I’m getting a piano, and this is how I’m going to choose one!

The upright piano is ideal for those who don`t have the space for a grand piano. It has more beautiful tones than your average keyboard and is delightful to play. Some love the baby grand, but musically the upright is superior and can be just as beautiful a piece of furniture. It also fits better in most homes. Choosing one is all about budget and personal preference.

There are many makes to choose from. Many of the oldest names in pianos are still making beautiful instruments for a range of budgets and tastes and the newest digital pianos are well worth examining too. They may not be as ornate, but that isn`t necessarily a bad thing as the sleeker design often fits well into the modern home`s decor. They also have the advantages of being lighter, easier to care for and more suitable if you want to record music. Modern technology has also made the sound they produce very close to that which you`d expect from an acoustic upright piano.

The Waldstein 108DI is a popular Chinese make of piano. It won the Classic FM vote, winning the Music Industry Award for two years in a row. It`s a lovely beginner`s piano, with a mellow but not too mellow sound. It performs admirably across the board. You`ll find many fans playing their favourite band`s tunes on this piano. It is, however, a little brighter rather than warm in its tone, which makes it a clearer instrument for those learning to play and those who prefer their notes to be more distinctive.

Many of the warmest-sounding pianos come from Europe. Germany and the Czech Republic, for instance, are known for producing beautiful pianos with rich, warm tones. One famous example is the Steinway brand. This German piano make is popular across genres. Its warm tones have made it welcome as part of presidential inauguration ceremonies and endeared it to jazz musicians such as John Brighenti, pop musicians such as Lade Gaga and cultural icons such as John Lennon. While their grand pianos are more widely seen on stage and in films thanks to their stunning visual impact, the uprights also have a beautiful tone and are lovely to play. The older ones are, however, trickier to maintain than newer pianos so you might need to find a good tuner.

If you`re looking for a warmer sound but your budget and space mean that a digital piano is the best choice then you might want to look at the Roland series of digital pianos. They are favoured by the eclectic and fantastic band, The Enid, who combine classical music and rock for a very different sound. Their piano, as you can imagine, is key to this. The Roland RP301, for instance, is a lovely design. It`s made to be affordable and yet it combines new technologies that make using it just about as close to playing an acoustic piano as it`s possible to get. The Roland pianos have even found a way to make the feel of the keys not unlike that of playing a grand piano. They call it `Ivory Feel-G` and it`s an improvement on their previous solution, known as the `progressive hammer-action keyboard`. They`re also energy efficient because they will switch themselves off automatically after a certain period. They are ideal for children who might forget to turn them off or for adult players who would like a digital piano but are conscious of their carbon footprint or electricity bill.

Of course, one of the joys of a digital piano is the special effects. One of the current leaders in digital pianos is Kawai. Their CA65 model, for example, has 60 `voices`, including a range of fun and more serious non-piano effects, from strings to organ. The pianos come from Japan and are rather brighter in tone than European pianos but they are somewhat warmer than their main rival, Yamaha. They`re also a little more affordable than similar Yamahas with a similar specification. With so much going for both makes, it comes down to which tone you prefer so trying them out in a shop is the best way to decide between them. A reputation for being trustworthy stands firmly behind the Kawai make and you can expect an instrument of theirs to last a good length of time and work reliably. As with the Roland pianos, Kawai have done their best to replicate the sound and feel of playing an acoustic instrument and their keys have a natural weight added to them which makes playing them feel much more real. Artists that like the range include alt-rock band Muse and indie band Scars on 45.

Choosing your piano is all part of the fun and finding the one that works best for you is a moment of joy for a piano player. Many people still love the natural tones of the classic acoustic upright piano. The feel of the keys and the pedals and the way it resonates as you play is lovely. Hearing the rich tones produced by hammers hitting keys is satisfying in a way that using a small electric keyboard can`t match. But using a digital piano isn`t such a compromise these days because of recent improvements in sound. It`s certainly a practical choice for many reasons, including the fact that it never needs tuning, is always pitch perfect, is more easily transportable and has a volume controlĀ  which means fewer annoyed neighbours if you`re in a home with thin walls. And now that you can use headphones you don`t have to worry about people hearing you play the same scales and pieces over and over.

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The fire at kings cross

When I lived in Islington, I used to commute everyday to West London and back via Kings Cross underground station.

I remember noticing the blackened ceiling above the escalators leading to the Piccadilly line. Every now and again I would ask myself what had happened there, and how long ago.

Yesterday I found out what had happened, and it left me shocked and saddened. I was reading a book called The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. It’s a good read generally, written fairly well, tackling the idea of how habits control our everyday lives, as well as the world of business.
It uses the Kings Cross fire as am example of how organisational habits can cause a dangerous malfunction.
I learnt that in the eighties, a massive fire killed more than thirty commuters and staff and injured dozens more. The author describes how it took half an hour from the moment a commuter reported a burning tissue at the bottom of the same escalator I used to take on my way home every day, to the moment a huge burning ball of fire engulfed everyone still stuck in the main hall.
Why do we not talk about this?

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Why so silent

It has been months since my last post here. I am spending all my creative rubbish writing energy on another blog which has pictures in it. I don’t have much else to say right now, so perhaps best to put this one on hold until I get bored again. The world still annoys me every now and again but not so much.
Peace. Sun. Pita with hummus.

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Andrew from Masterchef 2012 is a hobbit

That’s it. Very cute.

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Laura Marling is amazing

Thank you The Observer last Sunday, for giving us a free CD of Laura Marling’s (mainly) live recordings.
This young lady has a voice I would love to own myself, plays guitar like I would like to, and writes great lyrics. So much talent… dwarfing my own. But I’m not jealous because I can only ever envy something that is either achievable or unfairly given to another. She’s too much of an inspiration to be envied, only cherished. I hope she goes on to write and release more great music, and also to develop in other directions and surprise us.

I’ll be waiting.

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Black Mirror shocked me and it took me a while to realise it

Last night I watched the first episode of the new TV series Black Mirror, written by Charlie Brooker. I do love him, he always makes me laugh and think. This time I didn’t laugh.

This episode is about the prime minister being ask to perform a sexual act with a pig on camera, in order to save the life of the nation’s sweetheart princess who’s been kidnapped.
It’s worth watching, if only to examine how this programme makes you feel. I watched, I responded to the various awful ideas and behaviours introduced by this gruesome story by shouting and looking away a lot. When it finished I watched some more TV, and after that as I was getting ready for bed it became clear to me that Black Mirror is no ordinary TV show, and that I was far from finished churning over the emotions that it had raised.

I look forward to watching the next episode, although not certain I can take many more, it’s pretty full on!

Review of Black Mirror in the Telegraph


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New Testcard for Sky 3D

My boyfriend did this!


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