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

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!

The Cold Blues of London Winters

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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!

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.

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.

London and the Arts

London is the ultimate land of art and performance. It is especially so when you consider the presence of the west end theatre, which has been considered by many to be the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking nations and fraternity.

It is a common occurrence for tourists to flock to watch and enjoy the art on display at west end theatres wherever. The attendance of people to these events has been hitting the roof for the last couple of years. This could also be due to the fact that some famous faces often star in the productions.

It is here that some of the most famous productions in this lifetime have been unveiled to the world. It also here that some of the longest standing productions have been made and released to the world. You cannot help but get amazed by the greatness that this industry has led to not only in London, but to the world at large.

Map of London Theathres
image courtesy: ArthurLloyd

Imagine the opportunities that it presents to many artistes as well as service providers like the piano tuners. Everywhere art is being made, you will find pianos in great use because pianos are a grand symbol of the past that music and art have come from. It is an instrument that has been there since time immemorial.

In a place like this where pianos are in great and frequent use, it would be a great opportunity for piano tuners to make really booming business. We all know that pianos need to be serviced every now and again to ensure they produce the melodic sounds they are meant to make.

London is providing opportunity for growth of the piano tuning business. It is an open market for those in the industry to transact up to their ability.

If you wish to know more about art in London, you can log on to http://www.tuningpianos.co.uk/.

Have Electronic Keyboards been the Death Knell for Pianos?

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

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

evolving into a piano player

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

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

electronic keyboard

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

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

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