Piano and studio "accessories"

Learn about pianos and how to maintain them

Postby Christine » Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:26 pm

Hello everyone!

I would like to "jazz" up my studio, and was wondering if anyone has any clever ideas as to how I could make things more "interesting" visually? I would also like to know if anyone has an opinion on what type of piano bench they prefer. I currently have the standard, hard, duet (long) bench, which is great for two people, but very uncomfortable. I was considering one of those adjustable, very thickly padded (usually black upholstered) benches, but now I have been wondering if anyone has ever tried those performer "chairs" that have a high back and are slightly tipped forward to make them ergonomically correct? I am forever putting blankets on mine to make it more comfortable (for when I play myself). One last thing...has anyone ever seen a type of cover that slips over your piano music stand, covering it like a "pillow" case, to protect it from scratches? I think I saw one years ago (I suppose I could sew one). I nearly have a heart attack when I see a student plunk a coil ringed notebook on my music stand, which has the black shiny surface (which scratches VERY easily). Thanks everyone! :)
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Postby Stretto » Fri Jan 13, 2006 8:43 am

I have one of those padded adjustable piano benches which I really like. I got it at no cost because when my piano was delivered they brought the wrong bench and they gave it to me. I think it's worthwhile having an adjustable bench of some sort. The only thing I have to be careful is if someone sits on it with something sharp like those small metal things on some jeans or what-have-you, it will make a little snag. Also don't cringe anyone but my cats back claws have made tiny pin-prick holes in it when I have not pushed it back under the piano when not in use. It's made out of a vinyl cover that looks like upholstry. Also, I think it's easy for students to miss-treat a nice bench by rocking on it, etc. so I've had to ask some politely not to rock or lean with the bench. As with a lot of things these days, I don't think they are made "as sturdy as they used to" so I try to be careful with it. But I would be propping myself up on pillows as well otherwise.

I haven't ever seen the ergonomic chairs. Again as with any type of bench, I would take into consideration whether it may get "mistreated" by the younger students.

I know what you mean by scratches on that "black shiny surface". I have a nice little scratch across the front of my piano again from cats (ok, cringe everyone). I checked around for a cover for my entire piano when I first got it but it was a one time occurence and the scratch is only visible in certain light. Only my tech. was trying to bite his tongue when he saw it. The advantage of the "black shiny surface" is it is less scratch resistant than regular wood. I can't imagine the visible scratches I'd have by now had I purchased a piano with a wood finish. I wanted wood to begin with but the dealer made me feel a little better about the black by pointing out it's scratch resistancy.

On the subject of benches in general, it's always been a pet peeve of mine trying to get the right height to the piano with whatever the available bench. I do think there should be more ergonomic attention paid to the height one sits at the piano. Sometimes I've wondered if the wheels on a piano throw the whole bench-to-piano-height factor off. By the way what height should a person be sitting at the piano anyway? Whenever any instructor ever noticed my pet peeve to this, they always acted like I was a little crazy for being so picky. I'm short and at a good height my feet don't hit the floor, at a low height for my feet then I'm too low to the piano. Does anyone feel the height one sits has a lot to do with how well one will be able to play? If I'm sitting too low, I feel I can't play as well and have had to perform that way before. Should that not throw me off?




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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:17 pm

Stretto:

Height has a lot to do with playing comfort, and the wrong height can actually result in injury over time if the player gets into more advanced stuff. It's best to sit so that the forearms and wrists are about level, with a little leeway either way. (Don't ask me how Glenn Gould managed to play so well when he was practically sitting on the floor.)

Most pianos are made with a standard keyboard height from the floor--about 29 inches (sometimes the dollies they put under the wheels in college and recording studios raise them too much). Then individual adjustments are made with the bench. Van Cliburn had the exact opposite problem from yours--his legs were so long he could hardly get them under the keybed.

An artist bench costs a couple hundred dollars but is a good investment: very sturdy, with an internal mechanism that raises or lowers the seat with side knobs. (My Boesendorfer bench had a neat spring-loaded arrangement--you just sat down lightly to push the seat down to where you wanted it and then locked it with a lever.)

Also, did you know that pedal extensions are available? They hook on to the pedals but have their own pedals that can be set to six inches or so higher. We've used them for little kids, together with a small platform in front they could rest their feet on. Again, it sounds like one more expense, but these accommodations really can eliminate a major distraction in lessons.

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Postby minorkey » Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:36 pm

Christine wrote:I would like to "jazz" up my studio, and was wondering if anyone has any clever ideas as to how I could make things more "interesting" visually?

Christine,
I just bought the "Bach later (Offenbach sooner)" floormat from The Music Stand (online)- it's fun to look at. Also, we have a few water-color paintings (jazz scenes) from New Orleans artists, which literally jazzes up the music room!
Another great idea (which I haven't done yet) would be to visit www.patagonbird.com and order a piano mobile! I saw these at the Newport Folk festival and they're amazing- they hang from the ceiling and are really well made. They also had guitarist and violinist mobiles, if you wanted to create an ensemble. It would certainly be a unique addition to your studio.
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Postby Christine » Sat Jan 14, 2006 5:00 pm

Hi minorkey,

Thanks for the ideas. I would love that floor mat! I will also try that web site. I definitely need more (music related) pictures on my wall. Of course, I could go plain and save money, but sometimes it is fun to make things visually appealing too. I was also thinking of stenciling a border around my waiting/practice room with clefs, etc. We homeschool, and I definitely can tell that my kids do better surrounded by a "pleasant" environment when doing their schoolwork. Sorry to turn this post into an interior decorating topic, but I always wonder how other teachers make their surroundings "fun".

Thanks. :)
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Postby Stretto » Sat Jan 14, 2006 5:42 pm

There's a store here called "Mardel's" that has a lot of homeschooling materials and there is one side of an aisle devoted to music teaching materials. I've seen a lot of great charts and posters for hanging in a music studio there.

The room my piano is in is also the living room so I don't really want to hang a bunch of charts and musical posters all over the walls, but if I had a room designated solely for a teaching studio, I would love to have some of the posters and charts, etc. I've seen.

I've tried to make our front living room a library/music room. With one whole wall bay windows plus bookcases in the room, it's kind of hard to figure out how to make it all fit. Come to think of it, there's not a lot of wall space for charts and posters anyway. I did splurge (that was in our pre-kid days) when I bought my piano since I had to compromise and couldn't be facing the window while I play, although I don't go around forking out money for nice art, I did get one nice print to go above my piano. It's two cats looking out a sunny window ledge with books on a bookcase under the ledge. The artists name is Steve Hanks. At least if I can't face the window while I'm playing, I can look at my picture that portrays natural light. (I just am a fanatic for natural light coming into a room.) I've got a lot of compliments from students how much they like the picture too.

Minor key, your room description sounds really neat!

Talking about "jazzing up" and decorating studios, I got to thinking. What kind of chairs does everyone have for those sitting in on the lesson to use? That is one thing I am lacking is a couple nice comfy chairs. I have siblings that are brought by their babysitter after school. One sibling and the babysitter wait while the other has their lesson. And in the summer, the mom is able to come and likes to sit in on their lessons. I don't really have any decent chairs for those sitting in on the lesson. It works out o.k. for the kids as I usually set up the card table and they do their homework while waiting. What seating arrangements do all of you use for those sitting in on the student's lessons?

Anyone else want to describe their studio decor? It's interesting hearing about what others have done or would like to do in "jazzing up" their studios.




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Postby pianoannie » Mon Jan 16, 2006 7:17 pm

Christine wrote:One last thing...has anyone ever seen a type of cover that slips over your piano music stand, covering it like a "pillow" case, to protect it from scratches? I think I saw one years ago (I suppose I could sew one). I nearly have a heart attack when I see a student plunk a coil ringed notebook on my music stand, which has the black shiny surface (which scratches VERY easily). Thanks everyone! :)

I bought a large piece of black felt that I lay over the music rack of my piano. I'm talking about the kind you can buy it at fabric stores by the yard, not the little 8 x 11 pieces sold in craft stores.

I know exactly what you mean about the coiled notebooks! And even when students turn pages, their nails can scratch the music rack. So my felt cover has been a lifesaver for my shiny black piano.
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Postby Christine » Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:19 pm

Hi pianoannie,

Yes, I think I will get some felt (much less expensive, I would imagine, than velvet). Even draped over top would be much easier than trying to "sew" something to fit exactly (with my limited sewing skills). Or, I could attempt some ties on the side or something. Great idea! Thanks. :)

Christine
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed Jan 18, 2006 11:00 am

My piano is now in my living room. I have a small condo - 2 bedrooms. I used to have the piano in the small bedroom -which was really our 'den/music room. This was very good for teaching and I had the lighting just right and all my supplies right at hand. After my husband died, I felt I wanted my piano in my main living space. I have a long living room/dining room. I do not often use the table for eating, so it has music on it - games, theory sheets, composers stories, and so on. I brought in my large music shelf and a bookcase, and hung a cork board next to the table for articles and pictures. The students often make some, as I have several families with siblings, so one is waiting. I put out paper and pictures from magazines and catalogs and all the students make one collage that I hang up for the year. There are craft supplies as well as musical items readily available. This helps to make it more their own space too.
I also have an old picture of two composers at the piano and a waste basket and floor full of crumbled paper.
Next to the piano I have a small cabinet with supplies and a chart on the wall with the Circle of Keys and a monthly calendar. They are changed or added to, occassionally.
The livingroom end, is more my personal pictures - painted by my sister and some family pictures. This is where visitors sit - just have a love seat and two chairs. I wouldn't worry about having any special chairs for people. You don't want them to be TOO comfortable and children don't care.
I have a music door mat at the door and several small knic knacs that have been given to me over the years plus pictures and some musical quotes I have framed. My computer desk is like a semi room divider and I have some of these facing the livingroom.
Since I live alone and music is my life, I am not hindered or bothered by
musical "stuff".
A thought, with a cork board or other ways of haning things, you can put them up when teaching and take them down when not.
I do feel the atmosphere helps.
I use a piano chair for the student and a regular chair for me. I prefer to move around and get up and down and feel the student has more freedom as well.
I recently taught at a student's home and the bench was too high. I brought it to the attention of the parent and was told that the bench was due to be replaced soon. I guess one should visit the home before accepting a student just to see what their set up is like. Often lighting is a big problem, or a broken music rack, or a piano on a outside wall that does not hold its tune, and so on.
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Postby Stretto » Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:12 pm

loveapiano wrote:I recently taught at a student's home and the bench was too high. I brought it to the attention of the parent and was told that the bench was due to be replaced soon. I guess one should visit the home before accepting a student just to see what their set up is like. Often lighting is a big problem, or a broken music rack, or a piano on a outside wall that does not hold its tune, and so on.

I had a student who when the family re-located in town, her father put her piano out in the garage! I don't think it was one of those finished garages either. Needless to say, practice declined from there.
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Postby Beckywy » Thu Jan 19, 2006 9:57 pm

I recently taught at a student's home and the bench was too high.


I have a student who's bench was too high - I told the father what the appropriate height of the bench for his daughter should be, and immediately, he took the bench out to the shed and sawed off a couple inches off each leg.
"The real purpose of studying music-to unite ourselves with our special gifts in such a way that one would add strength to the other" Seymour Bernstein
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Postby minorkey » Fri Jan 20, 2006 6:44 am

It's too bad he didn't just buy her an adjustable bench- what will he do when she grows taller??
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Postby Beckywy » Fri Jan 20, 2006 6:54 am

my guess will be to cut it down again.
"The real purpose of studying music-to unite ourselves with our special gifts in such a way that one would add strength to the other" Seymour Bernstein
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Postby Stretto » Fri Jan 20, 2006 8:17 am

:laugh: I find this bench story really funny! What a dedicated parent! (reminds me a little of the time I got a better piano as a teen. We downsized to a smaller house and the only place we had space for the piano was in my room. In order to make more space in my room for the piano, my dad took my vanity/desk, the white girls style, and sawed off and hauled out the desk portion so I was left with the 3 drawers looking more like a nightstand). I still have the chair that went with it, I use sometimes to sit in for teaching - :) .
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Postby Cy Shuster » Wed Feb 08, 2006 4:38 pm

I just recently discovered this bench: it seats two, but each side is independently adjustable! Perfect for adults teaching children.

http://www.vandaking.com/us-shop/itembn-1039-2.html

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