How to make music special again

Dark Spotify Logo
Spotify Logo

Back in the day music was something special, something you looked forward to listening to. Long before the days of TV, the internet and non-stop music in supermarkets, travelling minstrels toured the country going from town to village to manor house. In the absence of any other entertainment the event gave people occasional and much appreciated relief from their otherwise difficult and hard lives. Now that we have music on tap, at the touch of a screen or button, has music lost its special place in our hearts?

The Lute: A Medieval Guitar-Like Instrument played by a troubadour
A Troubadour playing a Lute

At AMH Pianos we are all about the music, and respect for the craft is what made me get interested to do what I do best! This is why it sometimes saddens me to see many a talented musician struggle to make ends meet. We have a lot of music that feels rather ubiquitous wherever we go. And yet, people complain about the quality of the music, the variety and genres of music on offer, and even the price of music. With a rise in music streaming services, we do not even care to own our favourite tunes anymore. Somehow, in an era where musicians have so many avenues to contact the fans and reach out to us of their own accord, it feels like something, or someone, is taking over our music, putting musicians out of business, and even adversely affecting the craftsmen who look after the musicians.

Travelling Minstrels
Travelling Minstrels

As we stand here in 2016, it is absolutely vital to take evasive action now, to prevent a decline in the importance of music in the post iPod age. For starters, we could do more to encourage our children to take up music and musical instruments at a young age. We could better educate our music teachers at PGCE level, to help them train the next Mozart, Beethovan or Elgar. We could encourage the streaming companies to give back more fairly and generously to the musicians that we love, rather than just the big names. We could provide a more technical and well-rounded level of education to breed the next generation of men and women who dedicate their lives servicing, repairing and even transporting the large aray of instruments between venues. We could make the top rated arts and music more affordable and easily accessible to the people from non-traditional backgrounds, especially outside London’s M25 boundaries. We could refuse to support piracy. And finally, we could encourage our elected leaders to encourage greater investment into the creative arts, to ensure that we have a brighter, ney, a better sounding future!!

A Spanish Musical Quartet
Cuarta de Musica

A Summer of Seismic Changes

Formar Home Secretary Theresa May becomes UK PM
Theresa May UK Prime Minister

Over the past month events in the UK and around the World have been a bit of a game changer, causing uncertainty, intreague and plenty of heated discussion across London. From Whitehall to Hackney, Golders Green to Bexley Heath, the conversation seems to have moved on to what the latest events in Westminster might entail for the country as a whole rather than the latest gossip around Big Brother and the X Factor. In many ways, whilst I carry out piano tuning, I seem to notice myself surrounded by highly opinionated conversations concerning Brexit, a new Prime Minister and potential predictions about the future.

Map of the European Union as of Oct. 2013
Map of the 28 EU states

Throughout London we have experienced ample sunshine and much higher temperatures that somehow seem to be keeping pace with the heated political climate. Things however, appear much more civilised around the UK compared to the unfortunate attacks in mainland Europe, such as the attempted coup in Turkey, the death of 84 people in Nice and the more recent spate of bizarre attacks across Germany. Incidents like these appeal to my British sense of being and I sometimes wonder whether or not we really can resolve arguments and problems just by enjoying a nice cup of tea.

A Perfectly brewed Cup of Tea
A Perfect Cup of Tea

 

I feel fortunate to be in a profession that brings the gift of music to people from all backgrounds and walks of life, bringing them together through music. Time spent servicing or transporting a piano, for me personally, equates to bringing the gifts of creativity, harmony and the celebration of life. The brilliant sunny weather during these uncertain times symbolises the hope that we as a nation will have a bright future no matter what it brings. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with AMH Pianos to find out for yourself the magic of great sound and excellent customer service.

Stretching The Human Tuned Notes

We have just celebrated Father’s Day, and are about to experience the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Since we have had a reasonably bright summer, with long sunny spells, hot temperatures and humid days, before the dreaded rain made its all too inevitable return, a strange thought has plagued my mind: are human limits and limitations, irreversible unlike any other inanimate object in our universe? Furthermore, do the change in our surroundings, conditions and moods depend on our exposure to whatever takes place around us? I ask this since we had been longing for good weather across London and just as soon as the Mercury climbed a bit, we decided to complain about the weather again, rather than trying to enjoy ourselves over in St James‘s Park or Greenwich. Does this culturally induced modus operandi also tell us that we are accustomed to long for the dreadful cold weather in spite of our protests?

AFamilyWalkingOnTheMillenniumBridgeInLondonOnFathersDay

It is no surprise to admit that we all need and deserve a little bit of a change sometime. That is exactly why we all have holidays, vacations and the occasional fun night out, a human tune-up if you will. Yet while objects have an instantaneous tendency to reset following servicing, you often hear people talk about not winding down till the end of their holidays, or needing a vacation away from a vacation. We often talk about getting that same level of restoration as, say a piano, and yet the temptation to share pictures of one’s lunch or drinks on Facebook or the next random memory on Twitter is often too hard to resist when there is no reason whatsoever to repeatedly stab our phones during our time off. Using the concept of cadence, could it be that modern humans are just not designed to attain satisfaction at either ends of the note that is our existence without an expert psychologist involved? And does this less than 100% human harmonic rhythm reflect anything on the order that we crave out of our own energetic chaos?

Metronome

There is ample semblance in the human body: the beating of the heart, the flow of blood, the way our lungs operate, and even the seven year cycle that our skin follows to replace each and every cell with a brand new one. We put routines in the way we work, sleep and adhere to conventions, laws and the year round calendar. So perhaps, it might be time that to perform like clockwork, we have to allow ourselves to be more observant of our own beings, and schedule time with our own thoughts and serendipity with some regularity. Even if we as humans, are unable to reach our theoretical limits, we can at least try to be the best at what we do best.

CalendarWithAScheduleOfEvents

What do you think about the concept of a fully reversible human experience? Can we modulate our own frequencies? And does our energy have any connection with the seasons and the calendar of holidays and important dates? Please feel free to get in touch.

Virtual Sociability and the Tunes of the Summer

At AMH Pianos, I strongly believe that whatever we do, we can do better. The philosophy that there is always room for improvement, rings so loudly to me that in spite of getting excellent reviews from so many of you, I continuously strive to give you more for your money and interaction with my company. As the official summer has just kicked in according to the Met Office, we have been blessed with incredible weather, warm days and long hours of sunshine through out the land. So whether you are on a boat ride from the Tower Hill pier, or shopping or eating out near Bayswater, there is a chance that you would not have forgotten your mobile phone, which would probably be sitting snugly in your pockets or handbags. That is exactly why when I first started, I thought why not put technology to some good use for both work and play?

Facebook Heart

Many people, to this day, probably still do not rely on a mobile phone, let alone a tablet or a computer. This is to say that perhaps the concept of social media has not quite sunk in with so many out there. There is a chance that whether it’s a student roaming around High Street Kensington, a tourist wandering near the Baker Street attractions, or even that student’s mother or grandma living in one of the outer boroughs of Bromley or Bexley checking up on them or their friends or family, someone you know might probably be only a few clicks away on Facebook. Love it or loathe it, this platform has become a 1 Billion strong global community, which now has started offering even greater accessibility for blind and partially sighted users like myself by offering audio descriptions of photographs and videos. Then there is Twitter. I love the world’s first truly mobile network, which has been the place for breaking news stories, and from Ealing to Plaistow, it has won me many amazing friends and got me in touch with so many vital contacts at the same time. I would be the first to put my hand up and admit that I am not a techy computer super-geek – no indeed! My interests are everything to do with piano tuning and looking after pianos Still, I am amazed at just how many of my fellow colleagues, to this day, continue to miss out on such a large network of opportunities, which are easily available, increasingly accessible, and best of all, FREE!!

Whilst the days are longer, the summer is in full flow, and there is a general buzz around London, why would someone not choose to be Linked In to what the city has to offer. Why would someone, who wants to grow their business, not take advantage of Google Plus, where results influence your search ranks? Most of all, what amount of social interactions, are my fellow colleagues missing out on, which could improve their quality of life? I feel fortunate enough to have the opportunity to truly enjoy what the Capital has to offer both physically and digitally, and I also get to learn about new stuff on a daily basis in a form most convenient to me. Please come along, and offer your friendship to me, and I will offer you my life long friendship and service in return, both throughout the summer and beyond!

Pinterest MortarBoard

May’s Daze

It’s the beginning of what we may regard as the only summer we are going to probably get in the Capital, possibly in the UK. We have been blessed with exceptional weather as of late, which means that it is time to go have a picnic in Hyde Park, chill out at lunch at St. James’s Park, or do a bit of Window shopping around Oxford Street. On a good day at the weekend, one may even fancy a boat ride, departing from Embankment, Westminster or Tower Hill piers. It is also the final stretch for the universities, after which hard working students will get a break for summer. All this amounts to tourists, bustling activity or nights out near near Soho, or a gig or two at the O2 Arena near North Greenwich. Music, Wimbledon and longer hours of daylight are what we have to look forward to in our fine city. Life is good for everyone, just like it always has been since the dawn of time, right? :D

Wimbledon Ticket Queue

May 1st is the Maypole, or Maple Day. Across Europe, the day is marked with celebrations of Pagan and Christian traditional festivals. May 1st is the official mark of the Pagan Spring, and marks roughly the mid-point between the Vernal Equinox (March 21st) and Summer Solstice (June 21st). This means there are plenty of reasons for you to have your piano tuned, and AMH Pianos is here to help with anything and everything relating to pianos. Over time, the Roman Republic has celebrated Floralia, the festival of flora, whilst Christian Europe has celebrated Beltane, the festival of fertility, and the Walpurgis Night, the Christian Reformation of the Germanic region to coincide on the day.

MaypoleDayFestival ChildrenDancingWithInstructor

In cosmopolitan London, we had bonfires, Maypole Dancing and even some spectacular flower displays. I even learnt that in Northern Europe, it is a day when women would leave a rose on their admirer’s doorstep, where they may/may not reveal their own identity to the object of their affections.

May day Demonstration

Over time though, this day has become more synonymous with the labour movement, and symbolises the struggle for many workers to have better working conditions, fair pay, reasonable working hours and a two day weekend. We should not forget the fact that many people lost their lives and suffered wrongful imprisonment or unfair treatment for the struggle for human rights and a consequent increase in life expectancy. I am personally thankful to those improvements, which have allowed me to set up my business, get assistance with difficult tasks, and therefore expand my services to include piano removals, repairs and servicing. We should never forget the need for a fairer world.

FridayThe13thHorrorQuotes

Whilst in the month of May, we also encountered Friday the 13th last week. The concept of bad luck originated with the French Army, whose troops marched over a hanging bridge in unison, causing the bridge to collapse at resonant frequency. However, we have now attributed the day to all things bad luck, scary or even intensely creepy. Whilst luck is important, my final thoughts in this piece are that it takes a lot more than luck to succeed in life, or at whatever you do. Hard work, resilliance, honesty, a positive and friendly attitude, and a commitment to improvement, are all qualities more akin to Maypole day than Friday the 13th.

KeepCalm&GoodLuck

Have you got any of your own stories from the bank holiday? Did you face any bad luck, or even good luck, contrary to the expected trends of Friday the 13th? Do you have any favourite melodies for the month of May? Please feel free to discuss in the comments. And from AMH Pianos, I wish you lots of good luck!

Promoting The Perfect Pitch

It is just under a week to go before the 2015 London Marathon. Now in its 34th year, this is the largest marathon by virtue of its global coverage, number of runners and the amount of fund-raising. A scenic route, of 26miles 345yards, from Maze Hill to Green Park along the Embankment, awaits over 36,000 runners this year. These are the lucky folks who have made it to the starting line out of a record 247,000 entrants who went into the ballot. This post is for all of you; in honour of the 2016 London Marathon, let’s talk about the fun facts, history and highlights that you would encounter during the course.

London Marathon StartLine MazeHill

The course begins in London’s East End. The site sits outside of the traditional Roman boundaries of the City of London. Initially composed of small villages and hamlets around a Roman roadleading from London to Colchester. This was an area of green and open space compared to the crowded streets of the city. Olden day East London was a deprived, impoverished, crime filled, smelly neighbourhood, where the more odour rich employment sectors were based, away from the the over-crowded and affluent centre and Westminster. So, early industry included tanning, rope making, lead making, slaughter houses, fish farms, breweries, bone processing, tallow works and gunpowder production. However, it also saw the creation of the city’s cultural melting pot due to mass migration since the 1750s, starting from the Huganots, and carrying on to the Russians, Jews, Afro-Asians and more lately the East European states.

The Whitby, London's Oldest Pub, Established1520

Following the German raids during the Second World War, and high crime rates during the 60s and 70s, East London has seen tremendous regeneration, and is perhaps now one of the trendiest areas of the capital. From the Shard near London Bridge to the heart of the financial district near Canary Wharf and Canada Water, places like Bow have also served as the birth place of the Labour Party. Jarvis Cocker, singer of the pop band Pulp, wrote a song called 59 Lyndhurst Grove after being thrown out of a party at that address in Peckham. East London is the most popular film location in the city, playing host to everything from Oliver! to A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. The naval buildings of Greenwich stood in for Washington in Patriot Games. The Dome, now the O2 Arena in North Greenwich, the focus of the Millennium celebrations, is the largest structure of its kind in the world – big enough to house the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Statue of Liberty. No wonder the area of London has expanded since 1600, making the city first in history to reach a population of one million.

CrowdAtTheLondonMarathonNearBigBen

At the other extreme, when you have passed 107 pubs, including some near Borough Market that serve alcohol from 7AM, you would pass the famous Cutty Sark, and possibly run into Jensen Button, Christy Turlington and Downton Abbey’s Robert James-Collier, or one of 25 politicians along the way, you would definitely encounter some querky antics only the marathon can offer. There will be over 100 official Guinness World Record attempts during the marathon, ranging from the fastest marathon dressed as a leprechaun, to the fastest marathon in high heels. I do wonder how many of the runners would have put down piano tuning, or even piano removals as one of their occupations. And one just cannot talk about the Marathon without mentioning the vast sums of money raised by all the runners: £716million in total to date, and charities such as Metro Blind Sports rely substantially from all of your donations to any of your friends and family taking part in the event.

NatalieEckerdMotherOf5ToRun2016MarathonInHighHeelsIn4hours

With live broadcast in 190 countries worldwide, remember to catch the action, cheer and push on those tired bodies, aching limbs, and even 1200 St. John’s Ambulance volunteers who make this event one of the most well known on the London calendar. Remember to cheer the 250 birthday boys and girls, aged between 18 and 90 who are participating this year. Finally, a word of advice: whatever you do on the day, running or just observing, please try not to attack a Chelsea pensioner, because theoretically, this action still remains punishable by death!!

Easterly Spring From Your Top Rated London Piano Carer

The Big Ben Clock At Westminster Houses of Parliament

As the clocks jump forward, the weather brightens, and with spring, young men’s (and women’s) fancy turn to thoughts of love. I feel it is time once again to check in with everyone of you, who have made me feel so welcome since my arrival in the capital. There is plenty of exciting news to bring to you. We have some extraordinary success to celebrate as a company. Since all of you have supported me through so many good times, and stood by my side to help overcome adversity following my relocation and the establishment of my own piano tuning and removals business, I feel that this entry is to all of my service users, my friends, my guides in an otherwise scary and vicious world.

London2012 Olympic Games Venue

During almost the last two years, we started AMH Pianos from very humble beginnings. What I possessed, were merely my ambition, ideas for a great service, and the skills needed to provide the service, together with my faith and belief in my own abilities to stand and deliver a high standard of work, even at the toughest of assignments. Now, just before, Easter, because of all my well-wishers, I feel that what I see before me is not short of an amazing miracle. I am so honoured and humbled by the fact that after blood, sweat and tears, we have finally attained the top spot on Google when searching for a Piano Tuner in London. I am incredibly touched by all the wonderful positive reviews and wonderful feedback given to me by so many of you from all walks of life. We now cover most of Greater London and now even cater to the residents of Islington, plus Hackney, and from South Bromley to Wapping and all around Tower Hamlets and Newham, there is a strong chance you would be catered to with that same level of commitment that is expected of AMH Pianos. More improvements to our services and presence is on the way very soon, and of course, we appreciate your feedback. and contact

TheBigLondonEasterEggHunt

By now, you may possibly be wondering about the purpose of me writing this entry. You may most likely be trying to connect all the themes within here: Easter, Spring, London, Daylight Savings, and Piano Maintenance? I can assure you that there is a connection indeed. A joyous Easter miracle, lifting me to the top of Google’s summit, could not have come at a more opportune time than the start of spring. And as the clocks move forward, I feel that with your support and generosity, my work, skills, and standard of service will continue to move forward, taking giant leaps ahead to usher in brighter days and healthier musical instruments across the city of London. Wish me Luck!

The Seat of Learning

On a normal day in London, my piano tuning, and full-scale repair work takes me to some interesting places around the city, right from South Bromley and the southern edges of the capital, to Temple Fortune towards the far north, and from everywhere in between. Whilst every service job always adds experience to my resùmé, and experience and practice are never to be taken for granted by anyone, I always think back to my time at the Royal National College of the Blind in Hereford, and the importance of formal learning about my craft. A specially tailored classroom, focusing on a skill or specific subject, can add character, discipline and life-long transferrable skills to one’s toolkit, in turn leading to a more enhanced experience when doing what we do. My years at the RNC have allowed me to gain a specialised craft, gain valuable insights into the industry and consequently, earn a livelihood.

LondonSchoolOfEconomicsMainEntrance

During work hours, I always tend to encounter a wide range of students, from all backgrounds, subjects and institutions dotted across London. There are plenty of world-class universities and specialist colleges through out the city, making the capital perhaps one of the largest student populations anywhere in the world. A collection of young, bright and eager minds, often embarking on challenging academic disciplines, possibly away from home, or even their country for the very first time, appear to be taking on the world. These young people, whether studying at top rated universities like University College London or Imperial College, or a specialist institution such as the Royal Academy of Music or RADA, will be our future doctors, engineers, service providers and world leaders. A competitive city such as London, will always attract the sharpest, brightest young minds, with the promise of a better life for them and their families. Whatever the discipline, one must never discount the value of top quality education and the struggle to improve one’s own wisdom and knowledge.

SouthbankUniversity

Whether I am boarding a train at , or performing instrument relocation around one of the student halls of residence near Kings Cross, these young and dynamic students always seem to have bright ideas, ambition and interesting thought patterns. They make great conversationalists, full of aspirations and optimism. Despite all the stories and negative press around student life, the growing student debt and acts of decadence, one cannot help wondering how many of these generously paying customers for our city’s economy would gain plaudits in the media for studying all night, conducting innovative research, contributing to charities and causes, living away from home comforts for the very first time in the face of adversity, or just learning the best way to balance demands and expectations in the fast paced world we inhabit. Sometimes, it is just too easy to fall under the spell of sensationalism based on other people’s expense, is it not?

BirkbeckCollege UniversityOfLondon

So at the beginning of a sunny spell, here is to all the students, from Colindale to Croydon. Here is hoping that the sun always shines on your creativity, boldness and future success. After all, we would all be dependent on your work in decades to come. Make us proud!

GoldsmithsCollege MainBuilding

London Piano Tuner Running for Metro Blind Sports- 2016 London Marathon

This year, I am running the London Marathon for Metro Blind Sports. The charity has been set up to support both Blind and Partially sighted people, to stay active and engage in sporting activities.

MetroBlindSports LondonAthleticsFestival

Should you be losing your vision, or have had long term sight loss, Sport is something we should not miss out on. It boosts physical fitness, increases confidence and mobility, reduces health risks, and even raises life expectancy.

Wheverever in London you might be, from Greenford to Stratford, from Brent Cross to Bexley, regardless of your skill level or ability, Metro Blind Sports offers plenty for everyone to maintain a good quality of life for individuals who may be otherwise left isolated and at serious health risks.

The charity is mainly run by Blind and Partially Sighted people, offering a full range of sport from Blind Tennis, Football, Cricket, Swimming, Skiing, and a complete range of athletics.

Volunteers for MetroBlindSports

Check out the link below:

Metro Blind Sports – Home Page

Should you be interested in sponsoring my Marathon run, or if you might be considering volunteering to help at events, please take a look at the Virgin Giving page and/or Metro Blind Sports website. Your support and generosity are indeed much obliged with special thanks.

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=metromarathon

Please Support MetroBlindSports

I will be posting updates of my progress until the actual Marathon day, via Twitter and via the blog. Should you wish to follow my training and fund-raising progress, please take a look at www.tuningpianos.co.uk and visit the blog.

It is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to run for Metro Blind Sports, I hope we will be able to raise some funds for this wonderful, and much appreciated important cause.

All the best

Andy Howard

The Cold Blues of London Winters

MetOfficeLogo

It has been quite an eventful winter, both for AMH Pianos as well as for the UK. The Met Office, classifies seasons either based on the Astronomical shifting of the Earth’s axes, or on the meteorological shifting of the temperature patterns. The Astronomical shifts are fairly constant, which therefore, makes the temperature shift based seasons more interesting to study. Having recently seen a Flag of London – yes there is a flag belonging to the City of London, on a very cold and rainy day, I, like my fellow Londoners, could not wait for warmer times, brighter days and sweet sunshine.

FlagOfTheCityOfLondon

According to the Met Office, the end of the Winter is scheduled to be on the 29th of Feb. Now that we have passed Christmas, welcomed 2016 in Conventional, Orthodox and Chinese varieties, and even experienced the full force of love on Valentine’s Day, it is time for outdoor fun, be it picnics in Hyde Park, a trip to Kew Gardens, or even some shopping around Shepherd’s Bush. The longer days also mean more tourists, more running and more outdoor musical events. Yet, one cannot feel a tinge of sadness at the passing of perhaps the season that the UK is designed for.

LordsCricketGround St.JohnsWood

We celebrate the spring and summer in so many extravagant ways: most of our sports, school holidays, events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, the Proms, or the Notting Hill Carnival,are all geared to appreciate weather that Britain is just not programmed for. Whatever the weather men say, we are still a cold country, where we build snow figures, wear anoraks and carry umbrellas, long for a hot bath, whilst cuddling up in our warm duvets by the fire at night. Any one of these activities is quite easily referred to by our culture as creature comforts. Yet as people, there must be something missing in the bleak mid winter that the woolly jumpers, winter warmers and season of Santa Claus just doesn’t generate the same excitement.

SomeToolsNeededForPianoTuning

So as I walk with my tuning tools, I would spare one last thought for the wonderful, comfortable winter. I will do that extra yard of warm-up exercise, shield myself from that cold that one last time, and adorn my warm jumper with pride, while sparing a thought to the leap year day, when the seasonal blues end. I say to you oh glorious winter: thanks for the memories, and see you again soon!