Serving Illinois, Missouri and Greater St. Louis -- POB 653, Edwardsville, IL 62025, 618-654-1585

STEPHEN P. RENSBERRY ----- PIANO TUNER-TECHNICIAN ----- 35 YEARS EXPERIENCE

A finely-tuned piano can motivate you to play

   If you've ever wondered exactly how often you should get your piano tuned, let me offer a two-word response: It depends.
   It depends on the manner and frequency of play, on what kind of environment your piano is kept in, on the influence of climate and on the make, age and overall mechanical condition of your piano.
  Like people, no two pianos are exactly alike. The best advice I can give you is to make it regular. If there is more than one person in the household who plays regularly, getting it tuned twice a year is not too often. Annual tunings are standard for the vast majority of my customers, but I have many who have their piano tuned ever other year and some even longer. In truth, even the finest of pianos will not stay perfect for weeks and months on end. But a regular tuning should, at minimum, prevent it from becoming all but unbearable to listen to.
   The greatest risk in letting a piano go for a long time without being tuned is that the pitch will have a tendency to drop, and at a certain point raising it to standard pitch becomes difficult with just one tuning. There also is a risk of string breakage when raising the pitch on some older pianos that may have developed rust on the strings. Newer pianos can sometimes need two tunings to become stable if they have dropped too far in pitch.
   In my experience, one of the most important reasons for getting your piano tuned regularly is simply the motivation that it provides to sit down and play. Making music is a challenge. Mastering it takes a lot of time. Knowing your piano is finely tuned and in harmony can make a world of difference.  -- Steve Rensberry

The intriguing nature of music

   What is music?
   A world beyond time?
   A refuge for the heart in a world of longing and uncertainty?
   A synthesis of mind, body and soul?
   "What is the secret of music's stranger power? Seeking an answer, scientists are piercing together a picture of what happens in the brains of listeners and musicians," reads the subhead to an article by Norman Weinberger entitled Music and the Brain, published by Scientific American in 2004.
  What lies at the heart of music's ubiquitous nature? How exactly does it move us? Weinberger asks.
   His summary findings: "Overall, findings to date indicate that music has a biological basis and that the brain has a functional organization for music. It seems fairly clear, even at this early stage of inquiry, that many brain regions participate in specific aspects of music processing, whether supporting perception (such as apprehending a melody) or evoking emotional reactions. Musicians appear to have additional specializations, particularly hyperdevelopment of some brain structures."
   Associated Press Science Writer Malcolm Ritter looks at another aspect to the issue in the article, Study: Love music? Thank a substance in your brain, which points to new research suggesting one specific reason for humanity's undying and historic attraction to music.
   "Whether it's the Beatles or Beethoven, people like music for the same reason they like eating or having sex: It makes the brain release a chemical that gives pleasure," Ritter says in regard to the new study.
   That substance, in case you're wondering, is dopamine.
   Real-time brain scans of people as they were listening to music revealed another interesting fact: The effect was immediate and direct.
   "PET scans showed the participants' brains pumped out more dopamine in a region called the striatum when listening to favorite pieces of music than when hearing other pieces. Functional MRI scans showed where and when those releases happened," Ritter says.
   Nevertheless, while recent research gives us a glimpse into the complex effects of music on the human brain, the verdict remains out on a number of fundamental questions, namely: What is music? Does it have meaning?  And what exactly is its evolutionary or metaphysical purpose?
  There are a number of theories, but none so far appears to be definitive.
   One thing we do know with certainty: The profound ability of music to move and motivate us is as much a part of what makes us human as is the ability to love or appreciate a beautiful sunset.