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 => http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_temperament
2. EBVT (Equal Beating Victorian Temperament)
by Bill Bremmer => http://www.billbremmer.com/ebvt/
3. Bach/Lehman Temperament => http://www.larips.com/

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 => http://www.ptg.org/

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