Monthly Archives: September 2016

Tips to Singing for Kids

Tips to Singing for Kids

For all you youthful kids out there who cherish singing and might want to show signs of improvement at it, here are a few tips for you to outline a vocation as an expert vocalist. Observe…

Music happens to be one of those rare things which each and every child enjoys. Though most 5-year olds, 6-year olds, 8-year olds, etc., are at an age where they are too young to understand music theories or music appreciation, nevertheless, nearly all of them enjoy the ‘sound’ of music. This is something which is very important, and it is often a very decisive factor in a child pursuing music or developing a serious interest in it at a later stage.

Singing happens to be one aspect of music that most kids are introduced to in the early stages of school. A friendly looking music teacher, who is slightly plump, with rimmed glasses that rest at the tip of her nose, sitting at the piano, teaching ‘Popeye the Sailorman’ to a bunch of young enthusiastic kiddos, is a very common sight, and one which instantly brings a smile on the face of any bystander. Well, the liking for music (not to mention the increasing influence of reality shows) has led to quite a few children developing a serious interest in music, and in particular, singing.

Tips for Children
Rather than enlisting any specific singing lessons meant for kids, I think it would be better if I presented a few important, but often ignored tips.

  • First and foremost, learn to enjoy music, as this is something that is very, very important. You will automatically get better at music (this applies to both, singers as well as musicians) if you enjoy it genuinely from within.
  • Pay attention to all that your music teacher says and teaches in school. Quite often, it is in school itself where the foundation of music is laid. Show keen interest in all that is taught in your school music sessions. If you develop a genuine interest in those sessions, it will pave the way for better things to come.
  • Getting proper training from a vocal trainer is very important. A vocal trainer is different from a music teacher; do not get confused between the two. A music teacher will teach you all about musical notations, musical notes, music styles, music theory, etc., while a vocal trainer, on the other hand, will teach you about throat care, how to properly utilize your vocal cords while singing, how to modulate your voice, how to tackle high notes, etc. Vocal training is extremely important, as improper or incorrect singing techniques can seriously damage your vocal cords, both temporarily as well as permanently.
  • Don’t get carried away by what you see on television. Many a time, it so happens that kids think of taking up singing only because they see their favorite singers and pop stars performing on television; singing, dancing, and getting showered with lots of adulation from thousands of fans. Always remember, it takes years of practice, discipline, and continuous hard work to reach that pedestal. Stardom doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be sincere about singing, and you should keep on practicing regularly. Do not be on the lookout for shortcuts, as there aren’t any.
  • If you are a singer, do not shout or scream unnecessarily. You will only end up straining your vocal cords.
  • Be careful of what you eat. If you are going to be singing at a competition, audition, or concert, avoid eating extra spicy or oily food prior to the event. Also, stay away from cold food such as ice cream, chilled soda, etc.
  • Never sing when your throat hurts, as you will only end up damaging your already strained vocal cords further. Rest is the best medicine that you can give your throat in such circumstances.
  • This last tip is for parents. Do not force or unnecessarily pressurize your child to pursue singing, or for that matter any art. This will rob the child of the enjoyment factor, and the art will soon turn into a burden or a subject of immense dislike. Of late, thanks to the growing influence of talent hunts and reality shows, there are cases wherein parents end up putting too much pressure on the child with respect to any performing art. This can, at times, have a severely negative impact on the child’s mental framework, causing him/her to lose self-confidence, develop nervousness or anxiety, and start hating that particular performing art.

This was a short overview of how to sing with ease. Remember this simple mantra―enjoy singing and practice it with sincerity, so that you will surely succeed.

Guide to Sing Harmony

Guide to Sing Harmony

For those of you endeavoring to figure out how to sing congruity, here are a few tips and traps that will help you ace the right methods for this reason.

One would think that singing in a group is simpler than singing solo, simply because it would be easier to blend in. And probably certain small errors you make may be covered up by other singers. However, if this is what you think, you are mistaken. Singing harmony, which by definition implies singing in a group, requires much more effort than a solo performance. This is because the entire singing process depends on every singer in the group, and not just a few singers. You require more effort while trying to blend in with the rest of the singers, to understand the different notes that make up a melody. Also, while harmonizing, one member sings in a particular pitch, while the others sing in a higher or lower pitch. To achieve this, immense coordination is essential. Here, we provide you tips on mastering the art of harmonizing.

Tip #1
Pick out a song of your choice, along with which you can practice singing harmony. Master all parts of the song, not just a part that you would prefer to sing. Ensure that you can sing the melody on pitch. This technique needs to be first mastered, before you attempt to sing harmony perfectly. You may try out some singing exercises for this purpose.

Tip #2
One of the best ways to learn is to sing while playing a musical instrument, such as a piano. This will help you hear the notes that you are singing. While practicing with any of the various musical instruments, sing on the same scale as the melody you are playing.

Tip #3
To learn to sing harmony by ear, you will have to train your ear to identify dissonance and resonance within the piece of music. Avoid dissonant sounds, if you are not a very experienced singer. Follow this simple exercise to train your ear. You will require a recording device for this one. Start the device, and sit at a piano. Press just any note on the piano. Hold on to it, and try to sing a note that is in harmony with the note that you have played on the piano. You will not master it at the first attempt. Continue this exercise with different notes, for at least fifteen minutes. Then, rewind this entire recorded piece, and play it. You will understand the effect of the note you picked to sing in harmony with, the pitch you were singing in, and the types of moods that you have created while attempting different notes and harmonies. Do this exercise regularly, and your ear will be trained to recognize the nuances of singing harmony.

Tip #4
Lately, a lot of CDs are available, that give you instructions on singing harmony by ear. You can invest in one of these, and try learning. Lots of people have found these CDs very helpful in their attempt to learn.

Tip #5
As mentioned earlier, singing harmony is a group effort. This means that you must not only practice your own part, but the parts of the other singers in the group. This will help you pick your notes in a simpler manner.

Tip #6
Singing in a group will also ensure that you are on the same scale as the rest of the singers. This means you will not overshadow other singers, neither will you stand out in the entire singing effort. Keep in mind that melody is of prime importance, and should be heard over and above all other notes. Try to gather in a circular fashion when you practice in a group, so that you are able to hear other singers as well.

Tip #7
Lastly, you could sign up for some singing lessons with a music teacher, who would help you understand the basics of the process of singing harmony. Singing lessons will also help you train your ear to identify the different notes required to sing harmony.

Learning how to sing harmony is an art that you cannot master overnight. It is definitely going to require a lot of time, effort, patience and self-motivation on your part to be able to sing harmony well. If you wish, you can try practicing with your local church choir so that you have a group with which you can learn the nitty-gritty of this wonderful method of singing.

Tips To Buying a Brand New Piano

Tips To Buying a Brand New Piano

Purchasing a piano is a lifetime guarantee of symphonic happiness. Accordingly, before putting resources into one, ensure you comprehend what to search for when purchasing a piano.

Buying a new piano is quite an investment. There are a list of points you need to keep in mind while making such an investment.

First of all, you need to determine the purpose of buying the instrument. If you or your child is learning the piano, there’s a range of pianos for you. Or if you require one for your studio, school, or professional use, then there’s a whole range of pianos for you.

The qualities and price differ as per the purpose of the instrument. Don’t forget to consider the space you have before buying a piano. The room acoustics play an important role while playing.

Things to Look for When Buying a Piano

You need to select a piano that has the musical tone that you like. The best way to know that is by visiting retail music stores. You could always consult your music teacher as well as a piano technician.

Sizes of an Upright Piano

Spinet

A spinet is the smallest of the vertical pianos, standing at 36″ to 40″ in height. Like the vertical piano, a spinet too has vertical strings, but its hammers are in front of the strings, which move horizontally to strike them. Unlike the other pianos, a spinet’s action hangs at the back of the keys, which are mostly placed below them.

Spinet

This is the shortest upright piano, with its size ranging from 36″ – 40″ in height. This is ideal for people who live in a limited space, viz., apartments.

Console

This piano is a slightly larger spinet. Its height ranges from 40″ – 44″. It has a decent quality of tone.

Studio

This piano ranges from 43″ – 47″. It is vastly used for learning and practicing. It is often used in studio pianos.

Professional

This is the tallest upright piano with a size ranging from 47” – 52”. The professional upright piano stands tall in comparison to a grand piano.

Vertical Piano

A vertical piano is also known as studio upright piano. It stands between 40″ to 47″ in height. Unlike the grand piano, it has hammers in front of the strings, which move horizontally to strike the vertical strings. Actions rest on the back of the keys.

Sizes of Grand Pianos

Baby Grand

It is the most popular and one of the smallest grand pianos, hence the name. Baby grand ranges from 5′ – 5’4″ in size. It is also the most popular choice among those who live in limited quarters. Don’t let the size fool you. It is one of the best pianos for beginners on a budget.

Medium Grand

The size of the medium grand piano ranges from 5’5″ – 5’9″. People often use it at home, but mostly, it is used in schools and practice rooms. Many prefer this piano for the size of it.

Living Room Grand

This piano is best suited for large living rooms, hence the name. Its size ranges from 5’10” – 6’1″.

Parlor Grand

This is also known as the smallest of the concert grand pianos. Its size ranges from 6’2″ – 6’9″. This is ideal for those who require a rich bass. It is mostly found in recording studios or recital halls.

Music Room Grand

This also known as medium concert grand piano, and is vastly used in recording studios, mid-size concert venues, and institutions. Its size ranges from 6’10 – 7’10. These pianos have the key length of a concert grand piano, which is 21” – 22”, which gives its player a better control.

Concert Grand

The daddy of all pianos. You will find these at symphony halls, major concerts, and venues. It stands the tallest at 9″, hence, bestowing it with the title of being the ultimate piano.

Grand Piano

The grand piano ranges from 5″ to 9″ in height. Action rests on the back of the keys, and unlike the other two types of pianos, the grand piano has horizontal strings with the hammers lying below the strings, rising to strike them.

Guide to Buy a Piano

You need to select a piano that has the musical tone that you like. The best way to know that is by visiting retail music stores. You could always consult your music teacher as well as a piano technician. You can consider the following grades.

♬ Grade 1 pianos provide the highest quality of performance. However, they are very expensive. They are suitable for the most advanced professionals and meant for artistic uses. This will set you back between $14,000 to $90,000.

♬ Grade 2 pianos are high-performance pianos. Don’t be fooled by the grade; they are just as good as Grade 1. They are suitable for home as well as for professional and artistic uses. They can range between $6,000 to $50,000.

♬ Grade 3 pianos are of customer liking. They are mostly of Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and U.S. makes. They are best for beginners and perfect for home or institutional use. They come to your doorstep after high quality control standards and excellent warranty service. They also come with enhanced and advanced features. These pianos are fairly easy on the pocket as compared to the previous two, and can cost you around $3,500 to $34,000.

♬ Last but certainly not the least, Grade 4 pianos are of medium quality. They are of high-quality Chinese make, with imported materials from the U.S. as well as Europe. However, you may want to be a little cautious while buying this piano. It can cost you around $2,500 to $19,000.

♬ To make it simpler, choose a piano that gives you more cabinetry and finish choices, complimentary tuning, moving, and the best manufacturer’s warranty.

♬ Negotiate with the dealer to give you a trade-up policy, which will give you the full purchased price of your piano when you desire to upgrade to a higher quality one.

♬ You can also pay a little more and get an extended manufacturer’s warranty.

Purchase a piano privately. You can do that by looking for them in the classified ads in the newspaper. Do not buy a piano online. Internet will come in handy while locating a piano dealer. Find a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) in your area, who could guide you better while buying. Take the help of a professional while buying a piano as it will reduce the risk buying a faulty piece. He will also help you to evaluate and negotiate the rate.

Inspect Every Part of the Piano

Get acquainted better with the parts of the piano. Ignorance can lead you to buying a broken and expensive piano.

Back

The posts should be solid, heavy, and strong enough to give it adequate support. It should be in proportion to the rest of the piano.

Bass strings

Base strings are wound with a wire to add weight and reduce unneeded string vibrations. This allows the short strings to produce deeper notes. There are around 7,500 working parts called the action. They play an important role while playing the piano.

Cabinet

It is made of core stock laminated with fine wood or thin veneers. Again check if there are any cracks or chips.

Hammer

Piano hammers are formed by forging layers of felt onto a wooden hammer, which is later molded under tremendous pressure. Take a close look at its finishing.

Keys

Piano keys lay on a key bed, balanced by a center pin, and bushed with a kind of fine wool; this helps for proper clearance. The black keys are a fine quality of molded plastic, whereas the ivories are (no longer made of ivory) are made from a similar material, which prevents it from cracking and turning yellow. Play them and see if they are too hard or light.

Pedals

Though many pianists prefer two pedals, most pianos have three. The right pedal is known as the sustain pedal. When lifted, it lifts the dampers away from the strings, allowing the tone to sustain even after the keys are released. While resting, the pedal prevents the strings from vibrating. Take a look at each pedal to ensure its finish.

The pedal on the left is called the soft pedal or una corda pedal. It mutes the tone either by shifting the action slightly or by shortening the hammer’s travel.

The base pedal is situated in the middle of the above-mentioned two pedals. It meant for sustaining bass tones only. In most grand pianos, the third pedal is the sostenuto pedal, which is meant to sustain tones.

Plate

It is an irregularly-shaped piece of cast iron that is bolted to the back of the frame. It holds one end of the piano strings, and anchors most of the twenty tons of pull exerted by the taut strings.

Soundboard

The soundboard is one of the vital parts of the piano. It is the back of the instrument that translates the vibrations into the “tone” of the piano. See to it that it isn’t broken, or has developed or is developing cracks.

Treble and bass bridges

The treble and base bridges are also vital parts of a piano. These are long pieces of maple, which are attached to the soundboard. Don’t get confused when the salesperson says Strung back; it is the part of the piano that is responsible for amplifying sound and balancing the tension produced from the strings.

Tips While Buying a New Piano

☞ Take an experienced piano player along with you.
☞ Ask a professional technician about your doubts.
☞ Try out several pianos and ask the salesperson to play the same instrument. Pay special attention to how the keys feel when you press them down. Observe when the salesperson plays; check if the keys go down about 3/8″. If it goes further down, it will be tiring to play and eventually won’t work correctly. Check whether they are stiff or loose. This is called touch. You’ll need it to be easy to touch and easy on the ears. Listen to the instrument carefully.
☞ Take the size of the instrument and the room you are planning to place it in under consideration.
☞ Move the keys far enough sideways to check if they hit each other. If so, then that is a sign of missing felt or dry felt and will eventually need to be fixed.
☞ Play all keys from one end to the other, to ensure all keys are light, consistent, and all notes make a sound.
☞ Open the piano and examine the strings and other action parts. Check whether all the strings, hammers, and dampers are in place.
☞ Check the level of the hammers. Watch if it wobbles.
☞ Check if you hear a zinging sound on the release of the keys. It often means that the dampers are hard and need to be replaced.
☞ Longer the strings or the bigger the soundboard, the better the tone. Choose the tallest upright or the longest grand piano that you can afford.

Take your time for choosing the piano. Do not rush into buying the instrument. Browse several stores and brands as this will give you a better knowledge of all that is available in the market. Play them all and listen to them closely. Try and negotiate the rate. While checking the warranty, it should offer both parts and labor. Also, ask if the warranty can be transferred to a new owner―this is in case you decide to sell the piano; this will increase the instrument’s resale value.

How to Buying a Used Piano

How to Buying a Used Piano

With such a variety of components to think of it as, is constantly beneficial to enlist an enrolled piano specialist to guide you through the way toward purchasing an utilized piano.

While most items depreciate in value very soon, a piano does not. In fact, some musical instruments are known to sound better, the more they are played. But obviously, that depends on how they have been handled.

A serious pianist, for example, will keep his instrument in top shape while an amateur may handle it roughly. Someone who has lost interest in playing it may think of it as an ‘object that occupies a lot of space’, and put it up for sale in the used piano market. To make the right choice and be able to buy the best piece, you need to examine the instrument and know why it’s being sold. This used piano buying guide will help you find a good deal.

▸ What to Check for
▸ What to Ask the Seller

Looking at the piano and checking how it sounds will help you know the condition of the instrument and how well it has been maintained. Asking the seller about the previous owner of the piano, the period for which he has used the instrument, and why it’s being sold, will help you decide whether to buy it or not.

Check These

Condition of the Case
Observe the case carefully. If it has faded on any one side, chances are that the piano was kept standing by the window, with that side facing outside. A damaged case may indicate rough handling of the piano.

Inside the Case
Open the lid and see how the box looks from inside. If you see cobwebs, small insects or mouse droppings, it is a clear sign that the piano was neglected. While these things could be cleaned easily, the one thing that should not be taken lightly is the infestation of termites. Who would want to buy such an ill-maintained piano?

Smell
A pungent or unpleasant odor is sure to make you feel not wanting to buy the instrument. An old, unused piano that has not been maintained well, may smell of rust. Any other peculiar smell, such as that of mold, indicates that the piano is unmaintained and has not been touched for a very long time.

Alignment of the Keys
Bend down and observe the level of the keys. Check if they appear uneven. Have a closer look at the middle keys because they are the ones that are played more. Also, check for their looseness. Place your finger on each key and press it lightly to check if any of them is loose. You may find a problem with only some of the keys. Know the reason behind the same.

Play the Piano
As a test, play the piano by pressing each of its keys. Check for any odd sound, no sound, keys sticking, and tired or tubby sounds. See if there is any vibration, rattling, buzzing or any other unusual sound produced by any of the keys. Again, check the reason behind this.

Soundboard
The big plank of wood that you see at the back of an upright piano or from underneath a grand piano, is the soundboard. It has ribs running across that make the soundboard stronger. The soundboard of a musical instrument, in function, is similar to the speaker of a sound system. It amplifies the sound coming from the instrument (increases its loudness). A cracked soundboard or one with a loose rib, may produce a distorted or rattling sound. Check the bridge attached to the soundboard. If the bridge is broken, uneven, or unglued, the strings may lose tension and produce a distorted sound.

Pinblock
The pinblock holds the tuning pins in place. If it becomes cracked, the tuning pins eventually become loose and this in turn could cause the strings to rattle against the loose pins. Replacing the pinblock is a costly affair.

Tuning Pins
These pins hold the steel piano wire in place. To hold tune, the wires should be tight. The tuning pins are set in a wooden pinblock. A damaged pinblock cannot hold the pins in place. The tuning pins may slip or become loose, further loosening the steel wires. Replacing a damaged tuning pin is not as costly as replacing the pinblock.

Hammer
Constant hitting damages the hammer. Observe the felt of the hammerheads carefully. Check if it has deep grooves. Usually, the felt can be trimmed to get back its round shape. But in some cases, the felt is so badly worn out that trimming is not possible. In such cases, the felt is all the way worn through and the wood molding is seen striking the strings. Replacing the felt is not easy.

Companies like Steinway and Baldwin offer replacement of the piano’s spare parts. But for other brands, the replacement may be expensive, and yet not give you the satisfaction of owning a piece of grandeur. If you are going to be replacing parts of the piano, repairing it, and re-tuning it before use, you might as well get a new one.
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What to Ask the Seller

Why has the piano been put up for sale?
If the owner thinks that the piano occupies too much space and that he wants to get rid of it, it’s a sign that the piano has not been used for some time. The owner may give reasons like; “nobody is using it anymore”, “the person who used it no longer stays here”, “I need money” or “I want to clear some space”. Such reasons are indicative of the owner’s neglect towards his instrument.

Who has used the piano?
Was the piano used by a professional or a hobbyist? Was it used in a school or music academy? Who all have used it? Answers to these questions will let you know the owner, the users, and their type of use.

How often was the piano tuned and by whom?
Anything less than twice a year, done by a not-so-skilled technician or by someone who didn’t understand much about pianos, is an indicator of an instrument uncared for. You can consider buying it only after a professional checks its condition.

Where was the piano kept and how often was it moved around?
Was it kept very close to a window or the fireplace? Was it placed in the basement or in an area that lacked humidity control? Was its location changed often? Was it damaged during transitions? The answers to these questions will help you know the condition of the used piano.

How often was the piano used?
During its period of use, how often was the piano used? Was it tuned before every use? When was the last time it was tuned? Answers to these questions will tell you whether the instrument needs re-tuning.

Before you decide to buy a used piano, know its owners, check whether the instrument is in good condition, and most importantly, listen to its sound.