People often compare the piano retail business to used car sales and, frankly, I can understand why. Over the years, far too many piano dealers have participated in misleading advertising schemes, unethical pricing practices, “bait and switch” tactics, misrepresentation and outright dishonesty. It’s gotten bad enough that those of us who truly care about our clients have to work ten times harder to earn their trust. Some of the piano shoppers we see come in with a real fear that someone will try to swindle them out of their hard-earned money. It’s sad, but it’s completely understandable.
The Internet has helped in some ways. It’s given consumers a whole new voice. Piano shoppers can review their dealers, leave feedback and even warn others when they feel they were mistreated. The downside to The Internet is its sheer volume of information. Everybody with an opinion and a smart phone can create a blog or write a review. …and while it’s great to see what people are saying, it’s hard to know whose judgments are based on accurate information and whose are based on opinions, outdated facts or third-party propaganda.
How, then, can you tell which piano dealers are trustworthy and which ones are just “out to make a buck”?
In celebration of the Lunar New Year, Yamaha Pianos US just announced an exciting new rebate program on many of their incredible pianos – saving you up to $1000! If you have been considering a new Yamaha baby grand piano, Yamaha upright piano, Yamaha Silent Piano, Yamaha AvantGrand Hybrid Piano, Yamaha TransAcoustic Piano, Disklavier player piano or Clavinova digital piano, now is the time! Stop by one of our Phoenix piano stores and learn how much YOU can save on a new piano, digital piano or player system for your home. Yamaha is offering these factory-direct discounts IN ADDITION to any Riverton Piano Company specials. This means you can get our guaranteed low price AND take advantage of a Yamaha Lunar New Year Rebate. It’s a double discount!
…but hurry. These Yamaha factory rebates are only available through February 29, 2020. Don’t wait too long and miss out on this incredible opportunity!
They were born with a gift. Help them open it and save up to $1000 with the Yamaha Lunar New Year Promotion: Now – February 29. See store for details.
As a music industry professional, clinician, and national trades columnist, one of my great passions is sharing new techniques and teaching tools with progressive educators all over the world. Since we all share the same goal (making more music makers), we are all heavily invested in inspiring new generations to play. More importantly, we all strive to keep our knowledge of teaching methods and music technology current – so we can solve the pedagogical problems that come our way.
Even though we are dealing with an instrument that is over 300 years old and has changed relatively little, the best music educators know not to rely on outdated traditions or inertia when making decisions about their teaching methodology. Despite “the old saying,” there IS something new under the sun – and anyone who wishes to remain relevant with modern students needs to learn their language: the language of technology.
As a salesperson who works a ton of outside sales events, I often have the opportunity to hear people of all ages play the piano and it’s never a surprise when someone tells me “I taught myself.” I took many years of “formal” piano lessons from professional teachers and I can tell right away whether someone has had professional training by observing the way (s)he plays. I look at things like hand position, fingering and posture and I pay special attention to the player’s rhythm and tone. The biggest giveaway, though, is the player’s musicality (or lack thereof). That’s what really gives it away.
Let me see if I can paint a picture to explain what I mean…
One of the most common questions we get at Riverton Piano Company is “What do the three pedals do?” Well, put simply, the function of the pedals is to alter the tone of the piano in some way.
In fact, the first piano didn’t have pedals at all. Part of the reason for this was the first pianos’ lack of sustaining power. They were essentially harpsichords with unique actions that struck the keys with a felt hammer (much like hammer dulcimers of the day) instead of plucking the strings with a quill. They had little power, a small dynamic range and very little sustain. As the piano evolved, however, each of these qualities improved – creating a need for some kind of mute or “dampening” mechanism that would only allow the piano to sustain as desired. This first mechanism was actually a control knob to the left of the piano keyboard and not a pedal at all. This knob could be used to lift felt “dampers” (or “mutes”) off of the strings – allowing them to ring freely. This mechanism would become what we now call the “damper” or “sustain” pedal. On both uprights and grand pianos, it is the right-most pedal.
As the “fortepiano” gained popularity, builders tried a variety of new ideas – replacing the “damper” knob with knee levers (which were activated by holding one’s knee up against the bottom of the piano, thus pressing up on the pad and activating the effect). During this era, some manufacturers had as many as seven levers! These knee levers could do a variety of things – from allowing all or some of the notes to sustain – to adding effects that mimicked other instruments.
Over time, composers and players alike agreed that some of the effect levers were undesirable or at least unfashionable. The number of these levers diminished until the late 1770s when English piano builders began to use foot pedals instead of knee levers. Other builders preferred the knee levers, however, and some pianos even had both foot pedals and knee levers.
Then, in 1803, Beethoven received a piano from the French builder, Erard, which had four pedals – a damper pedal, a “una corda” pedal (which shifted the keyboard slightly so the hammers would strike a single strong instead of two or two strings instead of three – thereby removing one note from the chord), a lute stop (which mimicked the sound of a plucked lute by activating mechanisms that pluck the strings) and a moderator for softening the piano’s tone.
As the piano matured and the music for it became more standardized, most of the novelty pedals and effects went away. Eventually, grand piano builders were content to build pianos with the “standard” three pedals: the “damper” or “sustain” pedal on the right, the sostenuto pedal (…which only dampens notes played after the pedal is depressed – allowing previous notes to ring. This creates the illusion of more than two hands on the piano.), and the “una corda” pedal on the left. Due to the expense of the sostenuto system, some builders have replaced sostenuto with a less expensive bass sustaining mechanism on lower priced grand pianos.
Most upright pianos were designed with two pedals initially – the “sustain” or “damper” pedal on the right and a variation of the “una corda” pedal on the left (On a grand piano the soft pedal actually shifts the entire keyboard to the right about 3/16 of an inch whereas the soft pedal on a vertical piano tilts the action forward – reducing the hammer impact on the strings and making the tone softer). As these pianos matured, builders often included a bass sustaining middle pedal in place of the sostenuto. Today, most vertical pianos feature a “practice pedal” that – when engaged – lowers a piece of felt into the space between the hammers and strings – thus decreasing the piano’s volume significantly.
While few but the very advanced classical music students ever use the “una corda” pedal (and fewer still use the sostenuto pedal), they have remained a staple of modern piano design. The “sustain” or “damper” pedal, however, is commonly used – beginning in the first year of piano study. Markings below the music indicate when to depress the pedal and when to release it. For example, here is the initial part of the song “Für Elise” Lv Beethoven, with markings regarding the use of the “damper” or “sustain” pedal. You can see the place where pedal are marked as “Ped” and released at the end of the horizontal line.
So that’s the piano’s pedals demystified. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends – or use it to wow your piano teacher!
Prior to my 2018 move to Phoenix, I had spent all of my professional life in one river town or the other, and the question everyone seemed to want answered is how to better control the humidity surrounding a piano. Is it better to install a humidity control system underneath the piano? Is a whole-home system worth the expense? What about room humidifiers? Everywhere I went, I found myself answering this question.
Interestingly enough, however, my experiences in Phoenix (and the time I’ve spent with a number of local technicians, furniture store owners and performance venues) have changed my answer dramatically. With that in mind, I thought it was time to revisit the idea of humidity control around a piano and address the specific scenario of caring for your piano in the Sonoran Desert.
Five-Time Platinum-Selling Singer, Songwriter and Grammy-Award Winning Recording Artist, Jim Brickman, is returning to the Music Instrument Museum for a series of year-end concerts this December… and Riverton Piano Company is linking arms with his team to provide you an experience of a LIFETIME! How would you like to meet a legendary pianist, get a personal autograph and even have some of your own music played on HIS social media outlets?! Well now you can!
Members of Riverton Piano Company’s Piano Education Partnership (PEP) Program who purchase tickets to one of Jim’s shows will receive a FREE Jim Brickman CD and FREE access to Jim’s soundcheck – where you will meet the man himself and get your CD signed!
In addition to this incredible “meet and greet” opportunity, you’re invited to come into our Peoria store between Monday, December 9 and Saturday, December 21 to record your favorite holiday song using one of our Roland Digital Pianos. Then, keep an eye on Jim’s social media – and you’ll hear YOUR performance!
Here are the upcoming show-times:
Excited to be a part of this incredible experience? Contact Gary Gordon at (480) 905-8888 and sign up for The Jim Brickman Experience today! Gary will setup your recording time, verify your ticket purchase and get you on the list for a FREE, in-person sound check with Jim Brickman himself!
* – You do not have to purchase a concert ticket to have your Roland recording played on Jim’s Social Media. Ticket purchase is required for the in-person meet and free CD and greet at Jim’s soundcheck.
Attention, Phoenix! Have you been considering a new or gently-used piano, digital piano or player piano for your special someone this Holiday Season? Well, if so, Riverton Piano Company is transforming Black Friday into Black PIANO Friday – for TWO DAYS ONLY – and you won’t want to miss these incredible deals! Our doors open at 10am on Friday, November 29 with wall-to-wall savings on every black piano in inventory! Several pianos will be one-of-a-kind deals… so come early for the best selection and some truly awe-inspiring discounts!
- NEW Pianos with 10-Year Warranty from $2999!
- NEW Digital Pianos from only $999!
- NEW Baby Grand Pianos from $7999!
- NEW Player Pianos starting at $14,999!
Better yet – purchase a Roland digital piano and – ON TOP of the Black Piano Friday discount – enjoy a FREE accessory package (valued at up to $700)! Purchase a Roland HP, LX or GP Series digital piano and get a FREE membership to our celebrated “Roland Owner’s Club” – which helps you get the most out of your piano with training videos, music downloads, custom setups and so much more!
Looking to finance? Check out these incredible options!
- 18 Months 0% APR* on ALL Yamaha Acoustic Pianos!
- 12 Months SAME AS CASH on ALL Acoustic Pianos!
- 12 Months SAME AS CASH on ALL Roland Digital Pianos!
- Special LOW-INTEREST APR for 84 Months on ALL Acoustic Pianos!
That special someone in your life was born with a gift. Help her unlock it with a new piano, digital piano or player piano from Riverton Piano Company this Holiday Season! …but hurry. Black Piano Friday weekend ends at 6pm on Saturday, November 30. Don’t miss your chance to SAVE before the 2020 price increases go into effect!
* APR = Annual Percentage Rate. On purchases of new and in-stock qualifying Yamaha pianos from November 29 – November 30, 2019. Subject to credit approval. Minimum monthly payments required. 0% APR if paid in full within 12- or 18-month period. Interest accrues throughout the life of the loan at 12.99% APR.
Imagine your life without music. Imagine watching a movie with no soundtrack. Imagine a long drive with nothing but traffic noise to keep you company. Imagine all the things in your life today that depend on music. Now imagine giving the gift of music to someone else.
If your imagination is up to the challenge, you can begin to get an understanding of just how important music is to our humanity. It’s the language that connects us. It’s the community that accepts us. It’s the tool we all use to measure the intangible things within. …but what you may not know is that music is more than just a social glue. It’s an important emotional and physiological vitamin that changes us – that enhances our development – from an early age. It is, in fact, the greatest medicine science has ever studied.
…and we have barely begun to understand it.
What we know, however, makes a strong case that active participation in music (not simply listening, but participating in music study of some kind) is essential to our emotional and cognitive development. It is the original “core curriculum” and we can no longer afford to ignore its impact on our society.
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.)
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!