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Feeling Overstrung?

Feeling Overstrung?

Steinway Piano Overstrung

When Heinrich Engelhardt Steinway came to New York City in the 1850’s, the piano was a well established instrument. The British called the piano a Piano Forte and the Europeans, a Forte Piano which means loud-soft. Prior to this, the harpsichord was the instrument of choice but it was played at one volume only. At this time, Steinway built their square grand pianos like everyone else which was parallel strung—strings running perpendicular to the keys and parallel to each other.

In 1855, Steinway produced the first overstrung piano where the bass strings are strung over the treble strings which made it possible to use longer strings. This allowed the moving of the bridge into the center of the soundboard for more volume and a clearer, more powerful bass sound.

The sound was rich and revolutionary. It was awarded a gold medal at New York’s Industrial Fair. On December 20, 1859, Steinway patented #26532—Grand Overstringing. This overstringing design coupled with a single cast-iron plate changed the look of the grand piano (from a square grand to the look it has today) and led Steinway to be generally recognized as building the first modern concert grand.

It may be one of the reasons why Thomas A. Edison wrote to Steinway on June 2, 1890, “I have decided to keep your grand piano. For some reason unknown to me, it gives better results than any so far tried.”

Nik Jakob – West Music Conservatory

Nik Jakob – West Music Conservatory

Nik JakobNik Jakob, a native of Switzerland, holds a degree in piano pedagogy from the Conservatory for Music in Zurich, Switzerland. He is a certified piano teacher with SMPV, Switzerland’s licensing board for music teachers. Nik has over fifteen years of teaching experience in public schools and private settings. He has been an active piano teacher in the Iowa City/Coralville community for the last 9 years, teaching students age 5 and up in beginning level through advanced. Nik is a member of a number of professional organizations, including: ICIPT (Iowa City Independent Piano Teachers), MTNA (Music Teacher’s National Association) and IFMC (Iowa Federation of Music Clubs).

Nik was the Lead Teacher in our pioneer Way Cool for Kids Keyboarding camp at West Music. He hopes to continue teaching Way Cool Keyboarding and Musical Moments classes, as well as to reach out to homeschool students in Iowa City and the surrounding area.

To arrange for lessons with Nik or any of the other instructors at the West Music Conservatory, visit

Piano Sundays Concert Series at the Old Capitol Museum

Piano Sundays Concert Series at the Old Capitol Museum

Piano Sundays Logo

Looking for something fun to do and want to see some amazing talent perform in a beautiful setting? West Music and the University of Iowa School of Music are proud to present the Piano Sundays Concert Series at the Old Capitol Museum. Set in the historic Senate Chamber at the Old Capitol Museum, the performances feature the finest of the University of Iowa School of Music students and faculty on the University’s 1878 Steinway Centennial Grand Piano.

Concerts begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Old Capitol Museum Senate Chamber

October 11th, 2015
Featuring Uriel Tsachor and Studio

November 8th, 2015
Featuring Music Teachers National Association State Winners

March 6th, 2016
Featuring Alan Huckleberry and Studio

April 3rd, 2016
Featuring Rene Lecuona and Studio

Find more information at the Piano Sundays Web Page

The Hybrid Experience

The Hybrid Experience

Yamaha NU1

Yamaha NU1 Hybrid Piano

Piano companies have long been in the pursuit of creating an economically-sized grand piano. Every pianist wants a grand piano in their home, but not every pianist has the space for one. The first attempt at a replacement was the tiny spinet piano. These pianos gave a meek, tinny sound. They had shorter action parts than the normal upright piano. Shorter action parts made the piano feel clunky, and unresponsive. Next the electric organ was going to replace every piano in homes. Yet, that fad died out as well. Organs did not have the touch or the sound of a piano. FM and Digital Pianos provided a new alternative to an acoustic piano. Eventually digital pianos had weighted-keys that mimicked the key weight of an acoustic piano. Advances in sampling technology also sounded (and continue to sound) more realistic. Yet, there was something missing even from these digital pianos. While digital pianos are still a great tool for beginning players they still do not match up to an acoustic piano. There is something special, almost poetic, that happens when playing an acoustic piano. This “Piano Experience” is difficult to capture with a digital piano and I thought was impossible to achieve. My mind was changed when I played Yamaha’s NU1.

Yamaha NU-1 Hybrid PianoThe NU1 is not your typical digital piano. Just by looking at it, you see that it has the look of a beautiful, yet compact, upright piano. The NU1’s polished black finish is stunning while adding elegant silver highlights. When you sit down to play it, there is something different in the feel. There is no resistance on the key-return, no feeling of pressure sensors depressing, and is evenly weighted throughout. The wooden keys vibrate freely with the music that seems to pour out of this piano. The key tops offer a suitable grip, and every muscle synapse is captured masterfully. The big sound coming from such a small instrument is smooth and rich. My first thought is that this instrument is a perfect acoustic piano. I was actively feeling the “Piano Experience”. But the NU1 is not an acoustic instrument, it is a hybrid.

Yamaha NU-1 Hybrid PianoThe NU1 uses an actual acoustic action from their famed U1 piano! Unlike most digital pianos, the key stroke is not measured with pressure sensors. Having those sensors would impede the motion of the wooden hammers and action parts. Instead they measure the distance and velocity of the keys with optical lasers. These lasers measure the most subtle of hand movements down to the micrometer. The sampling with the laser datum creates a responsive, accurate sound. With this type of accuracy and feel, it is no wonder pianists are falling in love with this instrument. It’s not just pianists though! Churches and schools love this instrument too. With no strings, there is no need to tune it. It always stays in perfect pitch! Headphone inputs, auxiliary in/outputs, and large speakers give endless possibilities to sound distribution. The NU1 also features recording ability. This is a fantastic learning tool for rehearsals when busy pianists are unavailable.

Yamaha NU-1 Hybrid PianoI highly recommend trying this product out. The NU1 is perfect for small homes or apartments. It is something that can only be appreciated when played. The NU1 offers the “Piano Experience” in all venues no matter the size. Perhaps that is the greatest gift the Hybrid experience gives us.

See the specifications and dimensions of the Yamaha NU1 Hybrid Piano here, or contact West Music to have your own “Piano Experience” with the NU1 in our showroom.

Rent a Piano from West Music

Rent a Piano from West Music

Rent a piano at West Music

The piano of your dreams is waiting for you! Rent any new piano on our showroom floor for six months, and apply those payments toward the purchase of your piano.

Choose from the best selection of pianos, including Steinway, Boston, Essex, Yamaha and Henry F. Miller.
Henry F. Miller HMV-047 47" Studio Piano

  • Try before you buy.
    Pick any piano on our showroom floor for an in-home trial for up to six months.
  • Affordable monthly payments.
    We make it simple to have a piano in your home while you decide about making the investment of purchasing the instrument.
  • No long-term commitments.
    If at any time within six months of taking delivery you choose to opt out, we will pick up the piano at your request.
  • Do you love it?
    If you decide to keep the piano, it’s easy to transition to a finance program as 100% of your rental fees will apply to the purchase of your instrument.

Find Out More

* with approved credit

Mei-Hsuan Huang Named Steinway & Sons Artist

Mei-Hsuan Huang Named Steinway & Sons Artist

Mei-Hsuan Huang Steinway ArtistMei-Hsuan Huang, assistant professor of music in piano at Iowa state University, was recently named a Steinway & Sons Artist. This prestigious distinction was awarded due to Huang’s artistic and professional achievement and based on her distinguished career as a pianist.

Kirk Davis, piano division director for West Music in Coralville, Iowa, presented this award to Huang at this past weekend’s concert of the Amara Piano Quartet. “We are honored to have Dr. Huang on our roster of exclusive and distinguished artists,” he said. “She joins an exclusive list of internationally-recognized pianists.”

According to Huang, “I am very honored to have been named a Steinway & Sons Artist. We are fortunate to have so many Steinway pianos in our music building for our students, faculty, and guest artists. It is a privilege to be associated with Steinway and I always enjoy the opportunity to perform on their exceptional pianos.”

West Music Honored with Steinway & Sons Dealer of the Year Award

West Music Honored with Steinway & Sons Dealer of the Year Award

Steinway Dealer of the Year West Music received the Steinway Dealer of the Year award in June 2014 at a special awards ceremony in New York, New York.  West Music is the exclusive dealer of Steinway, Boston, and Essex pianos in the state of Iowa.  The Steinway Dealer of the Year Award recognizes outstanding performance in such areas as Steinway concert-and-artist programs, product knowledge, and customer service.  This is West Music’s fifth time to receive the “Dealer of the Year” award.

“It is an honor for West Music to receive this award as it is a recognition of all of the hard work our associates put in to supporting a truly excellent family of brands,” said Robin Walenta, president of West Music.  “The Dealer of the Year award exemplifies our commitment to providing support and developing our customers and the products they are searching for each and every day of the year.”

Why do Pianos Cost so Much?

Why do Pianos Cost so Much?

In working to help educate my clients on what piano is best for them, I am often asked the following question. “Why do pianos cost so much?”

Well, there are many reasons a piano costs what it does, but here are a few of the main ones for you to be aware of.

A piano is made of many parts, up to over 12,000 in grand pianos, and most of those parts are made of select woods suited to the exact job of that particular part. High quality woods are quite expensive. For example, the sound board or “speaker” of the piano is made from Sitka spruce in the good pianos. Sitka spruce is found in one place … Sitka Alaska. Steinway goes as far as selecting spruce that is from only one area of the mountain, the coldest part, so that the growth rings are very close together, which creates the best sound in a soundboard. That part alone can cost well over a thousand dollars and much more in large grands. There are also different kinds of maples, mahoganys, core cabinet woods not to mention the many different beautiful veneers that are applied to the cabinets.

The amount of parts to let one key work correctly numbers about 100. There are 88 keys in a piano.  All those parts need to be installed and adjusted correctly to allow the player to make music on the piano. That takes much time.

People will look at a nice grand piano and say “Wow, I can buy a car for that!” My answer is, how much is that car worth when it leaves the lot? And, where is that car in about 10 years?  Most pianos will work well up to their 50th birthday and very good pianos will live to be 100 and more and actually can appreciate in value a lot.

Most pianos are mass produced meaning that there are assembly lines with robotics that cut woods and install certain parts but, there are always human hands involved. A robot can’t tell how musical a piano is or is not. The very best pianos like Steinway are all built by hand and can take up to one year to complete, which will of course add to the price tag, but after experiencing a piano like this, you wonder why it does not cost more!

So, remember that you are not buying a washing machine or a recliner.  A piano is a musical instrument designed to bring beautiful music and great memories into your life for many years.  It is a great investment in many ways.