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Mrs Bear

Conversion of clapped out very old piano to digital

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Thought I'd mention in case anyone else might be interested. 

I had a very old (1880s IIRC) piano that was on its very last legs, according to the tuner. 

However the mahogany cabinet was lovely so I was reluctant to scrap it.  

I heard on a music forum of a company that will convert  to a good quality digital (Kawai CN35), Vale Pianos in Worcs. 

After a lot of dithering and visiting the showroom, I went ahead.  From the outside you'd never know the difference, and they've polished the cabinet beautifully, too. 

The old piano didn't have a good tone, besides other factors, so this is a great improvement. A plus is the fact that there's a headphone jack (out of sight under the keyboard) so I can practise in summer with the windows open, without annoying the neighbours. 

They lent me a piano gratis while it was being done. 

It wasn't cheap, but cost less than an acoustic I liked the look of (not shiny black or anything plasticky-looking) which would also have the silent feature I wanted. 

 

 

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Congratulations.

Came across this last night so bookmarked it:

A learning vid with ALL of the filler removed. Might be handy if someone asks you teach them, send them this link:

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Gosh, I'd have thought major/minor chords and inversions were a bit much for a beginner to take in!  

If  I knew anyone wanting to start from scratch I'd recommend the Carol Barratt adult beginner books.  I used them when returning to it after so long, I almost had to start again from scratch.  That was maybe 5 years ago - I'm a bit better now!  

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With the vid, a learner can keep going back and gain a little bit more each time. It's all Greek when you start so the newbies don't know it's fairly advanced. :)

A book I had a lot of fun with was 'Boogie Woogie Hanon'. Starts with a simple 12 bar and progresses. All the exercises are in C, you're expected to figure out the other keys for yourself. Great if you like to get the feet tapping.

A guy has a load of short vids up of individual exercises, can't find #1 though. Here's #2:

 

 

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I'm really puzzled - how do you "convert a piano to digital"?

It's odd really as I'm into dance music and I have a "thing" for pianos, but most especially real pianos, not just tracks which have an "electronic" piano on them and that side of me comes out when I move away from dance into ballads and what many call "real music". That you are hearing a genuine piano really makes a difference, there's the attack, fade and emotion carried with the playing that electronic instruments just don't do. They just "make a noise that sounds a bit like a piano".

If I had a big enough house and a lot of money I'd have a piano, but the snooker table would get in first.

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John, really interesting little video, thanks. Although not a pianist, it provides a good lesson on music theory.

Mark, not an expert but I had an idea that electric pianos sensed the speed and force with whicha key is depressed, ie the key is not just connected to an on/of switch.

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12 hours ago, DTMark said:

I'm really puzzled - how do you "convert a piano to digital"?

It's odd really as I'm into dance music and I have a "thing" for pianos, but most especially real pianos, not just tracks which have an "electronic" piano on them and that side of me comes out when I move away from dance into ballads and what many call "real music". That you are hearing a genuine piano really makes a difference, there's the attack, fade and emotion carried with the playing that electronic instruments just don't do. They just "make a noise that sounds a bit like a piano".

If I had a big enough house and a lot of money I'd have a piano, but the snooker table would get in first.

Digital pianos have come an awful long way in the recent past  - I think you might be surprised.  

My old acoustic piano, despite a lovely case, did not have a good tone - it was rather tinny - so this is a great improvement.  And my new sustain pedal doesn't squeak!  

We used to have an old electronic keyboard, but there is absolutely no comparison between that and what I have now.  Or, come to that, between it and the relatively modern keyboards provided at my group class.  

I can understand that any very accomplished pianist would insist on an acoustic, but then I am not very accomplished and not likely to get a lot more advanced than I am now, which is grade 5 ish.  

Quite a number of people on a music forum I visit have modern digitals, and some have passed grade 8 without an acoustic to practise on.  

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Mrs Bear said:

I can understand that any very accomplished pianist would insist on an acoustic, but then I am not very accomplished and not likely to get a lot more advanced than I am now, which is grade 5 ish.  

 

 

 

 

I was just wondering why you should say that. Although I suspect I know. Im at the 4 year guitar stage for the 2nd time in my life and somehow think that this is as far as I can get, but I still refuse to stop trying...

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4 hours ago, Mirror Mirror said:

I was just wondering why you should say that. Although I suspect I know. Im at the 4 year guitar stage for the 2nd time in my life and somehow think that this is as far as I can get, but I still refuse to stop trying...

I dare say I'm a fair bit older than you!  

It's not that I won't try - I've just embarked on a lovely piece I find quite hard - but there's no doubt that it takes a lot longer to get things into my head than when I was a kid.  

I had only ever passed grade 2 as a child, and it had been so long when I started again that I almost had to begin again from scratch.  So I'm pleased to have got as far as I have - I never would have imagined it a few years ago - but it's slow, and I do find the higher level pieces hard going.  

I hope you're enjoying the guitar!  

 

 

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On 4/15/2017 at 7:39 PM, DTMark said:

I'm really puzzled - how do you "convert a piano to digital"?

 

Put midi sensors on all of the keys and pedals, then add the rest of a digital piano.

 

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My studio at home uses a weighted m-audio keyboard that is connected to my mac and runs through Logic-pro and all the sample libraries and reverb design I have associated with that (Miroslav/East-West etc.). In turn that runs through my Bose speakers. The bonus is that I can be playing a Bosendorfer in a concert hall one minute, a Yamaha in a jazz club the next and even an organ in a church acoustic. 

Saying that, owning a real 11ft Steinway is still the dream.

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On 16/04/2017 at 7:07 PM, Mrs Bear said:

I dare say I'm a fair bit older than you!  

It's not that I won't try - I've just embarked on a lovely piece I find quite hard - but there's no doubt that it takes a lot longer to get things into my head than when I was a kid.  

I had only ever passed grade 2 as a child, and it had been so long when I started again that I almost had to begin again from scratch.  So I'm pleased to have got as far as I have - I never would have imagined it a few years ago - but it's slow, and I do find the higher level pieces hard going.  

I hope you're enjoying the guitar!  

 

 

Woah, dont be so sure about that Mrs B, Im well into middle age myself!

But I thought you meant age when you said that you didnt think that you would get much further. Is is the nagging doubt that I have and as you say, its definitely a bit harder to get your head around a piece than it was when I was 20.

Still and all, we are where we are, and I do enjoy my guitars, I guess the trick is to enjoy the journey and not be too goal focussed, a bit like life really.

Enjoy your playing too!

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On 18/04/2017 at 1:07 PM, Mirror Mirror said:

Woah, dont be so sure about that Mrs B, Im well into middle age myself!

But I thought you meant age when you said that you didnt think that you would get much further. Is is the nagging doubt that I have and as you say, its definitely a bit harder to get your head around a piece than it was when I was 20.

 

When I was on jury service last year, one of the panel was a bloke of maybe 30, who had a music related job and told me he'd taken diplomas in both classical piano and violin at 14.  He played a lot of gigs in the evenings and told me it would take him 15 minutes to learn a new piece!  Gulp...   

He was extremely nice,  so I didn't hold it against him ;-) 

In fact I suggested his name to daughter and son in law, who were stuck for a name for baby no. 2, then due soon.  And that was the one they eventually chose. 

 

 

 

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Wow, I could maybe learn a piece in 15 minutes if it were relatively simple and there was nothing in it that was new to me, but thats rarely the case.

Did you ever watch Jeeves and Wooster where Jeeves (Hugh Laurie) would come home with the latest 'hit' in sheet music form and play and sing it off pat? Thats what we should be aspiring to, but whether it will ever happen...

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On 4/25/2017 at 7:18 PM, Mirror Mirror said:

Wow, I could maybe learn a piece in 15 minutes if it were relatively simple and there was nothing in it that was new to me, but thats rarely the case.

Did you ever watch Jeeves and Wooster where Jeeves (Hugh Laurie) would come home with the latest 'hit' in sheet music form and play and sing it off pat? Thats what we should be aspiring to, but whether it will ever happen...

 Many of the people you see doing that won't be playing the sheet music exactly as written. They'll be 'fake reading' or busking'.

Also, the sheet music for songs back then was simplified to make it easier to read and/or fake read.

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12 hours ago, BristolBuyer said:

After watching this karaoke scene in Mr Robot I'm inspired to spend a couple of hundred pounds on a digital piano and try to learn to play a few tunes, or at least find out that I have no talent at all. How difficult would the piano in that scene be to learn to play?

https://vimeo.com/181859596

Whether it was a digital costing a couple of hundred or a Steinway grand, I think you'd have to put the same amount of initial effort in.  However there are plenty of books for adult beginners, and collections of easy, or (relatively) very easy adapted pieces in all sorts of styles - from popular to classical.  I'm sure you'd find one of the complete adult beginner books they way to go first, and even those usually have you playing recognisable tunes quite early on, albeit highly simplified. 

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On 17/04/2017 at 4:11 PM, John51 said:

Put midi sensors on all of the keys and pedals, then add the rest of a digital piano.

 

Not sure what you mean by 'midi sensor'; MIDI keyboards do not use MIDI to talk from each key to the rest of the electronics.

Mechanically, it might be easier to rip out a piano's innards, keyboard and all, and add a new keyboard. Modifying an existing piano keyboard would require adding sensors to each key mechanism, which could be expensive. However, the replacement keyboard must be a mechanical fit.

At the most basic level, an electronic keyboard is simply a set of on/off switches. Next level up is something like a changeover switch that allows you to work out how fast/hard  a key is pressed by calculating the time taken to switch between contacts. More sophisticated sensors, such as pressure switches, do this more elegantly and also facilitate 'aftertouch', whereby a sound can be modified by continuing pressure on a key. Other technologies could be used on a keyboard keys, such as capacitative or optical sensors.

All of this is done by direct wiring to some sort of processor, which can turn the information to audio (i.e. a synthesizer, organ, or digital piano), and/or convert the information to MIDI signals to control external sound generators, MIDI recorders, etc.

Additional controls can be added (e.g. switches for footpedals, pitch control, effects such as vibrato, and anything else you can do with MIDI)..

Most electronic keyboards are lighter to the touch than piano keyboards, which have heavier 'action'. Also, they tend to have a smaller range - fewer octaves - than a typical piano keyboard.

 

 

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On 2017-4-17 at 10:35 PM, Maynardgravy said:

Saying that, owning a real 11ft Steinway is still the dream.

I'd rather have the Concert size Bosendorfer.

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On 02/05/2017 at 4:13 PM, happy_renting said:

Not sure what you mean by 'midi sensor'; MIDI keyboards do not use MIDI to talk from each key to the rest of the electronics.

Mechanically, it might be easier to rip out a piano's innards, keyboard and all, and add a new keyboard. Modifying an existing piano keyboard would require adding sensors to each key mechanism, which could be expensive. However, the replacement keyboard must be a mechanical fit.

At the most basic level, an electronic keyboard is simply a set of on/off switches. Next level up is something like a changeover switch that allows you to work out how fast/hard  a key is pressed by calculating the time taken to switch between contacts. More sophisticated sensors, such as pressure switches, do this more elegantly and also facilitate 'aftertouch', whereby a sound can be modified by continuing pressure on a key. Other technologies could be used on a keyboard keys, such as capacitative or optical sensors.

All of this is done by direct wiring to some sort of processor, which can turn the information to audio (i.e. a synthesizer, organ, or digital piano), and/or convert the information to MIDI signals to control external sound generators, MIDI recorders, etc.

Additional controls can be added (e.g. switches for footpedals, pitch control, effects such as vibrato, and anything else you can do with MIDI)..

Most electronic keyboards are lighter to the touch than piano keyboards, which have heavier 'action'. Also, they tend to have a smaller range - fewer octaves - than a typical piano keyboard.

 

 

My old piano had ivory keys.  They had to be replaced on conversion, with the keyboard from the Kawai, but the keys are 'ivory touch' and honestly don't look or feel any different, except that the colour is maybe a shade lighter.  

The 'new' piano is a whole different animal from the electronic keyboards I've used, inc. the reasonably up to date 88 key ones at my group class. 

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For a digital piano, you've got the best of all worlds imo. The case of an upright piano is massive compared to audio loudspeakers, makes for way better sound. No point using a tiny audio driver if you've got all that room.

It looks nice so will stay in the living room, meaning it gets played more. A regular digital piano can be easily packed away and life will give lots of excuses for why it doesn't get set up and played today. One day becomes three...

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