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.

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

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!!

What’s Inside A Piano Tuner’s Brain?

Now that April has nearly approached the half way point, I can’t help but wonder where does time fly by. Just how quickly 2016 seems to be zooming away from us! The days are brighter, the air is warmer, and from Richmond to Covent Garden, there are certainly more people on the streets. It is hard to believe that not so long ago, I set up AMH Pianos, and it has turned out to be perhaps the best decision of my life. I have had the opportunity to travel across London, meet amazing people from so many walks of life, and have received a lot of love and praise from so many of you, for which, I thank you immensely.

Chelsea Flower Show

Let’s talk about something different today. I have obviously talked about your interactions with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. I have tried to describe my thoughts and feelings about what I have encountered when travelling from Bromley and Bexley to Ealing, or Hackney, or Westminster on the London Underground. We have even discussed some of the areas that I have grown to love, like Lewisham or Greenwich. However, what I want to discuss is my interactions with your pianos. Yes with time, as I tune or service your musical instrument, with regular visits, a certain familiarity and profile of your piano builds up in my mind. This is very important to me, and ultimately benefits you. Why would this matter, one might ask. After all, a piano is just a piano, and is meant to do a particular task by design.

Piano Collections- Final Fantasy V Cover

The answer is quite simple: each piano is different, not just in appearance, but also by its profile. These differences stem from the make and model of the piano, its surroundings, condition, maintenance, frequency of use and age of the instrument, just to name a few. Just as an example, say I have to perform a tuning of the instrument, and I have noticed that the top two octaves appear to sound flatter than normal. Naturally, I would correct these deficiencies during my work, and my classical training allows me to gauge exactly how these octaves should sound post tuning and repairs where appropriate. Now imagine, I notice the exact same deficiencies for the same instrument upon my follow up visit. Over time, a better picture of the piano builds up in my mind, and therefore, upon a regular visit, I would instantly know where I would need to pay attention to, and I would put into place the necessary steps to help prevent these from happening faster. This process helps me carry out the work more efficiently and quickly, thereby saving you time and money.

Piano Tuning HammerLever and Mute Kit

If you browse through my FAQ page, you would notice some tips and tricks to help better maintain your piano. I strongly believe that the best work is carried out when there is a good working relationship between me and you, as well as a good working knowledge about your instrument. Developing a mental profile about your piano provides me with more experience, and helps me strive even harder to provide you with great results.

SteinwayEbony Grand Piano

If I can be of any assistance, or if you would like to book a tuning, repair, servicing or removals, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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

A Brief History Of Lewisham-WOW!

I am always fascinated by, and deeply interested in the history of places which I carry out my work of tuning pianos, restoration and repairs, and piano removals. I like to imagine what it might have been like back in time, as London which we know today developed from small villages or even a collection of properties. This is my favourite whistle stop historical account of Lewisham, a vibrant and important borough of London.

Lewisham began its humble Saxon beginnings as Oleofsa’s village. In 862 Lewisham was referred to as LIofshema Mearc, then as Lieuesham in 918 and as Levesham in the Doomsday Book In 1086. Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham (1610-1657), founded a grammar school, a primary school, and six almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham.

In 1816 Lewisham was described as a rural village on the banks of the Ravensbourne that could only be reached by a long coach ride. It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to cover the distance in a day without what TFL has provided us in terms of transportation these days.

In 1828 the Riverdale Mill was built and is the only one of the Ravensbourne mills still surviving today. The Riverdale Mill was initially a leather mill and then became a corn mill in the 18th century. The first railway through Lewisham, the North Kent Line to Dartford, opened in 1849 and the present Lewisham station opened in 1857. In 1897 the Lewisham Clock tower was built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

The Lewisham Street Market started in 1906 Lewisham town centre was devastated by a flying bomb in 1944, but recovered by the 1950’s. In 1977 the Lewisham Shopping Centre was built and in 1994 the High Street in the town centre was pedestrianised allowing a traffic-free street market and an open space.

Lewisham’s rich history has fed into the vibrant diverse town centre that it is today. The area is bordered by Catford, Deptford, Greenwich and Hither Green. It is a busy shopping district with a good mix of chain and independent stores and Lewisham Shopping Centre, which is one of the biggest in South East London, and Lewisham Market. The market is open seven days a week with the Monday to Saturday market selling mainly fruit, vegetables, fresh cut flowers and a small range of non-perishable goods. The Sunday market is a general market selling non-perishable goods with up to 60 stalls. There is also an annual programme of themed markets, which include, French, Polish, International and a market made up of local traders.

On Lee High Road there is an eclectic mix of independent shops which include an Italian barbers, an accordion shop, a Polish shop and fancy dress shop. At the Ladywell end of Lewisham High Street a pet store, a selection of beauty and hair dressing businesses and a wide selection of specialist food stores can be found.

Lewisham Borough’s famous residents, past and present include Danny Baker (Broadcaster), Kate Bush (singer/song-writer), James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minister), Sir James Clark-Ross (polar explorer), Big Jim Connell (socialist), Ernest Dowson (poet), Alfred Titch Freeman (cricketer), Gabrielle (singer/song-writer), Sir Isaac Hayward (politician), Glenda Jackson MP (politician & actress), David Jones (painter & poet), Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (TV presenter), Spike Milligan (comedian & writer), Mica Paris (singer/song-writer), Sybil Pheonix MBE (community worker), Terry Waite (Archbishop’s Envoy), Max Wall (comedian) and Ian Wright (footballer), just to name a few. That seems to be a fairly illustrious, star studded list if I say so myself.

I really enjoy travelling throughout this part of the city, and sometimes wonder in hundreds of years time, how will people be living, and will there be pianos to tune.

Meanwhile, if you would like some attention for your piano here in 2015, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Give thanks to www.lewisham.towntalk.co.uk
Best,

Andy M Howard (AMH Pianos)
AEWVH Dip, MABPT, MIMIT
Fully Qualified & Insured Piano Tuner Technician
(Disclosure Barring Service) Checked

Office: 020 3685 5083
Mob: 07500 661581

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Looking Back At the Years

It has been quite a journey for me, both personally and professionally, ever since I set up AMH Pianos. With my work gaining constant coverage across London, I have been profoundly affected by the multi-cultural surroundings, which seems to exhibit novel creative and social dimensions not found in Bristol and the West Country. I feel as if the vibes of the capital have moved me; shaped my ways of thinking as well as my perspective in life. I do wonder, what might have been, had I not made the bold move of taking the world on my own terms, in new surroundings. Certainly, whatever has become of me in the last few years, has been a substantial improvement.

With my birthday on the horizon, I reminisce about my own personal development. Ever since my relocation to Hammersmith in West London, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many unique, interesting individuals, from all walks of life. I not only am tasked with looking after their pianos, they are also my friends. Being in the capital, my offerings related to piano removals and full scale general repairs have allowed me exposure to an even greater array of instruments, in different surroundings. Constant exposure to all makes and models has ensured that I am able to provide a better tuning service with the passage of time.

In addition to what I know best, I have also learned the use of social media and have even gained quite a fan following. Blogging, training for the London Marathon, and being exposed to the arts, has without a doubt, filled in many of the building blocks that nowhere else in the country could. However, in the grand scheme of things, all this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The greatest accomplishment for me, I feel, has been my personal development on the people skills front. Each time one of my customers provide me with praise and thanks, appreciating what I have done, I feel so much taller, yet humbled. For a new place to be favourable, it is not the environment or infrastructure, but rather the people who make up the community. Being blessed to be part of a cosmopolitan, multifaceted and creative mix, I come away each day learning not just something new, but often something so out of the box. This daily phenomena is sufficient to keep me grounded, since whenever I feel like I have learnt a great deal, I also find myself thinking that I have really not learnt anything at all. Still however, there is a long way to go before world domination.

Local Piano Tuner

I have thought about a really interesting mindset; let me try to explain. When I finished moving to London, and set up AMH Pianos, I found that people would call me, and ask if I am a Local Piano Tuner!

I have to ask them, "What actually makes a Local Piano Tuner?". I am Based in Hammersmith, and my working area is all across London – please check my Areas Covered Page to find out where I serve.

I think the Idea of a Local service is very undefined, and near impossible to actually qualify, for example:

If I got on the Hammersmith and City Line from Goldhawk Road, for a job in and around London Bridge, I would then consider myself as being local to Camden, Greenwich, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth at this point of my working day.

Also, If I had a job in Ealing, traveling  up on the Central Line from Shepherds Bush, I would then be Local to Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and so on. There is a definite pattern here. Can you see what I am talking about?

Is there some kind of an invisible, “local area distinction”?! And if so, could someone please explain to a new London resident like me what these are, and why? I am aware of so many people with their crash pads in London, working  in London during the week, and getting away for the weekend.

I am also aware of Piano Tuners, who don’t live in the city, but come and work in London for a couple of days, and then head back home, which happens to be outside the Greater London boundaries.

Can there be such a thing as a London wide Local Piano Tuning Service?
I believe that in the 21st century, we are all living in a "Global Village". Still however, if you were to operate more than five miles from one's home in London, you may not be considered local anymore.

I wonder, how far is the average commute in the City, and are these people looked at as being non Local at their place of work?

Scratching head trying to work out what the answer really is!! My own personal view is that to be truly considered local, anywhere, the key is to develop close ties with the area, community and activities within that area. Least of all, this would begain you respect from the people for your efforts

Please call on us: AMH Pianos- Local London wide Piano Related Services.