Freedom From Your 9 to 5

Piano article index

This section provides a variety of information about both acoustic pianos and digital pianos, as well as restoration, modifications, playing technique, advice on lessons, and more.

Theremin and piano meet: Masami Takeuchi album

January 8, 2014

Theremin Vox Collection Volume 1 by Masami Takeuchi

Theremin Vox Collection Volume 1 by Masami Takeuchi

Masami Takeuchi has announced an album of theremin music: “Theremin Vox Collection Vol.1”.

It combines the sounds of acoustic piano and the Gordin Masazane theremin, which his own company produces.

“The Gordin Masazane can produce sound by either oscillators or traditional heterodyning and also includes waveshaping features more commonly found on analog synthesizers, such as a resonant filter.”

Samples are available on SoundCloud or head over to Masami’s website to purchase from late January 2014.

The page (originally in Japanese) also suggests the album will be available via iTunes.

The track list (as translated by Google, so may not be wholly accurate):

  • “Caro Mio Ben (Caro Mio Ben)”
  • “Please cry (I Lascia Chio Pianga)”
  • “Song of (Londonderry Londonderry Air)”
  • “iso supply grief”
  • “Kojonotsuki”
  • “Samson et Dalila (Samson and Delilah)”
  • “Ombra mai fu (Ombra Mai marks)”
  • “(Come Back to Sorrento) Torna a Surrient”
  • “Je te veux (Ju remote Vu)”
  • “Largo from the New World (the road home)”
  • “(evening prayer)” Evening Prayer


What’s a PSO? Warning over cheap digital pianos

January 8, 2014

It won’t surprise most people that the “you get what you pay for” mantra applies equally well to the world of musical instruments.

That said, the eyes can be tempted by an instrument that looks good, yet in reality is not.

Professional pianist and consultant Tim Praskins reviews the Artesia AP8 digital piano – a virtually unknown Chinese brand sold for under one-thousand dollars in Costco stores.

Enter “PSO” – the “Piano-Shaped Object”.

These are instruments which look very pretty (at least to begin with) but when it comes to playing exhibit little more musicality and pleasure than a dead donkey.

I personally wouldn’t advocate picking up any serious musical instrument in a general store. Tim rightly rips into the faux piano. Looks won’t get an instrument very far if it feels cheap when played and is out of tune with itself (both on the same voice and when mixing voices).

Didn’t think a digital piano could be out of tune? Think again.

The sad thing is, although the sub-$1k price tag might seem tempting, it’s possible to pick up much better branded digital pianos for less money.

My advice has always been to stick to the major digital piano brands – the likes of Yamaha, Casio, Roland, Korg and Kawai – who have been creating beautiful instruments to suit a range of budgets for many years.

Even if you don’t purchase a Korg, check out Rick Wakeman’s buying guide as a first point of reference. Then check out our digital piano database where we only list instruments that we’d be happy to play.

Rick Wakeman bigs up Korg in digital piano guide

January 7, 2014

Keyboard virtuoso and all-round good guy (if at times a bit ‘grumpy’) Rick Wakeman has stamped his name firmly in the Korg army when it comes to buying a digital piano.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Yamaha digital pianos, but there’s no doubt Korg make some crackers as well.

This light-hearted video guide takes less than five minutes to watch but has enough decent information in it to get you started on your hunt for the perfect digital piano, even if you don’t end up getting a Korg.

He uses the Korg LP380 in his demonstration. Check it out:

Korg tinyPIANO designed for children

January 7, 2014

Korg tinyPIANO

Korg tinyPIANO

When we wrote our guide to buying a child’s first electronic keyboard we hadn’t seen this gorgeous new toy piano from Korg.

The aptly named tinyPIANO is a small yet perfectly formed digital piano designed to be played by babies, toddlers and young children.

Korg says that “first impressions stay with us. If it’s an instrument, the sound of that instrument continues to reverberate in our hearts and minds even when we become adults.”

They have deliberately designed the tinyPIANO to be accurately pitched and with a range of high-quality sounds. Features include:

  • Accurate pitch and true tone
  • Fashionable and cute, with a serious sound engine
  • Twenty-five built-in sounds provides tremendous versatility over traditional, mechanical toy pianos – plus it will always be in tune
  • Fifty built-in demo songs to enjoy even when you’re not playing
  • Small, easily transportable and powered by AA batteries or power adapter
  • Choose from four colors: black, red, white, and pink

Check out this cute little promo video:

Here are the full specifications of the tinyPIANO.

Keyboard: 25 key [C4 – C6] (Natural Touch Mini Keyboard, Velocity sensitive)
Sounds: 25 (Toy Piano, Acoustic Piano x 3, Electric Piano x 2, Organ x 3, Music box x 2, Bell x 3, others x 11)
Demo Songs: 50 (Toy Piano Demo x 4, Music Box Demo x 21, Piano Demo x 20, Others x 5)
Key Transpose: Yes
Octave Shift: Yes
– Headphones (Stereo mini jack type*, also used as an audio output)
*The sound will be monaural
– DC9V in
Amplification: 1 Watt
Speakers: 8 cm x 1
Power Supply:
– AA alkaline batteries x 6, or NiMH batteries x6
– DC 9 V (Optional AC dapter )
Battery Life: Approx. 15 hours (using Six AA alkaline batteries)
Power Consumption: 2 W (Rated)
Dimensions (W x D x H): 383 × 258 × 282 mm / 15.08 × 10.16 × 11.10 inches
Weight: 4.7 kg / 10.36 lbs (including Batteries)
Color Variations: Black (tinyPIANO-BK), Red (tinyPIANO-RD), White (tinyPIANO-WH), Pink (tinyPIANO-PK)
Accessories: Six AA batteries (for verifying operation)
Options: AC Adapter (DC 9V)

Exact pricing and availability are to be confirmed, though it probably won’t have a tiny price tag. We’ve heard rumours of it being available in February 2014.

Piano music used to calm dogs

January 7, 2014

Through a Dog's Ear CD

Through a Dog’s Ear CD

While it’s not much of a surprise to learn that piano music can be a relaxant and de-stressor for humans, it might be less obvious that our canine friends can also benefit from the right kind of music.

That’s the view of Lisa Spector, who attended the prestigious Juilliard School and now runs a company creating piano music and a physical music player designed specially for dogs.

“Through A Dog’s Ear” is a range of music CDs and downloads based on simplified versions of classical music and with the higher audio frequencies removed so as to be more appealing to potentially anxious and stressed-out dogs.

So far they have sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies.

Their newest invention is the iCalmDog portable music player preloaded with the specially arranged music. The elliptical unit can play for between 5-12 hours on a single battery charge. Pet-owning users claim that the device and music calm their dogs, allowing them to relax when otherwise they might be nervous or scared of their human-centric surroundings.

Although much of the evidence is anecdotal, two studies have been undertaken with veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner which gives some empirical support for the music’s calming effects. Many animal shelters in the US and overseas use the recordings to maintain a more relaxed atmosphere.

There’s even another version for cats.

iCalmDog Products (Via)

Scott Tucker debut jazz piano album to be free release

January 7, 2014

Scott Tucker debut jazz piano album cover

Scott Tucker debut jazz piano album cover

Jazz pianist Scott Tucker is set to release his self-titled debut in February, launching it online for free as a series of MP3 audio tracks from his own website and via torrents (a mechanism for sharing files between Internet-connected computers).

Jazz pianist Scott Tucker announces that his debut album caters to fans of classic bebop and hard bop, but mxies respect for the past with a strong awareness of modern jazz. The album will be available through Tucker’s own label Moon Reach Jazz. It will feature a number of jazz standards, as well as several original compositions.

According to Tucker, the album is an effort to modernise classic bebop and hard bop.

“My favourite music to play is hard bop,” says Scott Tucker, “But it just doesn’t make sense to be stuck sixty years in the past, and that’s not what jazz is about, so this album is about bebop played through the filter of everything that’s happened in the world over the past fifty or sixty years. Bebop is the core of this album, but listeners will find modal jazz, fusion, funk and hip hop all mixed in there.”

Tucker stated that in addition to original compositions, jazz fans will find plenty of songs they already know on the album, including “Mr. P.C.”, “Take The A Train”, and “Full Count”.

“I had to play ‘Un Poco Loco’ on my debut album,” Scott Tucker reported, “because as a pianist the music I play probably wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Bud Powell.”

Tucker said that there really was “no other way” but to offer his music for free, at least initially. “The financial rewards are secondary and I have no doubt that they will come as my fan base grows,” he said.

Child’s piano story metaphor for overcoming attachment

January 6, 2014

Yamaha Disklavier DC3XE3PRO piano

It’s interesting where pianos pop up. Not always literally, but still in places you wouldn’t imagine.

Perhaps your first thought if I told you I’d just read about a piano on Accounting Web would be about the value of some recently discovered, rare grand piano, or advice on how to insure such a beauty.

But no… Jeff Davidson uses the experience he shared with his young daughter when they upgraded her piano to describe attachment and letting go.

“A new year beckons and I harken back to when my daughter was four years old. Her mother and I bought her an old, upright piano. It was a little beat up, a little banged up, and was missing a few keys, but hey, for a 4-year old, it was fine. To our amazement, she played well. At age six, she began piano lessons. The teacher encouraged us that our little girl had a special talent.

Two years later, the piano teacher told us it was time to buy a Grand Piano for Valerie. It would be quite expensive, but she was now winning awards, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

We went to a large piano emporium and Valerie tried all of them! Finally we came to a piano that proved to be “the one.” She loved it and we bought it. We told Valerie that the piano movers were going to take the other piano in trade, but it didn’t register with her. Days before the new one arrived, we cleaned up the old one, and then talked to Valerie about how that piano would be leaving and the new one would be arriving.

The old had been her piano from the age of 4 and she was now 8. In other words, she had been with this piano for half of her life. She broke into a sob – not just a kid crying, but a deep mourning sob, as if she had experienced the death of a parent or a close friend.”

You can read what happened next here.

Pianist plays Entertainer and Indiana Jones ‘backwards’

January 6, 2014

We like the odd gimmick or two here, so when we saw Jason Black’s ‘backwards’ video we decided to publish it for you to enjoy as well.

Here we see Jason playing various classics including The Entertainer and the theme from Indiana Jones, while assuming various alternative poses. This includes playing while facing away from the piano, and lying on the floor while still pushing out a recognisable tune.

It’s probably not for the purists, and the tunes are simplified versions, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Do you have any piano-based party tricks?

Piano socks, for that unique fashion style

January 6, 2014

Piano socks

Piano socks and purple

Piano-based clothing isn’t likely to win any high-brow fashion awards (but then again, I wouldn’t walk down the street in some of the stuff that passes for boutique fashion) but it certainly advertises you as a piano geek.

Take these knee-length piano key socks, as modelled by Andy ‘flyboy’ Dickson, who is also sporting some rather attractive purple attire.

As this was just a snap on Street and City Photos, we’re not sure where you can bag a pair or two of these beauties. Answers on a virtual postcard if you’ve found an outlet that sells them. We need these.

National Chopin Competition ups 2015 top prize to $75,000

August 16, 2013

The US National Chopin Foundation has announced it has raised the top prize for the 2015 National Chopin Competition to $75,000, in a bid to encourage the best American pianists to apply.

The winner of the National Chopin Competition will advance to the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland, and be booked for concert engagements in the US and internationally.

The second prize will be $35,000, also including acceptance to the international competition. Third prize is $20,000; fourth prize $10,000; fifth prize $5,0000; sixth prize $4,000. All finalists will receive expense-paid trips to Warsaw for the Chopin Competition.

The National Chopin Competition will take place February 21 through March 1, 2015 in Miami. For information, go to


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