What are spinets? Spinets are very short, even shorter than regular uprights or consoles. They can be only three feet tall! You might wonder how they pack a whole piano in there. It is not easy! No one makes spinet pianos anymore because they were deemed to be inferior. Why? Because in order to fit the action inside, they had to cut the keys in the middle so that the keys ended right beyond the fall board and connected to the rest of the action below. It is referred to as an “indirect blow action”, or “drop action”.
Spinet pianos are generally inferior in response.
Although some spinets were better than others. What comes to mind is the Baldwin Acrosonic which is one of the best spinets ever made. It had some technologies that made it a little bit more precise than other spinet pianos. Regardless, spinets don’t have the same substantial feel as other uprights much less grand pianos. Yet, that is why it could be the right piano for you!
How can this be? Generally, you practice piano all week long and then you go to lessons, recitals, friends’ houses, or church to play. You want to make sure your piano translates to other instruments. Spinets are much easier to push the keys because they are smaller. It is easier to play overall. It is not going to prepare you or develop the strength to play other pianos. But suppose you have hand problems like arthritis. You may be limited in how much you can play the piano because you experience pain. A spinet could be the perfect piano for a person in that kind of situation.
While spinet pianos are generally not the best kind of instrument for most people,
in certain circumstances when you want an easier than normal piano with less volume, a spinet could be the perfect piano for you!
That is the long and short of it. I bet you didn’t expect that today! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.comYour Online Piano Store.
Hello I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “Is a spinet piano ever the right piano for you?” Indeed there are times when a spinet piano is the best piano! How can this be? Did you know: Spinets aren’t even made a
Hello, this is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. The question today is, “Can an out of tune piano have more sustain than a piano that is perfectly tuned?” The simple answer to this question is, believe it or not, yes! Here is an explanation of how and why this is.
If you look inside a piano you know that all the notes have more than one string except on the lowest notes. Most notes have three strings. If you know something about the acoustics of vibrating strings, you understand that if they are vibrating perfectly with one another you’ll get a certain level of sustain. But if one string is just ever-so-slightly out of tune, there will be a slow wave created. If that slow wave is about the same length of time or slightly longer than the sustain of that note, it will actually enhance the sustain of the note more than if it was absolutely dead-on in pitch!
I once talked to a piano tuner who claimed that they purposely de-tuned the piano precisely to get the maximum amount of sustain. I’ve talked to other piano tuners who said that this was total nonsense! My feeling is this: striving to tune a piano is hard enough. Once it is in tune, it is going out of tune little by little. Even if you tried to make the piano perfectly in tune, with every unison phase locked in perfect tune where they didn’t drift at all, in a very short amount of time, some of the notes will still drift slightly sharp or more likely flat. This would cause that slight detuning which could add sustain as long as the tuning doesn’t become so great that the wave cycle is shorter than the length the note sustains naturally.
Indeed, a slightly out of tune piano where the wave cycle is less than the sustain of the notes will sustain longer than a perfectly in tune piano. However, I wouldn’t try to de-tune your piano to get this effect. Believe me, it will de-tune itself soon enough just from playing it! Thanks for all the great questions and keep them coming in to:
Hello, this is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. The question today is, “Can an out of tune piano have more sustain than a piano that is perfectly tuned?” The simple answer to this question is, believe it or not, yes!
I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “Why can’t all music be profound?” Wouldn’t that be great if everything you listened to was enlightening? Is that possible? Is that even desirable? Naturally, there are many different purposes music serves. Going to concerts and having a truly uplifting experience is certainly a very important aspect of music, but what about parties? What about dancing? There are times when profundity is the least concern when listening to music. You just want to have something that you can move to, something that feels good. Let’s focus for a minute on concert music.
Should All Concert Music be Profound?
Before I answer this question, I’m going to bring up a parallel. Have you ever seen a band perform and they were playing with really high energy, fast and loud? At first it’s like, “Wow, this is impressive.” But as the night goes on, everything they play is fast and loud. After a while, you end up tuning out the music, and nothing seems energetic at all! How can this be? The energy level becomes your new baseline. Let’s say, you go to the same club on a different night with a different band playing, and this band plays with extreme dynamics. They take the music up and then they come down – way down. They play whisper-quiet, and then it comes up again. It’s enriching! So what is the lesson here?
Something Can Only be Exciting if Something Else is More Relaxed.
The same exact truth is evident with how profound a piece of music can be. More than that, if a performer tries to make every phrase of a piece of music profound, nothing is profound. It becomes labored and self-indulgent. You have to let some music speak naturally. It’s the places where you focus attention that molds a performance. This way, the entire work will have a profound nature, not because every single phrase is played to the nth degree of what can be done with the music.
Great composers and great performers understand this, and they bring out parts of the music that draw your attention at just the right moments. Not everything is profound, but when you get done listening to the piece, you’re left with something really meaningful and special that stays with you. That’s why all music can’t be profound.
If Everything is Profound, Nothing is Profound.
This is applicable not only for composition but also in your musical performance.
Thanks for joining me once again. This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “Why can’t all music be profound?” Wouldn’t that be great if everything you listened to was enlightening? Is that possible? Is that even desirable? N
This is Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a question: “Can a Classical Pianist Play Popular Music?” If any of you have seen accomplished concert pianists playing Beethoven, Liszt, and Ravel, and you think, “Oh man, they can play anything!” Is that true? There’s an interesting story of a time when my father had a party in his studio, and he asked one of his former students, a Julliard graduate in piano performance, to play, “Happy Birthday”, and she couldn’t do it! She didn’t know how to even begin to play the simplest music by ear. So, the conservatories are really good at training people to be concert pianists and even collaborative pianists playing with other musicians, being able to read music, being able to perform at a high level, but not so much how to play other styles of music.
Consider this: If a classical pianist got engaged to play an event, and they wanted a bunch of popular music, certainly they could go out and get all the sheet music and be able to play it. Right? Well, yes. However, if you’ve ever played sheet music, you know the limitations and the shortcomings of sheet music. Sheet music is not something that the composers of popular songs wrote and then performed. The sheet music came afterward. And the people who wrote the songs aren’t even the ones who wrote the sheet music! They just try to monetize the music as soon as they can to get it out there.
Making it even tougher is the fact that the sheet music is a catch-all for everyone. In other words, if somebody wants to play it as a piano piece, they can do it. If they want to play it as a song, singing along with the piano part, they can do that. And they even have the chord symbols and sometimes even the guitar tablature to help all different sorts of people play the songs.
Sheet music attempts to be all things to all people.
But if you were to play, note for note, the sheet music, a lot of times, it can be extremely cumbersome because it’s not something that anybody necessarily played before. So in order to make sheet music sound good, a lot of times you have to rearrange it. So, if somebody has never done that before, they may have a hard time. Plus, a great deal of popular music is groove-oriented in a way that classical music rarely is. And if somebody has never played rock, blues and other styles like that, they may sound rather bland trying to play popular songs from sheet music.
So, a well-trained pianist should be able to play anything, but they would have a very tough time being able to assimilate in a rock band or a country band if they’d never done that before. Even people who go for post-graduate piano performance degrees don’t necessarily know how to do the simplest things, like play “Happy Birthday” by ear!
So, if you have an engagement and you want a pianist, you could certainly call upon a classical pianist. But ask them if they’ve ever done anything like that before. And listen to what they can do with the music. Depending upon the nature of the music you have in mind, they may be able to do handle the music on a greater or lesser level. And you could find that out before any important engagements that you have classical pianists coming in for.
I encourage all of you with a classical backgrounds to get your feet wet playing popular idioms!
You’ll enjoy it and it may open up new vistas for you musically. Not only that but if you get adept at playing by ear, it can save your neck when you’re playing a classical performance. If you find yourself over the wrong keys, if you have a momentary memory slip, playing by ears can get you back on track in a snap if you’re good at playing by ear! So it has many benefits for you, and not the least of which is enjoying other styles of music. So go for it!
Thanks for the great questions. Again, I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
This is Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a question: “Can a Classical Pianist Play Popular Music?” If any of you have seen accomplished concert pianists playing Beethoven, Liszt, and Ravel, and you thi
Hello, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a viewer question. What is the best way to learn to play the piano? This is a very basic question, yet it doesn’t have a simple answer. In a perfect world, you would grow up in a household exposed to music. You would have a beautiful grand piano to practice on. Your parents would be nurturing and loving and find the best piano teacher they can for you. One who is good at dealing with children and is inspiring. Your parents would be encouraging and would have you play for company to showcase your hard work. You would have wonderful exposure and training from a young age.
That is one ideal situation, but one size does not fit all! For example, oftentimes people contact me who have always wanted to play piano their whole lives and finally have time. They are retired and want to learn to play the piano. Is that a good situation? Absolutely!
The key to being able to be successful at the piano is immersion.
You want to immerse yourself into piano in every way possible. Not just practicing playing the piano, but listening to concerts, getting together with other people and talking about the piano, reading about the piano, everything centered around the piano!
The more involved you are mentaly with the instrument as well as physically playing it, the more productive you will be at the piano.
What about this whole idea of finding a good teacher and studying from a young age? Is this really necessary? If you want to be a concert pianist and you decide to start in your 30s or 40s or later, chances are you are not going to achieve a world-class level of supreme technique on the piano. However, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from trying. It tends to be harder, just like learning a new language later in life, although there are some people who do that amazingly well.
There is a whole additional aspect to this which is the style of music you want to play. If you want to be a classical player, particularly a concert-level player, you absolutely should get a first class teacher to show you the intricacies and stylistic differences of the period styles. They would show you how to deal with ornamentation and how to practice particularly thorny sections. To learn all of that you are going to want to have the help of an accomplished, experienced pianist guiding you. But suppose you just want to play popular music. Maybe you like to improvise or play New Age or Country music. Are lessons really essential for that? Not necessarily.
A lot of people can pick things up on their own.
Some people are able to watch YouTube videos and figure out music. I have seen people do surprisingly well with that method. I’m talking about the type of video that shows you each of the notes you need to play. Some of them are like video games. While I can’t even imagine learning to play the piano that way, I’ve encountered people who can play relatively well who have learned from YouTube in this manner.
There isn’t just one way to learn to play the piano.
If you are learning to play popular styles, learning to play by ear is essential. To give you an extreme example of how playing by ear is necessary and how having a classical background might not help you, years ago we were having a birthday party in my father’s teaching studio. We had a bunch of people over and one of my dad’s former students was there. She had graduated from Juilliard in Piano Performance and was doing her Masters work studying with Sascha Gorodnitzki, one of their top teachers. She was working on Rachmaninoff concertos and was a very accomplished pianist. My father said, “Laurie, play Happy Birthday!” She broke into a cold sweat wondering which note it started on. Can you imagine that?
Somebody who could play virtuoso piano music couldn’t play the simplest song by ear.
There can be a myopic way of looking at the piano in conservatories. It is all about the Classical traditions. For the most part, they ignore all styles of music that you are likely to encounter in the real world. After graduation, most working engagements playing piano involves playing with other musicians, not solo playing. Accompanying is something sought after and can be rewarding if your sight-reading is good. However, playing events, parties, weddings, or other things of that nature involves an entirely different methodology. You’ve got to be able to make up arrangements. You have to be able to groove with other people by listening and playing by ear. It is a lot of fun and can be richly rewarding. You don’t necessarily have to start young. You don’t necessarily need formal training in order to do that.
There is more than one way to learn how to play the piano depending on what your goals are.
That’s the lesson for today. If you immerse yourself in piano, no matter how you go about it, you are going to learn how to play the piano in one way or another. I hope this has been enlightening and helpful as well as inspiring to those of you wanting to learn to play the piano if you have thought you had lost your opportunity. That is nonsense. It is never too late! Give it a whirl. As long as you enjoy it, it is worthwhile for you. Once again, I am Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. Thanks for joining me.
Hello, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a viewer question. What is the best way to learn to play the piano? This is a very basic question, yet it doesn’t have a simple answer. In a perfect world, you would g
Hello this is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “Is there muscle memory when playing the piano?” This is a great question and I’m going to ask a question of all of you right now. Tell me if this rings true. Have you ever had a piece you’ve played a million times and you find yourself playing the piece and instead of “spacing out” you find yourself “spacing in”? You realize that you weren’t thinking about what you were playing at all! Maybe you were thinking about what you were going to do later. Yet, your fingers keep going. You wonder how that could possibly happen. Indeed, there is a high degree of tactile memory playing the piano.
If you’ve ever watched a toddler getting up for the first time trying to walk, you’ll see them discovering the whole process. They are concentrating and you can see in their faces that they are focusing on how to stand and put one foot in front of the other. For the next few weeks and months, you’ll see how they get more and more comfortable and acclimated to walking. When you or I go out, we can be thinking about anything when we are walking. We don’t have to think about walking at all. Indeed there is muscle memory at work here! Obviously playing the piano is much more complex than walking, depending upon what music you are playing. Yet, if you play a piece many times:
Your fingers will keep on going all by themselves without you even thinking about it!
Is this a good thing? Yes and no. While on one hand, it is not something you want to rely upon too heavily, without a degree of muscle memory, it would be virtually impossible for a pianist to get through an hour and a half recital playing on a high level if they couldn’t free-wheel some of the time. Being able to allow the music to continue when performing even when there are inevitable distractions is essential. If your fingers wouldn’t keep going and there was silence, it would be a complete disaster!
It is good that we have muscle or tactile memory. However, you can’t depend upon muscle memory entirely. Think about this. Most music you play goes from section to section with repeats of different sections. You must know where you are in the form. You have to have that part of your brain looking down on the rest of you lovingly making sure you don’t take a wrong turn. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by practicing away from the piano where you don’t have the benefit of tactile memory. If you can play your music by just thinking it through in your head, you really know the score well.
Your muscle memory in conjunction with your cognition of the score in depth is invaluable for securing your performance.
Yes, there is muscle memory at work when playing the piano. Thank goodness there is! But remember, you can’t depend upon it all the time. Practice away from the piano. You can practice with your score, going as far as you can, and when you find a hazy part, refer back to the score. You might have to move your fingers when playing away from the keyboard just to be able to do this at first. It is an extremely valuable skill so that you don’t fall into the trap of taking a wrong turn in a sonata (for example) and finding yourself either leaving out 2/3s of the work or going all the way back to the beginning and having no idea how to handle the situation. This is where muscle memory can play tricks on you. You can depend upon it to a certain extent while reinforcing intentional understanding of the music.
Thanks for the great questions! Again, I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
Hello this is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “Is there muscle memory when playing the piano?” This is a great question and I’m going to ask a question of all of you right now. Tell me if this rings true. Have you ever
Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a really interesting question. What is the farthest a piano has ever been moved? Here at Living Pianos, we move pianos all the time. So, this question is very close to my heart.
Going across the country is around 3,000 miles from Maine to California. When you go overseas, of course, it is a much greater distance. We had the opportunity to sell a concert grand to the Royal Theater in London. That is almost five and a half thousand miles away! Interestingly, that move was a piece of cake until the last couple of miles. When you get to the inner city of London, it actually cost more for the last couple of miles than the entire rest of the move including crating the piano! This is their way of limiting traffic in the city.
How Far Have We Delivered Pianos?
We also have had opportunities to sell pianos to China. Shenzen is about 7,200 miles away. So, that is certainly far away. We’ve never moved a piano to Australia – at least not yet. If we have the opportunity, it will be over 8,100 miles away. Is that the farthest a piano can be moved? You’d think it would be since it is on the other side of the planet. Actually, no!
We’ve sold pianos to Singapore which is about 8,800 miles away.
That is the farthest we have moved pianos. But what is the theoretical limit a piano could be possibly be moved? Unless you are just taking a piano for a ride around and around the world, which could be endless, half-way around the world at the equator is the greatest distance at about 12,500 miles. So, that is the theoretical limit. Or is it? Did you know:
There is a piano on the International Space Station!
It is actually a digital keyboard. But, it is a piano nonetheless. For the sake of discussion, let’s talk about that. Once again, orbiting the Earth again and again could be many thousands of miles. But you would be just taking a piano for a ride and not actually moving it from point A to point B. The International Space Station is only about 300 miles away, straight up at the point at which it passes over you. So, the final answer is, if you are going halfway around the world at the equator, that would be the farthest you could move a piano which is 12,500 miles.
It’s interesting to wrap your head around what it takes to move pianos and how far they possibly can go. I hope this has been fun for you. Keep those questions coming in and you’ll see them in future articles and videos! Thanks again, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a really interesting question. What is the farthest a piano has ever been moved? Here at Living Pianos, we move pianos all the time. So, this question is very close to my heart. Go
Billy Joel is an institution of American popular music, one of the great songwriters and one of the great popular piano players of the whole century! You might wonder where he learned how to play the piano. If you look on Wikipedia and other online resources, you’re going to discover a very interesting fact:
My father, Morton Estrin, is listed as Billy Joel’s piano teacher!
This is true. Billy Joel went to HIcksville HIgh School the same high school I went to 30 miles from New York City. However, Billy Joel is a bit older than me. So, our time in school never overlapped. In fact, even though he studied piano in the house where I lived, I never ran into him. Of course, it wouldn’t have meant anything since he wasn’t famous as a child!
Billy Joel’s Early Piano Studies
People would often ask my father, “What was Billy Joel like as a student?” And he would reply, “Well, he was a kid!” When you think about it, he was teaching Billy Joel student-level music such as Clementi sonatinas. His mother, like so many mothers back then made him study the piano. At the time, it probably wasn’t the most pivotal thing in Billy Joel’s life. It is very interesting that in more recent decades,
Billy Joel has been composing some substantial classical music.
I don’t know how much of his early musical training rubbed off or if his passion for classical composing is something that developed much later in his life. Through the years both Billy Joel and my father used each other in their bios for obvious reasons. However, I’m not sure how substantial the musical relationship was way back then, because Billy was only a child. Naturally, Billy went in a very different direction with his music.
My father was completely immersed in classical music.
That was his entire world. And of course, Billy Joel went on to become one of the great singer-songwriters of American popular music.
Visiting the House Where Billy Joel had his Piano Lessons.
So, that’s the long and short of it. I thought you’d be interested in that fact because people always ask me about it. It’s an interesting story. I have one small anecdotes you may find interesting. One of the times my sister and I were visiting my father in New York, we decided to go just a couple of miles away to the house in Hicksville where we grew up before we moved to another house in Hicksville. So, we went to the old Levitt house in the Levittown section of Hicksville, and there was the house where we were born! We’re sitting in front of it in the car looking at it thinking, “Do we dare knock on the door?” I don’t know if you’ve ever done anything like that. So, we decided to do it! We knocked on the door and introduced ourselves telling them, “We used to live in this house.” And before we could say one word, the woman living there said,
“Did you know that Billy Joel had his piano lessons right upstairs here?”
I said, “Yes, yes. We know that.” She was very proud of that fact. And so that’s the only anecdote I have to share about this. I wish I had more stories for you, but it is a fact that Billy Joel studied piano with my father, Morton Estrin.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this. Again, I am Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time.
Hi, I’m Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. The question today is, Who Was Billy Joel’s Piano Teacher? Billy Joel is an institution of American popular music, one of the great songwriters and one of the great popular piano players of the w
Before I made this video I was curious about what information is on the internet about this. I was shocked to discover that there are really, really low prices listed concerning moving pianos, which may or may not be accurate. You may wonder how can this can be. Well, here is the long and short of it. Number one is,
Piano moves have different costs in different parts of the country.
Since piano moving is such a specialized skill, prices are all over the map. First things first, I would recommend if you ever have a piano to be moved:
Only use movers who specialize in moving nothing but pianos.
If you use a general purpose mover, they don’t know how to do the things that need to be done, particularly on grand pianos since the legs and the pedals need to be removed. They can definitely do damage if they are not skilled in moving pianos. What I’m referring to now is regarding only specialized piano movers.
We move pianos all over the country, so we have a handle on this whole subject. Some areas of the country that are isolated, might not have any piano movers to speak of and they may require extensive travel just to be able to accommodate a piano move. Of course, that’s going to cost you a lot if you’re in a remote area without any piano movers. But there are metropolitan areas that are incredibly expensive to move pianos sometime.
It seems that it’s almost like a consortium. I don’t know if there’s a mafia type of situation or what, but some areas are drastically more expensive than other areas. Reading on the internet, I read that moving uprights costs $100 to $200, and a grand, $150 to $300. This is a best case scenario in most circumstances. As they say, your mileage may vary!
Here in southern California, there indeed is a lot of competition and you can call a number of movers and potentially find a low price to move a piano. However, if you have a really nice piano, you might think twice about using some of the lower priced piano movers who may show up with just a pickup truck and strap your piano without even covering it! You might feel that it’s not a problem since it almost never rains here. But you might not like that whole idea. To have a covered truck with a lift gate, a company that’s insured for $1 million, if God forbid there’s a catastrophe, these can all be things of value regarding a piano move. So, there’s an incredibly wide range.
Another thing is, movers have to deal with unusual challenges like stairs or sharp right angle turns where pianos have to go up on end in a non-standard way. Even elevators can present challenges. Typically, pianos are moved on the long flat side facing down with the pedals and the legs removed. Sometimes a piano may have to go up on the keyboard end, which is not standard, and movers need extra people to accommodate that sort of move. Tight spaces, or sharp turns can also present additional challenges and costs.
There are a wide range of costs for piano moves.
If you realize the intensity of the work and the intelligence required for piano moves, you’ll have a deep respect for your piano movers! I hope this has been helpful for you. I gave you those minimum numbers. You’ll have to check in your local area. It’s not worth skimping if you have a nice piano. Make sure they’re insured and experienced. Check reviews online, and you should be in good shape.
Once again, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.comYour Online Piano Store. Thanks for joining me.
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. The question I get all the time from people, and I thought I’d make a video for you about, is how much does it cost to move a piano? Before I made this video I was curious abou