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Steinway and Sons is sold, and the digitals are probably having a party

It was no surprise to read about Steinway selling out to Kohlberg and Company .. Why? because, 1) who has the money to buy a pricey grand 2) Digitals are turning acoustics into dinosaurs.

If I were purist and dismissed all my students who had electronics, I’d be catapulted into bankruptcy.

In all candor, I use my Yamaha Arius 141 as my back-up to two closely-spaced Steinway pianos that eat up most of my living area.

2 Steinway pianos

Add in the kitchen-placed digital, and I have nowhere to sleep and eat.

Yamaha Arius 141 in kitchen

In the past few years I’ve down-sized from 3,000 square feet, to 1300 to about 700. Do the math.

Still, I would rather sleep under the piano, than have it replaced with a fancy, free-standing digital console, even a pricey, glitzy one that’s advertised as a real piano equivalent plus! (Don’t believe it)

But I’m practical. Living cozily beside neighbors who aren’t thrilled with middle of the night, or predawn practicing, I use my Arius to maximum advantage.. like this morning.

I was up at 4 a.m. and itching to practice my Schumann Kinderszenen–especially the newest one–“Knight of the Rocking Horse.”

Decked in earphones, I was ready to tackle the latest finger-tripper.

Incidentally, by the time, I took out my camcorder to capture the event, the sun had risen, so I unleashed Ari.(at half-volume)

Here’s the day’s awakening in prep for my transition to Steinway M–

And the acoustic transfer:

Knight of the Rocking Horse by Schumann

To wit, the popularity of digitals is revealed in the following You Tube I posted about two years ago comparing Roland to Yamaha.

Would the same audience amass to watch me sampling a Steinway beside a Baldwin?

If so, there’s a shred of hope about the future of acoustic pianos, notwithstanding news of the Steinway and Sons sale.

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Debussy Arabesque No. 1 and the back story (Video)

Speaking of pianos, and decisions about which to use, I decided to give Haddy Haddorff another opportunity to sing like a nightingale. This was a late-into-the-night sound exploration following an earlier trip to the Mac Store at Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall. The Yeti mic was not registering–no sound–no explanation, though it was properly connected.

So I shut down the computer, re-booted and checked for updates. It didn’t matter. Still mute despite visual sound waves galore.

Another lingering problem– the intermittent though disturbing, out of synch frames–an issue finally acknowledged by a Mac technician, who declared, “It may be related to the iMovie program.”

So what’s next?

I guess I’ll wait for the next update as I watch my hands and the music run off in different directions.

Meanwhile, I was given a new Yeti Mic, since the older one didn’t register at the store.(better than a squeak in a pedal disappearing when the tuner waltzes in) This time I had the upfront and personal evidence.

I came home, practiced, and found myself wandering from the Steinway back to Haddy playing the Debussy Arabesque 1.

The grand piano afforded a nice work-out because the action is stiff by comparison to Ms. Haddy. So if you hang around the Steinway long enough and then mosey over to the second piano, the playing is a piece of cake by comparison. It resulted in a smooth transition to the Debussy Arabesque No. 1 without instrumental resistance.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to have a work-out piano until the knots are addressed. (I’m waiting for the Magical Messiah tech to appear)

Next year in Jerusalem?


It was well after midnight when I managed to upload the Debussy.

Yeti mic was humming, though a tad out of synch with my arms and hands.

Up at 5 a.m., I hoped nothing had imploded during my zzzzzs, and was pleasantly relieved to see the posting. It came with some kind of message that the rights to the Debussy were owned by some entity and such.

“GoDigital MG For a Third Party Content Type: Musical Composition”

You just never whose domain you’re trampling on.

It’s getting so bad now that these companies own Chopin and other composers who died over 150 years ago.

That’s worth another blog and a half.

So stay tuned….


Debussy Arabesque Instruction

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Picking the right piano to record a selection (Videos)–“Fur Elise” by Beethoven

I’ve heard stories about great pianists such as Richter obsessing over a choice of piano for a concert. Allegedly, he was very fussy, and sometimes regretted the one he picked out for a recital. But when he found himself playing in Siberia and rural parts of the Russian landscape, he rose to the occasion, and made whatever piano was given him, sing to the heavens. No regrets, thank you. (Vladimir Horowitz took his own piano with him, and apparently jetted it to foreign concert halls) Or maybe a boat was involved in the old days. (moisture issues in transit?)

I guess Volodya took things to an extreme.

Others wouldn’t have the luxury to transport a piano thousands of miles to a recital venue.

Lesson learned: Whatever piano you have, make the best of it. Even poorly maintained instruments may have a tad of inspiration tucked away, waiting to be tapped.

Easier said than done.

I talk about land mines when I play my own pianos. And I’ve become very frustrated over and again with poor piano maintenance in a small community such as Fresno.

When my piano needs regulation and the tuner says he doesn’t do that, it’s like a hired house cleaner saying she won’t get into the hard to reach, corner bathroom tiles and scrub them without a mop.

I used to work at the New York State Employment Service of the Department of Labor, Household Division, and we had all kinds of taboos associated with on the “knees scrubbing.” We had to ask the employer if she had a mop, and go no further. Have times changed?

Now we have piano techs deciding that regulation, voicing, are equally out of the mainstream.

Last night, I wanted to re-record Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” for the nth time. This playing would be captured on iMovie with my Yeti external mic. Eliminating the whooshy camcorder sounds was motivation enough. And then I could go High Definition.

Two days ago, I had uploaded a “Fur Elise” that was far too slow, so I raced to delete it. (Playbacks are always defining–especially the morning after review)

My precious Haddorff console, as singable as it was, had some morbidly awful pedal squeaks, and a noisy action. I’d posted a Beethoven reading on Haddy with built-in mouse noises.

Still, I liked Haddy’s basic voice, because it was Old World and daunting. The piano basically sang like a nightingale.

Nevertheless, I opted for the Steinway M Grand in this new reading–knowing I needed to ply it in a way that I could maximize its performance.

Having a few very lazy keys, it was a crap shoot to rely on them.

Being philosophical, a pianist can make the most of what he has until and when a Savior walks through the door, and announces he can tune, voice, and regulate your piano to high standard.

Fat chance. I will be waiting for a time.

In any event, I did record “Fur Elise” on my vintage Steinway grand, M, 1917 and compared it side by to the performance rendered in the past on Haddy.

My verdict is in for me: The Steinway came through more defined, and with greater nuance. (and the mouse was eradicated)

Haddy, no slouch in her own right, had issues but rose to the occasion.

Here’s her version following the most recent Steinway grand rendition:

Haddorff console (1951)

Did I detect some tooth grinding in both? Geeze, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

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A different view of Bach and the piano (Prelude in C) Video

On a whim, I decided to keep my Mac at a distance from the Steinway, walk over to the piano without being too conspicuous, and offhandedly play the Bach Prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Since I hadn’t yet mastered the editing side of iMovie, I figured a majestic lead into the playing would still work even with my back turned to the camera as I made my way to the piano bench.

In any case, I would preserve unedited moments with the flick of my Sony Cyber-shot digital if I had successfully trimmed the footage.

The upper screen had the original frames before they were transferred to the editing arena down below.

So here’s how it played out after I had managed editing and uploading. (A sigh of relief!)


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Piano Lesson: Teaching and playing “Galop” by Kabalevsky from the Op. 39 Children’s Pieces (Videos)

Don’t do a double take on the spelling of “Galop” because every edition I’ve seen up close and personal, does not have the expected double l.

If it were as simple to play this piece as spelling its name correctly or incorrectly, I wouldn’t have a problem. But in truth, a miniature like this is a mountain of a challenge. (Kabalevsky, a 20th Century composer, was Director of a music school in Russia and conceived his compositions with a particular technical goal in mind. His Children’s Pieces Op. 39, comprise a colorful collection with an assortment of moods)

From Kabalevsky an Introduction to his Piano Works, Willard Palmer, Editor:

“While teaching his young students, Kabalevsky came to realize that there was a great need for simple and interesting piano pieces that would maintain the student’s interest and at the same time introduce the various problems of technique and musicianship in such a way as to make them easily grasped and understood.”


Last night, my second year piano student, Sakura, who is left-handed, attentively practiced “Galop,” focusing on phrasing and articulation in each hand. That’s the rub–trying to play slurred groups of two 8ths in the left hand against a spin of 5 notes in the right. And what about the balance issue. The left hand must not scream and overshadow the right though the temptation is to pound away at those staccato chords where they come at the CLIMAX, from measures 9 through 16. There’s a melody to consider and just the same, you don’t want to sound like Rosie the Riveter. Keep your shock absorb wrists supple and spongy.

Basically, “Galop” is a high intensity piece regardless of its peak coming dead center. You’ll always need your energy reserves in high gear, but be sure not to spill your guts where you find yourself losing control.

Practice as slowly as possible with consciousness about the interaction of both hands at any given time, and then raise up your tempo in increments.

Above all, enjoy the ride and keep your cool.

Sakura’s lesson:

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Aiden cat, our loving companion and musical mascot

He might as well be human. Left with me by one of my daughters over 4 years ago, this atypical cat had a history of jumping into the shower, then going to sleep on his owner’s head. When brushed, he molded himself in his caretaker’s lap, enjoying each of her lavish strokes. A pedicure that followed drew no resistance. He purred to the sound of a nail clipper with its clean, staccato effect.

Aiden arrived here at my place when he had just turned 3. Greeted by a much older cat who’d taken up all the piano benches, he had to settle for much less space. But after Tugs, a female, passed away at 17, Aiden laid claim to two entire floors, making it his business to attend any and all piano lessons from his box seat, front and center, facing keyboard. He bench hopped, landing where a particular student was perched. Since the very young ones played Haddy, (my Haddorff console) Aiden snuggled in, enjoying the feel of its smooth mahogany finish, sometimes edging a player off-center.

In between lessons, he’d take a break in the upstairs sink, snuggled perfectly into its contour. Sometimes, I’d dress him up in cute attire and snap him with my digital camera. Here he’s photographed after a long morning of cheer leading.

Last night, Aiden swished around a pile of sheet music that I’d left on the living room rug after my return from the Bay area. A bit frisky, like a scrappy Fido, he cajoled the music, and then settled upon page one of the Chopin Waltz in C# minor, smothering it with his warm belly. In an instant, he switched gears.

As I approached my Steinway grand, he leaped to the occasion, beating me to the bench in time to flirt with my iMac’s nearby built-in camera. With his cat sensitive eyes and ears, he knew that I was about to record a Scarlatti Sonata.

More often, he disrupts any and all iMovie related activity the moment I tap “capture.” He’s faster than lightning to the window sill where he makes a racket tussling the blinds.

On this occasion, Aiden had something quite different in mind. As it turned out, he just wanted some well deserved heavy petting at the end of a long day.


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The view in my living room with an iMac, Tripod, Three Pianos, and Aiden cat

This about sums it up. Now that the iMac arrived right after Haddy Haddorff replaced a digital keyboard, Aiden cat found space for himself dwindling, yet he still managed to plop himself right in the middle of the muddle.


Aiden cat sits in on a concert…