Roland’s Road to Piano Reality

Roland’s Road to Piano Reality

In 2009, Roland changed the digital piano industry forever with the introduction of the V-Piano – Roland’s very first fully-modeled digital piano.  At the time, nearly every other digital piano for the home or stage used a technology called “representative sampling” (often known as  “Harmonic Imaging,” “Wave Synthesis” or “Advanced Wave Memory” – every piano manufacturer had a preferred name for it).  Put simply, sampling technology utilized microphones to take short recordings of acoustic pianos (called “samples”) for playback in a digital piano.  More expensive digital pianos featured 88-note samples (meaning the manufacturer took recordings from every note on the acoustic piano) where less expensive instruments would sample every 4-5 notes and use computers to pitch-shift the notes in-between.  As the technology (and the required memory) improved, manufacturers added more samples to the mix in an effort to capture tonal changes within the piano as keys were played with more force, as the pedals were used and, as more notes blended together during the performance.  It seemed sampling was the way of the future…

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Can You Teach Yourself to Play the Piano?

Can You Teach Yourself to Play the Piano?

One of the questions I often hear in the piano business is “Can I teach myself how to play the piano?”  Whether you’re struggling to find room for piano lessons in your schedule or your budget, we have more – and better – options than ever for at-home learners.  Is a self-directed, at-home piano lessons program right for you?  Well, stick around and find out!

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The Truth About Shopping By Price

The Truth About Shopping By Price

You’re not alone.  Who doesn’t want a great price on the piano of their dreams?  …but – what some folks forget – is that “best piano” and “best price” might mean different things to different people.  The first step in finding a piano is establishing exactly what “best piano” and “best price” mean to you.  To some, the “best piano” may just be one that fits comfortably into their budget or space.  To others, the “best piano” is the one that inspires them by its sound or touch.  It’s important to realize that *none* of those criteria necessarily refer to a top quality instrument.  If you’re used to a poor quality, out of tune piano, you might assume the “best piano” is the one that performs the way you expect – even if your expectations are based on poor instruments from your past.  The term “best price” can mean a variety of things to people as well.  Is the best price always the lowest one?  …or is it a value judgement that represents a reasonable compromise between good quality and low price?  How does after-the-sale support and service figure into the “best price” definition?  Determining these things up front can make your piano search far easier and more fun because – unfortunately – there are internet companies, local retailers and large music stores who make a living offering low-quality instruments at low prices.  …but do these transactions lead to satisfaction in the end?

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Are Pianos Still Popular?

Are Pianos Still Popular?

early piano replica

This is a replica of the second piano ever made. It is a permanent exhibit in the Hamamatsu Musical Instrument Museum.

When the piano was first invented in the early 1700s, it was so expensive that only a select few could afford to own one.  That – plus competition from the more established harpsichord – limited the early piano’s growth.  Interestingly enough, it was be Johann Christian Bach (an international celebrity in his day) who brought  global attention to the instrument and made the piano famous.  It became a social and economic status symbol – something the rising middle class eagerly sought out at the time.  Then, as the middle class grew and refinements to piano production made the instrument more affordable, more and more families began to take piano lessons.  Pianos appeared in schools, hotels and government buildings.  They spread around the world and hundreds of manufacturers popped up to fill the rising demand.  …but the piano has more competition than ever today and it seems fewer homes have pianos than before.  Are they still popular?  What happened to the piano?

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How Much Do Free Pianos Cost?

How Much Do Free Pianos Cost?

The title question may seem like a dumb one, but – in my experience – it’s one of the most  important questions a potential piano owner can ask.  I get a lot of calls from people who either just obtained a free or “giveaway” piano or about to get one. They are excited because they think it’s a deal and they want someone to come out to tune and/or appraise it with an eye towards finding it’s “antique value”. While – every once in a while – these pianos are not too bad (they’ll tune up nicely and play well), in most cases the only one that got a deal was the person giving it away. Why you ask? Because most often a “giveaway” piano is given away because it has no street value.  Either it hasn’t been played in years and the owner knows it needs some costly repairs, or the piano has been rejected by every piano store and online portal, and the owner is not willing to pay hundreds of dollars to have it hauled away.

That leaves me the unenviable task of explaining to these eager “free piano” owners (or “soon-to-be-owners”) that their “free piano” is going to cost a lot more than they anticipated.  Here is the actual cost of a “free piano”:

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The Truth About Piano Reviews

The Truth About Piano Reviews

If you’re like most people these days, you like to do a little online research before physically going out to shop for a piano. It just makes sense with all the information at your fingertips.  Why not do what you always do when you want to buy something nice and fire up Google to find out what is available and what people are saying about the products you’re interested in? There has to be a bunch of experts out there willing to post their informed opinions on the pros and cons of the world’s best instruments, right?

cheap keyboard with 5-star Amazon review

It doesn’t have all the keys, they keys aren’t the right size, the app and free trial didn’t work, and the entire thing is only $67, but it has more than 26,000 5-Star ratings. Horrifying.  (Click or press to see full-size image)

There might be, but there are even more people who think of themselves as “experts”  when they have little or no real knowledge about the piano business. Some operate from outdated stereotypes, personal bias, and even bad assumptions based on their very limited experience with pianos (Driving a car doesn’t make you an expert on cars anymore than playing a piano makes you a piano expert).  In fact, we see hordes of people who don’t know the first thing about pianos, piano lessons or music technology, but – since they want to feel good about the purchase they made or because the company incentivized them to do so – they choose to leave a review. We see it all the time on Amazon.  People who don’t even play bought a $85 keyboard for their 4-year-old and – since their kid loves it – they leave a 5-star review! Some of them even say “This is the perfect piano! It feels great and sounds even better!” but – since they have never actually played a piano and they have no idea what a good instrument sounds and feels like, they aren’t qualified to make that kind of judgement.  …and, thus, folks who read these reviews are often left thinking that the very same $85 keyboard would be a “perfect piano” for their beginning student when, in truth, the feel and sound are absolutely terrible and will damage a student’s playing technique over time.  So how do you sift through all the unqualified opinions, bad information and outright bias to find useful information?

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New Roland Piano App Controls Everything!

New Roland Piano App Controls Everything!

[Updated 2/16/2023]  In October of 2022, Roland announced that they would be discontinuing support for their “Piano Every Day” app at the end of December, 2022.  Piano Every Day was the control app for the following Roland pianosLX708, LX706, LX705, HP704, HP702, RP701, F701, FP-90X, FP-60X and FP-30X.  In February of 2023, Roland announced that they would transition away from another popular app:  “Piano Partner 2.”  Piano Partner 2 was the control app for these Roland Pianos:  The HP-600 Series, RP-102, GP607, GP609.  This means that – as of February, 2023 – ALL current model Roland pianos and most recent (discontinued) models are now compatible with Roland’s powerful new app…

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How to Get New Music Equipment for Your School

How to Get New Music Equipment for Your School

Teaching music can be a very challenging – yet gratifying – career.  Nothing gives music teachers more satisfaction than seeing their students become passionate, life-long music learners. One aspect of teaching that is often less pleasant for music teachers, however, is managing the necessary equipment to achieve their program outcomes. Nearly every educator understands the importance of having quality musical equipment in their classrooms, but few know how to get this equipment and even fewer consider themselves experts in modern musical instruments, software or services.  …so – if you’re a music teacher and you know you need new classroom tools – how do you go about getting them?

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Are Old Pianos Worth Anything?

Are Old Pianos Worth Anything?

In the early-to-mid part of the 20th century, the piano was a staple in homes all across the country. It was an instrument, a social tool, and a main source of home entertainment.  During this period in America, manufacturers produced and sold hundreds of thousands of pianos of all varieties. At the time of the original purchase, they were a substantial investment for most, and for decades, many of these pianos sat in the same place as when they were delivered.

Today, many of these old pianos sit in homes all across the country and – considering that the newest of these instruments was produced over 70 years ago –  it’s rare to find one that isn’t in need of extensive restoration work. Unfortunately, unlike a violin or a guitar, most pianos do not get better with age. Pianos are more complicated than string instruments and – through the years – the internal moving parts of a piano will wear out.  Hammer and damper felts become harder causing the piano’s tone to sound thin and bright.  Action parts work lose making the piano feel slow and sluggish.  The keys develop squeaks and clunks, and the strings lose their tonal character. The piano may still function, but it doesn’t “sing” as it once did.

As a result, many piano owners are upgrading their old instruments or getting rid of them altogether.  The question is – are these pianos worth anything?

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The Truth About Buying a Piano from “Big Box” Retailers

The Truth About Buying a Piano from “Big Box” Retailers

Like many first-time buyers, you’ve decided you want to learn to play the piano, but you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money. You’ve found a teacher and she told you to get an 88-note digital piano with “weighted keys.” You don’t know anything about pianos or about buying a piano because you’ve never had to buy one before, so how do you figure out what you should get? Your first instinct might be to check out “the usual suspects” – businesses you purchase other things from already like Amazon, Costco, or Guitar Center.  After all, they should have great pricing and the tools to help you find the right piano for your family (reviews, salespeople, featured products, etc.) right?

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