New App Makes Roland Digital Pianos Even Better

Roland Piano Partner 2 App

Roland’s FREE “Piano Partner” app is available now for iOS and Android devices.  Click photo for details.

Last weekend, Roland introduced the highly-anticipated sequel to their wildly popular “Piano Partner” app:  Piano Partner 2… and we couldn’t love it more.

Unlike the original Piano Partner, Piano Partner 2 is available for BOTH iOS devices (like the iPad) and Android devices.  Also, unlike the previous app, Piano Partner 2 connects to the piano wirelessly via Bluetooth (instead of the quirky and less reliable WIFI technology featured in the previous app).  These two upgrades alone would be praise-worthy, but the biggest news is what the new app does!  Like Piano Partner, Piano Partner 2 allows compatible Roland Digital Piano Owners to change the sounds on their piano or play on-board songs with a simple pp2-rhythmstouch of the tablet screen.  Users can adjust the playback speed, mute one or both hands, and play along with metronome or customized accompaniment.  Also like the previous app, Piano Partner 2 includes a powerful flashcards game that challenges the player with either note recognition or ear training skills at a variety of experience levels.  NEW to Piano Partner 2, however, is the Rhythms feature.  With Rhythms, Piano Partner 2 users can build their piano skills with intelligent accompaniments that follow the chords you play.

…and the best part?  Piano Partner 2 is FREE.

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Ask James – Which Pianos are the Best?

One of the great joys of working in The Piano Business is meeting people around the World who share your love of music.  Invariably, when I travel, I encounter at least a few people who ask me what I do.  When I tell them I work in The Piano Business, they light up – full of personal stories that either make them glad they play or wish they did.  The second inevitable question they ask me is really The Great Question of our Business:  Which Pianos are the Best?  I usually try to deflect the question – citing personal presence, differing student needs and budgetary limitations… but every once in awhile, I encounter someone who really wants to know how I determine which pianos to represent and what criteria drive my interest in new brands.  Obviously, that question requires a more detailed answer… so I thought I would make it the topic of my next blog.

Growing Up Steinway

Every piano store has a “headline” brand (a company they promote heavily due to a number of factors, including quality, value, reputation and performance).   My company is no different.  In fact, Gist Piano Center began their relationship with Steinway & Sons in 1975 – a year before I was even born.  You can read more about how that relationship formed here.  For almost 39 years, Gist Piano Center promoted Steinway as “The World’s Finest Piano” due to its handcrafted quality, vast history and brand name recognition.  The truth is, however, there are many other pianos who could claim to be “The World’s Finest Piano,” including such illustrious brands as Bosendorfer, Fazioli, Grotrian and more.  Gist selected Steinway & Sons because they were made in America and because they were far less expensive than their European competition.  This is what made Steinway & Sons a fantastic “headline brand” during those years.

steinway pianoI worked part-time in the piano business during the mid-90s, but I joined The Piano Business as a career officially in 2001.  I started at a small piano store in Illinois that also used Steinway & Sons as their headline piano brand.  They also carried the Steinway-designed Boston piano, Essex, Kohler & Campbell pianos, Knabe and Roland Digital Pianos.  It was a great mix.  I grew up in The Piano Business fully immersed in Steinway product (as well as a few others).  I even went through five years of Steinway training and to graduate from “William Steinway University” (a marketing initiative designed to help piano retailers learn the Steinway system of brand promotion).    Thus, when I decided to move out of my small town and into a larger community, Gist was a natural fit – considering that they carried all the same brands I did in my small town piano store.

The Changing Face of Retail

When I first came to Gist, I was surprised at how comparable most things were to my experiences in Illinois.  Granted, folks in Kentucky preferred mahogany woods over walnut, but things were otherwise very similar.  The winds of change were blowing, however, and I eventually began to see problems with our piano selection.

First of all, The Great Recession of 2008 made it very difficult to sell high-priced, handmade pianos in Kentucky.  There just wasn’t much market for a piano that retails for over $50,000.  We had no problem selling used ones (a practice we have continued to this day), but selling NEW American pianos became increasingly difficult.piano prices

Secondly, despite a total lack of inflation, these high-priced pianos continued to increase in cost annually.  Having just seen this phenomenon in the housing industry, we realized that carrying new, high-cost pianos with inflated price tags would only push clients to shop for used or rebuilt pianos.  It was a bad decision for our clients and for us.

Around this same time, we began to see how mobile devices were changing the face of piano education.  More and more students were purchasing digital copies of print music and using play-a-long material in their daily practice.  In order to stay relevant in to today’s piano students, we needed to partner with a company who understood the future of the piano industry.

It was time for us to make a change.

Finding New Brands

Immediately after cancelling our relationship with the American piano brand, we decided to take on a famous Japanese brand.  …and, at first, we were pleased with the decision.  They we were well-respected, they had a ton of great resources and they had a strong focus on technology.  Unfortunately, we discovered that they had their own set of problems.

First, their technology was pretty expensive.  Most of the technology they offered put their pianos out of reach for beginners with a limited budget.  Instead of buying a piano with factory-installed headphones system, our clients would purchase a “silent” system and have it installed yamaha clavinovaon one of our other piano brands – for a lot less money.

Secondly, the acoustic piano market was flooded with used pianos shipped in from Japan and China (with just a little cabinet polish and hammer filing).  In many cases, these used pianos were better deals than the new ones – and the “Grey Market” argument we were given to disavow them was so shaky even my factory rep had a hard time believing it.  Again, selling used pianos was easy.  Selling new ones… not so much.

Finally, after only two years, we made arrangements to go our separate ways.

A Way Forward

During this low point, I began to look back over our brand history and I noted that Gist has carried over 35 different piano brands throughout its 45-year history.  Famous brands like Petrof (1996-2003), Estonia (2009-2011), Kawai (1998-2005), Kimball (1988-1996), Story & Clark (1979-1981), Wurlitzer (1975-1981) and Pearl River (2004-2005) had all been a part of our past.  We sold a TON of them even though they weren’t our “headline brand.”  …and that made me question whether or not we needed a “headline brand.”

With all this in mind, I went to the big music trade show in Anaheim – a showcase for piano brands from all over the World.  I spent four days playing everything – from starter-level pianos to high-end designer grands.  I even played a $450,000 piano that looked like a peacock!  Phew.
My goal was to find The Best Piano for my store.  It had to have a familiar name, a solid reputation, top-notch construction, great warranty support, a magnificent sound and touch and the ability to interface with modern technology.  It also had to be affordable for more of the people in my community… and I’ll admit that I was not optimistic that I would find a brand that fits this tall order.piano trade show

Luckily, The Piano Business is going through a strange metamorphosis right now.  Over the past several years, economic factors have caused brands like Baldwin, Wurlitzer, Chickering, Ellington, and Story & Clark to go out of business – selling their brand names to larger companies who have consolidated their own offerings down to just a handful of pianos.  The Business has shrunk so much that we’re actually starting to see NEW brand names (like Kingsburg, Brodmann, Geyer and more) emerging from the ashes.  Thankfully, I was able to find the perfect solution for our company.

Introducing Brodmann

Finally, after months of research, teacher trials, performance testing and brand vetting, I am proud to say that we have found THE Best Piano… for now:  Brodmann.  …and that is really how it works.  Because brands in The Piano Business come and go so rapidly, it’s really impossible to shop by brand anymore.  THE Best Pianos are the ones who give the best performance and longevity for the best possible price… and that is an equation that can change overnight. 

Brodmann PianosThankfully, our staff of highly-trained technicians, piano historians and business leaders are constantly evaluating our inventory – making sure that our clients get THE Best Piano for THE Best Price.  …and while I’m sure everyone says that about their pianos, I can offer you something they can’t:  proof.  That’s right.  After 45+ years and over 35 different brands, we at Gist can tell you not only which brands are wonderful today… but we can tell you which ones will hold up well over their 40-year lifespan.  …and we can take pianos apart and show you what makes ours better than anyone else’s in town.

Like Gist Piano Center, I am far less impressed by a fancy logo or a high price tag.  I have seen how brand names can lead folks astray time and time again.  Instead, I am much more interested in the quality of a piano’s construction – much more concerned about the instrument’s design than its marketing… and I’m much more attracted to its performance than to its luxury price tag.  THAT is what makes Gist different.  We are working hard with our community partners to build a new generation of piano players and we are dedicated to making sure we outfit those players with THE best instruments their money can buy.  Which piano is best?  Once you take the time to get to know us, I can say this with confidence.  The best piano is the one we recommend just for you.  Come in today and see what’s new!  Better yet – ask us why we picked it!  You’ll quickly see why an investment at Gist is truly a “sound” one.

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FREE Facebook Cover Images from Roland!

Are you a #Roland #DigitalPiano lover?  Do you OWN a Roland?  Well, show your Roland pride with a FREE Facebook Cover Image!  Download your favorite below!

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Students who learn on a Roland digital piano learn up to 60% faster than students who learn on traditional pianos.

Piano takes on the 21st century with apps!

There’s an app for that!?! Learning how to play any instrument, especially piano, has changed a lot in recent years. Gone are the days where the only way to learn your notes was to use your rubber-banded flash cards, and learning to count with the monotonous click-click of your metronome was the only way to master new rhythms! Yup, there are apps for that – actually TONS of apps!

Let’s face it, kids these days (and some of us adults) love using our electronics. An iPad or tablet is often a requirement for kids to use in school. Therefore, it is not a huge leap to find that you can do so much musical learning in a fun and innovative way on your own wireless device. And another popular way to get information? You got it, social media! We have started a most excellent board on our Pinterest page for you to easily find some of the greatest apps to use with your piano, especially Roland pianos. You’ll find a few listed below, but keep checking out our Roland Piano Apps board as we add new apps all the time!

Rhythm CatRhythm Cat – Perfect for iOS and Android device, this app helps beginning piano students learn from day one! Students learn to count and develop their listening skills without even realizing they are actually doing the work!

 

 

Piano MaestroPiano Maestro – A personal favorite, Piano Maestro is a great resource for any piano student. From learning “classical” pieces, to One Direction, students have the opportunity to improve their rhythm skills and piano technique while learning and performing songs with fun musical accompaniments. It’s like playing with a band! Better yet, it’s free and can be used with any digital AND acoustic piano.

Sheet Music ReaderSheet Music Reader – You can be one of the “cool kids” and ditch the pile of books that you carry around with missing covers and torn pages. Now you can carry your music in your trusty iOS device with this great app. Scan your music and save to Sheet Music Reader, or purchase new music. You have a lot of options! You can even mark up the music as much as you want. Need to write in that pesky F# accidental? No problem. But what about turning pages? With your Roland HP-600 series piano (or later), connect your iPad via Bluetooth (yes, you read that correctly….Bluetooth!) to the piano and turn the pages with the push of a pedal. If you’re an Android user, check out the similar MobileSheets Pro app.digital-pianos-with-bluetooth

But wait, there’s more! Go visit our Pinterest page to find more great apps to use on your piano learning adventure (Yes, there is even a app for the very popular Piano Adventures series that is perfect for using with your Roland piano). Follow the Roland Piano Apps board to make sure you don’t miss out!

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Let’s Get Digital: A Piano Lesson for Piano Teachers

digital-pianos-with-bluetooth

Music Education now includes smart phones, tablets and digital equipment.

Technology is as familiar to today’s piano students as the unique arrangement of black and white keys is to pianists. In fact, studies show that digital pianos are outselling their acoustic (upright) cousins at a rate of six-to-one Worldwide. That means that more and more piano students are beginning their journey with technology and – as a “cool” piano teacher – it’s critical that you speak that language well!

You know that technology can help you and your students, but where do you begin? Digital pianos, tablets, MIDI files, apps – there are many options, but how do you find the best solution for you?

Roland's Laura Zaruta is a piano educator and clinician.

Roland’s Laura Zaruta is a piano educator and clinician.

Join us for a hands-on practice session where we all become students again! Sit at a piano with your tablet and smart phone, and experience a lesson from the perspective of a modern piano student. Watch how fun and productive technology can be as we work through a basic lesson plan together. You’ll see the real-life applications for many of these simple technologies and you’re guaranteed to find at least a few things that are perfect for your studio.

Don’t miss this interactive workshop with Piano Educator, Roland Clinician and Lifetime Student, Laura Zaruta. Admission for this program is free, but since everyone will be at a piano we ask that you RSVP to Heather Hamilton by Saturday, February 27.

Let’s get digital together! See you there!

Louisville:  “Leap Day” Monday, February 29, 2016 (10am – 1pm)
Lexington:  Tuesday, March 1, 2016 (10am – 1pm)

Gist will serve a light lunch following the workshop.

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