July 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



Many of our pianos:

Baldwin Pianos

The Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. was originally a retail enterprise founded by Dwight Hamilton Baldwin (1821-1899) in 1862.  Dwight Baldwin was a music teacher living near Cincinnati, OH.  The Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. sold Steinway and Chickering pianos until 1890 when they discontinued franchising with Steinway and changed their trade from retail to piano making.  Less than 10 years later, Baldwin had produced pianos that won the grand prize at both the 1900 International Exposition in Paris and the 1904 International Exposition in St. Louis, MO.  Unfortunately, Dwight Baldwin never got to see his company earn these awards as he died in 1899.  The company’s bookkeeper, Lucien Wulsin, became a leader in the company shortly after Baldwin’s death.  He implemented many improved business plans for organization and merchandising, which helped Baldwin thrive and become one of the most stable piano companies of the early 1900s.

One of Mr. Wulsin business strategies was to build up large cash reserves during good years as they had through the 1910’s and  1920’s. When the depression hit and many other piano companies quickly folded, Baldwin was able to weather the down turn. During the war years, when piano manufacturing was banned, Baldwin was contracted to make plywood components for air planes. This experience allowed them to develop the early multiply pin blocks in which they led the world after WWII.

In subsequent years the company grew rapidly and had many very successful lines. The Acrosonic spinet is by far and away the best spinet ever made and they made hundreds of thousands of them. The Hamilton studio upright became ubiquitous in public education and their grand pianos were second only to Steinway on concert stages all over the world.

However they eventually got distracted from their core business and by the 1980’s owned about 200 Savings and Loans. When they went bankrupt in 1983 with $9 billion in liabilities they were the largest bankruptcy in history at the time. The piano business was sold to its management. The company went through many difficulties and again declared bankruptcy in 2001 and was acquired by Gibson Guitar.


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.

Learning to play one hand with the other completely uninvolved and then to learn the other hand, 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. Whenever I have been asked to sight-read something, such as when I am accompanying a competition, no one is interested in hearing just one hand being played. We shouldn’t spend time learning a skill which doesn’t enhance our playing.

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. What other two handed task do we practice one hand at a time. Have you ever tried to type with just your left hand, typing only those letters normally “played” by the left hand? Could image running with only one leg? I guess that is called hopping and is an activity generally best left to young children!

One of the greatest lessons a student can learn through the course of learning to play a musical instrument is the importance of prioritization.  In every weeks assignment there are greater and lesser difficulties and higher and lower priorities. Learning to order one’s work so that the maximum is accomplished with the greatest efficiency is one of the keys to success in life. Musical study provides a microcosm where you can learn this lesson.

Each week there are some items which are critical for immediate master (recitals and contests provide these nicely) and other items of less importance. Learning to address the critical without neglecting the less important is a life’s lesson we all can revisit.


“Dear ANR…”
“Should I wait until the air conditioner gets turned on to tune my piano?”

The corollary would be waiting until you turn the heat on. Both reflect the futility of trying to time the tuning of your piano to some magical point in the seasons. The question does swerve toward the truth in recognizing that climate and environment have an impact on tuning.

There have been many studies done looking at the impact of various climatic and environmental changes upon the tuning of a piano. From my own experience I can tell you that tuning a piano for a concert without the hot stage lights on for an hour is a futile effort. As soon as the lights come on the radiant heat will quickly knock the piano out of tune. The heat is not affecting the moisture content of the wood in the soundboard as much as heating and thus lowering the tension of the strings. The soundboard will dry out some but this is a much slower process than heating the strings and harp.

If your piano is placed in the direct path of your HAVC air flow, especially if it is the air delivery vents, then every time your furnace or air conditioner comes on you will drive your piano out of tune.

It is not so much that a particular part of your climate control system has activated, it is all a matter of stability. If you keep your piano out of direct sun light, and minimize the presence of sun light in the room itself, keep air movement across the instrument to a minimum, and maintain a constant humidity and temperature, your tuning will remain relatively stable.

However, one of my primary rules for the care and feeding of your piano is that you enjoy it! If that means putting in front of the window and playing with the sun in your eyes because that is what you enjoy, then by all means DO IT!! Enjoy your piano, we can fix everything else!


The Dark Side of Social Media

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

We have all heard about how “social media” is going to change the way we do business and organize our lives. While this may be true I have had the unfortunate experience recently of seeing personally how this new media can be very destructive to our business and reputations.  

I have always found it tacky and unseemly to solicit referrals and complimentary letters. I figured I would let my work stand or fall on its own merits. After being in business for 25 years and growing pretty steadily even through these very difficult years in our industry I assumed I was correct in my practice. Then along came these new social media. As any of you who have been practicing your art and business for any length of time have learned you cannot please everybody all of the time and there are some who are impossible to please no matter what you do or say. In the past, we could just let these people go their way and be glad they were out of our lives. Not anymore.

Now these folks have a large public forum in which they can veritably scream their displeasure and not be bothered with truth or fairness. And folks, you are defenseless against such an attack. They can say anything they want and give you a low rating with unsubstantiated accusations. This becomes a permanent record of your business for the whole world to see.

As we all know complainers are much more vocal than those who complement, so in the normal flow of life they will leave a much larger mark. In these new forums, if those who would compliment your business don’t bother to do so, all you are left with are the complainers. And it doesn’t take many to make you look very bad.

So, here I am now asking you, if you have ever done business with ANR Piano, and whether you were 100% satisfied or not, would you mind sharing your thoughts? After seeing how much damage a few negative, unbalanced comments can make, I have made it a point to spread as much good rating as possible, especially among the small businesses which would be hurt the most by these professional complainers.

Even if you have some honest complaints, I would love to hear about it. I know as ANR Piano has grown rapidly over the past several years we have not always been able to live up to our standards of customer service. We have often become over whelmed just trying to manage our growth and too often things slip through the cracks.

I think the take-away from my experience with these impossible-to-please folks is that regardless of the challenging people we encounter in our journey we need to stay focused on our goals and continue to serve our fellow humans as best we can. We cannot worry about those disturbed souls who would prefer we were all as miserable as they. None of us are perfect, nor do we always provide perfect service, but our humanity and occasional failings do not diminish all of the good we otherwise do.