Blind Piano Tuner Takes on London

Meet the overly optimistic visually challenged man who has taken life head-on literally. Many people would consider moving into a large city to start a new job daunting and probably even cower from it but that was not so for an overly determined Andy Howard from Sulgrave Road, Hammersmith.

Andy moved a year ago from Bath his hometown and into the large city London to start a job as a piano tuner. As a child, he was diagnosed with clinical blindness and has lived with the condition all his life. Navigating London at times is frustrating for people with sight but Andy claims that he enjoys the remarkable transport system in London. He says that travelling by train is very easy for him and it is the means of transport that he uses to move around the city when he is going to work on people’s pianos.

He only sings unending praises for the transport system that he says is well coordinated and the staff who work for it. He says the trains are very well placed to accommodate the needs for visually impaired individuals. This is due to the audio messages announcing every stop or any other important announcement. He gladly tells of how the attendants on the train help him up the platform and into the train and help him alight when he gets to his destination.

Andy Howard tuning a piano

The 46 year old says that another thing that aids his movement from one place to another is his smartphone. He tells us of the audio setup that he uses to set up his GPS to guide him to and from the places he has to work. The device reads out messages, emails and calls to him and he can send them in the same way.

Andy is a man determined to make a living despite the challenges that plague his efforts on a daily basis. He is happy with what he does and hopes to get more in the future.

If you want to know more about this wonderful man or have a piano that needs some care, visit http://www.tuningpianos.co.uk. Hurry today.

The Importance of being Techy

It is remarkable to see how technology has transformed the lives of disabled people over the past few years. As a piano tuner technician relocating to London, I find the use of modern IT both challenging and exciting at the same time; more importantly the mixing of information propagation and communication coupled with my company’s service offerings as if to say that the old world has met the new. The contrast between using an ipad sending and receiving emails to arrange and confirm the servicing or tuning of a concert grand or an upright piano seems incredibly fascinating. The fact that I would use my conventional musical training and a tuning fork to calibrate the sound of a musical instrument back to concert levels, traveling to an area of London on the underground, when somebody has probably used their smart phone to contact me via my website, really brings together several centuries of human evolution as a single activity.

Owing to the use of technology, I am now able to actively engage with my social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, or writing my blog, or even uploading videos to my YouTube channel. With the use of assistive technology, it is now easier than ever to find my way around all the areas covered by AMH Pianos using a GPS that can verbally explain turn-by-turn directions to any address or post code – something that was not available to blind travelers right up to the turn of the century. Now, it only seems sensible and logical for disabled people to expect so much more from life with the use of technology to compensate for their physical or sensory limitation. Having an attractive website that explains my work, actively engaging with other disability organisations in the industry like The Association of Blind Piano Tuners, planning and researching new opportunities and business ideas, and even participating in professional organisations like the Institute of Musical Instrument Technology (IMIT), can all be put down to my fascination and sheer curiosity for the way things work online. Being able to fundraise for RP Fighting Blindness by running the London Marathon, receiving valuable feedback from the reviews and comments written by my valued customers, plus planning my social and recreational activities is now much easier than it was for my peers in the past few decades. I would go as far as saying that the presence of adaptive technology makes it possible for me to live an active and independent life, and establish and expand my work, whilst constantly increasingly my productivity even in the busy and relatively new location that is London. I can only hope for it to improve with the passage of time and sincerely hope that all possible measures are taken by the Government, businesses and technology companies to allow more disabled people to become self-reliant and greater contributors in our society.

 

assistive technology and piano tuning

Within the general public there is often a fear associated with new technology. This is mainly due to a lack of understanding of how new systems work and how to best take advantage of the new possibilities on offer. I truly believe that by constantly improving our understanding of what’s out there, not only can we eliminate our fear, but we can also become better human beings and contribute more to the best of our abilities to the things that we do best. On that note, if you would like the best, high quality maintenance, repair or safe transportation of your piano, please do not hesitate to contact me, either via the new world method of email on your smart phone, tablet or laptop, or the old fashioned dog and bone on 07500 661581. Whatever your preference you can always expect friendly and professional service for which there is no technological substitute anywhere in the world.

 

Continental Variations

The cosmopolitan metropolis, our capital, has spawned many talented artists across all creative disciplines. As our population diversifies post world war II, we continue to embrace the fusion of styles, creating something entirely new representing the globalising, hybridising melting pot that is London. Extending our geographical reach across Europe, and further widening the net to the Middle East and North Africa, is it possible to separate London’s modern style, whose boundaries have been blurred into one another throughout history?

I notice an interesting modern musical phenomenon with a clear north-south divide. Music in southern Europe appears to have more of a pop variety, whilst the northerners lean towards heavier beats, culminating in the Scandinavian heavy metal craze. I can extend my argument by pointing to the boundaries of Europe where the style, to this day, retains its old world musical roots. One only needs to take southern Spain, where the music has Flamenco overtones (itself originating from the migrant Indian Gypsies), and Arabic and Hebrew styles due to the Muslim and Jewish communities respectively. Similarly Greek and Turkish music maintain their links to medieval classical music, as does the music of the Balkans and other southern European states. Note that Middle Eastern and North African music still sound similar to Klasma and Raga, that continue to be popular and prevalent long after their creation close to 1000 years earlier.

Now observe how Germanic, Celtic and similar northern European music has a more rock influence, with heavier, louder beats and a slightly classical melodic overlay. Additionally, notice how central European music appears to blur the boundaries between northern and southern styles, both in composition and performance. Interestingly, Scandinavian music continually produces heavy metal musicians in the modern charts, with acts like Lordi, even winning the Eurovision Song Contest.

Lordi winning Eurovision
Lordi winning Eurovision

Why this divide? Music is after all still performed using familiar instruments and mainly composed and taught in our curriculum using the piano, an instrument that has stood the test of time and heavily influences music across Europe and its surroundings regardless of genre. Certainly the northern regions experience extreme cold, whilst southern Europe and the Middle East can get temperatures in excess of 40c. Let’s also examine the more fast-paced, task-oriented life-style of the North, compared to the South’s relaxed, more leisurely approach. Surely these factors would affect the artists and adoring public alike. Factor in the industrial revolution, resulting in some of the most advanced infrastructure and social reforms on the planet in Northern Europe and Scandinavia. In contrast Southern Europe is presently experiencing a recession and a consequent drop in living standards. Returning to the arts, notice the linguistic precision English, German, Danish and Swedish and contrast this to the expressive richness of Italian, Greek, Turkish, and even Arabic and Hebrew. There is a musical connection, surely!

The Middle Ages had a more expressive way of doing things, longer attention spans and a depth of perception, since there were less things to do and even fewer advancements to compensate for human error. Hence the greatest classical musicians can be linked to this era. If these observations were to continue, would sound bytes replace symphonies? And does this mean that the next wave of musical geniuses will come from Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa? Finally, what conclusions can be drawn about the emerging culture of London as the population continues to rise and diversify and styles and roots constantly merge into each other?

Whatever your style and preference, talk to AMH Pianos about how we can help you get the most out of your piano. Also, the opinions and views of my readers are always highly appreciated. Have a great and  wonderful 2015.

Happy New Year 2015
Happy New Year from AMH Pianos

Is London’s music up-tempo?

Having moved to London not so long ago, I have noticed a definite surge in my energy. The crowds and the hustle and bustle, coupled with the relentless pace of life, are all definitely a shock to anyone’s system, especially if the person has not been accustomed to living in big cities. Now that I am settled and gradually becoming more established, I can certainly appreciate the whole spectrum of activity and opportunities that this world-renowned capital of ours has to offer… and I love it more every day.

I love London guitar

Having lived in Bristol and Bath for a considerable chunk of my life, I was fortunate enough to attend plenty of events that featured some of the best music I have ever heard. Whilst Bristol may be renowned for its music scene, there is certainly no place like London when it comes to the Arts. Having just attended an Ed Sheeran gig last week, it got me thinking: does London’s music tempo match its lifestyle?

Comparing the size, population and average distance travelled per week, the pace of London completely dwarfs that of Bristol. I now find myself walking and talking faster and I certainly want to achieve a lot more in the smallest possible timeframe. Assuming that this phenomenon applies to every Londoner, does it mean that I am now listening to more up-tempo music to match my energetic lifestyle? London has certainly given rise to many musical genres including Drum and Bass and more recently Dubstep – both being a somewhat up-tempo take on the world famous West Indian influences of Reggae, Calypso and Steel Band. I have not conducted formal scientific research. However, I do wonder whether or not my music loving customers expect their pianos to be prepared differently to produce more up-tempo and louder sounds so that they can play at top-notch speed. Given that a piano is always a piano and serviced in exactly the same way to produce the best quality of music regardless of location, are there underlying factors expected by the piano player to aid their composition that matches the pace of their lifestyle. It goes without saying that with each passing day I seem to be working faster and more efficiently in line with the London way of life.

Street Piano London
courtesy: streetpianos.com

Humans have a tendency to naturally increase their rhythm over time once they have mastered a particular pattern – a psychological phenomenon known as forward telescoping. It is therefore imperative that strict discipline is required to counteract this tendency if one intends to produce top quality music. The question still remains: Does the pace of London, or for that matter any city, impact the rate of playing or producing music? I would certainly love to hear from my readers purely to generate interesting ideas on the subject that I could one day turn into academic research.

Give a shout out in the comments! :)