• Sheet Music Department

    August 20, 2016

    ABRSM selects Forsyth publications for new piano syllabus

    We are delighted that pianists preparing for their Grade 2 and 3 exams in 2017-2018 can choose to include pieces from our own publications among their set works.

    * * *

    Grade 2 candidates will find ‘The Stowaway’ by Stanley Wilson (1899-1953) printed as piece B:3 in the ABRSM’s selection of Piano Exam Pieces 2017 & 2018, Grade 2. Evidently anxious to remain hidden below deck, the stowaway tiptoes around sempre pianissimo and sempre staccato, often at the very depths of the piano’s range. But perhaps he is being over-cautious: Wilson’s music plays on the melody of the traditional drinking song ‘Down among the dead men’ – a reference to empty bottles rather than corpses – suggesting the drunken sailors are oblivious to his presence for now.

    Players wondering what becomes of the stowaway can enjoy the rest of Wilson’s nautical series of pieces in Ship Ahoy! In this volume, published by Forsyth, ‘The Stowaway’ (No.7) is ominously followed by ‘Davy Jones’ Locker’ (No.8) - perhaps a dark hint that the stowaway is eventually discovered by the sailors and cast to the bottom of the sea.

    * * *

    At Grade 3, players have the opportunity to present a piece by Forsyth’s signature composer, Walter Carroll (1869-1955), dubbed the Beatrix Potter of piano music. Manchester-born Carroll was head of composition at the Royal Northern College of Music for many years and specialised in music for children, regularly working with teachers at some 400 schools. Having chosen a piece from Carroll’s In Southern Seas for their 2015-2016 syllabus (Grade 3, piece B:1), the ABRSM has turned this time to his volume of Forest Fantasies, selecting ‘Dwarfs of the Mist’ (No.8) as piece B:5. The nine ‘tone-pictures’ that make up the Forest Fantasies are populated by elves, fairies and other mythological beings, including the ‘Dwarfs’, who are introduced by this couplet from Sir Walter Scott:

    Dimly seen through twilight bending,

    Lo, what varied shapes attending!

    In place of a tempo marking, Carroll simply adds the instruction ‘Grotesque’, inviting players to make the most of the frequent bursts of noise that increasingly interrupt the tranquility of the dusky scene.

    * * *

    Meanwhile, ABRSM also continues to recognise the importance of Forsyth’s recorder publications, which provide 16 pieces on the current 2014-2017 syllabus. These range from Sasha Johnson Manning’s ‘A Tale’, from A Birthday Garland for Descant Recorder, at Grade 3 (descant) to Christopher Brown’s Caprice Op. 68, from Recital Pieces for Treble Recorder, Vol. 1, at Grade 8 (treble).

    All set works for ABRSM exams are among the 100,000+ titles available through the sheet music department in person, by phone and via this website.


  • Guitar Department

    August 20, 2016

    A guide to L R Baggs pickups

    The acoustic pickup market is a crowded and rather confusing place to be dipping your toe into but for this blog we thought it might be helpful to take a closer look at our best selling pickup brand, LR Baggs. Baggs have really come into their own in the last few years, appearing on numerous high end brands of acoustic guitars as well as being a very popular after market option for amplifying a favourite acoustic guitar.

    There are a number of models of Baggs pickups including microphones, transducers that fit under the saddle or to the bridge plate, magnetic pickups and systems that blend sounds from more than one source. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular ones.

    Lyric

    The Lyric is a microphone that sits on the bridge plate (a hardwood reinforcement of the soundboard that sits directly under the bridge) of the guitar. Internal microphones have an advantage over simply miking up a guitar in the conventional sense in that the mic is sheltered from extraneous sounds by the body of the guitar so they are a lot less feedback prone. However the drawback of this is that they tend to pick up a lot of harmonic content that never makes it to the outside of the guitar, giving a cluttered and rather boomy sound  that doesn’t really reflect the tonal characteristics of the guitar as you hear it when you play. The Lyric counters this problem with a very clever preamp design that clears up the output of the mic, giving a much more natural and pleasing tone.

    The Lyric is probably the best choice for giving an honest representation of the actual guitar it is installed into. Although much less feedback prone than a condenser mic on a stand in front of the guitar, it still suffers from feedback problems in loud environments, so it works best in environments where the pickup is reinforcing the natural volume of the guitar rather than helping the guitarist compete with a loud rhythm section.

    We really like the Lyric when paired with a good acoustic amp with a DI output, giving a fair amount of flexibility in terms of volume to the front of house without having too much level and therefore feedback issues on stage.

    I-Beam

    The I-Beam is a compromise option that falls between the Lyric and the more conventional under-saddle transducer pickups. Like the Lyric it mounts to the bridge plate inside the guitar but, whilst the Lyric is a microphone picking up sound waves inside the guitar, the I-Beam is a transducer picking up vibrations from the top. Like the Lyric, it has the benefit of reading a little more of the tone of the individual guitar than the more common under saddle transducers do, so it’s more natural and honest to the guitar than other pickup systems. Tonally it’s quite close to the Lyric and it is a little less feedback prone, although it’s still one of the more sensitive options when it comes to feedback.

    The I-Beam works well if you want something that has most of the tonal benefits of the Lyric but want a little more feedback resistance without the expense of the Anthem.

    We find the I-Beam very sensitive to location inside the guitar and have encountered problems with it on instruments where space is tight and we can’t get it located exactly where we want it. If you’re considering an I-Beam definitely run it past our tech first, who will be able to advise as to how well it will be likely to work in your guitar.

    Element

    The Element is the classic under saddle transducer that sits inside the bridge of the guitar. It works by reading vibrations largely from the saddle, the advantages of which are that it gets lots of signal to work and is better insulated against sounds that can cause feedback, but because a large percentage of the vibrations are coming directly from the saddle rather than the guitar body it’s less true to the sound of the particular guitar.

    The Element can be ordered with either a single volume or with a tone control that allows you to tame the high frequencies. We prefer the volume and tone version but we appreciate that not everyone likes an array of dials to contend with, so we carry both in stock!

    The Element is great for people playing in a band context with lots of loud instruments to compete with and for open mic type scenarios where you never quite know what sort of a PA you might be faced with. It’s a little more generic sounding than the Lyric and I-Beam but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in some contexts.

    Anthem

    The Anthem is a system that blends a Lyric Microphone with an Element under saddle transducer. It’s really the best of both worlds, with the Lyric providing realism and fidelity and the Element topping up the level and allowing the guitar to be used at far higher volumes without feedback than the Lyric would be capable of on its own. The Element also adds a little crispness to the tone so it sounds better as well as being more versatile than either pickup on its own.

    The Anthem is not a cheap pickup but it is an exceptionally good one. It’s definitely our favourite system, and its popularity with makers such as Lowden, Patrick James Eggle and Furch is testament that we’re not the only ones who are fans.

    M-1

    The M-1 takes a different approach to the other systems. It’s main source of sound is a magnetic pickup that reads the strings themselves in the same way and electric guitar pickup works, then feeds the signal through an EQ that shapes it to give a pleasing acoustic sounding tone. It also has a small transducer that read vibrations from the soundboard, allowing a little bit of flavour from the guitar itself and making it a little less generic sounding than many magnetic acoustic pickups.

    The M-1 shares similar benefits to the Element in that it’s very resistant to feedback and easy to work with where other loud instruments are involved. It has a significantly different sound to the Element with a smoother response and warmer bass, so although it doesn’t quite have the character of the Lyric it’s a great choice for those who find under saddle transducers a little on the harsh side.

    It’s all very well reading my wittering and what you really need is to hear them! Fortunately we’re one step ahead of you there: we have a test guitar set up with the three most popular - the Lyric, the Element and the M-1 - so you can try them for yourself in the shop. We also usually have guitars fitted with Anthems should you want to try that one, and our tech is happy to discuss any technical questions. So come in and see us!

    L R Baggs acoustic pickup demo guitar

    L R Baggs acoustic pickup demo guitar


  • Guitar Department

    August 9, 2016

    Workshop diary: resetting a guitar neck part one

    We do a lot of set ups on acoustic guitars, and a common task that we do as part of a set up is reducing the saddle height to lower the action of the guitar. The saddle might need lowering for a number of reasons: perhaps the soundboard has expanded slightly due to an increase in humidity in the ambient conditions the guitar has been stored in, or perhaps it was simply left too high at the factory to begin with. In addition to that however, as guitars age the components can start to move in relation to each other causing the neck pitch (ie the angle the neck sits in relation to the body) to be shallower than it originally was. Eventually this becomes so significant that there is no longer any room to lower the saddle further, so more drastic measures are necessary to lower the action.

    In the old days, the obvious solution was to get out the plane and start shaving: either the bridge was thinned in height or the fingerboard was planed at the nut end to add an extra degree or two of angle. The problem with this is shaving the bridge can impact the tone and structural integrity of the guitar and shaving will also change the feel of the neck as well as the other two issues, so neither solution is very good. As the vintage market began to gather pace in the 1970s and the value of older Martin and Gibson acoustics started to creep up, more sophisticated repair techniques were developed and gradually the process of resetting the neck became established as the preferred approach. In this process the neck is removed from it’s mortice in the neck block and the angle can then be adjusted and the neck refitted at an appropriate angle. Unlike shaving and other solutions, it’s a process of restoring a guitar to its original state rather than modifying it to compensate for a problem, and it’s the only one we’re happy with on a high quality guitar.

    In this blog we’re going to look at a neck reset on a 1976 Fylde Goodfellow. Later Fyldes are designed with a bolt on system but the early ones have a traditional dovetail joint as you might find on a vintage US guitar, so it’s a good example of the process.

    Resetting a Fylde guitar neck

    Step one: First we need to release the fingerboard extension from the soundboard. We're going to do that by applying heat to the fingerboard then as the glue softens we'll use palette knives to gently prise open the joint.

    Step 2 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    Our method of applying heat may look pretty basic but it does the job very effectively. The iron is heating a metal bar which radiates heat over the fingerboard extension. It's a relatively slow process but much better than applying the iron directly and heating too much too quickly. We can check how warm things are getting by feeling the underside of the soundboard through the soundhole.

    Step 3 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    Once the glue is softened we use a couple of palette knives to gently separate the fingerboard from the top of the guitar. If the palette knife doesn't go in easily then the glue isn't soft enough yet.

    Step 4 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    Now that the fingerboard is detached we need to get at the glue that holds in the neck itself. To do this we need to drill a hole somewhere that won't be visible once the guitar is reassembled and the best location for that is to use one of the fret slots, so one of those frets is going to come out.

    Step 5 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    With the fret removed we can drill down into the neck pocket - we're aiming to get into the void between the back of the dovetail and the neck block itself so that the steam will have lots of access to the sides of the dovetail where we need to soften the glue. On a Martin guitar we would expect to find the pocket directly below the fifteenth fret, but the Fylde has a smaller dovetail so we're angling our bit forward.

    Step 6 resetting the neck of a Fylde guitar

    We're almost ready to start working on the joint now - these clamps are going to allow us to put a little controlled pressure on the joint.

    Step 7 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    Now for the steam. The rubber tube you can see in the picture has a needle on the end that goes into the neck pocket via the hole we drilled through the 15th fret. Depending on how the block is constructed there is the potential for steam to go everywhere which is not exactly great for a delicately built acoustic, so we do this stage with one person working on the neck and the other armed with a lot of paper towels blocking off escaping steam and absorbing moisture. We're looking to keep a close eye on both steam and temperature around the neck area whilst we work on loosening the joint. Since I'm on towel duty for this reset, time to put the camera down and concentrate!

    Step 8 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    With the steam going in the right direction, it's only a matter of time before things start to move. Pretty soon we hear the telltale click of the joint seperating under the gentle pressure of the cam clamps, then a quick tighten of the cranks and the neck join slides smoothly apart.

    Step 9 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    Let's see what we're left with: the neck has come out cleanly and there's lots of old glue to take care of. We'll start carefully cleaning up all of this residue next, then we'll be ready to have a look at the new neck angle.

    Step 10 resetting the neck on a Fylde guitar

    Here we can see the joint in the body. Again, there's lots of clean up to do to get rid of all that old glue before we work on the joint. If you look closely at the unvarnished part of the top that was previously under the fingerboard and around the mahogany block, you can see it's quite damp and swollen looking, so it's important we wait for any moisture from the steaming process to dry out before we work on it - if we fit it now the joint could change as it dries out. Unfortunately, that means a break in the blog as well, but we'll be back!


  • Piano Hire

    August 8, 2016

    Piano Hire - the busy wedding season

    Our busy piano hire fleet includes two white grands - perfect to make any occasion feel extra special. Here is a photo from a recent wedding in a marquee. We are proud to maintain our piano hire fleet in superb condition and always ensure that they are prepared to the highest standard before every hire. We take the added precaution for hires into temporary structures such as marquees by adding a ‘Dampp Chaser’ lower energy heater to the piano to help it survive the variable atmospheric conditions. The relatively higher humidity in the evenings can cause havoc with a pianos action causing parts to swell and therefore cease up/cause unreliable and unpredictable playing…. not what the happy couple need on their big day!

    White May 163cm grand piano in Forsyths hire fleet

    White May 163cm grand piano in Forsyth's hire fleet

    Find out more here https://www.forsyths.co.uk/pianos/32513-piano-hire


  • Piano Department

    August 5, 2016

    Forsyths and Chethams International Piano Summer School

    Here at Forsyth Music Shop we’re busily preparing the 11 pianos we’re bringing for Summer School participants to use. We’re bringing 4 Grands by Schimmel and Kawai UK for use in various teaching rooms, 5 uprights and digitals by Kawai, Yamaha and Schimmel for practice rooms as well as a Yamaha Transacoustic upright and NU1 (pictured) for use in the Atrium.

    Regulating Yamaha NU1 digital piano

    Regulating Yamaha NU1 digital piano

    The NU1 is an interesting creature - a digital piano but with a real acoustic action…. and therefore like any ‘real’ piano needs its action regulating to perform at its best. Come and pickup a map/list of new Schimmel, Yamaha and Kawai pianos to discover around the school.

    Meanwhile on our ground floor our Sheet Music and Recordings department staff are busily boxing up large quantities of interesting piano music to have on display in our shop in the atrium throughout the Summer School… along with our ever popular musical accessories and gifts.

    We are proud to be sponsoring/supporting the Summer School for another year and look forward to seeing you there. We’d also like to invite you all down the road to explore our shop on Deansgate and come for one of the behind the scenes workshop tours on the changeover day and the last day of the Summer School.

    We look forward to welcoming the first week’s participants next Friday!


  • Digital Pianos

    July 31, 2016

    New in store - Roland LX17 digital piano

    New in store we have the flagship Roland LX-17! A wonderful marriage of the pinnacle of digital technology combined with Roland’s superb build quality and audio knowledge.

    With limitless polyphony, six amplifier channels and eight built-in speakers it certainly packs a punch to the ear and is capable of faithfully handling even the most demanding of repertoire.

    However, with over three hundred voices contained within you are not limited to the piano, and can turn your hand to recreating an orchestra or imitating old time jazz scat singers.

    And when you’re not using it for music, it will be a beautiful addition to any room - the impressive polished black cabinet ensures you’ll always be pleased to have it on display.

    Whatever I say about it will never be the same as trying it for yourself, so pop in store today and have a play!

    Roland LX17 digital piano


  • Piano Department

    July 28, 2016

    New arrival - White modern upright piano by Schimmel

    We are extremely pleased and excited to show off this stunning rarity by Schimmel in our showroom in Manchester. It was originally designed and made for the musikmesse annual piano festival in Frankfurt this year. This particular Schimmel International I115M is the only one of its kind in the UK finished in white polyester with special chrome fittings!

    It is currently on offer for £8,550 to include a matching single adjustable stool by Schimmel which is finished in white polish with a grey leather top (price on its own £600).

    This piano would make a very beautiful and smart addition to any modern home.

    Find out more here.

    White upright Piano by Schimmel model International I115M

    White upright Piano by Schimmel model International I115M


  • The Forsyths Blog

    July 13, 2016

    Hurry! - beat the Brexit price rises…

    We will keep this blog updated

    Sadly the great majority of instruments are imported and, as I am sure you have read, the value of the pound has fallen significantly, around 9%.  As a result everything is going to get more expensive.  The first major supplier to issue a new higher price list was Yamaha, Roland followed suit this week and others are sure to.  There never has been a more certain time to bag yourself a bargain than NOW!

    We have just learnt that Kawai Pianos are planning to increase prices in the next few weeks on both digital and acoustic pianos. Come in now to reserve your new piano at existing prices (subject to stock availability)


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