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To schedule lessons please contact Erika at (205) 408-8171 or email her at erika@stewartpianostudio.com.


Articles by Erika Stewart

 Come and discover the benefits of piano lessons!

1.) Piano Lessons are Local – Stewart Piano Studio is a home studio conveniently located in Calera just outside the city limits of Alabaster, AL. It is just 30 minutes south of Birmingham, AL and 20-30 minutes south of Hoover.

From Hwy 65, the studio is located a few minutes off the Shelby County Airport Exit in Alabaster, AL.

2.) Piano Lessons for Children and Adult – Erika teaches piano lessons for children ages 5 through adult. Exceptions will be made for 4 year olds if they demonstrate a readiness and eagerness for learning.  Erika loves teaching young children through innovative ideas,  including theory games and musical stories to help aid quick and responsive learning.  Oftentimes, a child can learn all the notes of the piano in one lesson based on one easy teaching technique! Adults can also benefit from piano lessons at any age.  Many times adults have told me they wished they had learned piano as a child but it is never too late to start!

3.) Piano Lessons are Educational – Research has shown piano lessons to have a great positive effect on cognitive learning. A study taken from McGill University in Montreal, Canada has shown that students who took piano lessons for 3 years scored significantly higher than their peers on tests.  Students have also experienced better spatial cognition and skill in math and engineering.  Researchers and Neuroscientists have discovered that the way the brain produces neural firing patterns (how information is distributed to and from different parts of the brain) is strangely similar to how music itself is structured.  Quite remarkable!

4.) Piano Lessons are Personally Fulfilling – Adults often enjoy taking piano lessons for the purpose of playing for relaxation and pleasure.  Erika had the opportunity to teach an adult student who was a neurosurgeon.  She was so thrilled to come each week to piano lessons and loved learning how to play.  Piano lessons were the one thing she did for herself and enabled her to cope with stressful work situations.  Since playing the piano is oftentimes relaxing, it can reduce stress and create a relaxed mood.  Research from a Michigan State University study has shown that playing the piano can significantly reduce anxiety, loneliness and depression.

 


 

Keyboard versus Piano

1.) Quality

As a child, I came across one piano teacher who was very strict both in her teaching method as well as her opinion of musical instruments.   She once asked what kind of piano I had and while I was still thinking about it, she promptly responded that if it was a spinet (a short upright piano), it should be thrown out the window.  This left a very poignant picture in my mind since we were sitting near a second story window! (Shh, I actually did have a spinet at home but I did not dare tell her!) I relate this story because while we could not afford a nicer instrument at the time, it was a quality piano that gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn to play.

An acoustic piano with real strings and real wood will offer a level of responsiveness, a wide range of dynamics and beautiful tone color that cannot be accomplished on the most expensive electronic keyboard.  There is no doubt that the beginning student will be given a better opportunity to progress in skill and musicianship on a piano.

2.) Practicality

While every pianist may love to learn to play on a Steinway grand piano, this is neither affordable nor practical for most people.  You may want to consider your present and even future housing arrangements.  Keyboards and Digital pianos are much more convenient spatially.  Some apartment complexes do not even allow acoustic pianos because of the sound transmission.  Keyboards allow for a range of volume, low or high, as well as headphones.

There is also the factor of moving a piano up and down stairs and through tight spaces.  We jokingly call my grand piano “the whale” as we have drug it to 4 different places ($500 each time and piano movers charge extra for each step. Beware!) and even stuck it through a small opening in a small bedroom.  It can be done but you must be well attached to your instrument to go through that much trouble!

Cost is another major factor and may largely determine your choice of instrument. Acoustic pianos can range on average from $2,000-$10,000 and even cost more than a house! Keyboards may cost as little as $100-200 and Digital Pianos may be $500-$1500 on an average.

3.) Musicality

One of the main differences between acoustic pianos and keyboards is the size and weight of the keys.  Cheaper keyboards have thinner, plastic, light touch keys.  Some of my students who have keyboards at home have difficulty playing on my piano because they have not built up hand strength.  An easy solution to this dilemma is to purchase a modern digital keyboard with full size weighted keys.  This will give the student a more realistic feel of an acoustic piano, giving the bass octaves a heavier touch than the treble notes.  The Casio Privia PX-150 has 88 keys and good key action for about $700.  The Yamaha PSR and Casio CTK each have 61 keys and may be a good option for a $100-$200 budget.

Keyboard range is another consideration. A full size keyboard has 88 keys so this ideal for any purchase.  However, when it is not possible there are other options. The digital piano can contain 61, 76 or 88 keys.  The 76 key modals are usable as they give a basic range for the beginning student.

 


 

What is a Steinway grand piano? And what is the difference from other pianos?

The following will give you a brief overview of Steinway history and the legendary Steinway name.

~ The Beginning of Steinway and Sons

Steinway has a tremendous history and has been unmatched in spectacular and unparalleled quality since the company first began on March 5, 1853 by a German immigrant.  Heinrich Steinwig first began his piano business with his sons in Germany and immigrated with his wife and 5 of 7 children to begin a new life in America.  When they arrived in New York, they were one of many highly skilled piano craftsmen but their name quickly became associated with the best standards of quality workmanship and ingenious advances in piano design.

The Steinways (changed from Steinwig upon immigrating) had built 482 pianos before even coming to the States.  Number 483 was the first piano produced in America and was sold for $500 to a New York family.  By the early 1860’s, Steinway had grown to 350 workers who was producing 30 square pianos and 5 grand pianos a week.  Sadly, in 1865, two of the Steinway sons died after working limitless hours both day and night.  Upon hearing the news, the oldest son, C.F. Theodore, decided to sell his successful piano business in Germany and came to work with his father and two other brothers.  Thus continuing the legendary Steinway and Sons tradition.

~ The Growth of Steinway

In 1876, a Steinway factory opened in London and in 1880, another one opened in Hamburg, Germany.  The Steinway name would live to survive the US Civil War, WW I, WW II, the Great Depression and the Age of Technology.  The company has undergone the threats of bankruptcy, liquidations and political turmoil.  Ironically, during WW II, Steinway registered for 2 patents, one in the US and one in Germany.  In the US, piano production almost stopped completely as the NY factory began manufacturing parts for gliders and aircraft.  Ironically, Steinway’s Hamburg factory was taken over for the Nazi war effort.

The greatest danger to the reputation of the Steinway piano was a “sell out” of the it’s name and history to Musical Instruments Davision of CBS.  It soon became only one name among many others but the integrity of the Steinway was still preserved.  In 1985, Steinway underwent yet another change as CBS sold the company’s Musical Instruments Division to an investment group from Boston, MA.  Steinway and Sons was deemed part of Steinway Musical Properties.  In 1995, Steinway was sold to a band instrument manufacturer, Selmer.  At present, Steinway is a highly successful company with orders for grand pianos that exceed their production numbers.

~ The Production of the Steinway

The Steinway piano is not mass produced.  Each piano feels different. Each piano sounds different.   The high standard in piano building sets Steinway apart from all other pianos and is in stark contrast to instruments which are mass produced.  Even today, Steinway builds pianos primarily by hand and employs 400-500 workers.  There are 120 various jobs in building the Steinway.  Interestingly, the Steinway factory in Astoria, Queens, NY, closely resembles the factory of a century ago.  To give you a comparison of mass produced versus hand made, Yamaha produces 200,000 per year whereas Steinway produces 3,000 pianos per year. The Steinway pianos built in NY are shipped to North and South America while the pianos made in Hamburg, Germany are shipped worldwide.

The design of the Steinway piano is unprecedented and is far superior than any other and it was not long after beginning production that the Steinway concert grand became a spectacular success.  It became a favorite of concert pianists and even dominated the Erard and Chickering grand piano, the best in the world until then.  It has been created in such a way to undergo the most rigorous playing of the finest artist.  90%  of concert pianists use Steinway and the likely reason that the other 10% do not use them is because of the cost.

The Steinway piano is known worldwide as the best and simply perfect.

~ The Steinway of Stewart Piano Studio in Calera, AL

In 1993, Erika had the opportunity to purchase a Steinway model “L” grand piano built in 1930.  It is known as Steinways “smallest concert grand” and is 5′ 10 1/2″ long and 610 pounds.  Non Steinway personnel sometimes say that true grand pianos must be at least six feet long, believing there are limits on sound and design.  This presumption is not true with Steinway. The Steinway company builds 4 models under six feet, including the model “L” and all are built without any compromise of sound or design.   Many professional pianists purchase this model for their home and/or practice piano.

It is impossible to prove but Erika’s piano came with the story that it was played and signed by the famous Rachmaninoff.   Erika purchased the piano in Seattle, WA from a one time owner. The great pianist Rachmaninoff did come to the Seattle area and perform 7 concerts from the years 1931-1941.  It is said that after Rachmaninoff signed the piano, a piano tuner later covered the name in shellac but instead of preserving it, the name disappeared over time. We will never know!

Articles

Piano Lessons really do make you smarter!!

http://mic.com/articles/110628/13-scientific-studies-prove-music-lessons-were-the-best-thing-your-parents-did-for-you

http://mic.com/articles/96150/science-shows-how-musicians-brains-are-different-from-everybody-elses

http://mic.com/articles/108022/science-just-discovered-something-amazing-about-what-childhood-piano-lessons-did-to-you

 

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