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piano

How I picked my digital piano

In Seattle, I’ve settled into a cave with slate blue cabinets. I’ve gotten myself a mattress and a bed and a shelf.

Things have fallen into place bit by bit. I appreciate all the Artiden friends who reached out or sent a simple hello.

Here I am, sitting on a silver milk jug thinking about life in front of a plateful of cheese, in Seattle.

Every time I come to the Seattle Pike Market, I visit the handmade cheese factory. I love grilled cheese. I’ve always wanted to try crab pot, but by the time I finish my grilled cheese, I’m always too full. Pan the cheese fanatic drove down to visit me, and we were too busy eating cheese.

In music, I’ve always had a Yamaha acoustic piano, so in my mind, I was getting a Yamaha digital piano. It’s like my handmade grilled cheese. There’s no question.

I went to the music store to play most of the digital pianos they had while Pan looked like he was in pain. (Pan says I have to also say that he drove me there and back while I was asleep with my mouth wide open)

My first criteria was that I wanted the touch to feel like an acoustic. Good luck with that, Grace, most digitals don’t have real hammers inside.

The second was that I wanted it to have good sound quality and some kind of connectivity for recording.

That’s it. That’s all I asked for. If you want to see some of the research I’ve done about travel-sized digital pianos, take a look here.

I dallied at the music store and voted the Yamahas off the island right away. I am looking for THE ONE and as soon as I sat down, I knew it wasn’t a Yamaha.

I went back and forth playing a Casio and Roland, when a wannabe Beethoven started competing with me. I swear he turned up the volume on his digital piano, so I turned up mine too, since I couldn’t hear myself play.

In the end, I got a Roland FP30. It’s the closest to an acoustic in the store that’s in my budget.

Here is what I learned about shopping for pianos / starting your music studio:

  • know what you DON’T want. I used to try pianos and say “I don’t know what I think of this”.
  • watch videos where people sample different pianos and close your eyes – you’ll find that you’ll prefer one over the other, intuitively.
  • be ready to fall in love with an unexpected piano.
  • having a piano won’t motivate you to play piano. it’ll become a piece of furniture unless you’re already motivated to play. so it doesn’t matter how expensive or cheap your piano is, if you’re only looking for a new piano to “get motivated” to play more.

If you’d like to see my behind-the-scenes music / techniques and also be the first to see my music tips videos, I have a Patreon! It’s a way get perks in return for joining a membership each month. You can contribute as much or as little as you like.

While I’ve gotten back on my feet financially, this is a great way to support what I’m doing and I appreciate any amount that you’d like to contribute. I thought about starting this for a long time, and everyone has been beyond supportive.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions, so I’ll answer them below.

FAQ about joining on Patreon

I don’t want my name to be public. Can I donate anonymously?
Yes! Check out this link.

How can I donate?
Go to this link and click “Become a Patron.” Then, you can choose how much you want to donate each month, and you’ll be guided through the process. Here’s a tutorial on how to do this.

What forms of payment does it accept?
It accepts credit/debit card, Paypal, and more. Check out the full list here.

Please note: I don’t get access to your payment information, and you can cancel the membership at any time.

Here’s my Patreon page! Join here.

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Thank you for an amazing 2018.

Grace Lam

It’s customary to say “the year has been a [insert object that goes up and down, like rollercoaster]”.

Well, son, I don’t want to say it, but… the year has been like hormones. 

For me, there was the highest of highs, I felt like I was flying, when my dreams were coming true. It also brought me to the pits of the earth–I sunk so far down into myself that I turned inside out.

Slowly but surely, I saw more parts of the world than my little heart could handle, and I craved the mountains and oceans surrounding home again.

This year, I was good at pushing myself out of my box. I might’ve said that last year too, but this year, I went farther than I thought I would and could.

I started the year by writing about how I was moving for a job in the USA. I actually accepted the offer in Oct 2017, and now it’s Dec 2018, but honestly, I didn’t think many people would care about what went on in my life.

Then I got some encouraging comments and messages from Artiden, which led me to open up further.

I chopped off most of my hair and started paying more attention to myself. If I can only spend 90% of my days doing what I love, I’m intending to maximize this time.

My travels took me back to Asia, and Europe. I stumbled upon many curious events.

For example, I was in South Korea when they declared “peace” with North Korea (couldn’t see anything at the border besides fog). I was in Paris when they won the World Cup (man, they didn’t stop screaming until 5am everyday on the streets). I was in London when the entire city marched to protest against Trump (I was careful to display my Canadian tag on my backpack so I wouldn’t get punched “by accident”).

The time I almost went deaf. It was terrifying to see how poorly I function when deaf in one ear. I couldn’t even walk without tripping.

In a moment of bravery, I admitted to hundreds of thousands of people online, on Artiden, things that I only told two of my close friends. Things even my mother only found out last month. I thought it would be of help to someone out there.

All my Artiden friends were so supportive, and I’m so lucky to have found such an amazing group.

People have asked me to teach piano online, so out of curiosity, I picked a few students to teach over the internet. Would it work this time? I’d tried teaching online piano lessons four years ago when the lag and video quality were garbage.

But sometimes I forget that technology improves exponentially every few months. The video quality is really good.

I get to teach music students in different timezones so the schedules always work out, and the students get to return to their own lives right after the lesson, no driving in the rain nor waiting!

Bob (an Artiden community friendo) and Pan are two of the first people who asked me to teach, so thank you!

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What happens when you set a “solid” music goal

Grace Lam Piano

Armed with new sheet music, I told myself I’d learn jazz everyday up until Christmas.

I sat down to film my progress, good or cringe-worthy, and worked at it for an hour or two everyday—jazz is a whole new ballgame if you’re a classical musician.

I know that we’ve talked about not having goals because that highlights all the things we don’t have… but I’m convinced that setting a solid goal will serve you really, really well.

A solid goal is simple enough that you can name the outcome in one sentence and there are checkboxes for the achievement. It’s small enough to break down for something you can do everyday—it only takes 66 days to create a habit and consistency wins!

Instead of “I want to be a better jazz pianist,” it could be:

“I want to learn to play jazz piano music so that I can swing and groove with the beat.”

All I needed to do was play piano everyday and learn jazz this winter.

Here is a collection of me playing piano. I’m really happy about some of these, and I hope you are too!

The First Noel

It’s challenging to improvise in public, where you’re actively disturbing Sunday morning coffee drinkers. A lot of this piece is improvised, so let me know what you think!

Thank you to Monika Szucs for filming and editing the video!

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What To Do When You Can’t Practice Piano

What To Do When You Can't Practice PianoFor my next stage of life, I decided that I want to travel spontaneously. There will be a gym bag in my closet packed with clothes and a toothbrush for last-second trips. I will drive to remote islands to lay underneath the stars on my SUV’s roof and grab my surfboard when I feel like it.

I will be away from my piano so often that my fingers will not be as light for Liszt anymore, but I will befriend someone who plays a ukulele so I can enjoy live music during my travels. I will still tune my piano every year so I can play whenever I can.

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A Gift That Keeps Giving

A gift that keeps giving

Hi friends, I’ve returned to school for a few months this year.

We only need 60 days to pick up a new habit, so here’s to the process of learning something new. I’d rather not sit in a lecture, but if I have to, I might as well tell you stories about it. Shouldn’t we be constantly learning, anyways?

 

We are sitting in lecture, and the professor is explaining a software concept that’s not particularly interesting, speaking quickly in a soft voice.

“This section of the memory is shared—”

A male student sitting in front of me slaps himself in the face.

The professor proceeds with the lecture.

The student keeps slapping himself and making loud noises. Someone behind me is chomping on chips. I am trying not to laugh, but I could be jiggling the entire row of seats.

My laughter subsides but returns in waves when the guy slaps himself again. He is huffing loudly. I don’t know who’s more distracting to the class: the guy slapping himself, the girl giggling behind him, or the guy chomping away on chips behind us.

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8 Piano Solos For A Winter Wonderland

8 Piano Solos For A Winter Wonderland

This showcase is compiled and written by my friend Molly Rahal!

As you get older, time seems to go by faster and faster. Can you believe it’s already part-way through November?

One of the things I love so much about winter is how eternal it seems. Almost as if we’re stuck in time.

In a way it’s comforting, how the sun setting early never seems to end, and how when it snows, the delicate white powder silences the streets.

Winter is jolly. It’s magical. Why not learn a piano solo which reflects that?

Here is a small collection of eternally beautiful and festive piano solos to enrich your winter with tunes and good spirit!

 

1. Winter Wonderland – Felix Bernard

A relevant title for a fitting song.

Sheet Music

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Why Music Theory Can Be A Waste of Time

Why Music Theory Can be a Waste of TimeBack when kids still asked what Google was, a lot of us had to take music theory classes. Now, I can still point out which fingers Schumann cut off. Maybe some people will point out that they were paralysed, but to a pianist, the fingers might as well have been cut off if you can’t move them.

I can’t remember how many years he spent torturing his fingers, but Google can. And it was a waste of months of my time, memorizing mundane details about composers’ lives, about which years they wrote which letters to their secret lovers, that happened to influence their music a little.

I wouldn’t have done it if the music curriculum didn’t require it to get a piano diploma.

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