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Setting up Your Piano Room

If you have a brand new piano, congratulations!


I have no doubt you have done your research and are well on the way to setting up a space in which your piano is the focus, will be well loved and maintained and you can breathe out every ti...


Oh...


You're shoved it in the corner of the dining room?...


...the dining table is 2 foot behind it, meaning you have to squeeze in to sit down?...


...you're keeping all your paperwork on top of the piano??


This is - I hope - an extreme example. Yet it is the perfect setup to make sure that you never enjoy practising or playing.


I respect very much the fact that we have to make compromises - houses can't always be accommodating of our dream music room, and often the piano does become a fixture in a room for which it isn't its sole purpose - such as the dining room (or even the office!).


But let's work on the assumption that every single thing is possible as I encourage you to work down the list and adjust anything you can to get the creativity flowing...



piano pianist Jack Mitchell Smith macclesfield teacher piano teacher music musician
My piano on moving in day - in an empty room that was, at least, correctly carpeted and painted!



The Logistics



Before I explore the delights of the inspirational elements of setting up your music space / room, let's just check a few logistics:


Space



As we well know, you need to be able to sit at the piano at such a distance that you can fully outstretch your arms and only just be touching the fall-board. This means that it isn't enough to settle for being squashed into a corner - even if it feels only a minor inconvenience. You need to be able to move quite freely, with space behind your arms so that if you were to 'jump' off the keys neither they 'nor your elbows would not be in danger of hitting anything. If this isn't the case, this is one of the most essential changes you need to make. If you're really serious about learning piano properly, you might just need to rearrange that room to allow the piano to be moved somewhere more open.



Sound



As a general rule, upright pianos should be up against the wall and grand / baby grand pianos work best with some breathing space around the entire instrument. Whereas this is not always the easiest to apply to the home, it is worth making sure that you follow the rule at least for the upright piano (see my next point). As well as being set in a position to absorb some of the sound, it's worth pointing out that - unlike their grand counterparts which are 360 full degrees of beauty - the back of most upright pianos (even the top end ones) are seldom anything to write home about. This crosses over somewhat into the next main heading - the Inspiration - but worth a consideration.


Furthermore, it's worth choosing carefully which wall you do put your upright piano against. If you have neighbours backed onto a wall, remember it is easier to assume that they will complain - so avoid that wall in the first instance and save the need to move it somewhere else later on. Outside walls are good - internal walls are better still. Don't forget - sound interference is a two way stream! If your piano is in your living room on a busy street, are you going to be irritated by the sound of traffic constantly flowing? Or people walking past the house every couple of minutes?


If you have the wall space to spare, grand and baby grand pianos can certainly be pushed up against them to protect precious floorspace in a room, but these are instruments that really do benefit from the acoustics. If you don't have the space to make them a centrepiece it's unlikely you'll have invested in one in the first place - but if you do, make sure you respect it as a piano first. Treating it as a display table when not in use (putting over a tablecloth and displaying ornaments) is OK. Serving dinner off it...is not!



Heat



Another one that may be harder to put into practice but it is one to consider regardless;


Pianos don't like excess heat.


You certainly want to avoid backing pianos onto radiators, but you don't really want pianos near radiators if you can avoid it. Anything that gives off heat can warp the strings faster.


In addition to this, you need to be mindful of direct sunlight. Your two options that are doable by most every household are:


  • put the piano against a wall that you know doesn't get any sunlight or

  • use blinds instead of curtains and control how much sunlight is shining onto your piano (keep the blinds closed if going away for long periods of time).



The Inspiration



If you have the luxury of being able to designate a room to your piano, this is the section for you. But even if not - here are some tips to help maximise your output by keeping you inspired!



Colour Scheme



Even if you need to reconsider the colour scheme of an existing room - such as the dining room - it may be worth it. But definitely consider this as your push to think colour scheme!


You won't have chosen a piano that you don't like. So your piano will be an inspirational instrument for you to begin with. However, your room needs to be an extension of that.


For me personally, I love the idea of 'blank' canvas as this feels like something I can almost physically project my ideas onto. So wallpaper would be out of the question for me, leaving a plain painted wall - all one colour - as the way to go.


For me, keep it light! Regardless of how much natural light may be coming into the room anyway, lightness inspires! I have cream walls and a lovely, dark red carpet to contrast.


It all has to match, though. My black piano against cream walls works beautifully, however a white piano against those same walls may get a little lost. We still want to encourage light, however, so maybe a light shade of blue could be the ticket.


Anything goes, really - but it has to work for you!



Organisation



My first full size piano was actually an electric piano, and it lay in the hallway of our house where I remember chanting on many occasions phrases such as 'this is not a dumping ground!'.


This is especially true in a room that's not just designated for piano. In an office it may be tempting to leave papers on top, or you might find in a dining room that things get stored on it. Remember that as you sit at an upright piano, all of that is on an eye level with you so...if that's a mess...you get the idea (tidy desk, tidy mind etc. etc.).


Consider a more formal storage solution if you wish to keep your scores handily accessible. If you only have a few, lots of piano stools can store music. Otherwise, you can install cupboards or open units (such as Kallax) at a height above the piano (or next to if there is enough space between you and a wall to your side) so that it is easy reach but not in your face whilst playing.


If you absolutely insist on displaying things on top of the piano (such as ornaments), keep it classy by putting down a nice cloth. But bear in mind any inconveniences you may come across by doing so - no matter how small (for example, if you record a lot using the open lid, you'll have to take this display off and put it back on...every...single...time!)



Keep it Clean!



For an extension on keeping your space organised, we now discuss keeping it clean!


Who knows truly if dirt and dust is black or white? It shows up remarkably well on a black piano. It shows up remarkably well on a white piano. Either way, it's ugly. Therefore, keep your piano looking as fresh as can be with a good dusting every now and then. Once you see the shininess of a piano come back, it's amazing how much more motivating it is to play it!



Artwork and Progress



You have everything else in place now. A nice colour scheme, organisation and cleanliness. Now we can personalise.


If there is any picture art that you like that fits the aesthetic but most importantly inspires you, consider it for the wall. Imagine how it could influence your playing and your desire to play if it were the one directly facing you as you sit at the instrument!


And why stop there?


Avoiding cluttering, consider other motivational things that can go round your room to help.


Are there any pictures of you playing a special performance? Perhaps you have your latest grade certificates? In my case - directly facing me as I sit on the piano is a waveform of my first composition - 'The Butterfly' - taken from Spotify.


Investing in a piano is a big step. Heck, even accepting a free one is a big step!


But regardless of this, you can't rely on your instrument alone to bring you the maximum enjoyment. You can extend the influence into the piano room and ultimately create a circle of inspiration that is always guaranteed to capture your imagination and make you work as hard as possible towards playing piano!



piano pianist Jack Mitchell Smith macclesfield teacher piano teacher music musician
Note the cream walls and Grade certificates by my side. I don't keep things on top of the piano to allow for easy opening of the lid when recording.

piano pianist Jack Mitchell Smith macclesfield teacher piano teacher music musician
Behind the piano is my 'Butterfly' waveform, and notice at the top, my scores are kept out of eyeshot whilst playing, but easy reach when I need them!


 

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