Friday, January 16, 2009

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Sign Language

Not exactly sign language but it is also not exactly the American manual alphabet for the letter "F" either. But at least give some kudos to Farrell's for coming up with this unique button that I've not seen before. Does anybody know how long this kind of button been around?


And what does this button have to do with ragtime piano? Well, I did a piece last on Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Ragtime recently and so I thought this button was a good one to blog about.

If you're a fan of Farrell's you can join one in Facebook.

A Ragtime Update

A little update here for ya’ll.

There are many ragtime and novelty rag piano pieces I am playing/working on right now but I plan to video-tape myself over the next several months or so while I continue to practice and get up to speed on a few pieces. Some pieces I’m in the memorization process already.

It’s been a long time since I played on the piano on a regular basis practicing/playing 3 to 4 hours a day. Ever since I bought a new piano last month, I can now practice 3 to 4 hours a day without worrying keys getting stuck or hit an out of tune note.

So, in no particular order here are some of the piano pieces I plan to record:

Maple Leaf Rag
The Entertainer
The Ragtime Dance
The Easy Winners
Original Rags
The Rose-bud March
The Chrysanthemum
Black and White Rag
K.K. Ragtime
Kitten on the Keys
Dizzy Fingers
Wildfire Rag
A Breeze from Alabama
Country Club
Elite Syncopations
Magnetic Rag
Pine Apple Rag
The Strenuous Life
Sunflower Slow Rag
Peacherine Rag
Stoptime Rag

You can hear all of the Scott Joplin pieces here. Those pieces are NOT my recordings. Just something for you to listen to and see what those Joplin pieces sound like.

Other goal is to work on early Jazz pieces such as The Finger Breaker, Perfect Rag, Seattle Hunch, King Porter Stomp and Grandpa's Spells all written by Jelly Roll Morton. But first I will focus on the rags listed here plus I will be looking into more rags not by Joplin plus more novelty rags to play on. There is one novelty rag, Black and White Rag, that I pretty much got it down pat and memorized already. As for the rest of them the whole process may take me one to two years to complete depending on how much practicing I can get done and which pieces I’m aiming to master. This is especially true if I’m going to play those early jazz pieces which may take a while longer to do since they are usually everal pages long and not the typical 3 to 4 pages long for ragtime pieces. Just need to get my brain-to-fingers coordination all fired up while I sight read those piano pieces.

So, what are your plans?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kohler and Campbell Piano

Here's a better picture of my Kohler & Campbell 46.5 inch high studio piano I bought last month.


Getting some value out of a crappy piano

A piano I got not too long ago, dirt cheap, literally so, barely worked has finally met it's demise with total destruction at the hands of a pianist. Worked out my frustration on this piano since it didn't cooperate very well with me when I played on it.


The spinet piano was made probably either late 1940s or early 1950s though I couldn't tell the make but the aluminum piano plate was made by Alcoa in a signed agreement with Winter and Company to be made for their pianos. Since my old crappy piano was destined for destruction ever since I got my new piano I wanted to tear it down and salvage some good wood and get that 45 lb aluminum piano plate inside. This dismantling and destruction took several hours as I removed the pins, piano wires, wood, screws and what not. My hands were a little sore the next day but it wasn't enough to stop me from practicing on my piano.



Nearly done with the pins and piano strings. Used vice grip, wrench, hammer, and screw drivers.

All the pins and strings removed.

All done with the plate. Saved a few good scrap wood with one being a 3/4" inch plank seen directly behind the plate against the garage wall.

Off to the dump!

Mangled hammers meet their demise.

All cleaned up except for the non-aluminum metal pins embedded that the piano wires were strung around. Tried to remove a few and were successful but most broke off leaving the rest of the pins inside the plate. Decided to leave them as they are and see what the scrap yard guy says.

Aluminum piano plate die casted by Alcoa seen stamped on the plate. If it's Alcoa, it's all aluminum.

A 1946 silver dime found beneath the piano keys during the initial dismantling. Wondered how it could've gotten there. A silver U.S. dime for that period of time weighs .0724 of an ounce. Price of silver? $11.50 an ounce. Dime value? .85 cents.

The next step this week is to take my 45 lb aluminum piano plate to a nearby scrap yard that buys aluminum scraps and soda cans. The scrap yard is located about 5 miles from my house. I'm not sure what the price is but the last time I took my aluminum cans the price was around .45 cents a pound.

I'll let you know how it goes this week as I take my aluminum piano plate and some aluminum soda cans to the recycling center.

UPDATE: Just recycled the piano plate this morning. The recycling and scrap yard was buying aluminum at .25 cents a pound. Suprised to see aluminum prices dropped so far down from .55 cents a few years back. Probably people are making ends meet right now by recycling their aluminum cans and scraps that there is an oversupply of aluminum depressing aluminum metal prices even further. Oh well, my plate weighed 48 lbs. So, I got $12.00 out of it. The yard is located about 2 miles from my house on my way to work. At least I did something useful in the recycling business.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Ragtime

Photobucket My earliest recollection on my exposure to ragtime music was at the Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in Tacoma, Washington during the early to mid 1970's. It was a festive place, even for a deaf boy with a hearing aid who delighted in the sounds of loud drumbeats, bells and sirens over birthday announcements and such. And at near the entrance of Farrell's was an upright player piano that constantly played these unique and mesmerizing ragtime songs only that I didn't know it was called ragtime back then. it was simply cool to listen. I'd stand there in awe as I watched the keyboard move while invisible hands played ragtime scores.

It'd be nice if Farrell's throw in a bit of authenticity by having a ragtime pianist at the piano rather than use a piano player or somehow have them help sponsor those ragtime festivals. But sadly there are only two stores right now and Farrell's just recently in Novemember 2008 got over a 5 year lawsuit that prevented them from moving forward. They are now making plans to open more stores and recapture those novelty days when going to Farrell's means having a truly good time. Hearing the words "Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour" brings back good childhood memories of a good time. Farrell's and ragtime are synomous with each other. It brings back the feeling of good times.

Maybe it's time to make a special dedication to Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour at one of the ragtime festivals in honor of Bob Farrell and Ken McCarthy, the founders of Farrell's, for helping keep nostalgia alive and making it fun?

You can go here and review the history of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour from the past to the present.

ADDENDUM: If you're a fan of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant you can join one in Facebook where there are currently some 24,000+ fans of Farrell's.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Piano Recital

Here's a picture I dug up of me playing the piano during my recital when I was 11 years old in 1977. Dig the cool 70's blue clothes I was wearing. I don't remember what I played but I know I did well as a hard of hearing kid with a hearing aid back then ever since I started playing at age 7 years old.

Please excuse the fuzziness of my picture since it was taken directly from my laptop webcam.