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!

Celebrations in 2016 go on…and on

The New Year has been and gone; fireworks, after-parties, New Year’s resolutions and good wishes all around. In fact, we have probably broken our New Year’s resolutions long ago, and cheery Christmas music and tinsel have long been replaced by the usual chart toppers; the lights are now off amid what many people may describe as the most challenging month of the year. Sounds familiar? No, not quite yet.

Tower Bridge at New Year 2016

Living in London, the Metropolitan capital of the World, is not even close to a dull affair. Just listen beneath the surface and you will notice that celebrations carry on and on. I feel extremely delighted about the fact that, no matter where I am in the City, the Christmas and New Year theme carries on throughout the month of January, meaning that there is a party to attend only a short train ride away.

Saint Sophia's Cathedral Bayswater

When most of us are finished with the 12 days of Christmas the following day heralds the arrival of the Armenian, and Greek Orthodox Christmas, followed by the New Year’s celebration around the 14th of January. Fortunately therefore, the large Greek and Armenian communities in London pull out all the stops, culminating in extremely creative, melodic sounds coupled with some of the most iconic rhythms on the planet. You just need to listen.

Martin Luther King

The month of January also happens to be Black History Month. It is not only a time to remember, and make amends for, our shameful collective past, but also a time for musical education. Be it Caribbean Calypso, African Polyrhythms, various inclinations of Jazz and Soul, there is great music beyond the UK Top 40. Again, you just need to keep your ear out whilst walking the streets of our beautiful capital.

Chinese New Year in London

Finally towards the end of the month, we gather together to welcome in the Chinese New Year. This ancient rich culture has played an important role in astrology, ancient mythology, and of course, fascinating music with a completely different perspective to the West. This New Year’s Celebrations are truly a spectacle – one of increasing importance due to the cultural and socio-economic empowerment of China, along with a growing Chinese diaspora.

With so much going on, I do wonder why anybody, especially in London would have a reason to feel depressed just yet. There are great food, fabulous costumes and a colourful vibe on display, all with the opportunity to gain cultural insight and education. One just needs to get involved in the amazing London community and there will be plenty of events at which to give and receive the best wishes for the New Year. Last but not least, wherever you may be reading this, have a great 2016 from AMH Pianos.

Christmas melodies for 2015

It’s nearly Christmas and London has a buzzing feel. The streets are thronged with happy shoppers, excited kids and equally excited grown men masquerading as Santa Claus. Whilst each year a slew of new artists and albums are released, one can’t help but wonder why the same old Christmas pop music plays everywhere year after year, with countless remakes reaching the pinnacle of the UK Top 40 Musical Charts. Certainly the style of music has evolved over the last few decades, with the classically themed 1930’s Christmas tunes giving way to Jazz in the 1950’s, Swing and Big Band in the 1960’s, which led to Rock & Roll, finally culminating in Electronic Techno by the mid to late 80’s, & the X Factor in the last few years. A simple question: what next?

Whilst one cannot criticise shifting tastes and human expression, I feel somewhat aggrieved that the simple magical stylings, so rich in creativity appear largely absent from the Christmas soundscape as engrossed shoppers surround me with their shopping bags and festive mood. Whilst new and innovative styles of music, such as Rap, R & B, DubStep and Drum & Bass, make up our yearlong listening, why do they remain largely absent from our Christmas music? In particular, why have recording artists not been capitalising on this rather glaring omission?

Call me old-fashioned, or perhaps not quite down withit, but I was rather excited when in 2003, the Darkness released a brilliant Christmas tune that nearly made the Christmas Number One. I’m certainly not criticising any of the 80’s music either, since those artists did an amazing job back at the time that has stood the test of nearly three decades and is still going strong. I am just trying to make a simple observation about the perennial lack of new melodies and innovation around this festive season. Also, it feels like there is a dilution and loss of the wonderful values and traditions that make Christmas a time for peace, love and togetherness. These are the values that create a great society and wonderful people. Whilst the underlying Christian traditions behind Christmas have been largely replaced with our society’s overemphasis on commercialisation, is there a direct correlation between the simple creativity of the seasoned professional musicians and its replacement with ‘X Factor’ like instant gratification of novices craving 15 minutes of fame? Perhaps I love a good simple melody which despite its simplicity, oozes style, warmth and creativity, and can be easily spawned on a lovely grand piano.

Have you listened to a good Christmas tune lately? What are your favourite Christmas memories or music? Please share your views and opinions in the Comments and from everyone at AMH Piano Tuning have a great Christmas and very best wishes for the Holiday & for 2016.

Reflections on Guy Fawkes Night

The nights are drawing in & the season for pyrotechnics has begun across Britain. Starting with Halloween, it gathers pace, culminating with a bang at the New Year. Revered highly by the ancient Greeks & worshipped by the Zoroastrians fire has fascinated man since the dawn of time. The old traditions of history, like the Hindu wedding ceremony & the Olympic torch, all depict a harmonious relation between fire & music. So as I wander throughout London, I can just imagine the City’s historical grandeur consisting of gaslights, architecture & beautiful music – perhaps some of the finest works ever created.

European classical music has been created to grip, captivate & provoke thought. Could the creative purity remain unadulterated, not confined to today’s chart topping convention! Today’s instrument definitions have changed whilst fire remains constant. The contrast intrigues me. Classical music is deceptively simple in execution & creation, despite the complexities of the stories & human emotions conveyed. With our shorter attention spans, craving more extravagant visual displays, is our aesthetic appreciation rising at the expense of our musical concentration?

London fireworks
London fireworks – courtesy: Timeout

Is our changing perception evolutionary or revolutionary? Was there an event that tipped the balance to make us resonate more with transverse light than with longitudinal sound waves? Is the trend reversible? If so then what would the catalyst be? Only a few days after Guy Fawkes Night, I leave you with these thought provoking questions. Meanwhile, I am hoping for a new, more fulfilling sound leading into 2016.

Have a melodious week ahead, from everyone at AMH Tuning Pianos.

In praise of Greenwich

Thought I would offer a little insight into some of the areas in which I tune pianos throughout London.

One of the Boroughs I enjoy working in is Greenwich. I love the history of the place, and the mix of districts within Greenwich: Abbey Wood, Blackheath, Charlton, Eltham, North Greenwich, Thamesmead, Westcombe Park, to name but a few!

Each of these areas has its own personality, offering great diversity and a colourful mix throughout the Borough of Greenwich.

I really enjoy the history of Eltham, what with the quintessentially English royal Palace, and I wish so much that I could travel back in time and see what life was like there in the Fifteenth Century!

Having moved to London recently, I make the most of what the city has on offer, and you will see me going to concerts at the 02. I have also been fortunate enough to have walked over the top of the Dome, and taken the cable car across the Thames.

I really enjoy the trip aboard the Thames Clipper along the riverbank into Westminster. I especially love this trip at night time, marvelling at all the amazing buildings and bridges lit up as you make your way to Westminster Palace.

My favourite sights include St Paul’s cathedral, the amazing Shard at London Bridge, and Tower Bridge at night time. It was fascinating to discover that Tower Bridge is classed as a ship, and has a captain manning the helm at all times.

The reason I’m writing this blog about Greenwich is chiefly the result of my time spent exploring the Borough following my recent relocation to London.

Time is such an interesting concept, and I guess the Borough of Greenwich is the modern day focal point of time, “the Prime Meridian Line”.

I have so much more to say about the Borough, what with music and entertainment over the years, but for now, it is time for me to go!

Moving to a New City with Your Piano

Whenever it is time to move to a new city there is always excitement about the many opportunities that one is likely to encounter when moving to greener pastures. When the excitement dies down though, the worrying begins. or anyone involved in the music industry, there are the practical considerations, including the logistics around a safe relocation of the musical instrument. These are on top of the anxiety about the relocation being worth the hassle.

For pianists, who need to account for their piano, in addition to themselves in a new environment, the following factors need to be given thought.

Travel arrangements

A piano is a large, heavy and bulky instrument. The mere thought of moving it across the city could raise ample concerns. Piano removals is unlike any ordinary furniture and fittings. It requires planning, a safe pair of trusted hands, plus an assurance that the task would be carried out safely, in a prompt and expeditious manner, without damage to the instrument or the properties it is being moved to and from. For those tight corners within a house, narrow hallways, or on the rare occasions when the piano is on the top floors, special tools such as forklifts and cranes may need to be employed, and the level of noise within the surrounding neighbourhoods would need to be minimised.

Cost of moving the Instrument

Musical treasures are very personal to their owners. The process of transporting such revered, often costly gems, is not like any other weighty luggage. Instruments like the piano need to be transported in bespoke containers, with sufficient padding and insulation. When the transport is over a sizeable distance, the carriage of the instrument needs to be performed using heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). Time and labour become important aspects, and associated costs need to be budgeted beforehand.

Servicing

A piano needs to be regularly tuned every once in a while. Regular maintenance helps with instrumental longevity and personal creativity – a vital combination for any music lover. Therefore, post relocation, the job of finding the most qualified piano tuner technician begins. Depending on your final destination, the rates and operating hours of such personnel in the area may be significantly different, and finding the best, most qualified pair of hands, will demand time and effort to carry out research on this vital service. This requirement would most likely appear soon after your move, particularly because an instrument often needs a check up and professional clean following a move, which could cause the sound to be out of balance due to unexpected vibrations during transportation.

Space

It is also important to consider if there will be sufficient space for you to place your piano in the residence you are moving into in the new city. You have to ensure that the building you are occupying has enough room for all your personal belongings as well as your instrument. Spacious surroundings lead to richer sounds, plus personal comfort and prevention against accidental damage.

In Summary

It is important to carry out research and ask plenty of questions about your new surroundings, particularly before finalising your relocation plans. Fortunately, with the advent of modern technology, there are a vast array of resources available online, to get you started. At AMH Pianos, we are always here to help you should you require industry leading piano removal services. For any queries you may have about transporting your piano, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

The Importance of Certification and Verification

Playing the piano is fun until it is time to have it tuned. Finding anyone in the service industry can be a very confusing frustrating experience for pianists. It is imperative that you select the best tuner for your piano. You can’t just go by appearances and if you don’t even know where to start searching, you could easily be conned by someone who doesn’t know much about pianos or even how they are tuned and maintained. Looks can be deceiving.

It is important therefore to do your research on the person that turns up to tune your piano. Check that they can provide documentation proving that they are certified to do the work. That way you will be assured of quality service. There are many reasons why you should verify the qualifications of your tuner. They include the following.

Ensures quality service

If a tuner is a certified practitioner then he/she has been vetted to take care of your piano. Such measures include a criminal records (DBS) check, as well as membership of industry organisations. Professional bodies include The Association of Blind Piano Tuners and the Institute of Musical Instrument Technology.

Ensures value for your money

Once you have ensured that your tuner is bona fide, you can relax in the knowledge that you are putting your piano into capable hands. Entrusting your priceless instrument into the wrong hands would be a waste of money; it would also put your initial investment at risk. You need to rest assured that the expert will do what he/she is trained to do, to give you the best tunes on your piano, which may be worth just about anything in the whole wide world.

Security purposes

It is always good to verify the qualifications and identities of service providers that we allow into our homes. For reasons of personal safety and security verifying the identity and credibility of the individual or organisation is even more important in a large city like London. Top rated professionals, as a matter of pride, would always aim to provide you with value for money. They will also ensure that work is carried out in a safe and expeditious manner with the personnel having the appropriate insurance cover.

Conclusion

In 2015 it is remarkably easy to ascertain information about the person you wish to employ for tuning or repairing your piano. In fact, a growing number of people are beginning to provide reviews and comments to assist you to make the right choice. A few minutes of research can save you time, money and hassle in the future.

Having Your Piano Tuned Twice a Year

You may already be familiar with the importance of having your piano tuned regularly. However, one common question is always directed towards me: How often should I have my piano tuned? Conventional wisdom, as well as textbook training generally gears men and women within our profession to give a piano a bi-annual once over. However, this figure is only a theoretical guide, and not the be all and end all. Real world factors, the environment, and even your level of interaction with the instrument, all play important part in determining the level of care that is essential for your piano’s optimum health.

Your piano is made of different materials, both metallic and non-metallic that contract and expand according to seasonal variations. Changes in weather impact each material differently, and the difference in thermal expansion/contraction values, heat absorption, and consequently the continuous effect of climate change on the inter-connected instrument components,, inevitably takes its toll on the overall sound and tonality of your piano. Couple this with the often unavoidable presence of thermostats, central heating systems, air conditioners and coolers, and night storage heaters within our homes, schools and other buildings housing the piano. The perfect pitch cannot be maintained ad infinitum, unless of course, one was to simulate something akin to a temperature controlled lab surrounding the piano.

Perhaps however, the most important factor within the whole equation carries more weight than any other points discussed above: Humidity! Not only does the presence of high humidity causes the instrument to lose its level of sound, the exposure of your instrument to high humidity and moisture can cause ever lasting damage to the instrument.

Below are some of the factors that will ensure you only need to have your piano tuned twice a year.

• Location

Finding the perfect and stable environment for your piano will ensure that you only have it tuned twice a year. Look for a location where there is no air conditioning, fire place, radiator, direct sunlight or any type of heating devices. Place your piano away from outside walls and in a place where the humidity doesn’t change all the time.

• Material and humidity

The primary material of your piano is wood: one that is highly affected by small seasonal changes in humidity. Humidity change also contributes somewhat to the natural heat related material expansion and contraction. This swelling and shrinking can cause cracks within the wood and affects the tuning stability of your piano. Placing your piano in a location where humidity is stable, and minimal, will ensure that the tuning of your piano lasts longer and on the whole, stays relatively close to the twice yearly tuning cycle, whilst curtailing the need for full scale restoration.

• Professional piano tuner

Finding a good, capable professional to tune your piano is another way of avoiding unexpected tuning. A qualified piano tuner will tune your piano and let you play for at least two hours straight or even more. If the sound quality stays constant after this initial test, as long as other factors are stable and you do not carry out a move of the instrument, you will only need to have a professional tune it twice a year to preserve its tune.

Even though a piano that is well maintained and kept under favourable, stable climates, may demo good sound over a calendar year without being tuned, it is advisable to have a professional tune it twice a year. The good quality of the keys will be maintained and your piano will remain well preserved; besides you will avoid repair costs in the future.

Have Electronic Keyboards been the Death Knell for Pianos?

The modern music industry has seen a huge revolution whereby electronic keyboards have dealt a death blow to pianos. A few years back, there used to be a certain enjoyment that came with a musician stringing together the strings of a piano to bring together the song’s message. Playing piano in those days was an art that could only be learnt by the best and most talented.

Distinguished musicians made a career statement by choosing the piano as their instrument of choice. They learnt how to play it at the feet of the best teachers in the world and then translated this knowledge into powerful musical notes that were known to resonate in the hearts of their listeners.

evolving into a piano player

Today however, the industry has seen the advent of electronic keyboards. These keyboards have diminished pianos completely because of many reasons. One of these reasons is that electronic keyboards are easy to learn about. There isn’t much for musicians to learn because some even guide him/her on where to press to make the kind of sound they want.

Electronic keyboards can also accommodate a memory card. Musicians have turned to this method largely. They acquire pre-recorded material from somewhere else and insert it into its slot. When they are performing they only pretend to be playing the notes.

electronic keyboard

They are very user friendly because you do not need a teacher to guide you. There are many applications on the internet that have been made to teach first-timers how to play the keyboard. It isn’t hard to follow the simple instructions they give though.

Electronic keyboards have really done a number on pianos. They would need a lot of effort to catch up if they ever will.

If you would like to know more about this topic or talk to musical experts, log on to http://www.tuningpianos.co.uk. This is the chance of your lifetime.

Is Fixing My Piano Part of the Tuning of the Piano?

People love freebies too much. Some have even come to love free things with an un-understandable keenness. People have almost learnt to wait for free things all the time, so much so that they begin to expect them automatically. Many people then have been quoted asking whether fixing their pianos is part of the process that includes tuning of the pianos.

The answer to that very common question is a No. The reason is that fixing of pianos is done whenever a piano has been damaged in any way. That is the scenario that calls for a specialist to repair it. If it is found to be beyond repair, it is then thrown into the lot where recycled materials are thrown.

Tuning though, is a gradual process that takes place regularly where an expert seeks to align the pitch and keys properly. Such an expert has the musical ear to know how to align and tune the keys, so that they produce the notes in the best way possible.

Inside a piano about to be tuned

Another huge difference between fixing pianos and tuning them is in the costs. Depending on the kind of damage that is being fixed, the cost could either be extremely high or extremely low. Tuning though, is a uniform process that may not vary very much in costing unless the demographics are too far apart. This is not a frequent occurrence. One cannot replace the other and it cannot complement the other.

Summary

Fixing pianos is quite demanding and takes quite a bit of time; therefore it cannot be considered to be part of the tuning process. The two are very different processes and they also require different specialisms too, to some extent.

Conclusion

Visit http://www.tuningpianos.co.uk/faq.html and have an audience with the experts who will tell you whatever else you would like to ask.