Burn, Baby, Burn

The other day, in searching for some “piano news” to share with you all, we came across some rather disturbing updates. It seems that pianos are being burned – and that they’ve been being burned for quite some time now.

Why?

Well, to start, the burning made news as a portion of the UK’s Royal Air Force Centennial Celebration. The varied festivities included a cricket match, a picnic and….wait for it….the burning of a “rather unattractive upright piano” (World Piano News). The military tradition goes back to World War II, though its origin is widely debated between several influences.  It is first supposed that the act of burning a piano pays homage to those who died defending the nation. But let’s be honest – that alone doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense, does it?

The more relevant story dates back to the British military believing that their pilots ought to learn to play the piano – for a cultural appreciation of the arts, but also to improve their manual dexterity and their cognitive performance in combat. Hmm. Well, that sounds reasonable!

However, the pilots weren’t too happy about the new requirements….and soon enough mysterious fires were breaking out in the airbases’ Officer Clubs. After some time, officers began dragging the pianos out of the practice areas in an effort to preserve the buildings, but continuing to burn the instruments beyond repair.

Kids, don’t try this at home.

It’s said that piano burning became an “unspoken act of defiance when the pilots felt the bureaucracy was dealing them some unjustice” (Fighter Sweep). And is untimely death not the greatest injustice of all?Therefore it might make some sense that fighter pilots still honor their fallen brothers with the burning of a piano, even if the destruction seems a tad excessive.

Nevertheless, after just a little more research, we also learned about the completely non-militaristic Square Piano Pyre of 1904. Many of us know that a square piano is a rare sight – and this isn’t just a recent development. Production of these massive instruments pretty much stopped in the 1880s to make way for newer models, making replacement parts hard to find and the older instrument somewhat irrelevant. A couple decades later, the increasingly frustrated Society of American Piano Manufacturers actually asked dealers and members to bring their old squares to their Atlantic City convention.

While the number varies from 15 to 1000, it’s said that the pianos were stacked in a large pyramid and burned right there to proclaim the end of the antique style instrument. (News Tribune) So whether it was actually an influential act or not, the moral of the story seems to be that people just like a good excuse to have a big ole bonfire. Even if they’re sacrificing something beautiful rather than attempting to preserve its legacy.

I mean, a square grand isn’t the easiest piano we’ve ever had to tune….but burning one to the ground? That’s pretty hard-core. And also a little sad.

Now it’s become tradition for those whose pianos have lost the will to live to give them a proper dignified sendoff. It’s an excuse for a party, as well! Some piano burning events even allow pianists to play while the fire burns. Anyone wonder what song they choose to sing while it goes down?

Why Get an iPhone…When You Can Get an Education?

These days, it’s no secret that music is good for the soul AND the brain! Of course there are emotional and communal benefits to listening, but there are even more when it comes to learning how to play an instrument for yourself. So why just play piano apps on the latest iPhone and punish yourself with more screen time when you can strengthen your mind instead? Technology is great….but it’s not always the best option.

Learning to play the piano is good for people at any stage of life! While many studies emphasize the importance of teaching children from an early age and encouraging music programs in schools, we hear from customers every single day who are jumping back into the hobby of piano playing for post-retirement enjoyment. And there are plenty of reasons why!

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Back-to-School Shopping: What to Look For in Your Child’s First Piano

 “What do I buy?”

“Do I need to get something really big or can we just get a keyboard?”

“Is it really worth the investment?”

“What’s the difference between teaching them on a digital piano versus an acoustic one?”

Ultimately, the decision is going to be up to you. But for starters, we’re here to help navigate through just a few of your options and understand what you’re looking for. If you’re going to drop some dollars on an instrument, you at least want it to be a good investment that’s going to enhance your child’s musical experience – not hinder it. Here are a few of the details to look for:

  • Full Size: Whether it’s a baby grand or a digital piano, it will be best to make sure it comes with a full 88 keys (rather than a discounted 61). As your child hopefully continues playing and growing in their skill, you don’t want to have to upgrade your instrument simply because they can’t access all of the notes.
  • Weighted Keys: If you get a chance to stop by a piano showroom (which we highly recommend before purchasing anything), plunk your finger down on a keyboard…and then on an acoustic. You will feel a noticeable difference – the acoustic requires more pressure as you hit the key to transfer that pressure to the hammer and then the string. On a keyboard…it’s all just electricity. No real power is required aside from the power button! And why does this matter? Again, it’s a longevity of playing issue. One: it builds finger strength necessary to create a noticeable sound and Two: if your child only ever learns on a small keyboard, they’ll struggle once they transition to a larger instrument requiring more force.
  • Acoustic vs. Digital: This is really all up to you. Some players go their whole lives only ever playing a digital piano. And that’s fine! Most digital pianos have increased their technology to a point where their quality is much in line with that of an acoustic instrument. However, the best and fullest sound is always going to come from an acoustic – a spinet, an upright, a baby grand – you choose the size! Plus, that wooden piano will look a whole lot prettier and more elegant in your home – not to mention it will provide a better playing position. If you go the electronic route, make sure you add a bench and a keyboard stand to your purchase. Setting the keyboard on a table or a lap will disrupt the posture of the player and make it both uncomfortable and more difficult to play.
  • Find the Right Fit: Again, whenever you’re in the market for something as grand (no pun intended) as a piano, make sure you come into a showroom and give several different styles a test run. You don’t want to buy an instrument that’s so large your child can’t reach the pedals! Ultimately, there’s a decent chance that whatever piano you choose could alter your child’s learning experience and their musical future. And if the piano doesn’t sound good or is difficult to physically play, then the experience will be diminished and your child may walk away with only negative connotations. Learning to play the piano isn’t going to be easy – but it also shouldn’t be miserable. We want both you and your child to enjoy it!!

General opinions seem to be in agreement that the better a piano sounds, the more likely a student will continue to play, thus making the investment “worth it”. However, keep in mind that digital and electronic options won’t require any tuning, or as much special and financial investment. At the same time, investing in an acoustic style could be the first step towards a lifetime of beautiful playing. You’ll pay for it, but you’ll have it forever if you choose. Ultimately, it all comes down to what you want and need.

Okay, okay…so that’s all good and great. But maybe you just want some suggestions. Maybe you just want us to tell you exactly what to buy. Well, we can’t exactly do that, but we can offer some popular options. Here goes:  Continue reading