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

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

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!

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!

Piano Tuning in the Magic Kingdom

On one of my regular Piano Tuning gigs, I passed through the barriers at what is now known as Kings Cross International. Nothing much unusual about this journey, since I use the station routinely.

However, in my day-to-day coverage across London, it does not even occur to me that close to the Disabled Access Point, our favourite friends Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione had boarded the Hogwarts Express. From the station’s interior, right along Euston Road, the magnificent Victorian infrustructure has many sights to admire, and includes plenty of locations where the various films have been shot. This is also the location where J.K. Rowling’s parents had first met.

Kings Cross St Pancras Station

Strangers walked past me, carrying goodies and even wearing hoodies, from the Harry Potter Shop, and I did wonder, if only for a moment, as to what it might have been like servicing instruments in the magic kingdom. No people! I am not talking about Harry Potter World, which you can actually get to from Kings Cross on the train. I meant all the places where the film locations exist, such as the real Diagon Alley near Temple, or the iconic Craven Street: the street that inspired Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (Cannon Street, or even the walk from the Lambeth Bridge to the Westminster Underground. Bringing the gift of music to so many, even for a brief moment, seemed full of mystery and intrigue, and who knew that London allows you so many chances to even go on a little treasure hunt without putting your hand in your pocket.

HarryPotterWorld

Now that the day of the London Marathon is approaching, it occurs to me, whether or not, I might be able to do a treasure run, whereby I could enjoy a popular trail whilst getting fit and ready at the same time. Where should I start? I mean, what would be the safest, most interesting route from, say Greenwich, which ends at the famous Sherlock Holmes Pub? Please let me know your ideas in the comments.

LondonMarathonFinishLine

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.

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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When Using a Service Provider, Check their Views on Google

It is 2015, and everyone now has ready access to the web. Service providers, therefore, should be very intent on fostering good relations with their customers, suppliers and distributors. This is because these days, news not only travels fast, it travels instantly, and remains in the public view forever! Whenever you are looking to work with someone new, you have to ensure that their goals and your expectations are on the same page so that you can avoid disappointments later.

To gauge a service provider you could look into what they think about social media. GooglePlus is a social platform where individuals and businesses get together because of their shared interests in various trends. The platform also provides past customers to provide reviews about a product or service they have recently received. Sites like Facebook and Twitter, provide individuals to talk about their thoughts and feelings about any subject in real time. Additionally, Linkedin is perhaps the most effective way that you can read your service provider’s CV.

The more engaged a service provider is on social media, the more easily accessible they are. Such presence also makes for good accountability and honest, transparent communication. In addition, as a customer, your queries get answered readily, and you can even get a more personalized experience. Whenever you see service providers who are keen on establishing contact with their clients it shows that they seek to work together with them to provide efficient value for money; it shows their devotion since they are taking time off to post about progress and have dialogues with a human being. This digital evolution has made it possible to eliminate the traditional model of customers just being another number. The benefits of embracing technology are mutual for the service provider and user.

Real time feedback, leading to substantial improvement, is what leads to great service in a fast paced modern world, where ratings are now everything. Sites such as Yell and Thomson Local, once merely a directory listing, have now evolved to also describe the user experience of others, to help you make a more informed choice.

With a recent survey suggesting that as much as 93% of the people now trust online reviews, I find it shocking to know that so many of my contemporaries are still not online. In fact, they refuse to get digitally acquainted, in spite being told of the benefits and competitive advantage of doing so. When such people are called on to provide a trade/service, you may find that a lack of digital understanding will probably manifest into a lack of appreciation of today’s lifestyles and the resulting considerations, such as punctuality, communication and flexibility that makes all the difference these days.

It is always worth your while to research your service providers so that you can know just what they are like. Learn what they believe in so that you can be sure that you are reading from the same script during interaction, which may require repetition. On that subject, please feel free to read our testimonials, and if possible, please write us a review.

The Christmas-filled Winter Tones

It’s the run up to Christmas and the streets of London have a busy feel around them. Everywhere you see happy shoppers, excited kids and equally excited grown men dressed up 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 summit 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. A simple question: what next?

Whilst one cannot criticise shifting tastes and human creativity, I feel somewhat aggrieved that the simple magical stylings, so rich in creativity appear largely absent from the Christmas soundscape as happy 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? More pertinently, why have recording artists not been capitalising on this rather glaring omission?

Call me old-fashioned, or perhaps not quite down with the kids, 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 two decades and still going strong. I am just trying to make a simple point about the perennial lack of new music and innovation around this joyous and festive time. Furthermore, 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. It’s the good 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 hammered out on a lovely grand piano.

Have you listened to a good Christmas tune lately? What are your favourite Christmas memories or melodies? 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.

http://www.itv.com/xfactor
Merry Christmas from AMH Pianos