Grand Piano for Syracuse Arts Academy

After buying the Stieff grand for myself in October of 2005, I’ve wanted to get back into piano rebuilding … particularly grand rebuilding. I thought it would be good to pick up an inexpensive grand as a first experience with grand rebuilding. I’ve also thought that the foyer of Syracuse Arts Academy (Terri’s new school) should have a grand piano. A grand piano is just a suitable icon for an “arts academy”, and of course it would add to the music program in a “grand way”.

These two objectives came to an obvious conjuncture, when I saw an affordable Stieff piano on eBay. I bought the piano and went to southern California to pick it up on June 9. I hope to have it rebuilt and in the school by October.

The completed eBay auction is here: (Ebay Auction)

I’ll be documenting progress on the project here. Terri took nice pictures of the California move. The pictures are here (



Bicycling Milestones

During the last weekend of April, I performed a minor miracle for a body, who from time to time, has accepted middle age as a time of athletic regression. Not anymore. I rode from Pleasant View to Pleasant Grove (98 miles) then got on the bicycle the next morning and rode back! That was the culmination of training since last November, and proof positive that I could participate successfully in the Cycle Salt Lake Century. Now I say, I can look at middle age and spit in it’s face!

Yesterday, I did in in fact, ride the 100-mile Cycle Salt Lake Century! The first 70 miles were really quite a bit of fun! The last 30, not unlike my Pleasant Grove ride, were pretty tough! It was a great event and a great day. Temperatures reached 90, and I drank about 1.5 gallons of water during the ride. My friend Troy, rode the entire event with me, even though he had been saying he’d do only the 66-mile option. Welcome back to century riding Troy!

I was surprised at a number of things at this event — my first organized century ride.

  • The sheer numbers of bicyclists was amazing (about 3000, I believe). For the first 20 miles on the road ahead I saw bicycles, bicycles, bicycles. In the rearview mirror I saw handlebars and pumping legs!
  • There were quite a number of fat people riding. I’m not skinny — still 20 pounds overweight — but I was surprised to see folks who were 50+ pounds overweight riding the full 100 miles.
  • The ride had 33, 66, and 100 mile options. So the numbers of riders was vastly larger in the first half of the ride. So was the variety in bicycles. I was a surprised to see (and hear …. squeak squeak) bicycles that had poor maintenance.
  • The support for this ride was fantastic. Great rest stops and good food! Where ever we were on the ride, the support staff of Bingham Cycle shop was there to assist riders with mechanical and fatigue problems. Troy and I stopped twice along the route (other than at rest stops) Both times, a Bingham’s Cycle shop guy came by to ask if we needed help!

What a day!



Grandpa Henkel

My Grandpa Henkel was born in 1873. Yes. 133 years ago.

Grandpa died in 1962 when I was 10 years old. I guess I knew him about as well as a 10 year old boy could know an 89 year old man. Everything on the outside of him was old. His face, his hands, his clothes, his smell, his cane, his walk, his beechnut chewing tabacco, the works. But the stuff on the inside was new. He was a tease. And I do believe he liked the jokes I told him. He was half-deaf, but he could hear what Grandma was saying about him in the kitchen. (That’s the half that wasn’t deaf.) I know that he enjoyed Grandma’s buttermilk pancakes just as much as his 10 year old grandson did.

Grandpa didn’t own a wrist watch. His Elgin pocket watch still worked fine. His last home, on Logan Street in Centralia, had the conveniences of modern life. Electric lights, an electric range, and a rotary dial telephone on a stand in the bedroom hallway. The house was warm, if you were in the kitchen by the “trash burner” — a small wood burning stove that also served to heat water for the house. It was warm too in the dining room on the other side of the wall where a larger wood burning stove shared the chimney. The bedrooms were warm too, if you had a nice blanket.

As I grew up, I came to realize that other kids had grandpas who could play baseball, and who spent lots of time NOT sitting in a chair, who had jobs and even wrist watches. Amazing. That was a different kind of grandpa. But I knew that my Grandpa was somehow grander.

I’m glad that I was able to know him for those ten years in which our lives crossed.

By the way, his Elgin pocket watch still works fine, though usually it stays in my dresser drawer. And I don’t own a wrist watch either. I just use the clock on my cell phone, it’s always in my pocket!



Piano performance opportunities?

I’m looking for like minded adult piano students in the Ogden area who would like some informal performance opportunities. Perhaps monthly get togethers in the homes of members of our “group”. On a more formal basis, an example of this is the Adult Music Student Forum of the Washington DC area ( I would like more experience performing for others than I get at my teacher’s recitals and playing for friends (they say they enjoy it, though!)

Is there a group in this area like I describe? Or can we form one?



Rhythm Syllables

While working at jazz pieces and some Stephen Heller exercises that have sextuplets (six note patterns in one beat). I needed to add to my counting vocabulary. My earlier training engrained syllables for a few patterns:

eighths: (one-and two-and … )
eighth triplets (one-trip-let two-trip-let … )
sixteenths (one-e-and-a two-e-and-a … )
quarter triplets (over two beats) (one-o-let three-o-let)

The above paradigm provided a specific syllable for each positional timing, and insisted that the first syllable of a pattern be the beat number in the measure. When patterns became more complex you would leave out the unplayed counts. All of this didn’t really help me when getting to the new pattern of sextuplets (e.g. in the patterns of McPartland shown in an earlier post).

Internet research shows that piano educators are in no particular agreement on what’s best, so I came up with something that works for me from the various schools of thought. What I like are pronounceable syllables that roll off the tounge with appropriate syllable emphasis. So for a six syllable word to aid in counting the sextuplets, I use:

  • rump-i-ty-hump-i-ty
  • This “word” places appropriate emphasis on the first and fourth syllables, which helps to keep the note pattern flowing properly. Because “rump” is different than “hump”, the word helps to reinforce where I am in the measure when learning long runs of sextuplets. I also find that hump is naturally stressed somewhat less than rump in the pronounciation of this word. That effect is also appropriate to the playing of sextuplets.

    While researching this, I found one simple phrase that is quite helpful with triplet patterns. I tend to rush them! The following is interesting:

  • stuck-in-gum
  • When used as an aid to counting a triplet pattern among straight eighths or quarter note patterns, it helps me to avoid the rush just because the image of “stuck in gum” slows a guy down a tad. Funny how the mind works!

    This week’s challenge is to learn a septuplet (seven note pattern) among a bunch of sextuplets. In this piece, I’m moving along with a bunch of rumpity-humpities, and now I have to deal with a ??-???-???-??-??-???-??? What is the aid I use?

    What I came up with is:

  • noodle-ee-bee-doodle-ee
  • It rolls off the tounge and places light emphasis on the final syllable. In addition, it focuses the mind on the symmetry of the pattern. (A seven note pattern has middle element –“bee”.) So I know that if I’m playing eighths in the left hand with noodle-ee-bee-doodle-ees in the right hand then the second eighth falls after the bee but before the doodle! I started out toying with noodle-ee-doodle-ee-doo, for septuplets, but that word has a problem! It places a strong emphasis on the last syllable, and I soon found that noodle-ee-doodle-ee was just another pronounciation of rumpity humpity, so it was counter productive. With this pronounciation it was easy to confuse the six note pattern with the seven. The word I chose, noodle-ee-bee-doodle-ee, is suitably distinct as a seven note pattern.

    I’m learning to talk “New Yorker”. So to use my favorite New York slang: How weird is that?

    Here’s some links to material I used in forming my thoughts on the subject.



    Practice Technique: Don’t look at the keys!

    I’m sure its written. I’m sure you’ve heard it. Don’t look at the keys!

    Sure. But when the going gets tough, we look at the keys don’t we?

    I was practicing a line of McPartlands If You Could See Me Now (line 3 Page 46), which has a series of 10ths in the alternating bass line. Tenths are a stretch for me. In fact white key tenths are reached on the tips of the keys, above the key slip. So they are a challenge.

    I found that though I practiced for hours, I really wasn’t getting more consistent at striking the tenths confidently while playing at a good tempo. Then it dawned on me! I was constantly (twice per measure!) moving my eyes from the score to the keyboard. Something had to give. Either the score, or the keyboard. I’m of the opinion that ideally one should get to the point that vision is not essential to performance, so I chose to eliminate sight of the keyboard. (Hopefully the score will go away sometime, but that’s another story)

    To keep my eyes from the keyboard, I wedged three music books between the music desk and the fallboard, so that I was playing with my hands below the books, while I was referencing the score above the books. It really worked! I found that while my vision of the keys was eliminated, my initial performance was no worse than with full sight. Interesting. As I practiced, I found that my accuracy improved. More later … The quest for excellence continues.



    DHTML Menu: Friendly to No-Script Browsers

    Earlier I described in my design objectives for a new website, This article describes the menu system used for that site.

    My objective was to use a DHTML mouse-over menu to aid navigation and site layout, but to preserve good functionality for browsers which do not support Javascript or have Javascript turned off.

    Here’s the demo:

    If you view this demo with Javascript disabled, your experience will be much different, but very appropriate.

    The demo above is also available here:

    The Javascript library I used for this implementation is from BrainJar. I made one modification the the brainjar.js library they present in their demo3 . The modification I made allows for the use of <UL> instead of <DIV> for menu containers.
    The menu is implemented using CSS, Javascript (when detected), and ColdFusion. Though ColdFusion is used in these examples, any server-side technology could be used. And in fact no server-side technology is required, but as you will see, the server-side coding creates attractive code, which leads to easy maintenance.

    The core code is contained in menu.cfm:

    <cfparam name="url.area" default="home">
    	// Server side function modifies the
    	// class name of the current tab.
    	// In this demo, modification is based on url of request.
    	function activeTab(vArea){
    		// this logic is for demo only
    		// should be changed to suit the site architecture.
    		if (url.area eq vArea){
    			return "Current";
    			return "";
    <!--- Main Menu Bar --->
    	The class of each "a tag" below is modified by the
    	value of the function activeTab(area) below.
    	The activeTab function returns either 'Current' or ''.
    	Thus the "a tag" class is either menuButton or menuButtonCurrent
    <div class="menuBar" >
    	<a class="menuButton#activetab('home')#"
    ><a class="menuButton#activetab('document')#"
        onclick="return buttonClick(event, 'documentMenu');"
        onmouseover="buttonMouseover(event, 'documentMenu');"
    ><a class="menuButton#activetab('community')#"
        onclick="return buttonClick(event, 'communityMenu');"
        onmouseover="buttonMouseover(event, 'communityMenu');"
    ><a class="menuButton#activetab('contact')#"
    Rather than putting out the dhtml menu directly, write it out with
    client side script.  In that way, alternate browsers which may have
    JS disabled will not see the divs at all.  We have also decluttered the
    screens of these browsers if they also do not recognize CSS. We could
    do this without coldfusion processing, but by stripping out CR and
    TAB and escaping JS code, the menus:  documentMenu.cfm,
    communityMenu.cfm, etc. are highly readable.
    <cfsavecontent variable="dhtmlMenu">
    	<cfinclude template="documentMenu.cfm">
    	<cfinclude template="communityMenu.cfm">
    	<cfinclude template="communityMenuNewsletters.cfm">
    <cfset dhtmlMenu = replace(dhtmlMenu,chr(10),"","all")>
    <cfset dhtmlMenu = replace(dhtmlMenu,chr(13),"","all")>
    <cfset dhtmlMenu = replace(dhtmlMenu,chr(9),"","all")>
    <script language="Javascript">

    One of the menu <UL>’s, documentMenu.cfm, is shown here:

    <!--- Document Menu --->
    <ul id="documentMenu" class="menu"
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=content/documents/white_barn_PRUD_CCRs.pdf&area=document">Covenants and Restrictions</a></li>
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=content/documents/white_barn_PRUD_bylaws.pdf&area=document">By Laws</a></li>
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=documents/communityRules.cfm&area=document">Community Rules</a></li>
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=documents/petRules.cfm&area=document">Pet Rules</a></li>

    Complete source code for this demo is available here:

    And finally, by the way, the pages look fine when viewed on the simplest of browsers, lynx:
    A view of the Documents Menu rendered by lynx



    Occasional observations of Duane McGuire