Counting to 100: 31-40

(If you're new to this series, I am writing about my tuning journey, counting my first 100 tunings. Check out previous posts here: 

With two kids keeping me busy, finding time to rehash every tuning I do just isn't happening. Here's a review of the last 9 for anyone who may be keeping track with me. You might remember that I finally got an electronic tuning device (SAT I - it's a really old school one) to help me! It has definitely helped me improve my tunings and my speed as well. 

Piano Tuning #31: Our church's Baldwin upright with the SAT.

Every piano is slightly different in the way it needs to be tuned because of a lot of different factors (pianos are pretty complex). I consistently had trouble getting some of the G#'s and B's to fit when tuning this piano. Having the SAT helped me get them set in just right to fit the scale. I'm not sure why they were so much more tricky on this piano than others, but I was glad to finally start fixing the problem.

Funny note: I am pretty hyper aware of slightly out of tune B's because of my own struggles with them. Our church recently got a brand new grand piano and due to contract obligations it was tuned by someone else. I noticed immediately that a few of the B's weren't quite where I would want them. It makes me feel better that I am not the only one with this B tuning problem! 

Piano Tuning #32: a friend's Kimball spinet

  This piano has a double hitting problem, but because it is a spinet it is not an easy fix. Every time I tune it I look into it some more and try to fiddle with it to fix the double hitting. But I suspect I need to take it apart to really solve the problem. Since I am tuning it as a favor to a friend with both our little kids running around, I usually don't have the time to give it my full attention. Someday I'll take it apart and see what I can do. 

Piano Tuning #33: a student's Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet

These little pianos are workhorses. They don't always sound the prettiest, or play the smoothest, but they seem to last forever and hold up to abuse well. If you are looking for a used piano for your kid's lessons, a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet is not a bad choice. 

Piano Tuning #34: a friend's Kranich and Bach upright

This piano is old and not holding up well. The top notes were slipping this time that I tuned it. Sometimes pegs and pegboards just get worn out and won't hold a pitch as well anymore. That is a sign it is time to get a new piano.  

Piano Tuning #35: my own piano again. 

Yes, I tune my own piano, although it is a little like the cobbler's children. It is hard to schedule my own work in my own house. 

Piano Tuning #36: a Schumann upright

"Schumann" is not a quality name for a piano like it is for composers. This piano had several strings that were untunable, a broken flange, and badly needed a pitch raise. I did the best I could for it but advised them their piano did not have much life left. If your tuner ever has to tell you that, don't shoot the messenger. I understand it is disheartening to hear. However, better they tell you, than you continue to  pour money into an instrument that is just going to keep getting worse. 

Piano Tuning #37: Otto Altenburg spinet

I did a pitch raise over the course of 2014 when I first started tuning for this family. Now this piano is holding well and serving their needs perfectly. A little TLC for a piano goes a long way. 

Piano Tuning #38:  Kimball Upright 

This piano has been moved several times in the past 2 years and not happy about it. It takes a few weeks (or even longer) for pianos to stabilize after being put in a new environment. This affects pitch and necessitates more tunings for a time. 

Piano Tuning #39:  Back to my friend's Kimball spinet

This piano is still double hitting. I have several notes on it and I am going to make time in a few months to check it out more thoroughly. Since we have a special tuning arrangement, I haven't spent too much more time working on it.  

Piano Tuning #40:  Young Chang professional upright

I accompany a community choir and we hold our rehearsals and concerts at a local church. The church primarily uses an organ, so the choir hired me to tune the piano before our concert. I love being able to tune AND play pianos. Did you know that a lot of technicians don't actually play piano themselves? 

Phew I am almost up to date for this year. Stay tuned for pianos 41-50, coming in the next month or so. 

A Bride's Guide to Choosing (Classical) Music: Part 3

This is the third part in a series about selecting music for your wedding. Maybe you know you want something that sounds classical, but don't know where to start. You've come to the right place! 

 In Part 1  I walked you through some tips and basic decisions before choosing music (I recommend you head there first).

In Part 2  I talked about traditional music for wedding ceremonies. This was mostly a list of Baroque music and the really common classics.

Now in Part 3, I'll focus in slightly more modern music (disclaimer: most of it is still really old) that will give your wedding that classical music  sound without using the same music your parents chose. I'll cover these in two basic categories this time: Processional and Recessional.


The processional covers everyone walking in to your wedding, from the grandparents down to the bride. You can have several pieces (one for each party), one piece, or anything in between. I am not personally a big, "march for the bridal entrance" fan, so I don't have a huge list of marches for you, but here are a few suggestions:

Bridal Marches

Jupiter Hymn (Holst) This is just a small section of a larger work for orchestra. This arrangement is really long, but the hymn part goes until about 1:20.  I hope to post a link to my own (much shorter and appropriate) transcription soon. This hymn is a favorite in my family. 

Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky) I have to admit, I am a huge fan of the Russian composers. I've used this piece for Bridal entrances in the past and I think it is perfect. 

Nocturne from Midsummer Night's Dream (Mendelssohn) This is not a true march, but much more march-like than lyrical. 

If you want more Bridal marches, you might want to go back and look at the part 2 list again. They are not as common in the later eras, especially if you don't want them to sound like Sousa.

If you imagine something more flowing, and graceful, then these lyrical pieces would probably work better. Most of these would also work well for bridesmaids and other entrances. Remember that you can use any part of these, in any length. I will include examples where you may want to only use a brief portion. 

 Lyrical Bridal Processionals  

Pathetique Sonata, Movement 2 (Beethoven)  

Etude No 3 in E major (Chopin)

Wedding Theme (Douglas Briley)

The Young Prince and Princess from Scheherazade, Movement 3 (Rimsky-Korskav)

Ballade No. 4 (Chopin)  This was my bridal march for my own wedding, but I only used the first 30 seconds! The pianist repeated that once, and it was plenty to get down the aisle. 

Meditation from Thais (Massenet)

Clair de Lune from Suite Bergamasque (Debussy)

Flower Duet from Lakme (Delibes)

The Swan from the Carnival of the Animals (Saint- Saens)

Of Foreign Lands and Peoples, Kinderszenen no 1, Scenes from Childhood (Schumann)

Song without Words, No. 1  (Mendelssohn)

 I have some honorable mentions to add to the Processional list. These are pieces that I personally would not use for a bridal entrance. However, they are pretty and lyrical, and would be excellent selections for grandparents entrance, or grooms entrance, etc. (Or you can ignore my opinion, and If nothing from the last list struck your fancy for a bridal processional, you can also choose one of these).

Non-Bridal Processionals

The Shepherd Boy (Wilson) (Note: This is a player piano, but I had a hard time finding a recording at the tempo that I prefer) 

Sicilienne (Faure)

Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, Mvt. 1 (Mozart)

Traumerei, Kinderszenen No. 7 from Scenes from Childhood (Schumann)

Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring (Copeland) This is a really pretty arrangement of the Simple Gifts melody found in Copeland's piece for orchestra. 

Deux Arabesque, No. 1 (Debussy)

Intrada (Graupner)

Waltz in A minor (Chopin)


Now on to recessionals. Don't worry, this list is shorter. When you are leaving you probably want something buoyant and happy. Like I've said before, this is a good place to add something  modern that means a lot to just the two of you. But if you want to stick with the classical, here are some suggestions. 


Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky) This is my absolute favorite recessional. It is fun to play, it is fun to hear. If you don't want to play the whole thing (or your pianist can't because it gets quite difficult) you can just jump around. I usually start at 1:36 and then at 2:04 I jump back to the beginning so that the choral part doesn't come as soon. 

Heather Rose (Lange) (Ignore the floating fairy. I had a hard time finding a good recording of this). This is my second favorite recessional, and I will often play it as a postlude if I don't play it for the recessional. 

Jubilation (Recessional) (R.J. Mitchell)

Waltz from Swan Lake (Tschaikovski)

I'm not going to restate my disclaimer from part 2, but these are not the only pieces out there, and this does not delve into most of the really modern music or film scores. I do want to leave you with two pieces that are much more modern and I think could fit well for weddings. Consider these two bonus songs for this list:

Mrs. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice soundtrack (Dario Marianelli) This would be a very pretty processional, or a good addition to the prelude. 

Me and My Cello, Happy Together Cello Cover, (Piano Guys). This is an awesome recessional! 

A Bride's Guide to Choosing (Classical) Music: Part 1

There are many daunting parts to planning a wedding.  Choosing music is sometimes just another decision. So as a classical pianist who helps people make these sorts of decisions, I'm writing a comprehensive guide to choosing ceremony music. Part 1 will deal with basic guidelines to narrow down your selection. Parts 2 and 3 will walk you through lots of youtube clips to consider.

Now, this won't list every piece of classical sounding music ever written. There is SO MUCH music floating around, it is impossible to list it all. I have narrowed it down to Classical music (as opposed to pop music, rock, or jazz. For those of you paying attention in music appreciation classes, this includes Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and some select modern pieces). All this music can be played on the piano by the average wedding pianist and should sound right for the occasion. 

But first, Part 1:


 7 Tips for Planning Music for your Wedding Ceremony

1. You'll need a Processional

The processional is the part where everyone walks into the venue to start the show. You can have multiple little processionals. For example: one for the grandparents, one for the groomsmen, one for the bridesmaids, one for the bride.  Or you can cut it down to just a few, say one for everyone who needs to enter and then one for the bride. The combination is up to you.

2. You'll need a Recessional

The recessional is when you leave after saying "I do". This is usually one long song so that everyone can get out. If you want a pretty traditional playlist with something crazy at the end, this is where you would put it.

3. You might want something in the middle

There are some parts of the wedding ceremony  that could use some background music or a special song. These are usually the "unity" symbols- tying a knot, pouring sand, lighting candles, signing the paperwork, etc. This would be a good chance to have a special song that you both love, regardless of time period. However, this one is really optional.

4. Length of the Song

Walking down the aisle can take anywhere from 15 seconds (in a super tiny church or hotel) to a minute. It probably won't take longer than that unless your flower girl has a nervous meltdown or you have a really long entrance at an outdoor venue. So when you are listening to songs, consider that only a tiny bit of it will be played. If you listen to the beginning and think, "I don't really like this part" you can always ask your pianist to start in a different spot. Or if you only like the beginning, you can just ask for just that to be played.

For example, at my wedding, I walked down the aisle to the first 30 seconds of this Ballade by Chopin: If you keep listening beyond that, it gets a little sad and melodramatic. However the opening itself was exactly what I wanted. 

If you want more of a song played, you can always combine groups walking in to a certain processional or just wait until the song is finished to start the next one.

Recessionals as usually played in their entirety, but don't have to be.
5. Choosing Your Instruments

All of the songs that I list in the following blogs can be played on piano (you'll notice that all of the recordings are for piano) . However, if you want some combination of piano and strings, or an organ, or a different sound, most of these pieces can be arranged to work. Work with your instrumentalists so they know what you want. They might also have some favorite songs to suggest to you!

6. The Case against Recorded Music

You may think, "a pianist is expensive, I'll just use this recording". I would STRONGLY advise against that (and not just because I am a pianist!). There are too many problems waiting to happen with recorded music. Say you are running late, and the prelude recording runs out of music and goes on to the processional to early. Or the recording won't start and you walk down to silence. Or better yet, when you get to the front of the aisle, the recording is just abruptly stopped with no regards to whether or not it was a good stopping point.

If you hire a good pianist instead, they will tailor the music to whatever is happening at the very moment. If you are late, no problem, they'll just keep playing. They'll make the processional fit perfectly to the length of the entrance. If your flower girl gets scared and takes 3 times as long to get down the aisle as anticipated, they'll cover it and keep going.   Good background music makes those awkward moments endearing instead of terrifying. Hire a real life person who can make the difference.

7. Prelude and Postlude

Finally, the other music. Usually if you hire a pianist (or any instrumentalist), they'll play music before and after the ceremony for you too. If you have any requests, let them know. Otherwise, be nice and let them choose this music for you. They will draw from a wide range of repertoire that they already know and fill all the awkward silences. If you hand them a huge list of music you want them to play instead, be aware that they will probably charge you more to cover the amount of time it will take them to learn all the music. A large part of their job Is performed before your special day even happens, but when it finally arrives, they will make it worth the money.  

Stay tuned for second part of this series coming soon!

The End of Year 3: NHS&LCC

The New Hope- Solebury & Lambertville Community Choir (NHS&LCC) is wrapping up it's third year of existence! I've been there since the very beginning, in a restaurant playing a tiny keyboard, with a group of people trying to see their music in dim restaurant light.

But we've come a long way, folks. Now we meet in a church, with a piano that even got tuned last month. I have been with the choir long enough to hear a difference in sound and capabilities. It is cool that we have come so far in only 3 years! We are performing a piece this year that we have tried to learn for several concerts and just never really made it until now. Just like anything in music, it takes time to make progress. Most little kids sitting on a piano bench are not going to be winning awards in 6 months. But give them a few years of piano lessons, they will have a skill for life! 

Anyway, our end of season concert is coming, and you are all invited!

Just a note: we are performing a new work by an area composer and lyricist.

We are also performing this Requiem, which was written in the wake  of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. (This isn't us, but just a look at the cool stuff we are singing!)