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.

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!

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!

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.

Piano Tuning Cost

As a fully qualified Piano Tuner, I sometimes wonder, how much are my skills really worth in 2015?

I trained for three years learning all aspects of Piano tuning and Piano Repairs, developing my skills to a very high standard. Only after rigorous training at the Royal National College (RNC) and after acquiring a Dip AEWVH did I started acquiring on the job experience, perfecting my skills and technique over many years.

The costs of piano tuning in London ranges from £50 up to £100. In spite of my highly competitive rates, I get customers who regularly try to haggle over the price with me when they call. Is it me, or would these same people argue over the costs of their cars being fixed at a high end dealership? “Will you give me a ten percent discount on your pricing?”, is what I regularly encounter at the time of bookings. I consequently try to laugh it off, saying: “Yes, you can have a discount, if you are willing to bring the piano to me for tuning.” . Sadly, the service users do not normally get the joke.

A piano tuning takes at least one hour, plus  naturally there is the travel time and cost of getting to and from the clients home to consider. Travelling across London generally takes more than the time spent at the clients' home, all whilst transporting my tools and keeping these in good working order..

There are certain tradesmen, who charge a call out fee, before they start any job,  and this is considered as standard practice. So why is the craft of a Piano tuner, not consider to be a highly skilled professional trade? Lots of people would attempt basic electrical work around the house themselves. And yet, how many would actually try to finely tune a concert grand piano? Or for that matter, how many could even attempt sound restoration and instrument servicing on an ordinary domestic upright piano?

Please take a look at my website to see the quality of work, and how professional a service we offer. You can expect nothing but the best, most affordable name in tuning and repairing pianos, and we can also offer removals of pianos in and around London.

I take great pride in my work. Therefore, an affordable and friendly service request for AMH Pianos will always aim to hit the right chord for your instrument, and indeed your pockets.

 

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.