April 2011

Piano Service

If it is a Piano, we do it!

2211 Curtiss St. Downers Grove, IL 60515

Monday – Friday           9AM-7PM
Saturday                       10AM-4PM
Sunday                           by appointment



Finding Students

Recently I have had the opportunity to help several teachers develop marketing material in an attempt to attract new students. A common error they all made was to start their efforts from the perspective of why they were such good and qualified teachers. They wanted to list all of their professional qualifications and certifications. One even wanted to list all of the orchestras she had played with.  I hated to break it to them but, for most of their prospective students, these things were completely irrelevant.We all get satisfaction from receiving recognition from our peers and peer organizations, however the average person doesn’t know these groups exist, what their various alphabet soup designations mean, or most importantly, care about any of it.

Instead of starting with your qualifications, start with your customer’s needs. It doesn’t matter that you received the highest whatever in anything, if you do not meet the needs of your students.

Professional marketers will break the needs of the consumer into several categories: convenience, price, and quality are usually the top three. The consumer will balance their relative needs in these three areas. If their highest priority is price, then they will be willing to sacrifice some convenience in exchange for a lower price. If their priority is convenience then they may be will to pay more even if the quality is lower.

The other critical consideration you must make when trying to attract students is the fact that there are more available customers at the lower end of the spectrum of demand in the areas of price and quality than at the higher end of these categories. If you want only those willing to pay the highest price and demand only the most qualified instructors, you will have a very small group of potential students. Sam Walton figured this out decades ago. The great majority of people want a low price and great convenience more than the highest quality.

So as you design your marketing material, think of what your prospective students might actually want in a teacher and offer that to them. 


Back to Teaching
Rules and Commandments

Over the next year or so, I thought I might share some of my teaching principles.  I would welcome any thoughts you may have.  I laid out my principles of practice within a set of 10 commandments and 15 rules.  The commandments are largely attitudinal and the rules are more practical.  There is some overlap and redundancy but sometimes students need to hear the same principle expressed differently for its meaning and importance to become obvious.


As a young piano student my piano teacher insisted I learn each hand individually before I put them together. I found this very frustrating because I never felt the work I did with my hands individually did anything to prepare me for playing with both hands simultaneously. As I got older and more experienced I came to realize where the notion of practicing hands separately came from. This led me to more firmly believe practicing hands separately is largely a waste of time.

Learning to play one hand at a time, with the other completely uninvolved, does not prepare you to play both hands simultaneously.  All that is accomplished is the illusion that the music has been learned.  However the two-handed co-ordination needed to actually play doesn’t develop without two handed work.

Now some single hand study can be useful for working out specific technical problems or developing an understanding of a complex figuration. However the time should be limited and the opposite hand introduced immediately.


As a river will seek the route of least resistance, left to our own devices we will do the same. It is much more pleasant to play music which is easy either because it is not challenging or has been previously learned. Trying something new or especially hard requires much more discipline than playing a piece learned many years ago.

This also applies to difficult sections within a piece. A difficult passage may require four, five or ten times as much time as the rest of the work. If that extra effort is not made, the passage will never become as easy as the rest of the music. Unless it is attacked early and hard it will always be the weak spot within the larger work. We all know where these problem areas are, if we start with them and work on the “hard stuff first” the piece and progress evenly and quickly without the constant drag of the “hard stuff”.


“Dear ANR…”

“I just moved my piano from one side of the room to the other, I know that you should tune a piano every time it is moved. Do you think it would be OK to I have been told by my teacher that I should only use a tuner who uses a tuning machine and I have been told by another teacher that I should only use a tuner who doesn’t use a tuning machine. What is the truth?”  Pat

I am glad you asked.

Here is one way to consider the answer. I play a great sounding 7’ Steinway and Sons grand piano that I rebuilt to my own specifications. It has a huge bass and clear treble. Now, with this tool, I can play beautiful music without any effort and I will never make a mistake. Right? Of course not! The piano is simply a tool, a very good one, but still a tool, just like a hammer. It is up to the user to use the tool adequately and with skill to be successful.

Whether a piano tuner uses an Electronic Tuning Device (ETD) or they tune with only their own ears and mind, their success has less to do with the tool they use than the skill they bring to the tool. I have seen tuners who were using an ETD execute a beautiful tuning and others who I wished hadn’t touched my pianos. I was left wondering if they actually listened to the mess they made of the tuning.  The same goes for aural tuners. Virgil Smith was one of the finest aural tuners I have ever met; people would fly him all over the country to tune their pianos. Other aural tuners would be better off with an EDT. It is more important to check the tuner’s skill and experience than to look for any particular tool in their tool box.


Why Rent a Piano?

With hundreds of pianos in homes around Chicago we get asked this often. For some people purchasing an instrument may not be an option for them. Here are some of the reasons people have rented pianos from us:


One of our Many Pianos

Kimball Piano Company


How the Kimball Piano Company started is a real rags to riches kind of story. It is about a poor farm boy from Maine who was trying to make his way up the economic ladder. W.W. Kimball started his career as a real estate and insurance salesman in Iowa in the mid 1800s when the piano industry caught his attention. He felt there was quite a possibility of making money in supplying goods to the pioneers who were ever westward moving. Convinced that selling pianos was his next step to fortune, he founded W.W. Kimball & Co. in Chicago, IL in 1857 and soon thereafter became one of the largest sellers of keyboard instruments in the United States. By the 1880s, a shortage in merchandise clued Kimball in to his next business venture – piano production. In 1886, Kimball started manufacturing his own pianos and the early 1900s brought the company to its peak.

Difficult times would soon come for the company though. The Great Depression, changes in demand for pianos, and changes in management in the company all took their toll on the establishment. The company was sold to Jasper Corporation in 1959 and piano production was moved to Indiana. Jasper became known as Kimball International. In 1966, Kimball International bought the world renowned Austrian piano company, Bosendorfer. In the 1980’s they also bought Krakauer, a respected American piano company, as well as a number of other companies that dealt with supplies they needed for production. Today Kimball International is a fortune 500 company, but most of its involvement is with furniture making, custom cabinetry, electric assembly, and plastics. The company ceased their production of pianos by 1996 claiming the demand for their pianos was not good enough to continue.

During its many years of piano production, Kimball also produced pianos with the following names: Conn, Jasper-American, W.W Kimball, Hinze, Harrison, Schuerman, DeVoe & Sons, Whittaker, Becker, La Petite, Krakauer, Whitney.