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

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!

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.

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.

The Musical Fireworks!

It is the season for pyrotechnics across Britain. It normally begins with Halloween & gathers momentum, culminating with the new year with a bang. Fire has fascinated man since the dawn of time; the ancient  Greeks regarded it as one of the primary elements, & the Zoroastrians even worship it. The old traditions of history, like the Hindu wedding ceremony & the Olympic torch, all depict a harmonious relation between fire & musical accompaniment. So as I wander across the busy streets of London, I can just imagine a time when the historical grandure of London would have consisted of gaslights, architecture & beautiful music – perhaps some of the finest works ever created.

Music through Europe’s  history has been created to grip the listener, captivate the imagination & provoke thought. There were no editing tools, no recording studios & tracks did not end after four minutes. We of course now have more types of instruments at our disposal than ever before. It makes me wonder that if people have still maintained the love for fireworks- simple yet spectacular in appearance- then what has happened to our oratory tonal sense? Classical music was simple in execution & creation, despite the complex  layers of stories & human emotions conveyed. What has happened to us that our musical concentration has waned in spite of easier access to sound, whilst simultaneously, our fascination with fire has heightened as we find it possible to create & enjoy newer ways of enjoying bigger & better fire based displays, even in the face of fire safety legislation & our unpredictable weather?

London fireworks
London fireworks – courtesy:

Could our changes in perception be explained by events that are evolutionary, or are these events revolutionary? And I wonder if there was an event that marked the turnaround for us humans to develop our appreciation of light at the expense of our appreciation for good sound? Are our combined senses now drawn to entirely different types of rhythms, that the transverse light waves resonate more with our consciousness, compared to the longitudinally generated sound waves? Most important of all, are these trends reversible, and if so, then what would be the catalyst to tip the balance to a more stable equilibrium? I wish to leave my readers with these thought provoking questions. Meanwhile, I am hoping for a new, more fulfilling sound amidst the fireworks leading up to Christmas & beyond.

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