Thursday, August 27, 2015

More easy ways to learn to play the piano!

As we mentioned in our post earlier this week, it is easier than ever to learn to play an instrument. Whether it is an online interactive learning system like Playground Sessions or using an app on your tablet like NoteStar for the iPad, learning has never been easier, faster or more fun.

Yamaha has a long history of teaching students. The Yamaha Music Education System has been around for over 50 years teaching students from all walks of life how to play different instruments.
But, did you know that Yamaha MusicSoft also has several different teaching systems available?
Here are a few examples:

Keyboard Encounters/Keyboard Encounters Kids
Re-create the Keyboard Encounters classroom experience for both adults and kids in your own home! Our learning tool uses backing MIDI tracks that are compatible with Keyboard Encounters lessons, and are the same ones used in the Keyboard Encounters classroom. These are a great confidence builder for students!

Here are the benefits of using the MIDI backing tracks:
  • It recreates the classroom environment
  • It facilitates a helpful practice session which leads to a better live performance
  • Immersing yourself in the process makes learning more enjoyable
Check out the current songs for Keyboard Encounters here

QuickPlay QuickPlay was designed specifically for Yamaha Clavinova owners and can be used in a classroom environment or for a student to learn at home, at their own pace. Most Clavinova keyboards include lights that illuminate above each key to show you which key to play next and will wait for you so you can learn at your own speed. The companion books also teach you basic music theory to create a platform for further musical study. You can view the catalog of available songs here.

Playground Sessions A brand-new piano learning software that is fun for all ages. This system uses active learning, elements of gaming, and your favorite songs to make learning piano fun! (see the previous blog post for more details).

NoteStar Keyboard players – experience playing and singing your favorite songs with a real band. NoteStar is Yamaha’s digital sheet music application for the iPad that features hands-free, smooth-flowing, easy-to-read digital sheet music accompanied by realistic audio backing tracks with vocals. You can play along with the band (with or without vocals), explore “Lessons Collections", create custom mixes and more! Check out NoteStar here.

Follow Lights If you have a Yamaha keyboard with guide functions, this may be the easiest way to learn yet! Using the guide system built into the keyboard, you watch for the light to illuminate above the key and press that key! It will even show you the music notation for the song right on the display screen of your keyboard.

With this Follow Lights feature, you can learn at your own pace. And, the song will wait for you to select the next correct note before continuing to play.

While learning to play the melody, your keyboard will be playing a full backing track as accompaniment. Unlike traditional MIDI files, these special tracks are designed to compensate for your learning and will sound great at any tempo! Check out our Follow Lights catalog here.

As you can see, there are many different ways to learn! We encourage you to explore each one and find the best fit for you and your learning style.

Have questions? Please reach out to us through this blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

School Is In - Make It Fun This Fall With Playground Sessions!

We can't believe it either - another year of school back in session!  If you happen to like our Facebook page, you've seen a number of posts regarding the importance of music education.  From the young to the young at heart, there are positive benefits to learning and performing music.

Here's the best part.  It is easier and more affordable than ever before to learn any instrument. Online, offline, teacher-based, DVD's, and books are just a few ways to learn the instrument of your choice. Although there are a few hundred online lesson plans available, Yamaha MusicSoft recommends Playground Sessions.

Click the video to the right to hear Quincy Jones speak to the natural partnership between Playground Sessions and Yamaha and why we chose to work with them.

We aren't alone in our endorsement of Playground Sessions.  In their latest assessment of online piano tools, TopTenReviews gave Playground Sessions was awarded the Gold Award and labeled the best way to learn the piano online.  Read their review here to learn why Playground was so highly rated.

Playground Sessions is available in the Yamaha MusicSoft store.  If you have already tried it out, let us know what you think in the comments below.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What’s the Difference Between PianoSoft Products?

Editor's Note: For information about the newest PianoSoft format, PianoSoft Audio, click here for an explanation of and latest titles of PianoSoft Audio.

Plus, New PianoSoft Solo Collections from U2 and Mann & Weil!

With Yamaha PianoSoft you can listen to original recordings of your favorite piano performances on your Disklavier, keyboard, or digital piano. When these songs are played back on a Disklavier, PianoSoft physically plays the piano – moving the keys to reproduce the original performance. It’s just like having a professional pianist in your home!

There are 4 different types of PianoSoft products to customize your listening experience:

PianoSoft Solo: Collections of solo piano performances

PianoSoft Plus: Piano performances with fully orchestrated backing tracks

PianoSoft Plus Audio: Your Disklavier plays in sync with a CD of audio tracks, featuring live instruments and vocals

Smart PianoSoft: Choose a CD from your personal collection, and it will play with the Smart PianoSoft file

Learn more about these PianoSoft products for your Disklavier here.

New PianoSoft Releases

We frequently release new PianoSoft products for your Disklavier. Here’s a selection of the latest releases.

"The Best of U2"
This PianoSoft Solo collection features spans the greatest U2 songs with classic hits like “New Year’s Day” and more recent songs like “Walk On”. Learn more

"The Soul and Inspiration of Mann and Weil"
A PianoSoft Solo compilation of legendary songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s classic hits including “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “On Broadway”. Learn more 

There are also 9 new Smart PianoSoft releases:

Madonna - "Immaculate Collection"

Celine Dion - "These Are Special Times"

Vivaldi -  "The Four Seasons"

Barry Manilow - "Ultimate Manilow"

Steely Dan - "A Decade of Steely Dan"

Mamma Mia! - The Musical

Van Morrison - "The Best of Van Morrison"

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Greatest Hits

Josh Groban – "Closer"

What's your favorite PianoSoft collection or product? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to Access More Sounds on Your Disklaiver

(Did you know you can make it sound like a choir?!)

While the Disklavier is known for its amazing playback capability, you may not be aware that it can actually produce other sounds as well. It’s almost like turning your piano into a synthesizer and instantly having a whole new level of musical creativity.

For example, why just play piano, when you could simultaneously play piano and strings at the same time? Or sound like a choir, trumpet, or even a timpani drum? 

The Mark III, Mark IV, E3, and pianos with a DKC-850 box can take advantage of this feature, because they all have additional sounds built right into the unit.

A combination I like to use a lot is combining the live acoustic sound with an electronic piano sound. Remembering my high school days brings back memories of this sound, which dominated the pop music scene. Often called the “David Foster” sound, it was used in the 80’s by Chicago in such hits as “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” where Foster layered the traditional ballad piano with the shimmery bells of an electronic piano. It was yet another way the electronic music would forever change the sound of popular music.

Back to the piano and strings combination – this is a great setting for a lot of music, from classical Mozart pieces to modern music. Film scores often feature piano and strings, so dig through some of those theme songs and you’ll see it works for a wide range of material. The “Godfather” theme, “Harry Potter,” and everything in between are great candidates for this combination of sounds. 

If your Disklavier has the ability to silence the acoustic piano altogether, you can even have more fun featuring the other instrument sounds all by themselves. With well over a hundred sounds, there’s no shortage of options. One of my favorites is the choir. People never cease to be impressed when they hear a group of singers coming out of piano. Plus, dial all the way to the end of the instrument list, and you may actually find some sound effects!

E3 model owners, if you haven’t had a chance to see this clip from the DVD, take a look at this for a quick 3+ minute tour of this feature and how to access it. 

What's your favorite Disklavier Voice? Let us know in the comments. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

8 Tips for Practicing Piano

Whether you’re just learning to play the piano or trying to master a piece by Chopin, practice is key. Here are our top 8 tips for practicing piano:

1) Set aside at least 20 minutes each day to practice
Practice, practice, practice! In order to truly master a piece of music there is no way around the practice mantra. Set aside at least 20 minutes each day to sit at the piano and practice your piece. That’s 20 minutes minimum – the more you can practice the better. If you do have more time try breaking your practice into 20 minute intervals throughout the day so it doesn’t feel too daunting.

2) Don’t forget to warm up
Have you ever tried to send a text message while your fingers were freezing? It’s nearly impossible to type quickly and without mistakes because your fingers are stiff. The same goes for playing the piano. It’s important to warm up your hands and fingers so you can fluidly play the keys. This is especially important when you are learning because you will stumble upon enough mistakes without clunky stiff fingers!

3) Don’t try to take on too much
Unless you’re a piano virtuoso, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to master an arrangement the first time you play it. Instead of taking on the entire piece, break it down into manageable sections. Depending on your ability this can range from just one measure to one page. Whatever you or your teacher decide is achievable for you, set your practice goal and stick to it.

4) Avoid the tendency to always start at the beginning
Starting at the very beginning isn’t always a good place to start. When you start at the beginning each time you sit down to practice, you only master the beginning before your allotted practice time is up. This means that you never give yourself time to tackle that difficult section and master it.

5) Practice slowly
Rushing through the piece means that you might make mistakes, and then you run the risk of learning those mistakes. Instead play each note deliberately until you are sure of your fingering. With the Yamaha Clavinova you can even record it at a practice tempo and play it back at a faster tempo to see how it will sound when you’ve mastered the piece. (Click here to learn how.)

6) You don’t need a piano to practice
While this advice might seem bizarre, you can practice piano key strokes absolutely anywhere. Practicing the fingering of a difficult section away from the piano can help your muscle memory when you do sit down to practice.

7) Listen to the song when you’re not playing
Knowing the tune of a song can often help your fingers move along the keys. Download the song you’re trying to master onto your MP3 player, and listen to it when you’re away from the piano. Having the song in your head can also get you excited to sit down at the piano and practice it yourself.

8) Pick a piece that you want to play
It may seem obvious, but you’re far more likely to practice a song that you like. You’re going to be playing the song over and over, so make sure it’s something that you want to hear! That’s where the Yamaha MusicSoft Printable Sheet Music library can help. It’s filled with thousands of songs, so you’re guaranteed to find something you like. And with our Printable Sheet Music you can instantly customize and print your choice of sheet music at home, so if you want to transpose the key or change the notation you can do that before you print.

Armed with a song you want to play, utilize these practice tips to become a better musician!

Let us know your favorite practicing tips in the comments.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Recording: The “Selfie” of Music

(How to record on a Clavinova with 1 button)

In this age of individuals chronicling every moment of their day by posting pictures of themselves, it does make one wonder why we don’t do the same with music. Recording a quick tune that you’ve practiced, or even better – composed - can satisfy the need to archive a happy moment just as much as posting what you had for dinner. We do it with pictures, video, and social media - why not music?

Maybe we’ve forgotten just how easy it is, especially on the Clavinova. Since its inception, and through all its changes, the Clavinova has always maintained the ability to record your performance with the press of one button. (“Performance” may be a bit intimidating. Let’s call it a moment of inspiration – mistakes and all.) This means that just like taking a picture, you can create that musical “selfie” to share with your friends and family with the push of a button, giving them a melodic snapshot of your life.

When you’re ready to capture that moment, it works just like any other device – you simply press the record button. The Clavinova will wait until you play your first note, then record everything after that point until you press stop.

But this is where the Clavinova has a big advantage over other recording devices: What you just created is a MIDI recording, not an audio recording. How is it different? MIDI recordings are made up of musical data, and essentially use your instrument’s internal sounds to play back your performance. It’s as if your instrument remembers exactly what you just performed and repeats it back to you, including not only the notes you played, but the pedal movements as well, and even the buttons you press on the panel. So if you are pressing tempo buttons or changing instrument sounds during the recording, the Clavinova will remember those changes and repeat them during playback.

You can also change other aspects of the recording after the fact, including tempo and key. It’s just like picking your filter and adjusting your contrast or brightness in an image. You can record a piece at a slow tempo, and play it back at a faster tempo using the tempo buttons. You can also record in one key, and play it back in another using the transpose buttons. Again, things that aren’t as easy with just audio.
Creating a selfie on your Clavinova is easy
Creating a "selfie" on your Clavinova is easy!
That’s just the beginning of what you’re Clavinova can do with recording. Stay tuned for more features next month, and make that musical “selfie” today!

Share your musical “selfie” with us on SoundCloud, Twitter, Vine, or Instagram using the hashtag #ClavinovaSelfie. Then share this article to teach your friends how to record their own.

Jason Nyberg
Yamaha MusicSoft

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What Makes You A Better Musician?

We recently asked this same question on social media, and were fascinated with some of the answers.  There were plenty of mentions of listening, listening, and more listening.  Some mentioned knowing music theory, while others relied on relentless amounts of practice.  A reply to this question on Twitter elicited a fascinating response: "dedication patience humility listening learning seeking refining individuality acceptance longing suffering sadness joy fear"

Of course, there is no one correct way.  But there are many paths to becoming better, and we at Yamaha MusicSoft enjoy hearing these success stories.  It's pretty well documented that some famous musicians do not know how to read music.

What do you think?  What makes you a better musician?