing pianos with plastic key tops since that is what you are most likely to encounter playing instruments outside of your home.

 

I would recommend avoiding cheap ivory imitations. You’re better off with standard plastic key tops because they are perfectly functional. They also look better than most imitation ivory key tops.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions about this topic or any others, please contact us at: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Years ago virtually all piano key tops were made out of ivory. Ivory, as many of you already know, is made from elephant tusks. Eventually, the ivory trade was outlawed in the U.S. In the 1970’s in the United States, and into the 1980’s in Europe, the use of ivories on piano keys ceased. Today, almost all piano keys … Continue reading Fake Ivory Piano Keys?

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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 … Continue reading How to Get Jobs Playing Music

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Can Practicing Your Music Too Fast be Good?

 

I know this is a topic that might have some piano teachers in a panic at the suggestion of having students play their music too fast. Generally in performance and even in practice, playing your music too fast can be destructive. What I’m suggesting in this video is just one method of practicing your music – and something you would never use in a performance setting. It is a technique which used sparingly may provide insights into approaching your music.

 

You may have a piece you’ve learned and can’t get beyond a fundamental level of performance. I’ve found that sometimes playing a piece faster than written can open up new approaches and even new techniques you never thought to try. For example, if you’re playing a fast piece, playing it even faster will force you to lighten up your technique in order to accommodate the speed. Then when you come back to the normal tempo, you will find that you have more facility and comfort than before.

 

Even in slow movements this can be a beneficial technique. For example, in the Mozart K332 Sonata, the second movement is gorgeous and lyrical. Playing faster can provide insights into the direction of the musical line which you may not realize playing at the appropriate tempo. Sometimes you might find yourself getting bogged down and the music sounds choppy and lacking a fluid line. By practicing this movement faster than written, you’re almost guaranteed to approach it with a more fluid line. Try this and then go back to the written tempo and incorporate what you experienced playing at the faster tempo. You can sense the larger note values instead of each sixteenth note. You may be pleased with the results!

 

This is certainly not a technique I would recommend on a regular basis. However, it is something to try when you hit a wall with the progress of a new piece. I also have a video about the benefits of practicing your music slowly that is intrinsic to effective piano practice and something virtually all great pianists do on a regular basis.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions about this topic or any others, please contact us at: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  I know this is a topic that might have some piano teachers in a panic at the suggestion of having students play their music too fast. Generally in performance and even in practice, playing your music too fast can be destructive. What I’m suggesting in this video is just one method of practicing your music – and something you … Continue reading Can Practicing Your Music Too Fast be Good?

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When is it Time for a New Piano?

 

This is a question I get all the time; almost every day! There are really two factors involved in this question: The condition of the piano and the ability of the player. I’m going to cover both of these topics for you.

 

If you have a piano that you think might be experiencing some problems, you have to assess the situation carefully and make sure you’re not throwing good money after bad. Problems that arise in pianos differ immensely based on the type of piano you own.

 

If you have an older (10 or more years) cheaper Asian production piano that is experiencing issues, it might be time to consider buying a new piano. Otherwise, you might end up costing yourself a lot of money in ongoing repairs. These pianos are built with a limited lifespan; they won’t last forever and eventually you will need to upgrade if you are a serious player.

 

If you have a higher quality piano, many times you can get repairs or work done that will prolong its life for generations. In some cases – specifically when it comes to soundboard issues – you might be stuck having to pay thousands of dollars for a rebuild. If you keep your piano in a nice climate, you close the lid at night (particularly if windows are open) and you generally maintain it well, you probably won’t run into major problems for quite a while depending upon how much you play. If you have an older piano that has been handed down through your family, it will probably require some work at some point.

 

Small repairs with the action or strings require some expense but they are nothing compared to the cost of rebuilding a piano. If you are looking at a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars – or even a few thousand dollars – it might be time to consider buying yourself another piano depending upon the level of the instrument. Many dealers will even let you trade in an existing piano toward the cost of a new one. It’s a great idea to consult a piano technician you trust and ask them honestly if it’s worth putting money into your piano or just buying a new one. For example, in a vertical piano the hammers travel sideways, so they don’t have the benefit of gravity for repetition like grands do. So eventually you will progress to the point where you can play faster than the piano will respond. When you advance even further as a player you will want something larger than a baby grand because the tone develops differently and the keys are longer (behind the fall board) giving a more uniform feel when playing black keys and between black keys close to the fall board.

 

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

  This is a question I get all the time; almost every day! There are really two factors involved in this question: The condition of the piano and the ability of the player. I’m going to cover both of these topics for you.   If you have a piano that you think might be experiencing some problems, you have to … Continue reading When is it Time for a New Piano?

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