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The Perfect Classroom Piano

The Perfect Classroom Piano

It’s no secret that technology is quickly becoming a music teacher’s best friend.  Especially with today’s shrinking budgets and increasing workloads, more and more music teachers are relying on technology and software just to get through the day.  As times change, our perception of the “ideal” classroom piano changes as well.  …and – before we unveil our ideal instrument – let’s take a brief tour of what makes up a “perfect” school piano:

  • Reliably Good Sound and Touch. No school can afford to tune or regulate their pianos as often as they should, and that means that – more often than not – your classroom piano is out of tune or has a few technical problems that prevent it from playing “well.”  The ideal piano would always be in tune and in perfect playing condition.
  • Sufficient Warmth and Projection. Your classroom piano will have to be loud enough to “cut through” singers and other instrument sounds.  It should be warm and pleasing to the ear, but not easily drowned out by other sounds.
  • Easy to Move and Amplify. Rarely is a classroom piano a stationary object.  Most classroom pianos move from room to room or double as performance pianos when the need arises.  The perfect piano would be easy to roll around and easy to amplify for larger applications.
  • Durable Cabinet with 10yr Warranty. Pianos are not inexpensive and – especially with budgets as they are these days – your piano needs to last a long time.  Ideally, a classroom piano should be built to withstand the rigors of school life and come with a 10 year “safety net” warranty.
  • Record and Playback. File sharing has become a new reality in modern school systems and your perfect piano should give you access to recordings made by friends, colleges, students… and even your own!  These recordings can then be used by substitute teachers, TAs or independent studies as needed.
  • Budget-Friendly Price. In a perfect world, we could all have handcrafted grand pianos, but in the world of funding accountability, we rarely get a “redo.”  Make sure the piano you request is affordable, but not cheap.  The key word to purchasing the best equipment for your classroom is “value.”  …and value = price + function + longevity.

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How Often Should I Have My Piano Tuned?

tuning hammer and pins

Easily the most popular question my clients ask me is how often they should tune their piano.  Understandably, folks who spent the money to purchase a quality instrument want to make sure the value of their investment won’t diminish due to neglect.  It’s no different from a first-time car buyer asking the dealership how often (s)he should change the car’s oil.  Most people understand the importance of protecting their investments.  Unfortunately, while it’s common knowledge that a car requires an oil change every 3000 miles, most people have absolutely no idea how often they should tune their piano.

Unfortunately, pianos don’t have “service engine” lights to warn their owners that they are slipping out of tune.  So players continue to play and nobody notices the gradual detuning.  Eventually, the proverbial “frog” “boils to death” and the piano becomes un-tunable.  Even worse, most churches, schools and (yes) even piano teachers fail to properly maintain their instruments.  It’s hard for piano students to develop their musical “ears” because all they ever hear are out-of-tune pianos!

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How to Grow From a “Just a Pianist” to a Well-Rounded Musician

How to Grow From a “Just a Pianist” to a Well-Rounded Musician

Okay, first off, I know many of you are saying to yourself – a pianist is a musician. While that is technically correct, I’m talking about a well-rounded musician who can sit down with a group of other musicians and just “jam”. Let me share something that might make this easier to understand…

I started piano lessons when I was six years old and by the time I was in my late teens I could play pretty much whatever you put in front of me. It didn’t matter if it was classical, pop, jazz, whatever – I could play every note on that page. Then one day a friend of mine asked me over to his house to jam with him and some friends.  I took my keyboard over to his house and there was a bass player, guitar player, a drummer, and a girl with a tambourine. We got set up and they started talking about what to play. I asked if they had sheet music for my parts. They kind of laughed and said we were just going to “jam” and try to “get a groove going”. I was really uncomfortable and didn’t know what I was going to do but I didn’t let on.  Well, the drummer and bass player started playing, then my friend started on guitar, the girl with the tambourine was “going to town,” and I was… lost. I had no experience playing as one part of a group. I couldn’t hear the chord changes. I failed – hard – but I learned a valuable lesson: I was a good piano player but not a good musician.

There is a multitude of technology available today that can change all that. I wish I’d had things like –Roland Play-Along

  • Ear Training APPs – These allow you to train your ear so you can determine note intervals and figure out melody lines and chord changes more easily. This is a skill you need to be a well-rounded musician.
  • Automatic Rhythms – This allows to play with just a drummer or with full band accompaniment so you can get used to playing with instead of fighting against the other players. It helps you figure out ways to play less but compliment “the groove”.
  • Chord Chart APPs – These get you accustomed to reading simple chord charts instead of actual notes. This is important because most playing you do with groups is based on chord charts and not standard sheet music.
  • Play-Along Music – You can download just about any song and play it back using Bluetooth audio or simple MIDI files. You can even take out individual parts and transpose the music into different keys. This really helps you develop a “feel” for different music styles.
  • Music Exercise APPs – These allow you to practice exercises with automated backgrounds so you can get used to hearing things you aren’t playing and fitting in. There are also exercises like Jazz Hanon and Blues Hanon that not only give your fingers a great workout, but you learn runs and progressions that you can use to spice up your playing.
  • Recording APPs – These let you record what you are playing and listen to it later. Many times, I’ll listen to something I think I played well, only to find it wasn’t as good as I thought. It sounds strange, but these apps have taught me to play less while contributing more musically when playing with others.

Some of these – like automatic rhythms and recording – are features that are built in to many digital pianos. However, the top two names in digital pianos (Roland and Clavinova) – also have numerous apps like the ones above that connect to your piano using an Ipad or other wireless devices.  You can find a list of our most recommended APPs on our Pinterest page.  We have one for Roland APPs and one for Clavinova APPs.

Today’s technology can open your eyes and ears to a wonderful new world of music and help you find the musician within yourself. You just have to be brave enough to step away from the page – and it does take bravery. If you’re reading something note-for-note and someone says they don’t like it – you’re just reading what was on the paper. If you’re playing something you made up yourself and someone says they don’t like it – it’s a bit more personal. Still, be brave and explore. Learn and grow using the tools available today. You owe it to yourself.

Host Your Next Recital at Riverton!

Host Your Next Recital at Riverton!

Riverton Piano Company is Phoenix’s new musical hub.  Not only do we offer the best pianos in The Valley, we also offer the best PLACE to host a piano RECITAL in town!  Our Scottsdale facility is conveniently located right across from the Fashion Square Mall at Scottsdale Rd and Camelback.  It features a 60-seat recital hall with a world-class grand piano on stage.  …and our rates are extremely reasonable!  Call Sonja at (480) 368-8888 to learn more or click for more information on our Scottsdale store.  Our Peoria facility is perfectly positioned alongside The 101 at West Olive Ave.  Featuring a 95-seat recital hall with world-class grand piano, it’s no wonder that this new store is quickly becoming a popular recital spot for area teachers.  For more information on this store, contact Gary Gordon at (480) 905-8888 or click for more information on our Peoria piano store.  Host a concert, CD signing, meeting and more at Riverton Piano Company.  You and your guests will have an unforgettable experience with us!

…but contact us quickly.  Fall dates are already filling up!

See you soon!

A Trip for Two to Vienna

A Trip for Two to Vienna

Riverton Piano Company is honored to represent the finest pianos in the world, the hand-crafted Austrian Bösendorfer Pianos. Since 1828, Bösendorfer has created and set the worldwide standard for high quality pianos. The oldest continuously-operating piano factory in the World, Bösendorfer still delivers the most exquisite sound, touch and cabinetry of any piano made in the world today.

Bösendorfer’s limited annual production of only about 220 pianos makes them highly prized and desired. Furthermore, only about 50 of them are brought into the United States each year. That is what makes encountering one so very special.  …and right now, Riverton Piano Company in Scottsdale is thrilled to host a spectacular tour of designer Bösendorfer Grand Pianos. Thanks to our special partnership with Bösendorfer, we currently have over $1 Million in luxuriously handcrafted Bösendorfer pianos for you to explore, including Artisana stunning, Designer-series grand piano with old world marquetry and stunning floral figures, two limited edition models, the Dragonfly and the Jean Cocteau, as well as several Artisan-Series models. Each piano represents the epitome of master craftsmanship and cottage, Venetian design.  Each takes at least six years to build.

In celebration of these unforgettable pianos, we are offering anyone who selects a new Bösendorfer from Riverton Piano Company a free VIP trip for two to Vienna.  Including first-class, round-trip tickets and three nights in “The Imperial City,” this exclusive getaway will take you to the Bösendorfer factory for a rare glimpse at how the world’s finest pianos are made. What better way to celebrate your decision to obtain a true work of art?  …but hurry.  This offer is only available for a limited time!

Owning a Bösendorfer artisan grand piano is an exquisite – and rare – pleasure. Select yours today and join an elite family of owners, including European royalty, iconic composers, movie stars and the world’s most successful executives.

Call us at (480) 368-8888 or visit our Scottsdale Piano Salon and begin your Austrian adventure today!

Technology in Today’s Music Classroom

Technology in Today’s Music Classroom

It’s no secret that today’s classroom music teachers are facing challenges as never before.  Students have constant distractions, impossible schedules and widening social and economic barriers that make a universal approach to learning extremely difficult.  Budget cuts are forcing teachers to find new (and less expensive) ways to give students a basic competency in music education and fewer private corporations are interested in supporting these critical programs.  In short, classroom music teachers and their administrators are struggling harder than ever to do more with fewer resources in a field that is becoming more and more specialized.

That is where technology comes in.

As countless young people have demonstrated through their inventions and problem-solving spirits, today’s students are making technology work for them as no previous generations ever have. It is the language they all share, and a potential “perfect solution” to deficiencies in program budgets AND customized curriculum.

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What Causes a Piano to Go Out of Tune?

Tuning a Grand Piano

When you purchased your last car, you knew you’d have to maintain it.  You expected to fill it with gas on a weekly basis; you knew you’d have to wash it from time to time and you planned on an oil change every 3000 miles.  You also knew that – as your car aged – it would begin to wear out.  Over time, you’d have to put on some new tires; you’d have to replace the brakes and you’d have to swap the battery at some point.  From the beginning, you understood that such expenses were necessary to maintain your car’s performance and resale value.  Now imagine that your car was made out of wood.  How many more repairs and adjustments would you have expected to make?

Like a car, pianos have thousands of tiny components – many of which move or vibrate as part of their vital function.  …and, like neglected cars, neglected pianos will deteriorate to a point where they can’t be used (or sold) without costly repairs.  Put simply, it’s much less expensive to properly maintain your piano than to allow it to fall into disrepair.  Why, then, do so many piano owners neglect their instruments?

Oddly enough, most people don’t understand why pianos require regular maintenance.  It’s fairly easy for car owners envision the “wear and tear” their breaks or tires experience, but piano “wear and tear” is often much more subtle.

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FREE Sight Reading Workshop for Piano Teachers!

FREE Sight Reading Workshop for Piano Teachers!

Join us Friday, August 9 (10am – 12:30pm) at Riverton Piano Company Peoria for a life-changing workshop with Sean Slade from Piano Marvel.  Sean will help you discover a technological tool that will not only help to quantify your students’ sight reading skills, but help IMPROVE them as they practice with interactive software over time.  Piano Marvel is an APP for iOS, MacOS and Windows that uses advanced MIDI technology to compare a student’s performance with the notes and rhythms of a given piece.  In short, this is the world’s first interactive, standardized sight reading assessment tool!  …and that’s not all!  Piano Marvel includes pop music with full band accompaniment, standard classical repertoire and the entire Alfred Basic Piano library!  There’s so much to unpack and – in this hands-on workshop – you’ll learn how to:

  • Clearly Define Your Students’ Sight Reading Levels
  • Motive Your Students to Practice Sight Reading at Home
  • Create Fun Challenges That Reward Improvement
  • Track Your Students’ Progress Throughout the Week
  • Quickly Build Skilled Sight Readers WITHOUT Sacrificing a Ton of Lesson Time!
  • Make Sight Reading FUN!

Even better, this program will also function as the World-wide debut of Piano Marvel’s NEW Bluetooth APP!  Now, you can quickly and easily connect the software to your Bluetooth MIDI piano without all the mess and setup of a wired connection.  It’s quick, it’s clean and it’s easier than ever!

Come explore this innovative approach to sight reading with us and you WILL marvel at how fun learning to sight read can be!  …and – if that’s not enough – come hungry because we’re having a (free) light lunch after the program!

R.S.V.P. before August 1 by calling (480) 905-8888 or email Gary Gordon at garyg@rivertonpiano.com.  We look forward to seeing you in Peoria!

How Did the Piano Get Its Name?

Though the piano is one of the most popular instruments ever invented, few people actually know the name of the man who invented it. Everybody knows the name Henry Ford and even school kids know what Thomas Edison invented, but it’s puzzling why so few have ever heard of the man whose invention inspired such iconic composers as Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt (to name a few).  The man whose invention would change the world forever was an Italian harpsichord maker named Bartolomeo Cristofori.

early piano

The first pianos looked very different from modern pianos. They had no pedals, no cast iron plate and their keyboards were much shorter. These early pianos produced a narrow dynamic range and a much subdued “harpsichord-like” tone.

Bartolomeo was born in Padua, Italy in 1655. There is little record of him until, in 1688, when he began working for Prince Ferdinando de Medici, one of the most important and influential families in Tuscany. By then, Cristofori was already an experienced musical instrument maker and technician.  By the late 1680s, Cristofori’s job was to care for Ferdinando’s large (and ever-growing) collection of musical instruments.  Some historians point out that Ferdinando passed over a variety of other (very skilled) instrument makers and offered Cristofori a higher than usual salary because he wanted Cristofori to develop something special for his instrument collection. This may indicate that Cristofori was already an experienced inventor by the time the two men met.

History’s first reference of a piano is listed in the inventory of Ferdinando’s instruments collection from the year 1700. In Italian the entry reads as follows:

Un Arpicembalo di Bartolomeo Cristofori di nuova inventione, che fa’ il piano, e il forte, a due registri principali unisoni, con fondo di cipresso senza rosa…

Translated into English: An “Arpicembalo” by Bartolomeo Cristofori, of new invention that produces soft and loud, with two sets of strings at unison pitch, with soundboard of cypress without rose…”

Interestingly enough, the term “Arpicembalo” is an unusual term for the era that strictly translates to “harp-harpsichord” and may have indicated Cristofori’s chosen name for his invention.  …but, as with many things, the name changed over time due to subtle (and often lazy) changes in usage.  Initially, the phrase “che fa’ il piano, e il forte” (“produces soft and loud”) became the popular name for Cristofori’s instrument mostly likely due to the instrument’s unique ability to play both “piano” (soft) and “forte” (loud) – a feature that differentiated it from its harpsichord cousins.  For awhile, the instrument was called a “pianoforte” or “fortepiano” (terms that are still in use today to reference early ancestors of the modern piano) until, eventually, the word “forte” fell out of use and the instrument became widely known simply as “the piano.”

Thus, after over 300 years of development, the world’s most beloved instrument is called “the soft.”

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Your Child a Portable Keyboard

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Your Child a Portable Keyboard

I’ve seen it time and time again: cautious – yet well-meaning – parents purchasing portable keyboards as “starter” practice instruments for students whose musical interest may or may not be long-term. Meant to be temporary until they determine whether or not their student is going to “stick with” piano lessons, these portable keyboards prevent any real development and – inevitably – cause a majority of students to lose interest in playing altogether. …and I can understand why. Most kids aren’t aware enough to point out the practice instrument as the source of their troubles. …but they see that the songs they can play perfectly well at home fall apart completely on their teacher’s piano. They simply attribute their failure to a lack of aptitude on their part (a notion that, sadly, many of their parents will readily accept) and leave traditional piano lessons behind in favor of “YouTube shortcuts” or other “easy play” technology.

The worst part is all of this could have been avoided. Most parents are willing to support their child’s musical hobby as long as they have some indication that said hobby is more than a mere passing fancy. …and, since pianos (especially good ones) are expensive, most parents look for another solution.

That is where most parents go wrong.

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