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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/e8ffb87c#/e8ffb87c/161

"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...