Archive for category Education
The team here at BPA are dedicated to delivering good customer service & and making sure that our customers are kept updated every step of the way. Here are some of the reviews we have received within the last 12 months proving that we go the extra mile.
Our next auction is on 20th September 2014 in Manchester,
Britannia Piano Auctions
0161 977 0075
The dimensions and layout of your piano room will undoubtedly have an effect on the overall sound. Have you ever listened to a piano that is too powerful for the room it is in?
Not only can it be deafeningly loud but it will often result in a poor quality of sound. As a rule of thumb larger pianos are built for larger rooms, this is because they possess qualities and characteristics that best present themselves in larger spaces. The mighty sound of a double octave run in the lower end of a concert grand would be lost in a typical houseroom as there is insufficient space for the sound to develop and resonate.
Remember large pianos are designed to move large quantities of air & produce comparably large sound waves. To do this they need to be housed in an appropriate sized room.
What Is The Layout Of Your Room?
The height & shape of the ceiling are important factors to consider, depending on the ceiling the sound that resounds round the room can be different. For example consider speaking loudly in a cathedral and then in a flat ceilinged room, the difference is just as immense when considering a piano in relation to its surroundings. Consider the cladding of the walls whether covered in wood, plaster, thick wallpaper or acoustic tiles.
Lots of glass and shutters in a room can produce a hard & indistinct timbre whereas soft furnishings such as wall tapestries or draperies can be used to soften hard sounds.
One of the most neglected aspects of a room’s acoustics in relation to a piano is the floor. Is it bare wood, varnished, laminate or waxed? Maybe it is carpeted, the choice is myriad. With wooden floors the sound that is produced in the home can be very strong and overpowering, almost too harsh to be enjoyed. This can often be combated by placing a large rug under the piano to soften the sound.
These are some of the most basic factors that you should consider when designing the layout of your music room. However, having done all that is required you may still find the sound does not suit the room or the ears of the listener. This can be due to the quality of the hammers in the piano be they hard or soft.
A recent case in point which comes to mind was a medium size piano that was transported to a residential address. The sound that the instrument produced was so colossal & overpowering in the room that a technician had to be called in to ‘soften the blow’ by tuning, regulating & voicing the instrument.
To voice an instrument is a very specialised job and can involve either needling a hammers felts to alter its consistency or in extreme cases by doping or ironing the hammers to compact the felt and harden them, there by producing a brighter sound.
However please note that this process is not as simple as it sounds and if you believe your piano is in need of such attention then contact an experienced piano technician as it is a very delicate job
The list can be endless and very expensive if one becomes carried away with the latest trends of sound control. If you consider the above basic factors you will have a perfectly good music cave to hide out in!
Britannia Piano Auctions
0161 977 0075
Imagine asking your piano tuner to tune piano trichords like this? Why? It is enough to make any technician or pianist with perfect pitch quiver where they stand. To request that your piano is tuned in this fashion is almost unthinkable, or is it…
The ‘Honky-tonk’ style of piano playing relied on this distinctive tuning process, the basic idea being that the piano’s tuning was altered to make the instrument sound like an exhausted untuneable piano. The irony of this is if the piano was exhausted and untuneable, any pianist attempting to play Honky-tonk piano would have a far from enjoyable time ahead.
Origins of The Term
The earliest known use of the word was in an American newspaper report in 1889. In this report the local community called for the ‘Honky-tonk theatre’ to be reopened. The term is still used today to describe certain types of bars in America too, mainly bars that provide entertainment in the form of country music (common in the southern and southwestern United States).
It has its roots firmly in the style of ragtime, the emphasis is on the rhythm rather than the melody & harmony. It is a cheery and percussive style that is almost never at a slow tempo, and can, in the hands of the accomplished player be a justification to embellish the original melody in exuberance. The style evolved out of an environment where pianos were poorly treated and cared for. These pianos also tended to be out of tune. The style was the platform for the birth of the later Boogie Woogie style that came to popularity in the late 1930 through the early 1950’s (though records do indicate that it can be traced back further).
Two Famous Names In Honky-tonk
Certain household names in England made a living out of requesting such a distinctive tuning process. Winifred Atwell who was a Trinidad and Tobago born pianist from the town of Tunapuna (think there might be a joke in there somewhere!) enjoyed great popularity in the UK, USA & Australia from 1945-1980 playing Honky-tonk piano.
Originally a fine classical player who travelled to the United States to study with Alexander Borovsky and, in 1946, moved to London, where she had gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music. She became the first female pianist to be awarded the Academy’s highest grading for musicianship. To support her studies, she played rags at London clubs and theatres. These modest beginnings in variety would one day see her topping the bill at the London Palladium. She attracted attention with an unscheduled appearance at the Casino Theatre, where she substituted for another star who was at the time unwell. She caught the eye of an entrepreneur who put her on a long-term contract. She released three discs which were well received. The third, “Jezebel”, scurried to the top of the best seller lists. It was her fourth disc that catapulted her to huge popularity in the UK. Winifreds career was never destined to be on the concert platform performing the classical repertoire.
Winifred not deterred from playing, took to the Honky-tonk style and made it her own selling over 20 million records. She was the only female instrumentalist to have a number one hit in the UK and is still the only one to do so. Here she is performing the ‘black and white rag’ live through various stages of her career.
Another corner stone of the Honky-tonk style was…
Gladys Mills was an English pianist who found fame through the 1960s and 1970s playing the Honky-tonk style. Mrs Mills was discovered while working as the superintendent of the typing pool in the Paymaster General’s office in London in the early 1960s.
Her catchy piano style and jolly, happy-go-lucky personality won over a talent scout who saw her performing at a Woodford Golf Club dance near her Essex home in Loughton in December 1961.
After signing a management contract to Eric Easton (who later managed The Dave Clark Five and The Rolling Stones), Mrs Mills was snapped up by the Beatles’ record label Parlophone.
Her first single “Mrs Mills Medley” entered the UK Top Twenty, and was a piano medley of the songs:
I Want to Be Happy
The Sheik of Araby
Somebody Stole My Gal
Ma He’s Making Eyes at Me
Ain’t She Sweet
California Here I Come.
Here is the original Parlophone recording:
The song reached number 18 in the charts and was the first piano medley to bother the Top 20 since Russ Conway’s Christmas ivory-tinkler in 1959.
A classic number of the Honky-tonk repertoire is Kitten on the keys:
Played here by Hamelin:
Though the sound of the Honk-tonk piano is now available at the click of a button on most modern electronic keyboards, there is still nothing quite like the traditional acoustic sound that resounds from a piano. It is a piano tuner’s nightmare to be asked to tune a piano in this way. All of those years correcting the problem of out of tune pianos, to then be asked to do the opposite, most of them see this as sacrilege!
As a friend of mine said “It is rather like asking Michelangelo to emulsion your spare bedroom”. However it cannot be denied that Honky-tonk still has its place today as a cheery feel good style of piano playing that if played well requires a lot of skill and a high level of ability.
Felt is one element of the mechanics in a piano, but is it a small element or a big one…
The finest hammer felts produced for pianos are made from virgin wool. It is classed as virgin wool when it comes from the very first shearing of a sheep.
Virgin wool contains the longest fibre and greatest lanolin content, it can be removed from each sheep only once. This is the reason that it is very rare and very expensive.
Each shearing that takes place post the ‘virgin shearing’ produces a wool that is drier and more brittle, this is due to the Lanolin content being lower.
|What Is Lanolin
Lanolin also called wool wax or wool grease is a yellow waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Most lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool. Lanolin is a wax. Historically, many pharmacopoeias have referred to lanolin as wool fat; however, as lanolin lacks glycerides, it is not a true fat.
Certain breeds of sheep produce large amounts of lanolin, the extraction can be performed by squeezing the sheep’s harvested wool between rollers. Most or all of the lanolin is removed from wool when it is processed into textiles, such as yarn or felt.
Hammer felt is categorised by weight in pounds; this is measured by weighing a square yard of the primed felt. So when you read about 18 pound hammers you will know that it refers to the weight of the square yard it was cut from rather than the weight of each individual hammer.
In the construction of a hammer there is a wooden base, the felt is mounted onto the wooden hammer under great pressure. Tension must exist in the hammer felt to offer a resilient bounce off the string after it has been struck. Too much tension or not enough is a negative and can stifle the tone production.
Frequently manufactures use a thin layer of colored felt that they attach to the wooden hammerhead before attaching the final white/cream coloured felt that touches the string. This felt is called the ‘under felt’
The theory behind ‘under felting’ is one that piano makers, sellers and players are still divided on. Some believe that it adds to the overall experience whilst others believe it is a gimmick and the process of under felting is not necessary.
All hammer felts have to be glued to stabilise the felt to the hammer, in most cases they are glued and stapled
So now at your next ‘piano party’ you can spread your knowledge about piano hammers!
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The UK’s Central Piano Auction House
0161 977 0075
It can be hard to move away from the makes of piano you became comfortable with in school or college. Most people’s ready available advice is habitually based on what they have used when studying, or second hand advice from another party.
That is not to say that such advice should be disregarded, quite the opposite in fact. However if someone’s advice is based upon there knowledge of playing 4 – 5 different makes of piano then it could be suggested that it is a fairly limited guidance!
Did you play a certain make when you were studying, and still feel like you are drawn back to that make because it is what you know?
Practically every concert venue, school, sixth form, college and recording studio purchase either a Steinway & Sons, Yamaha or Kawai piano. All superb instruments but not necessarily the makes most suited to you….
Don’t feel pressured into living with one of the popular makes you see everywhere. Popular does not always mean they are they best for your needs or the best generally!
The reasons behind establishments choosing to use certain brands of piano has little to do with your individual needs, financial plan, likes or dislikes. More often that not a institution will be awash with one or two particular makers,this is because they signed on the dotted line to take part in some type of ‘free loan piano education’ package. What that means is the institution can use many new pianos that it would not otherwise of been able to afford in a single purchase.
Such contracts are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to the manufacturers, and in turn gives the brand great exposure. Its well understood by the manufactures that such exposure through very appealing contracts develops a natural amount of loyalty from the people playing the pianos.
When institutions & concert venues make such purchases it is usually the ‘best deal’ at the time that wins.
It would be interesting to work out how many makes of piano you know, and what makes in that list you have actually played? Also what makes of piano do you have an opinion about but have never played?
In most peoples opinion Steinway & Sons are the Rolls Royce of the piano world, however why did one of the greatest acclaimed jazz pianist of all time choose to play Bosendorfer pianos?
Elton John since the early 1970’s has been one of the most influential pop pianists of our time. An accomplished pianist who studied at the Royal College of Music, he plays Yamaha pianos.
Richard Wagner was a gifted pianist and composer, he was obsessed with the service his Erard piano constantly gave to him throughout his life. I’m surprised he didn’t write an opera named after the maker!
The above is an example of individual taste, and individual requirements, not all of us feel comfortable playing what others consider the ‘Rolls Royce’ or ‘BMW Sport’ of their piano world
With some practical research and opportunity’s we can discover what our perfect instrument is, and what suits and compliments our playing style the best.
In our last auction we had over 80% of the respected makers of piano in the auction room. Our next auction is on April 5th 2014 in Manchester and we hope to have the same & more! It is a great opportunity for you to come and play many different makes of piano and create your own opinions and enhance your knowledge of the leading makers in the piano world. You never know what you might find!
Don’t forget there are always bargains to be had at our auctions!
So remember that the institutions have very different needs than you do, so become well acquainted with the other makers of piano!
Ferrari & Bentley to name but a few would never of stood the test of time if with blinkers we all bought Rolls Royce cars. Not only would this of been a great shame but it would of deprived many a good motorist of a most agreeable ride!
Next auction: Saturday 5th April 2014 in Manchester
0161 977 0075
Why The Touch Of Grand Pianos Are Better…
It is a common enough question and is often the subject of many pianists conversations:
“What type of piano has the superior touch… The upright or the grand?”
Let us explain…
The upright piano houses it strings in a design that makes them vertical to the ground. Because of this the action sits in front of the strings and the hammers sit at an approximate 45-degree angle to the floor. In a grand piano the strings are housed parallel with the ground and the action sits underneath the strings. The hammers rest at a 45-degree angle below that of the ground. This basic 90-degree variation of the positioning is significant in the response and consistency Between the two pianos.
The hammer in a grand piano is controlled by gravity, whereas the hammer in an upright piano is controlled by springs and levers. These differences in design mean that the grand piano key has two major triumphs of the upright piano key, these triumphs are that the grand piano key can be played faster & more sensitively.
Upright instruments will always rely on the ‘spring and lever’ action. Springs can wear out and alter the playability & worth of the instrument, however the grand piano is designed in such a way that it employs the use of gravity, which is an unrestricted and perpetual power and simply can’t wear out!
This in return demonstrates that grand pianos have a repetition and sensitivity advantage over uprights.
Be in no doubt however that the design of the upright action is excellent in todays instruments. Nonetheless when a player is ready to master the more serious works of the repertoires its mechanism will offer a noticeable limitation on a players ability to perform.
Most students of the piano begin by learning on an upright instrument, there is a reason why the music colleges have uprights in almost every practice room!
Not everyone plays to the most advanced of standards. However it can not be denied that there is a ‘progress advantage’ to practicing each day on a grand piano.
0161 977 0075
This week at Britannia Piano Auctions the topic of ‘stencil pianos’ came up fairly often in various conversations, we wondered how many of our auction goers and followers know what a stencil piano is ? And if they truly understand what it is all about.
Well if you didn’t you will after reading this!
For decades many piano manufactures have designed and made pianos that are of inferior quality. These instruments were designed to be sold to traders and retailers and would have a variety of names ‘stencilled’ on the front of the piano.
A typical example of this is the ‘Archer family’ who own a local piano shop. They would purchase a number of stencil pianos for their showroom floor that would display ‘Archer‘ on the fall board as the name of the instrument. The word ‘Archer’ thus being the stencil.
Another classic example of stencil pianos is when manufactures produce a cheap end piano that has a German sounding name, or a name that sounds like one of the top established makers, for instance;
Steinwell (sounds like Steinway)
Bachstein ( sounds like Bechstein)
Arard ( sounds like Erard )
Schiedmayar ( sounds like Schiedmayer & Soehne)
Similarly the use of German sounding words, for example the blatant use of famous composers names, and even stencils that sounded like the names of famous composers have all been well-known styles of stenciling.
In some cases the names derived from obsolete piano companies of yesteryear that still ‘grab the attention’ and interest of the buying marketplace.
Interestingly many stencil pianos are made in Indonesia or Mainland China. And many buyers are deceived into believing that these pianos are produced in famous geographical location that are recognized for their production of quality instruments, most notably Germany.
It does have to be pointed out that stencil pianos are not always poor in their quality, but they are generally made of cheaper material and are less impressive that the pianos that bear the true factory name.
0161 977 0075
The UK’s Central Piano Auction House