Is Your Piano Fake? Fake Steinway Pianos

 

It’s a scary proposition to think that something you’ve spent thousands of dollars on could not be what it appears to be. Believe it or not, this actually happens in today’s piano market all the time and it’s something everyone should be aware of. Thankfully, figuring out if a piano is genuine is actually quite easy if you know what to look for.

 

Here in the local Los Angeles market there are a lot of auctions that contain pianos. I’ve heard from some people that there have been pianos there that have the Steinway name on them that aren’t actually Steinway pianos at all. Unsuspecting buyers might be bidding up a particular piano with no idea what they are actually getting. This is clearly a fraudulent practice preyed upon unsophisticated buyers.

 

Many times in auction houses you will not be allowed to fully inspect a piano; you will only be able to look at it from a distance. Luckily, even from a distance you can spot a few things that signal a genuine piano.

 

The easiest thing to replace on a piano is the decal on the fallboard. You can order pretty much any piano company decal imaginable online. This is done so that refinishers can order decals when they must remove the original. Just because it has a particular name on the fallboard doesn’t mean that it’s the actual brand of piano. You can put any piano decal on any piano if you want to.

 

Luckily, there is an incredibly easy way to tell if a piano is genuine. A piano will almost always have the name of the company cast into the plate of the piano. If it is a genuine Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Baldwin, Yamaha, or other major company they will nearly always cast the name of the piano into the plate.

 

There are a few exceptions I’ve seen in some European pianos that have small plates screwed into the cast iron plate after it’s cast. Grotrian in particular had to remove their name from the plates of their pianos when they were successfully sued by Steinway. They had been Grotrian-Steinweg since the 19th century. But after losing to Steinway, they had to remove the “Steinweg” part of their name off all of their pianos in stock at the time.

 

There are many times you will see plastic name plates attached to a plate. These are typically stencil brand pianos. Stencil brands are pianos that are created by a different company (mostly in Asia) and bought by a retailer who then places a different name on the instrument. Most of the time, the original manufacturer will simply create a blank plate that the retailer can then add their specialized name to. These pianos are not fake; they are pianos that are manufactured and repurposed for another company.

 

The name in the plate is pretty much the only easily identifiable way to tell if a piano is genuine. Almost all the major high-end piano companies will cast the name directly into the plate – with a few exceptions.

 

If you have any more piano questions please contact me directly: Robert@LivingPianos.com

  It’s a scary proposition to think that something you’ve spent thousands of dollars on could not be what it appears to be. Believe it or not, this actually happens in today’s piano market all the time and it’s something everyone should be aware of. Thankfully, figuring out if a piano is genuine is actually quite easy if you know … Continue reading Is Your Piano Fake? Fake Steinway Pianos

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What is Solfeggio?

 

Solfeggio, sometimes called sight-singing, is the ability to read and sing music at sight. This is an incredibly important skill for all musicians. So how do you develop these skills?

 

There are a couple of different systems and each one has different values. I’m going to explore these and you can decide what the best course of action is for you.

 

I grew up with a method called “movable do solfege”. You’ve probably heard it before: “Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do”. “Do” is the tonic, the first note of the major scale, and you simply progress up through the scale degrees. In movable do solfege, no matter what major key you are in, the tonic of that key is always do. For example, if you are in C major, C is “do”. This is important to remember because this is not the case when it comes to “fixed do” solfege.

 

In “fixed do” solfege C is always “do” (and “re” is d and so on). The notes never change syllables.

 

While these two methods are completely different, they are both important in their own ways.

 

The strength of “fixed do” comes from naming notes. No matter what iteration the note takes it will always correlate to the particular syllable in the “fixed do” system. C will always be “do”, D will always be “re” and so on. This can be incredibly useful – especially if you’re a conductor – because you will be able to determine the absolute pitch of each of the notes. Scores are transposed and there are different clefs so being able to determine the absolute pitch is a very powerful tool.

 

So why would you want to use movable do? Why should you constantly be changing the pitch of “do” and why would you want it in different places? The value is that you can hear music in the context of the key, so you can figure out the notes you are hearing. In other words, if you hear a pattern of notes (for example: do, mi, so ) you can determine that it’s a major triad chord; no matter what the key. This makes it possible to quantify the pitches relative to one-another and determine these patterns of notes much easier. This can really help for people who don’t have perfect pitch – it’s a much easier way to know the notes you are hearing.

 

But what about the relative minor? There are actually two schools of thought for this. The way I was trained is that the key signature determines where “do” is, so the relative minor begins on “la”. This makes perfect sense and is still easy to grasp even if the piece switches between major and minor. This works out the same for all of the modes which share key signatures with major and minor scales but start on different scale degrees (like all the white keys from D-D would be a D dorian mode which shares the key signature of C major which has no sharps or flats).

 

The last thing we need to address is how to deal with accidentals (sharps, flats and naturals). These are simply ignored in fixed do solfege but in movable do we add extra syllables to account for these accidentals.

 

An ascending chromatic scale would be:

 

Do-Di-Re-Ri-Mi-Fa-Fi-So-Si-La-Li-Ti-Do

 

Descending chromatic scale is:

 

Do-Ti-Te-La-Le-So-Se-Fa-Mi-Me-Re-Ra- Do

 

Movable do solfege is how I grew up with music and it’s how I hear music. I use it for every aspect of music, whether it’s reading music or even performing. All music is essentially playing by ear so even if you read it’s important to have a system in place that allows you to understand what you are hearing.

 

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

  Solfeggio, sometimes called sight-singing, is the ability to read and sing music at sight. This is an incredibly important skill for all musicians. So how do you develop these skills?   There are a couple of different systems and each one has different values. I’m going to explore these and you can decide what the best course of action … Continue reading What is Solfeggio?

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How to Read Ahead in Music

  This question comes from another viewer who asks how to read ahead in music to improve their reading. So how do you achieve this and is it a good technique?   Well the truth is, reading ahead is actually not exactly how it works. Instead, it is a matter of looking at chunks of music instead of reading note … Continue reading How to Read Ahead in Music

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What’s the Difference between Allegro and Moderato?

  To put it in simple terms, in a musical context: Allegro mean fast; while Moderato means moderately fast. (Actually, the Italian translation of Allegro is actually “happy” and Moderato means “moderate”). But these two terms can be confusing – how do you judge fast? What is moderately fast? And really, the speed really depends on the context of the … Continue reading What’s the Difference between Allegro and Moderato?

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How to Memorize a Piece of Music You Can Already Play

 

This might sound like a silly question but sometimes you have a piece you can play with the music in front of you but you haven’t memorized it yet. You might be able to play the whole piece by barely glancing at the music but you still need it in parts. This can be cumbersome and is something you want to avoid. So how do you fix this?

 

I have produced a video in the past on How to Memorize Music. If you haven’t watched it yet I highly recommend it as a companion piece to this article. My very first lesson as a child when I studied with my father Morton Estrin was how to memorize music. It’s a crucial skill that every musician should learn.

 

Taking small sections of music and memorizing each hand separately, then putting them together helps you memorize even the most difficult passages of music. This is a great system to use but how do you account for a piece you almost have memorized? How can you push yourself over the edge and get the whole piece down?

 

I actually have two methods for you. The first is the band-aid approach to practicing music. This technique is simple but very effective. Play through the piece as far as you can from memory. When you encounter a spot that you can’t go past without looking at the music, you stop. Then take this small section and study it intensely. Use the method I detailed above and learn each hand separately first to get the section memorized securely.

 

If the band-aid approach doesn’t work for you don’t worry; you have other options. Rather than starting all over again and learning small chunks at a time, expand the amount of music you learn for each section. So where you might have been memorizing 3-4 measures at a time, try and work with 8-10 measures at a time. Make sure you learn the hands separately and then combine them together.

 

I highly recommend that in the future you start by memorizing your piece as the first step and not the last step. Start by progressing through your music in small chunks and learn each hand separately; then combine them when you’re ready. Ultimately this is a much more efficient way to learn your music.

 

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

  This might sound like a silly question but sometimes you have a piece you can play with the music in front of you but you haven’t memorized it yet. You might be able to play the whole piece by barely glancing at the music but you still need it in parts. This can be cumbersome and is something you … Continue reading How to Memorize a Piece of Music You Can Already Play

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Alternative Keyboards and Other Types of Notation

 

Today we are going to delve into a topic that you may be fascinated to learn about. We are all familiar with the traditional piano keyboard and the traditional method of reading and writing musical notation. But believe it or not, there are alternative systems to both of these that have existed for quite some time.

 

Everyone knows what a traditional piano keyboard looks like since we’ve all grown up with them and are familiar with how the keys are arranged. In 1882, a new type of keyboard known as the Janko Keyboard was invented.

 

 

It was supposed to be superior to the traditional piano keyboard since it was oriented both horizontally and vertically – somewhat like a typewriter or computer keyboard. So, when you want to reach higher octaves you just have to go up and down the keyboard instead of making large leaps left and right. The other interesting thing is that all scales have similar fingering!

 

 

So why didn’t this keyboard take off and replace the original one we all know? Some people claim that the act of watching someone perform on the piano and performing large leaps added an exciting visual element that would be lost on a keyboard like this; and those actions (despite being challenging to the performer) bring life to a performance and excite the audience.

 

I believe that this alternative keyboard may not offer the same level of power as a traditional piano keyboard particularly when handling large leaps.

 

As for alternative system of notation, there are a number of different notation types that exist such as leadsheet notation and the Nashville number system that are less new forms of notation as they are shortcuts to simplifying musical notation for improvised types of music.

 

There actually is an alternative form of musical notation developed that has notes oriented differently on the page. It is called The Klavarskribo System.

 

A lot of people new to reading music find it confusing that the piano keys are oriented left to right, yet the lines in the music are horizontal. The Klavarskribo system attempts to eliminate this confusion by having the lines of the staff line up with the notes on the keyboard.

 

 

As you can see, the lines go vertically and match up with the keys on the piano. So if this is easier to read, why isn’t more music created with the Klavarskribo system?

 

 

It’s not until you start breaking it down into more complex sheet music that you see where this system runs into problems. For example, with the lines going vertically, how do you account for ledger lines? How do you cover all the notes? There is a limit to how many lines you can read! You also would have instances of note clusters that can be difficult to read.

 

While there might be systems out there that simplify or improve upon the systems we have in place, there are issues with these alternative keyboards and systems of notation. When it comes to musical notation, you would have to change the world of music in order to adopt a new form of notation for everyone to agree upon. The traditional one we’ve had has worked for centuries and the idea of simply switching to a new one is a daunting task. Even if it were better and more streamlined, the process of changing everyone over to a new form of musical notation is next to impossible. Just think about how in America we still don’t use the metric system even though it’s adopted by nearly every country in the world; we have tried and failed to convert our system of measurement – the same would probably happen in music.

 

The simple saying If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! applies here! These alternative keyboards and forms of notation are interesting, but the systems we have in place work incredibly well – so we’re in good shape!

 

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.

  Today we are going to delve into a topic that you may be fascinated to learn about. We are all familiar with the traditional piano keyboard and the traditional method of reading and writing musical notation. But believe it or not, there are alternative systems to both of these that have existed for quite some time.   Everyone knows … Continue reading Alternative Keyboards and Other Types of Notation

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