Thursday, November 12, 2009

My little girl arrived...

My dear little girl arrived on 9 Nov 09. And I will be very busy with her until I get more settled down, so will not be posting that many new blogs anytime soon. Hope I can continue my hobby after I am more settled down and things gets into a routine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Future Hailun Pianos...

After my visit to the Yamaha shop on their Hybrid Pianos, I was just thinking, it would be great if Hailun pianos have silent versions as well.

Ok, because my baby will be coming out soon, so we have shifted our dear Hailun piano to the living room to make space for more kids to come. Our dear Hailun used to have a room by itself, called our "Music Room". And we have emptied the room. So now, I have a corner of my living room, called my "Piano Corner".

And because now that it is in the living room. It means it will be closer to our neighbours. And because I am still at quite an initial stage of my piano learning, I always worry that I will "disturb" my neighbours too much. So, I usually practise and learn by depressing the "mute pedal", and only when I have mastered the piece, that I will play without the "mute pedal". So suddenly, I thought to myself, how I wish this can be converted to become a silent piano. Haha. But of coz, it will cost about a few thousands to convert this into a silent piano. But I always feel that a silent piano is better than a digital piano (in terms of touch and feel).

After about a year of owning the Hailun HL125, I went back to try their Hailun pianos. What used to be "HL125" is now replaced by "Crescendo HL125", which is suppose to be an improved version of "HL125". I tried, the keys are lighter than the older generation of Hailun, which is more similar to that of the Japanese brand pianos. But the sound is not as thick as it used to be, but personally, I still prefer the Hailun's sound compared to Yamaha's, even when the sound is not as thick as it used to be. The keys are smoother and much easier to play.

Glad to see that Hailun have been making improvements. And hopefully as time passes, more improvements will come along... =)

Hehe, I always feel the Hailun pianos has so much resemblence to the Kia Cerato I bought. Slowly gaining more and more recognition, better design (like the Kia Cerato Forte) and gaining confidence! =)

Hybrid Pianos by Yamaha

One of the past weekends, I passed by the Yamaha shop at Plaza Singapura, and went in to try out their new Hybrid Pianos - AvantGrand N2 and AvantGrand N3.

Hybrid Pianos are like Digital Pianos, in that it is run by electricity, and they are very expensive. AvantGrand N2 is S$19k and AvantGrand N3 is S$25k. They promise that the Hybrid Pianos has a much more authentic sound reproduction, plus a grand-type action in a smaller space, as well as tricked out pedaling, which means that the technology is superior to the silent pianos. Also, Yamaha claims to reproduce the CFIIIS concert grand in a 4 foot package, which is quite useful for people short of space.

I must say it is a great jump in terms of touch, feel and sound from their other Digital Pianos, and also much better touch compared to the CVP-409GP which cost about S$13k.

But when I test the Hybrid Pianos against the Yamaha U1 Silent Piano which is about $11k. Frankly speaking, I don't feel any very big difference. But according to one of my forum friend (who is more expert in pianos), she feels that N3 feels and sounds better than both the silent U1 and U3, though it would be a far far cry from a Steinway & Sons Grand Piano. But a conclusion is that it is priced too high. If it were around the $12k mark, they might persuade those who buy the silent U1 to step up for the Avantgrand, but $25k for the N3 is hard to justify for a digital.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grade 2 Piano Exams

My teacher is planning to register me for the Grade 2 Piano exams. Initially she was aiming for the March piano practical exams. But because I will be giving birth soon (in Nov), which means I will stop lessons for 2 months in Nov and Dec during my confinement. Hence, she is looking at the July to September exams instead. I intend to resume my piano lessons from Jan 2010.

If I take all the 16 weeks of maternity leave continuously, my maternity leave will end on about 20 Mar 2010. So, I plan to take my theory exams on Sat 13 Mar 2010. I should have more than enough time to prepare for this, since I should be able to complete the syllabus by the end of Oct 09. And Nov 09 to Dec 09 to revise and study while getting used to a new member to my family, and Jan to mid Mar to try past year exams papers, before I go back to work.

But for practical exams, should I try for the March 2010 one? Or should I wait for the July to September 2010 one? As of now, I have yet started on the exam pieces. I have started on the "Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 2" for 2 months, going on to 3 months. Will be completing the Baroque pieces soon, and moving on to Classical period in Oct. And I will be midway through the Classical period when I go on my maternity break. And assuming if my teacher buys me the Grade 2 exam pieces book, I can at least start trying on it during the Nov and Dec break, and start preparing exams under her guidance starting from 1 Jan 2010.

Advantages of taking Practical Exams in March 2010:-
1. It will still be during my maternity leave period. I will have more time to prepare.
2. Less stress coz I am not working yet. I will only need to cope with baby and piano exams.
3. Can move on to Grade 3 faster, since I have completed both theory and practical exams.

Disadvantages of taking Practical Exams in March 2010:-
1. I will need to prepare the exams over a period of 3 months. A bit rush.
2. Might be a bit stress, coz I need to get ready for work life after maternity leave.

Advantages of taking Practical Exams in July 2010:-
1. More time to prepare for the practical exams (over 7 months).
2. Can adjust to working mother life first, before preparing for the piano exams.

Disadvantages of taking Practical Exams in July 2010:-
1. Will need to stay in Grade 2 for a longer period.
2. Might end up not taking any exams if I cannot cope with work, baby and piano learning.

Should I insist to take my exams in March 2010? If pass, good, else, at least I tried, coz I might not have the chance to take the Practical exams anyway, if I cannot cope with work and baby.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Piano Party Videos

Finally managed to upload the videos that were taken during the Piano Party. But because these videos are taken using HD mode using my hubby's Sony HX1, and hence, they are very big files. About 200MB to 600MB for each videos. If you are ok with the size, you may download these videos and watch Lynnette Seah plays her violin. These links will only be available until 15 October 2009.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aching Fingers is Normal!

I have been having aching fingers since late last month. And it is getting bad to worse. My toes are also swollen. Went to see my gynea yesterday and she told me that this is normal as about 80% of pregnant woman will experience water retention.

I found from the net on this and I have pasted the info in my blog for my reference, just in case the website changes in future:-

[1] Tingling Hands (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)

What it is: Numbness, a "pins-and-needles" sensation, or aching in the hands and wrists, especially noticeable at night.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome: Pregnancy swelling puts pressure on a key nerve in the wrists and causes the same aching and tingling symptoms most often associated with ergonomic strain and repetitive motion. (Of course, if you're pregnant and having ergonomic strain or doing repetitive motion, you're twice as likely to experience it.)
What you need to know about tingling hands: If you're feeling these symptoms more at night, it's because the fluids that accumulate in the lower part of your body during the day are redistributed elsewhere, including your hands, when you lie down. (Kind of reverse gravity.) And of course, if you've been at a computer all day long, nighttime leaves your carpal nerve with a double whammy. Luckily, though, this symptom should disappear after delivery as your swelling diminishes.
What to do about tingling hands: If you work at a computer, or do any other activity that requires repetitive motion, like playing the piano or filing, take frequent hand-stretching breaks. If typing, type gently, making sure your wrists are straight and your elbows are higher than your hands.
(a) Try not to sleep on your hands.
(b) Use a pillow to prop up your arms at night.
(c) Shake your hands & wrists out frequently. At night, you can hang your hand over the side of the bed & shake it.
(d) It may help to limit or avoid caffeine and stay away from tobacco (which you should definitely be doing, anyway).
(e) If you're in a lot of pain, try a wrist brace. Ask your practitioner which kind to buy.
Acupuncture might help — ask your practitioner for a recommendation.

[2] Coping With Carpal Tunnel

Even women who have never experienced a repetitive strain injury before are vulnerable to it during pregnancy. If you spend your day tap-tap-tapping on a keyboard, you may already be familiar with the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) — that well-known worker’s malady that causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the hands due to too much time spent doing repetitive tasks. What you might not know, however, is that more than a quarter of expectant moms develop CTS during pregnancy, whether or not they ever go near a computer, thanks to swollen tissue in the body that presses on nerves (the same swollen tissue that makes it impossible for you to remove your wedding ring, or tell your ankles from your calves).

With carpal tunnel syndrome, the swelling takes place in the narrow "tunnel" in the wrist through which key nerves connect to the hand and fingers. The result is the pain, tingling, burning, and numbness that accompany nerve compression. CTS tends to kick in during the second half of pregnancy, and often seems to be worse at night, when the fluid that had been accumulating in your lower extremities during the day (thanks to gravity) has an opportunity to redistribute itself throughout your body and into your upper extremities.

Still, some pregnant women find that carpal tunnel takes its greatest toll in the workplace. Trying to work through an attack is not easy, and can be very painful. The good news is that carpal tunnel syndrome is not dangerous and usually subsides after delivery. And luckily, there are a number of remedies you can try until you see the light at the end of the carpal tunnel:
(a) Raise your office chair so that your wrists are straight and your hands are lower than your elbows as you type.
(b) Switch to a wrist-friendly ergonomic keyboard.
(c) Get mouse and keyboard pads that provide wrist support.
(d) Wear a wrist brace while typing.
(e) Take frequent breaks from the computer.
(f) Use a speakerphone or headset if you’re on the phone a lot.
(g) In the evenings, soak your hands in cool water to reduce any swelling.

Other possible remedies include vitamin B6 supplements (ask your practitioner before taking any supplements), acupuncture, or pain relievers (again, check before you take any medication).

And so, it is only normal for me to feel the finger aches when I play and practice on my pianos. Ok, knowing that this is normal, I am not so worried now. But maybe, I need to cut down on the time I spend practising the piano? At the same time, I was hoping to learn as much as I can before my baby comes out. I don't think I will have as much free time to spend playing on the piano after the baby is out. So, hopefully I can strike a balance. I don't want to hurt my fingers permanently.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Piano Party @ Ben's House

I went for the Piano Party held at Ben's House (a condo near NUS area) on 12 Sep 09 with my hubby. Ben is a friend I made in the Piano Forum. Ben is a very great host and tries to make us feel comfortable and I really appreciate it.

My hubby is worried for me to go there alone (a very protective man) and moreover I don't really know the people there, so he decided to accompany me. Haha, he being someone who doesn't really appreciate classical music and piano, and not so musically inclined, he brought his Sony HX1 there to take photos, so that he can "entertain" himself, while I sit there, enjoy the music, chit chat and have fun. I appreciate his presence though, but do constantly worried that he might be bored.

We went there immediately after our Antenatel Class which ended at around 12pm. The party is suppose to start at 1pm, but we were there at around 12.15pm. We were the first guests to reach. The caterer was still there preparing the buffet spread. Not long later, Wzkit arrived. Ben opened up his piano and switched off the TV. And here are some photos of his Suater Omega 220 taken by my hubby before the rest of the guests come. A very nice piano:-

Wzkit was playing the piano when my hubby was taking the photos of the piano. And you see him trying out the piano at the other side of the photo. Ben has tuned it to EBVT III temperament. Haha, actually, I can't really hear the difference between his EBVT III and my Equal Temperament. Haha, so, I guess I am quite "deaf" too!

While Wzkit was playing the piano, and stepped on the una corda pedal, the whole key shifted like what my Piano Teacher told me. Haha, my first time seeing it move. So interesting. Okok, I sound very "sua ku". But honestly speaking, I don't feel that the two sound with and without the una corda has much of a difference. Or, is there a difference?

This is Ben (the host) playing on his piano. He looks quite young. I mean, I expect to see quite an old man, coz he seems to have went through a lot of ups and downs in his life from the way I "talked" to him via messages and emails.

Ok, the caterer is finally done with the buffet spread, and this is the most interesting part for my hubby. It is nyonya food from Chilli Padi. Too bad, my hubby had a sore throat, so he did not try the mee siam, which looks very nice. Haha, though I don't fancy spicy food, but the food taste nice. I drank a lot of lime juice and it was very successful in helping me cope with the spiciness of the food. Think the spread is for about 20 people. The food was there from about 1pm to 4pm (when the people came again to clear up). But I saw that there were a lot "leftovers". I ate a lot liow. But I guess there are many who just played the piano and did not eat enough. Haha.

Ok, not long after the spread is ready, more and more people came. There were about 20 people (I think), and the whole living room, dining area and the study room (where the food were) are all packed with people. I met a few of the other Piano Forum friends.

Wow, they all have very powerful backgrounds. There are economists, NUS Mechanical Engineering Lecturers, Sauter Piano Dealer who is also an Interior Designer and Lynnette Seah was there too. And they all are very rich, as in staying in landed properties, freehold condo, buying condos like buying clothes, having Steinway and Sauter pianos at their home. All I asked have all completed their Grade 8 exams, some performing in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, some in the NUS Symphony Orchestra, some completed their Piano Diplomas, some will be taking their Diploma exams soon. Some can play other instruments other than pianos. Wow! Very very impressive group of people. Haha, my hubby commented that these group of people are like a different category, living a very different life from people like us (who seems to be crawling on the ground). They are all very English speaking group of people too. And when they asked about me and my hubby. Haha, like nothing very special about the 2 of us, just very ordinary people and a small potato in our company. And haha, when asked about my piano background, even funnier. Haha. My hubby know nuts about piano, and I barely know much, and just starting out my Grade 2.

But, I must say, I did enjoy myself, and was an eye opener to meet them. I mean you rarely get a chance to talk to another group of people whom you don't meet them in life right? And understanding how they feel and live their life. And most importantly, we share a common interest which is music, which is why we are all in this party. If invited again, I would love to go, but maybe not with my hubby coz he was getting very bored, other than the food. And hopefully when my baby is out, I can leave the baby with him. Don't think is a nice idea to bring my little one there, just in case she starts crying when they are performing.

I had a nice chat with Alvin, who is the Sauter Piano Dealer. And he shared with me and my hubby his experience of dealing with those even richer customers, who have terrible attitudes and expectations for his part time job as an interior designer. He also shared with us how he started his hobby into selling Sauter. Haha, and really selling pianos is not his rice bowl, else he would have been starved to death, but rather a passion which he needs to do some other part time job in order to support. Oh, he is also building his own piano for himself by himself. But because there is no equipments, parts, advices and factory in Singapore, he will fly to Germany when he has the time and money and do some work on his dream piano. And so far, it is far from ready. But quite a nice guy to chat with. As in, not someone who is at all interested to sell you anything, but just a normal friend talking about anything under the sun. Please lor, see my pattern, also know that I can't afford a Sauter. =P

The best part of the Piano Party. Lynnette Seah is performing on her violin. She play until it looks very easy, not nervous at all one, just enjoying herself playing some pieces and they are all very nice. I don't know who is the pianist, but seems to be someone whom she had been working with, or at least the pianist came prepared!

Haha, then she was asking volunteers to play on the piano as accompanists and haha, as usual, everyone just sat there and looked at each other. And she was like, "hey, good opportunity to play the piano with another musician and the best part is I am not charging you!" Haha, we all laughed. And when she realised is because no one dares to play a piece via sight-reading with her, she was like, what? Pianist can't sight-read? Haha, I guess though I feel these pianists are pro, still not pro enough as compared to her. Haha! In the end, everyone volunteered a guy called Jonathon, who is suppose to be the best sight-reader. And in the end 2 persons were playing on the piano, one playing the left hand and one playing the right hand and Lynnette was playing the violin. I thought the pianists were not bad, to be able to play the pieces just by sight-reading. Haha, I am far from that!

Then, after Lynnette finished her "performance", Jonathon brought out his don't know what instrument, and started blowing. I think is a Bassoon.

Haha, my hubby was asking Lynnette if there is chance for all the 3 instruments to be played together. Haha, he was hoping for an orchestra kind of thing. But to his disappointment, don't have.

Just some comments which my hubby has about his observation. The people in this Piano Party all seems to be able to play the piano well. And the focus is on how well they play the pieces, how expressive and so on. But there is no element of composing and creativity. His thoughts is that instruments like a piano, should not be just about playing it from scores that were written many years back. Well, these pieces are also composed by people in the past. And why is it that this creativity is not the focus when one learns the piano? Shouldn't music be about creativity instead of strictly following the scores that were composed years ago?

Haha, and well, I also do notice that in my piano lessons so far, the focus has been on my piano playing techniques and how well I can play a piece. Though theory has some element of composing, but does not seems to be the focus of learning piano. But maybe there is this focus in the higher grades? I also not very sure. But I did asked my teacher about composing music, and she told me I need to have a strong understanding of the theory first before I can understand how to compose, and to get there, I need to complete at least Grade 4 or 5. Is that true?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

ABRSM Exams 2010


Examination Date

Registration Dates

Theory of Music
Grades 1 - 5: 1000 - 1200
Grades 6 - 8: 1400 - 1700

Saturday 13 March 2010

16 - 30 November 2009

Saturday 30 October 2010

2 - 13 August 2010

Practical Examinations
Mon - Fri: 0900 - 1715 except on public holidays

Grade Exams

February/March 2010

22 September - 9 October 2009

Diploma Exams

April/May 2010

4 - 8 January 2010

Grade, Jazz & Diploma Exams

July - September 2010

8 - 26 February 2010

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More info on Hailun from Piano Book

Don't know why my version of the Piano Book does not have any information on Hailun when I bought it last year. But since have the online version, so shall post it here for my reference. For more information, please refer to the online version which is here

"Ningbo Hailun began making piano parts and components in 1986 under the Ningbo Piano Parts Factory name, and began assembling entire pianos in 1995. Its assembly facility converted to a full-scale piano-manufacturing facility in 2000. The company offers a full line of grands and uprights in its designer Art Case Collection, as well as traditional styles and finishes. In addition to making pianos under the Hailun name, it also make the Wendl and Lung brand for distribution throughout Europe and a few pianos stores in U.S. The company also makes pianos and components under contract for several other manufacturers and distributors.

The Hailun factory has over 400,000 square feet of production capacity and 800 employees. A 200,000 square foot expansion project is underway to accomodate distribution in the U.S. market. Additionally, a new cabinet factory is now complete and began production is 2008. Since 2001, the company has invested heavily in computer-controlled manufacturing equipment and has hired an impressive group of experts from Japan (Ema Shigeru), Europe (Peter Veletzky, Stephen Paulello, Claire Trichet, Sibin Zlatkovic), and the U.S. (Frank Emerson) to help it reach the highest quality standards. While modern manufacturing methods are full utilized, the factory also uses a large amount of skilled manual labour, and provides an in-depth training program for its workers, conducted by piano builders and technicians from the U.S. and Europe.

Hailun is a little different from most of the other Chinese companies selling pianos in the U.S. Its founder and owner, Chen Hailun, is an entrepreneur in the Western style, and deeply involved in every aspect of the business. Originally a maker of molds for industrial use, Chen got into the piano business when piano manufacturers started to use his services to make piano parts. In 1998 he bought out the government's position in his company to better control quality and hiring decisions. He seeks out the best workers by paying considerably higher wages than other piano makers in China, he says, and assists in the training of future piano technicians through an association with a local university. His greatest aspiration, Chen says, is to make the best piano in Asia.

Over the years, much of Chen's technical efforts have gone into maximising the precision and stability of the pianos and parts his company makes. This is evidenced by the substantial investment in computer-controlled machinery used for precision cutting; the design of keys, keybed, and other parts to resist warping; and the fact that grand piano actions are actually interchangeable between instruments of the same model (this requires an unusually high level of precision). The piano themselves exhibit good quality control and intelligence in design. In terms of materials, the company uses maple in grand piano rim, a feature indicative of higher quality and arguably necessary for the best sound. This precision, stability, and quality of materials, combined with the work of experienced design consultants, have resulted in pianos that perform and service better than most other pianos from China, and may favourably compare with some mid-priced pianos from other parts of the world. Our own reviewer tried out a Hailun grand and was impressed with its musicality.

Warranty: 15 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period; except for action parts, cast-iron plate, and metal case hardware, which are warranted for the lifetime of the original purchaser."

For those who are wondering what is the relationship between Wendl and Lung pianos and Hailun pianos, you can get a brief explanation here from the Piano Book.
Basically is because Hailun has hired a group of experts from Europe, where some were related to Wendl and Lung, such that the models became part of Hailun line of pianos. But history wise, Wendl and Lung had a different history altogether. But now, they are similar but meant to make pianos for different markets.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, Fall 2009

This is the latest version of the Larry Fine Piano Book. He has included another mega section on Digital Piano which was not in the one which I bought previously. And here is the online version of the book.
I have replicated the table which he has created here for my own easy reference. But for the details on what are the assumptions behind this table, please refer back to his book.

Performance-Grade Pianos:-

Consumer-Grade Pianos:-

In Singapore Context:-
My Hailun Piano not bad lah, still in the high mid-range of the Consumer-Grade Pianos. But just wondering how accurate is the table? China-made Yamaha pianos are ranked above China-made Hailun Pianos?

But I also notice Cristofori seems to sell a lot of the pianos in the Entry Level Consumer-Grade Pianos. And the prices are not that cheap also what. I mean, of what I remembered, their new Pearl River is about $3.5k, new Samick (abt 121cm) vertical was close to $4k, their Cristofori pianos are at $4k+.

A new Yamaha U1J from Yamaha is about $7k. Think last time when I asked about Perzina verticals, it was about $6k+. So effectively, Hailun can be sold at $5k to $6k liow, given its ranking...

So either Hailun is under priced now, or Cristofori are over-pricing their pianos? Haha, anyway, willing buyer willing seller, who am I to say how much these pianos should be priced =P. But from this little analysis, you will see which pianos are value for money...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Grade 2 expectations is so high...

After one month into Grade 2, I have only passed one assignment so far (to my teacher's expectations). And have been playing the same other 2 pieces for the past 3 weeks. I can play the piece fluently when I am at home, but when I go for my classes, there bound to be hiccups here and there. I know when I make a mistake, I should just continue so that the piece is still considered ok. But practically, once I made one mistakes, all the other mistakes will follow.

I do feel that there seems to be quite a big jump in expectations from Grade 1 to 2. My teacher's rational is that I need to learn how to perfect every piece that I learn, so that when I am learning the exam pieces, it would come as a breeze, and not struggling through them. She says she has saw other teachers just teaching their students the 9 exam pieces grade after grade, and yeah, the students can play the exam pieces, but other than that, they are really not very exposed to the various pieces, and their technical skills will also not be as strong.

But I can't help to think, is it that her standard is high? Or is it that I am really very lousy? But well, hope by increasing my practice time, my piano standard will move quickly to match her expectations. Jia You!

Theory wise, so far ok. But the relative minors to the majors are making me a bit stress. And those Italian that needs to be memorized. Wow. Overwhelming!

Sight-reading, just feel that I am progressing very slowly. Need to practice more! So many things to look out for. The tempo, the key signature, the time signature, where to play loud and where to play soft. And before I know it, 30 seconds is over, and I need to start playing the piece, even before I feel ready.

A dozen a day. Wow. The exercises at the back of the Book One are getting so much harder. Argh!! My fingers keep pressing the wrong keys! =( And aching fingers! Especially my last 2 fingers for both hands.

Scales wise, still coping. Hopefully after a while, I will know exactly which notes to press when I am asked to play which minor and so on. Now, I still need to pause for a while, think first for like 5 secs, before I can play out the scale.

Ok, hopefully after a few more lessons, I will find Grade 2 easier and more manageable...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A visit to PianoMaster...

I must say I am very touched by the service that PianoMaster have. They have read my blog and from my blog, they understand that I was upset with the double strike problem and the warranty issue. And they have called me up to understand the issue better. Since I am on a day's off to do my routine check-up on Si Qing today, I've made a visit to PianoMaster International after my check-up to talk about the issues that I had. =)

Well, it was a misunderstanding on both parties. Haha, there wasn't the important element of communication that had created all these misunderstanding. And I am glad that I've made the trip down and sort out the areas which I was upset about, and reached a mutual understanding =)

I have removed some of the postings which I have made previously and would also like to share with we have discussed here....

1. Warranty Issues

For those who have read my previous post on the 10 years Warranty on the Hailun pianos, I stated that I was upset because the Warranty only includes parts and does not include labour costs and transport.

But I only found out today that PianoMaster they themselves were not aware of the fine prints that were printed on the Warranty Cards, as they had outsourced the printing of the Warranty Cards to a 3rd party. And apparantly, there had been a misprint. Ok, they were careless on their end. In fact, the 10 years warranty provided by Hailun actually included both labour costs and transport costs and of coz the costs of the parts. It is both from the dealer and the manufacturer! Hence, yeah! Which means, my Hailun pianos does have a 10 years FULL WARRANTY! Woohoo! And they will be replacing the Warranty Card which they have issued after the re-printings have been done, and I will be collecting mine when the cards are ready soon. =)

And on the topic of the "must" to tune the pianos with PianoMaster 6-monthly, well it was their way of protecting themselves as they had encountered extreme cases of people not tuning the piano for 4 years and insist on selling the piano back to PianoMaster because they had the buy-back clause when the piano was bought. But it was never meant to be a hard and fast rule. However, in my opinion, it is still advisable that you tune your piano at least once a year (in Singapore) to ensure that your piano is in tune and perform its very best by the technicians! Haha, like I say, tuning piano yourself is not as easy as I thought as I read more into it.

And there is also a one for one new exchange for the case of Hailun too just like Kawai and Yamaha in the event it is a major problem in the piano, though it is not explicitly written in the Warranty Card. Frankly, I don't expect major problems will happen to the piano. I trust that Hailun has all the necessary checks to ensure that their pianos are of a different quality to set itself apart from the sterotype of China pianos are lousy.

Hence, I got to take back my blog on saying that the Hailun Warranty is virtually worthless. It is indeed very worthy!

2. Double strike issues
For those who have read what I have posted previously on the double strike problem, which was only resolved when I have approached a 3rd party technician. I was upset then coz the problem was not resolved, and it is actually a minor problem.

But ok, I must admit, I don't belong to the kind of person who will go and call and complain until my problem is solved. Haha, rather, I will highlight the problem subtly when my piano was delivered, and if it is still there even after the piano settles down, I will wait until the next tuning session to highlight the problem again. But not the kind who will call the shop and complain!

But I only found out today that PianoMaster that when I raised the double strike problem the day when it was delivered, Jason meant to let the piano settle down for a few weeks first, before looking at whether the double strike problem would be better or not. And for the fact that I did not call them again to ask them to come down to fix the problem, they have assumed that the double strike problem is gone. And the 2nd tuning was done by a junior technician who had not reported the problem to the office when I raised it again. Ok, I don't blame the junior technician given that he is still very inexperienced and maybe did not know it was something which he should have highlighted to his boss. And on my side, I have assumed that they were not able to solve my problem and hence I have approached a 3rd party technician. Well, effectively, I did not actually give PianoMaster another chance to look into the problem, and just assumed that they could not solve it.

For this, there had been misunderstanding on both sides, and we both assumed, without proper communications. I am glad that we talked to each other today and cleared up all the misunderstandings.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Self tuning? Unlikely =P

I recently bought this book from the Kinokuniya@Ngee Ann City. They don't have the paperback one, so I bought the hardcover one. Anyway, I realised buying online (including the shipping cost) is cheaper than what I spent for this book. Silly me. But ok lah, let Kinokuniya earn more profits lor.

The Book:
Piano Servicing, Tuning, And Rebuilding
For the Professional, the Student, and the Hobbyist
by Arthur A. Reblitz

My intention of buying this book is to read up and learn more about how to service and tune pianos. And thinking that if it is easy to maintain pianos, then it might make more monetary sense to tune the piano myself than to pay a technician to come every 6 months to help me tune my piano, which cost about S$70 per tuning.

But as I read more and more and learn more about tuning, I realised it is not as simple as I thought. In that, there is actually a lot of knowledge in piano tu
ning. So, haha, I think I have changed my mind and will continue to pay for my piano tuning. But, I've learnt a lot!

Ok, I will share what I have learnt. Limited lah. Coz I also "half bucket of water".

Price of the Gadgets Needed:

To do tuning, the simple gadgets you need are (quoted in Singapore Dollars from one of my technician friend):
1. Rubber Mute ~ 80 cents
2. Wrench $100 to $180 ("cheap tuning wrench from china are not so good. good ones are japanese or real US type")
3. Meter (tuning software is 380USD and pda is bought from used market. now very rare to find 2nd hand. good sets of ears, free.")
So, which means, just to have the gadgets, you will need to spend about $700, and more if you don't have a PDA. Is cheaper if you can tune by ear, but unfortunately, I can't differentiate the difference! And ya, I have this guitar tuner which my hubby bought when he was learning guitar for about $20+. It is EssenTune for Guitar/Bass/Violin JG200. And after some research, this is not good enough to replace the meter for the tuning of pianos. This is because based on the theory of tuning for piano, the tuning requirement for piano is much more stringent, and it goes by the counting of beats. It is ok to use a piano to tune a guitar, but not a guitar tuner to tune piano. Hence, this cheapo method cannot not work!

Haha, actually up to this point, I already feel that it does not make monetary sense to tune a piano yourself, given that per tuning is about $70. And by spending $700, I can already pay for 10 tunings, without risk of snapping the strings. And if I were to try it on my own, the risk of snapping the string is much higher, and of coz I will need to have a lot of patience to tune one string at a time. And not forgetting a piano has about 200 strings altogether. Haha, I am pure lazy! Also, I need to find a "Si Fu" to teach me first before I dare to try it on my Hailun. Else, it will most probably the Schubert piano (which is at my sister's house) which I will do experiments on! Haha!

Btw, I found this interesting course conducted by Asia Piano on how to tune pianos. If you are interested. But I don't know whether is it good or not. Not tried before. But just FYI that there are something like this available in Singapore. =)

Theory of tuning pianos:

This is the "chim" part. According to what I have read, there are different temperaments which a piano can be tuned at. Usually in Singapore, the pianos are tuned at Equal Temperaments.

Temperaments are like different sets of frequencies to which a piano can be tuned to, and still "in tune". But does that as 2 different frequencies are played together, they will form constructive and destructive waves. And for piano to sound nice when 2 keys are played together like the 'C' and 'E', usually there are theories that these 2 frequencies should beat with each other. Basically it means that you can hear a series of loud and soft vibration when the 2 keys are played with each other and makes the sound more musical.

So what happens is that, there are a lot of "researchers" who go into trying out different frequencies and listen to how they sound, and then set a few temperaments which can be used. Some are more commonly used while some are less common. But the different temperaments will actually give the piano a different sound colour. Some will have an more Victorian feel, some will give a more spicy feel while some will give a more pleasing feel. So it also really depends on which one is it that the pianist prefer before the pianos are tuned accordingly. But frankly, sometimes, the pianist might not know there is this option. If not because I read more into this, I wouldn't know either.

Ok, so what temperaments are available (based on what I know):-
1. Equal Temperaments =>
2. EBVT (Equal Beating Victorian Temperament)
by Bill Bremmer =>
3. Bach/Lehman Temperament =>

For EBVT and Lehman Temperament, there had been various versions, and each version has a different sound colour.

And hence you need to first know what is the Temperament that is set on your piano before you can tune it accordingly.

But non of the Singapore Technicians are PTG certified:

PTG stands for Piano Technician Guild =>

It is a US regulatory board to ensure that all Piano Technicans are certified, have their knowledge and skills tested to ensure that they have a sound understand of how to rebuild, repair, tune and service pianos. Ok, it might not be an international board, but at least they are trying to make it international. However, I do hear that some other countries also have their own regulatory board, like Japan. But I don't know very much about them.

However, sadly, non of the Singapore Piano Technicians are PTG certified. And in Singapore, there is no such regulatory board. Hence there are skillful technicians and also those that are bluffing their ways through. The only way to find a good technician is by the word of mouth. Unfortunately even piano teachers themselves do not know much about the technicial parts of piano, let alone differentiating which technician is better than which. I mean, it is common that everyone will follow the crowd and if one person say this is good, the rest will just follow and say this is good without really understanding what does it mean by "good".

So, a good way is to see which Piano Technicians are the ones who usually tune pianos for those Singapore Symphony and so on. But I suppose they are really expensive too!

Hopefully in time to come, there will be a regulatory board in Singapore to certify these piano technicians, else it is no difference from those "Jiang1 Hu2" doctors. Haha!

Recital on 15 Nov 09

The recital which my teacher will be organising will be on the 15 Nov 2009. Since my estimated date of delivery will be on the 16 Nov 2009, I will have to give the performance a miss and maybe play a harder piece a year later. But in the event if I have yet delivered, I will still pop by to listen to the performance by her other students!

I am feeling sad and happy at the same time. Sad because I will not be able to make use of this opportunity to gain the performance experience which I would like to try. But happy coz, I will not be stressing myself and can go there and enjoy the "mini concert".

So, I will blog about the recital when I have a chance to go in Nov. Haha! But maybe the updates might not come promptly since I might be busy with Si Qing. =P

Meanwhile, focus on learning as much as I can. Met my best friend for lunch today. Haha. She keeps wondering why would I want to learn piano. Oh, she started learning piano since she was 4 years old. Gave up long ago after she completed her Grade 5 exams, and was midway through her Grade 6. And it was really for no reason why I want to learn other than to have fun and wanted to experience how taking piano exams are like. Think she feels that I am wasting money. But well, life is short. I rather spend the money on learning piano than buying bags and clothes. =P

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Officially "promoted" to Grade 2! Yeah!

Finally I have completed the "Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 1" and passed all assignments. But frankly speaking, I think my contemporary pieces were not done very well. And maybe I do not enjoy it as much either. They don't sound very tuneful, and sigh, I have been playing them for weeks! Getting very sick of it. Haha. I really wonder how I will prepare for exams given that I get sick of pieces over just a few weeks. Unless I really like the piece, else, I really find it a torture to play the same piece over and over again week after week just to prepare for the exams!

This also marks the end of my Grade 1 and I have officially move into Grade 2 yesterday. This is the start of the 15th month into my piano learning. And Grade 1 took me 8 months to complete. Not too bad hor? Given that I am working full time leh! =P

Ok, I started on 3 new books yesterday. They are "Grade 2 Piano Scales, Arpeggios & Broken Chords", "Grade 2 Music Theory in Practice" and " "Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 2". I am only halfway the "Improve your sight-reading! Grade 1" and "A Dozen A Day Book 1". I asked my teacher if I am lagging behind for Sight-Reading. She says it is ok, coz the exercises which I am doing are harder than what is required for Grade 1 exams. So, ok lor. Oh, she also introduced me to some aural activities once. She says she is not so worried for me for aural, coz I am an aural learner. But I just feel a little insecure, coz I don't really know what aural exams are like.

So, areas to work on! Erm, really need to work on my techniques, and train up my left hand, some of the flaws are very obvious when I am doing the "A Dozen A Day". Fingers are just not as nimble as my right hand. Sight-reading! Practise practise practise.

And, ya, my tummy is growing bigger and bigger now. So, most probably I will need to stop piano lesson for 1 month during my confinement period. Hopefully I can resume lessons after my confinement. Or probably 1 Jan 2010. But if that is the case, chances are I will only be able to take the Grade 2 practical exams in Jul to Sep 2010 seating coz my teacher says she usually take about 6 months to prepare her students for the practical exams. Theory in Mar 2010 is still possible though.

Oh ya, my teacher says she is thinking of having a mini concert for all her students sometime in December this year, which is when my baby is 1 month old. She will be renting a place with a Grand Piano. The room will be about 2x the size of her living room. She has about 20 students, and I am her oldest student. But she would like me to perform a piece or two in that concert, where all her students will be there, with parents! Oh no! I am so scared! And her second oldest student is only 16 years old in Grade 8! Haha! I feel so old! And come to think of it, it might look very comical to have an adult as old as their teacher, performing a Grade 1 piece! Actually I am rather keen, got to be sporting right? But I really scared to "malu" myself! I will bring my baby and my hubby along anyway. Hopefully my baby will not start crying! Hehe! Please give me some encouragement! I might choose one of the Impressionist pieces from the "Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 1". Hope to take this opportunity to pick up some performance experience! =P

Friday, July 24, 2009

Music Class for Toddlers #2 (Below 5)

For kids who are below the age of 5 years old, these are some of the activities that can be introduced:-

Between 1 to 3, kids respond best to music when they actively experience it. Passive listening (like in the car) is fine, but look for opportunities to get your child rocking, marching, rolling, tapping, clapping, and moving to the beat.

At this age, give your toddler a pot and a wooden spoon and sing a song or play some music that has a steady tempo. Invite your toddler to bang out a rhythm, and then imitating what he or she does. Extend the game by tapping a slightly more complicated rhythm and inviting your child to follow or by asking your child to tap on different surfaces and seeing what sound these different taps make.

If you'd like to introduce an instrument, keep it simple. Very young toddlers will enjoy instruments they can shake like bells, rattles, shakers, tambourines, or rain sticks. As your child gets older and a little more coordinated, try rhythm instruments that can be banged, like drums, cymbals, or xylophones.

Some 2 to 3 year olds can use simple wind instruments, like a recorder, a pipe whistle, or a kazoo. Many companies now make musical instruments that are appropriately sized and shaped for little hands and that are safe for toddlers. Check the label when you buy them.

Kids' music CDs are great, but don't forget to share your own favorite music with your kids. Folk music and music from other cultures also can be good choices for kids. When you try new music, ask if your child likes it and discuss your opinion as well. Expose your child to various forms of music.

There are live performances suitable for kids. Museums, libraries, and bookstores often host child-friendly events. Outdoor concerts where kids can run around without disturbing anyone are also a good choices!

And some other very interesting ideas:-

Music Class for Toddlers #1

As my niece and nephew are 2+ years old now, and my sisters had always hoped that I can give some simple music lessons for them, and maybe for them to see if they will like to pursue music when they are older. And also, since my little girl will also be arriving soon. I thought would be a good idea to do some research on how to actually introduce music to toddlers.

Based on the advise given by most people, the best time for a child to start formal music lessons is 5 years old. And anything before that is actually play!

For 5 years old and above:-

When I went for my piano class, I notice that my teacher has lots of games, flashcards and magnetic board (very cute stuff) which is used to teach very young children. I found those games and toys very interesting. And can see that she puts in a lot of effort in planning for the lessons.

What I know from my friends when they learnt piano when they were young, there wasn't those fancy games and colourful cards, but instead, they were using those black and white scores, with BIG letterings. Nowadays, the manufacturers really know how to make money.

Something I found online (Piano for Little Kids 5 years old & above - as a start):

Level 1:
1. Right hand only includes the following content:
a. Location of keys
b. Middle C position.
c. Recognition of quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.
d. Location of Middle C, D, E, F, and G (Learned by letter)
e. Playing Middle C, D, E, F, and G
f. Counting correct rhythm while playing.

2. Left hand and hands together includes the following content:
a. Playing C chord
b. Playing G7 chord (simplified version of G7 chord)
c. Applying both chords to songs.
d. Playing songs with both hands simultaneously.

Level 2:
This level continues to build on reading real notes, incrementally replacing all previous play by letters with real note recognition.

Level 3:
At this level, your child will be reading simple sheet music, applying rhythm and have a very solid understanding of how to read music. Basic music reading skills are used in easy songs with fun lyrics.

At the end of these lessons, your child will be playing simple songs with both hands, using two different chords, knowing how to apply rhythm, not looking at hands, and have a very strong foundation to continue to reading music.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My 2009 Musical Resolution (Revised)

Previously, I have posted about my 2009 Musical Resolution in my prior post and revised it once:-

But now, I need to revise it again, because a little girl (tentatively named 陈思晴) will be coming my way in November, and because of that my piano teacher advise me not to take the Grade 2 theory exams this end October. Haha, she didn't want me to make a scene in the examination hall just in case it is due then.

And because of 思晴, I will need to stop my piano lessons in November and probably December as well. And after I have gotten used to the new additonal to my family, able to manage my time again, hope that I can continue to learn piano.

But just thinking, by 2010, when I return back to work and I need to pick up 思晴 from my in-laws place everyday after work, and of coz play with her, feed her, I might be too busy to practice piano again. Let's see how. Meanwhile, learn as much as I can! Hope that I can continue my hobby, and maybe take both my Grade 2 practical exams and theory paper in 2010.

I am very excited that 思晴 will be coming out soon - 4 months to go! Haha, now, I play piano everyday for her to listen, not that she has a choice! Haha! She kicks a lot, so I suppose she is enjoying the music. Or she is trying to tell mummy to stop playing, it is sooo noisy! Haha!

Don't know if she will pick up piano or not. But definitely, I will introduce it to her...

Some "Artistic" Shots of my Hailun by my Hubby...

My hubby recently bought a new camera, Sony HX1, so trying to do some artistic shooting for my piano. It is more like testing his camera! Haha! Enjoy the pictures!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Contemporary Period (1900 to present)

Contemporary Period is the fifth period of music (European) which I am exposed to, where repertoires in this period are composed from 1900 to present. It refers to the modern forms of art music. For a more detailed historical background of repertoire created during this period can be found here:

Bela Bartok is one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was born in 1881 in Hungary, and died in 1945. He began studying piano with his mother when he was five years old. The family settled in Pressburg where Bartok met Ernst von Dohnanyi who became a good friend and advisor. He also became good friends with Zoltan Kodaly, with whom he later researched Hungarian folk music. In 1909, Bartok married Marta Ziegler. His six volumes of piano pieces called Mikrokosmos were written for his son, Peter. He used many folk tunes in his compositions.

To play music of this period, we need to take note of the following:-

1. The melody is based have unpredictable or irregular phrase lengths. Shape is often jagged using very narrow or very wide intervals, often based on non-traditional scales.

2. Greater usage of irregular meters. Chords are made up of 4ths, 5ths or clusters of three or more adjacent notes to create a dissonant sound. Tempo changes are common.

3. The full range of the instrument is utilized, from ppp to fff (a wide dynamic spectrum).

4. Need to plan fingering carefully to play the less familiar patterns and hand shape must adjust to narrow or wide intervals and unusual chord shapes.

5. Titles tell a story, pieces express a wide range of emotions, sounds reflect the character.

6. Often use of unconventional pianistic movements such as playing with the palm or forearm, or tapping the wood of the piano. Big physical gestures and motions needed to accomodate extreme registers of the piano.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yeah! Invited to a Piano Party...

Made a couple of friends in the Piano Forum, and I feel so happy to be part of the invitation list to their 2nd Piano Party coming September! Will share more about it then.

They had their 1st Piano Party sometime in February this year, but as I wasn't that close to the host then, I was not in the invite list. Was pretty sad though, but haha, not as if I am professional, so even if I go, I am very unlikely to touch the host's ivory keys. So nothing to be sad about.

But really looking forward to the September Piano Party. And a chance to meet a lot of powerful pianists showing off their skills!

The host bought a Sauter Omega 220 (Grand Piano) sometime in 2007 and was only delivered to his house on the 8 August 2008. 080808 (huat ah!) Though I don't know how much the piano costs, but I would think it is at least 100K SGD. I think he managed to request the kind of piano design in terms of the wood, the colour, and even how to make the piano sound the way he wants it. So effectively, it is a tailor-made Grand Piano. And for all that, he had to wait 11 months from the time when he ordered to the time the piano finally reached his house!

Though the wait was long, but can see that he is very happy with it. He used to own a Kawai K-8 upright piano before he bought this Grand Piano. Haha, guess his taste has already moved up. But come to think of it, to appreciate and learn pianos is really very expensive. Is good that he is a working adult and able to afford this kind of luxury, but imagine if in future, my kids have the talent and needed pianos of this standard before they start working, I would have gone bankrupt first. Haha! So, haha, it might be a good idea for my kids to be exposed to music, but don't be too professional into it.

The host bought the piano from Raffles Piano, from a person named Alvin. Based on the forum threads which I read about this guy, he seems to be someone who is very highly trained and provide very good service and advise to his customer. But I guess, of coz, it comes with a price too. Haha, not economical for me to engage him to help me with the tuning of my Hailun piano right? Anyway, great to read and hear from people from the other side of the "bell curve".

The host was very generous, had invited us to his house for a buffet lunch (Peranakan food) and when I asked for this account number so that I can transfer him the money, he doesn't want it. So, I am thinking hard, how I can help to "pay" for the lunch, unlikely that they will enjoy whatever that I am going to play on the piano, given my limited skills. Haha, maybe I will volunteer my hubby to be the camera man, since he loves taking photos so much. But there again, it depends on if the host already have professional camera man to help with the photo taking. Coz my hubby is only using Sony HX1, not the professional type (DSLR) where you can change lens one. Haha, so anyway, we will bring the camera and see if we can "pay" for the lunch through this =P Else, we will most probably be just 2 parasites, sitting there and enjoying the party =)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Had my 2nd Tuning on 14 June

Haha, I know I am posting this a bit late, but had been so busy with other stuff that I rarely have the time to post stuff now.

Just wondering, do you usually sit in the room when the tuner is tuning your piano, or you just leave the tuner alone to do the tuning? Haha, I guess I am not experience enough to notice if the piano did go out of tune or not, and am happy that it was being tuned again, coz everyone says that it should be tuned once every 6 months.

Previously, I had stayed in the room with the tuner and see how he tune my piano, and I felt that I was "supervising" him too much, and felt a little guilty. But rather because that was the first time I see someone tune a piano, so was very interested, and happily sat behind him. This time round, I decide that I should leave the tuner alone, so I led him to the room where my piano is and on the aircon, left the door slightly open and let him do his job alone. And I assume he is done with his tuning when he starts playing tunes on the piano, and thank him for coming.

Is that what you usually do during your piano tuning session? And do you offer him drinks? I offered him, but in the end, he left it on the table and didn't drink it. Do you test on the piano in front of the tuner after he tunes? Haha, I guess I am not a very "talkative" person, so, I also don't know what to talk to him about. Haha, and maybe coz I am still at the very beginning stage of my piano learning, so haha, nothing to discuss with him =P

Appreciate if you can share your experiences as well.

Jazz Music is not my cup of tea

Having played a few more pieces on Jazz Music, and even duets with my teacher. I realised Jazz Music is not my cup of tea. Not quite like it actually. Once a while to play something different, it is ok. But I feel that I drag myself to practice a piece on Jazz Music. Haha, think my teacher is going to give up on me for those pieces =P

Previously, I thought Jazz Music is something like Pop Music (the Singaporean, HK and Taiwan Pop Songs), but haha, the feel is so much different. I still prefer Pop Music much more. Maybe coz I grew up learning Pop Songs, so of coz I can relate much better. =)

In fact, I like the few pieces which I played from Impressionist Period so long as they are not too abstract like making sounds of birds chirping, making sounds like how a child play with a toy. So long as it is soft music that can be played while you have cup of tea by the balcony, admiring the scenery, with tunes (haha...the key word is with tunes!), I enjoyed it very much.

And I will be moving on to the "Contemporary Period" soon. Oh! I think I will have a hard time through those pieces. Haha, sometimes, I feel that after the period of Romantic period, it seems like because the composers wants to come out with something that is very different from what was composed perviously, they start to experiment with clashing notes to create different moods, excessive pedalling to create a dreamy mood, which is no longer as pleasing to hear as those pieces that were composed prior to Romantic period. But well, maybe it is still too early to gauge as I am still at the very beginning of my music learning journey, but I start to form some preferences on some of the music from various periods.

Will have my class tomorrow, and oh no! I am not yet sufficiently prepared for the class with my Jazz piece. Need to practice hard today! Though I don't really like it very much. How I wish I can clear this piece tomorrow, and move on to the "Contemporary Period" which I don't really look forward to it either. And so hope that I can finish this book quickly and move on to the next book, which seems more interesting to me. Haha!

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Teacher bought me new Books!

Just a post to list down the new books which my teacher bought for me:-

1. Jazz, Rags & Blues Book 1 by Martha Mier
[Suppose to be very comfortable for me to learn on my own, with the intention that I can learn pieces on my own for personal enjoyment, and at the same time work on my sight-reading. So, which means, she will not be going through with me, but if I have any questions, I can always ask...]

2. Music in Theory in Practice 2 by Eric Taylor
[Because I am an adult student, so I am using this book. For young children, they use other books which has larger fonts and pictures to keep them interested! As of now, she will not move on to Grade 2 Theory yet, until I finish the "Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 1", which should be about another 2 more months to go...]

3. Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 2
[Ya, I haven't finish Book 1 yet, but because she will not be going down to the shop very often, so being "kiasu", she bought this book for me first. Because this books will have pieces from all the period, she thought would be good for me to continue with this series. But I might move on to another series upon completing this book. Let's see how...]

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Impressionist Period (1890 to 1930)

Impressionist Period is the fourth period of music (European) which I am exposed to, where repertoires in this period were composed between 1890 to 1930. For a more detailed historical background of repertoire created during this period can be found here:

As repertoires during this period are of a higher standard, there is almost no pieces which is of my current level. Hence, the ones which I learnt and played are all composed by Dennis Alexander, who is one of the author of the "Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 1" which I am using.

Claude Debussy is one of the very famous composer for this period, and these pieces are very much influenced by the impressionist paintings by Claude Monet.

To play music of this period, we need to take note of the following:-
1. The melody is often based on pentatonic scale (whole tone scales), giving an Eastern sound. And Debussy love to compose using the black keys only.

2. Use the pedalling as suggested. If none is given, experiment with full or half pedal. Keep pedal down on long bass notes. Pedalling is used almost throughout the pieces. The pieces are played composed for piano. Hence, there is a heavy use of pedal to create the necessary mood. Because of that, trills are not used to extend a note. The pedal is used instead.
3. Introduction of una corda (u.c.) pedal is often indicated to give certain parts a different colours/tone.

4. Pieces in this period is usually very expressive and uses the full range of dynamics, from ppp to ff.
5. Does not follow a structure, and it will not sound nice by playing the notes individually. But when combined with all the expression and play the whole piece as a whole, it will give a unique impression.
6. Often include Eastern scales (pentatonic scales) and sounds imitating bells and gongs.

Jazz Music!

Had been so busy for the past few weeks, that I didn't have the time to update my blog! So, finally after all that mad rush at work, I get the time to review what I have learnt so far for my piano. Haha!

Ok, so far, I have completed the first 3 periods of the "Keys to Stylistic Mastery Book 1". Namely, the Baroque period, the Classical period and the Romantic period. I don't particularly like any of the period, but maybe the repertoires which I am exposed to is still very limited given that I am still in the very early stage of my piano learning.

So, to do something different rather than going through page by page through my basic diet, my teacher exposed me to another kind of music. Jazz piano. Jazz is an important and distinctive American contribution to 20th century music. While the "Keys to Stylistic Mastery" is the European music over different periods. I played a piece from the book "Jazz, Rags and Blues Book 2", and the piece is titled "Jelly Bean Rag". According to my teacher, this is considered as a Grade 2 piece. Well, took me 3 weeks to master the whole piece. This was over 3 pages, first time having to practice with page turning while playing. Not easy.

Good to try something different, and currently, back to my "textbook", I have moved on to the 4th period, which is the Impressionist Period...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Romantic Period (1815 to 1910)

Romantic Period is the third period of music (European) which I am exposed to, where repertoires in this period were composed between 1815 to 1910. For a more detailed historical background of repertoire created during this period can be found here:

To play music of this period, we need to take note of the following:-

1. The sustain pedal is invented as pieces is usually played using a piano or organ. Hence, there is a heavy use of pedal to create the necessary mood. Because of that, trills are not used to extend a note. The pedal is used instead.

2. Pieces in this period is usually more expressive and emotional. There is a need to use a greater range of dynamics, long crescendos and decrescendos. And the piano used in this period are capable of delivering a much bigger range of dynamics.

3. Usually more complex patterns than Baroque and Classical periods.

4. Greater flexibility, allows rubato to bring out the emotive and increase the expressions.

Classical Period (1730 to 1820)

Classical Period is the second period of music (European) which I am exposed to, where repertoires in this period were composed between 1730 to 1820. For a more detailed historical background of repertoire created during this period can be found here:

To play music of this period, we need to take note of the following:-
1. The pedal is invented as pieces can be played using a piano. Hence, light use of pedal is allowed. But generally, still not too much use of the pedals. Because of that, trills are not used to extend a note. Pedal is used instead.

2. Melody can be sing out, usually accompanied by chords (blocked or broken) by the left hand. And the melody needs to be 2 dynamic levels louder than the accompaniment.

3. There is often repeated motives (in terms of notes or beats or rythmns), which will be played with varying dynamics in each case.

4. Range of dynamics is also larger. From pp to ff.

5. Breath between phrases just like as if you are singing the melody, need to breath. So a clear cut.

6. Sonata (or Sonatina: smaller versions of Sonatas) are introduced. Sonata is splitted into 3 movements. 1st movement, 2nd movement and 3rd movement. For the ABRSM exams until Grade 8, we are only exposed to 1st movement in the exam pieces. A full Sonata will have all the 3 movements in a piece. Under the 1st movement, it is typically the sonata-allegro form, where there are 3 basic sections: exposition, development and recapitulation.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Music History...

Recently, I went to the library to borrow a book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music History" which I found it an eye opener to help me understand the Music History and the culture of different countries. And, after reading through the book, I would like to list some of the important ideas and concepts which I have self-derived.

As I am learning piano now, and will be taking the ABRSM exams, and my teacher is a Classical piano teacher, I am currently more exposed to the so call "serious" and "Classical" music. And usually the people who play piano will say that popular music (pop songs) are boring, no creativity and that classical music are timeless, and no matter how many years after they are composed, they can still be appreciated and nice to hear. Not like popular songs which are written just for this time, and years later, it will no longer be nice to listen to. And so on...

Well, it is not the whole story yet. Actually, each piece of music (be it the well-known classical, or popular songs, or opera), it actually tells a lot about the culture and the background of the person from the pieces that were composed. The current pop songs can still be appreciated after hundreds of years into the future, and it might be classical to the people then.

In the very ancient time, music were created using very simple tools like bones (to create a flute), hitting the log to create beats and imitating the sound of animals, and realising that there are different pitch.

Slowly, as human evolve, there are better ways to create instruments using string, and hence people in different countries created different instruments like guqin, flute, harpischord, drum and so on.

And in the ancient time, the main purpose of creating music is for worshipping of their God, sing as prayer, and even have opera as a form of entertainment and conveying the thoughts and ideas which then reflects the lifestyle, culture background of these music.

And different country has different definition of keys, notes, tuning, scales and ways of writing their music (currently know as music theory). Western music (as we all know), have 12 evenly toned "semitones" within an octave, where each semitone is equally spaced apart, and there is where we have the major scales and minor scales. And that is why a western music sounds western, because it is composed based on a set of rules and scales. And slowly, they evolved to have a standardised frequency of 440Hz which represents the A key.

However, other cultures divide an octave into more or fewer pitches relative to the Western 12 tone in an octave. India music divides an octave "microtones", which have 22 closely spaced pitches. Which means, there are some notes that can never be reproduced with a piano, which is of a frequency somewhere between a white and a black key of a piano, and because it does not follow the 440Hz rule, it might sound a bit off compared to the Western music. And they have their own set of scales and music theory.

China music also has a 12-tone scale, but they usually follow a pentatonic scale (5 notes that are approximately similar to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th of the Western major scale), so, it would be C, D, E, G, A (which forms a scale for Chinese music). And Chinese define C and A as an octave apart, and hence, the scale of an octave higher vs the scales of an octave lower, sounds different. And when writing a piece with 2 octaves, it is like writing a piece with C major and A minor (the major and its relative minor). This is what makes a Chinese music sounds Chinese.

As for Middle East music, they do not follow the kind of time signature which we learnt in a Western music, instead, their rhythm are much more complex than Western music, which might mean changing the time signatures almost in each bar of the music and then the whole rhythm is repeated.

And if we read more into the current Chinese Pop Songs (in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and HK), it is noticeable that the music actually follows the Western way of notation, where we have Treble Clef, Bass Clef, playable using a piano, follows the major and minor scales of the Western classical music, chords. And hence we can in a way say that our culture, our liking of music has very much been influenced by the Western culture. We often feel India songs or Chinese songs (from China) sounds funny, and this could be because we grew up in an environment listening to the Western music, and we feel that major scales just sounds "normal" and any other scales sounds weird.

And there are so much more to music than classical music. But for the fact that I have chosen piano as my first instrument (not counting singing in the bathroom), I will only be exposed to learning Western music. Sometimes, I feel sad, coz as a Singaporean Chinese, I don't know how to appreciate Chinese historical music, yet spending my time learning Western music. And even now, the Chinese (from China) are also learning piano and the Western culture. I do hope the beauty of their traditional Chinese music will not because of this influence be seen as "inferior", as they have their own taste and beauty. Likewise for the other music from other culture and historical background.

May want to learn more about Chinese music in future....But I want to master my piano first =)