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What is an Audio File and What Can You Do With It?

family playing digital grand piano

Audio files are exactly what you think they might be: a collection of sounds. For example, if you purchase a song from iTunes and play it on your phone, your phone will produce sound. Songs from iTunes, Pandora, Spotify and similar services are stored as audio files.

 

Audio and mp3

Uncompressed audio files are typically stored using a file format called “.wav” or “dot wave” (these were commonly found on CDs) and they are literally changing the today’s musical landscape. Modern digital pianos can read these files, giving students a chance to play along with a full band accompaniment. Not only is this much more fun than practicing alone, it also enhances listening skills, promotes even and regular tempo, and dramatically reduces the time it takes for students to learn a song. Playing along with audio files can be a great reward piece for teachers. “Practice hard and, when this song is ready, we’ll play it with a full band…” (certain Bluetooth apps can also speed up, slow down or change the pitch of audio files – in case you’re not ready to play a song at full speed.)

Yamaha Clavinova CSP digital piano

The CSP-Series Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos can “listen” to your iTunes songs and generate play along notation so you can play with your favorite bands even without printed music!

Mp3 files, however, are compressed versions of audio files. Most commonly associated with programs like iTunes, these files contain sound, but take up much less space than their “.wav” brothers. Many of the music books printed today come with companion audio files (often in mp3 format) that can be quickly downloaded to a mobile device and played wirelessly through a Bluetooth-capable digital piano. With the right Bluetooth app, you can still change both tempo and pitch – making these files great for learners or piano hobbyists who love playing along with their favorite bands. Some Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos even record in mp3 format so players can easily share their original music.  Other models can “listen” to mp3 files and produce a play along score – making it possible to play with your favorite bands even if you don’t have printed music!  This feature is called “Audio to Score” and it is available on select Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos.

Whether you’re looking for an authentic “live band” experience (with play-along apps like Sheet Music Direct Play Along) or you just want to control your party playlist from your smart phone, make sure your digital piano is Bluetooth compatible – regardless of our musical skill.  All of the major lessons series (Alfred, Faber, Hal-Leonard, Bastien, etc.) have companion audio files that can help you learn to play better and faster than ever before and you won’t believe the fun you’ll have!  Why not give them a try? You might just be one click away from your next musical obsession!

Get Your Photo Taken with a WILD and FAMOUS Piano!

Get Your Photo Taken with a WILD and FAMOUS Piano!

Baldwin American Flag Grand PianoOur Peoria Grand Opening celebration has begun and we’re kicking it off in style with an UNFORGETTABLE FREE opportunity for area piano students.  Call us at (480) 905-8888 and schedule your FREE 30-minute “Baldwin Artist Piano Encounter.”  You’ll meet four extremely unique pianos, including “Silverglitter” – a piano with all the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas; “Tuxedo” – a black and white formal affair that you will have to see to believe; “American Flag” – If Captain America were to own a piano… and – last but certainly not least – the Miley Cyrus piano.  This breathtaking grand piano is covered in gold mirror and is one of only a handful of pianos to share time with Miley on The Silver Screen.

These instruments are one-of-a-kind and PERFECT for Instagram!  …so call us today and schedule your “Baldwin Artist Piano Encounter” before our time slots fill up.  You won’t want to miss this rare opportunity to see and play these world famous pianos!

Piano Lessons Open House

If you’ve been thinking about taking piano lessons, now is the time!  Noted composer, arranger, pianist and piano teacher, Nancy Carol is moving her studio to Riverton Piano Company Peoria and she has NEW openings available!  Better yet – join us any time on Saturday, September 14 from 10am – 2pm and see our Peoria facility!  You can meet Nancy, see her lesson space, find out about our exciting upcoming events, and select the lesson time that best suits your schedule!

Nancy’s lesson times will fill up fast, so get here early.  You’ll be glad you did!

For more information, contact Nancy at (623) 640-4608.  We look forward to seeing you Saturday, September 14!

What is MIDI and Why Should You Care?

general midi music

Just like people, computers are capable of speaking to each other in different languages. MIDI (short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is one of those languages. …and, like all languages, MIDI has a number of different variations.  Luckily, two organizations (including such famous operating system developers as Microsoft and Apple as well as famous music companies like Gibson, Roland and Yamaha) got together in the early 90s and agreed upon a “generalized” MIDI standard.  “General MIDI” as it became known, allowed instruments made by different manufacturers to communicate with each other for the very first time.  Thanks to General MIDI (now in its second generation as “General MIDI 2”), keyboards could speak to computers, rack-mounted control units could speak with guitars and musicians could easily translate their performances into printed score.  It’s not an overstatement to say that General MIDI revolutionized the global music industry.  …but to understand how, we first have to understand what MIDI is.

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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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