Homeschooling · Kids · Learning · Music

Digital Piano: How to Choose the Right One

As you may have seen on my Instagram and Facebook stories today, we’re partnering with Casio Music UK to test out one of their learners keyboards. We’re so excited about the collaboration as I think Burrito Baby will benefit so much from music lessons. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some information from Casio about how to make sure you’re buying the right digital piano for your kids.

DIGITAL PIANO

With children now back in the swing of things at school, a lot of parents may be considering extra-curricular activities their children can take up to aid their learning and development outside of the classroom. Playing a musical instrument offers a whole host of benefits for young people and allows them to express themselves in their own unique way.

Digital pianos are a wonderful resource for kids of all ages and all kinds of disciplines. They make learning and performing much easier but still offer the satisfaction of playing on a beautiful expressive musical instrument. However, finding the right digital piano can be confusing and time-intensive. Casio, one of the world’s most renowned producers of premium, digital hybrid pianos, is here to help with the five questions parents should be asking when purchasing a digital piano for their child – from piano teacher, ABRSM music examiner and digital piano expert Chris Stanbury.

  1. HOW MUCH DO I NEED TO SPEND?

A good beginner’s digital piano should cost between £300 to £400. For this, you’ll get a great quality instrument that’ll support your child’s learning for a number of years. Avoid anything cheaper than this from online sellers as these don’t tend to last and offer a poor quality sound. It’s important to invest in something that’s satisfying to play as it will maintain your child’s interest.

  1. WHAT FEATURES SHOULD I LOOK FOR?

Digital pianos can have various features but the one thing you must check is that it has 88 weighted keys. This is something all pianos have and it is essential for developing the correct playing technique. The keys also need to be touch sensitive, which means that they are the same as a traditional piano. The harder you hit the keys, the louder it will sound, the softer you play the key, the note will have less volume. This feature is very important.

  1. IS A DIGITAL PIANO BETTER THAN AN ACOUSTIC PIANO? 

A good, acoustic (traditional) piano usually costs £1,000 or more. Pianos that are offered free on marketplace or auction sites are rarely in good condition and should be avoided. Acoustic pianos also need maintaining: the strings inside must be tuned at least twice a year at a cost of about £80 a time.

You get much more for your money with digital pianos. They take up a lot less space and don’t need tuning. Plus, you can plug in headphones for silent practice, which is perfect for busy households!

  1. WHAT OTHER FUNCTIONS DO YOU GET WITH DIGITAL PIANOS?

A great benefit of a digital piano is that if your kids love their gadgets, they’ll really enjoy connecting a digital piano to their phone, tablet or computer. This makes learning a lot more fun as they can take part in interactive lessons and play along to backing music.

Casio provides a free music learning app with all their digital pianos, called Chordana, and there’s free lessons too from Dr Chris himself on the Casio Music UK YouTube channel; so anyone can start playing right away. All owners also have access to the Casio Music Academy too, which also includes music lessons exclusively for Casio piano users

  1. WHAT DIGITAL PIANO WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR A BEGINNER?

My personal favourite is the Casio CDP-S90. It’s light, very compact and has a great sound. It’s also important to mention that it comes with a proper piano stand included (worth £88). This means the piano is at the correct playing height, which is important for developing good posture and finger skills.

All About ME! · Music

My Nostalgic Music Playlist #MemoriesInMusic

My Nostalgic Music Playlist #MemoriesInMusicIf there’s one thing which is sure to evoke a lot of memories, it’s hearing a particular song which reminds me of a specific time in my life. Some of those memories are so strongly linked to the song that it can actually remind me of how I felt when I was hearing it, way back when. Chums, the online-fashion retailer have recently created a campaign to search for Memories in Music to help people bring the happier days back to life. With this in mind, I thought I’d share some of my most nostalgic songs for you:

Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac

When I was 6, my Mum and Dad split up, and my Mum and I moved in with her parents for a while. We shared a set of bunkbeds in their small second bedroom and although it was cramped, I was happy. Mum had job in a bar and I’d sit with her in the evening, watching her get ready, listening to her music – the smell of hairspray reminds me of this, too! Mum had her stereo and a load of vinyl in our room, and one of her favourite bands was Fleetwood Mac (she had a bit of a Stevie Nicks vibe going on in the late 80s!) and Rhiannon reminds me so much of this time.

Mmmbop – Hanson

Anyone who knows me well knows that I was a MASSIVE Hanson fan when I was younger. When Mmmbop came out, I immediately fell in love and even to this day, I feel transported back to a really happy time when I hear it. My whole bedroom was covered in Hanson posters, including the ceiling, and I used to spend Saturday mornings sitting by the TV with a blank tape in the VHS, waiting to hit record, just in case they came on the telly!

Rewind – Craig David

When I was about 15, my friends and I would spend every Friday night at “Intrigue”, an under 18’s Nappy Night, located in an old bingo hall. We’d get dressed up in what were, looking back, some rather over-the-top outfits (a powder blue lace dress, white Wonderbra and a white feather boa was a personal fave, and NO, my mother did NOT know I was going out dressed like that!) and feel like we were going to a proper nightclub. UK Garage was massive around this time, and this song was a particular fave…still is, if I’m totally honest! It’s like my guilty music pleasure.

Everlong – Foo Fighters

I’ve loved Foo Fighters since the first time my friend Steven played The Colour and The Shape to me, back in the late 90’s, but Everlong has always been my favourite. When Husband and I met, one of the things we immediately bonded over was music, especially Everlong. We’d been together just a few months when we saw Foo Fighters play in Hyde Park on the day after my 22nd birthday, and it’s been something that brings back amazing memories ever since.

God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

Another song that is special to Husband and I is “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. When I was around 9, my family and I lived in a house which was just down the road from a second-hand record shop and it became routine for me to go there on a Saturday morning and buy a record. I started collecting vinyl and Pet Sounds was a personal fave. In those early days of our relationship, when we’d sit and talk for hours, learning about each other, I found out that Husband was a huge Beach Boys fan when he was a kid too. Back in September 2016, we were lucky enough to get tickets to see Brian Wilson perform at a local venue, and it was one of the most amazing experiences that Husband and I have ever had – it’s something I’ll remember until I’m old and grey.

What are your #MemoriesInMusic? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Music

5 Cover Versions Which Are Better Than The Original

I have to admit, I’m incredibly fussy about song covers, especially when they’re songs that I love – Husband loves a version of Hotel California which is originally by The Eagles but covered by Gipsy Kings, and while I can appreciate their style and talent, I just can’t get my ears around their version of this song. There are, however, a few cover versions that I think are actually way better than their original, and I wanted to share them with you to see if you agree. Go and get a cuppa and listen to all the songs as you get to them – at least it’s something to distract you from all the weather talk for a few minutes!

Hurt – Nine Inch Nails/Johnny Cash

I’m not sure if it’s because Johnny Cash recorded this when he was very poorly, but there’s something about his version which chills me to my soul. I love the NIN version, but Johnny makes this song his own and although Trent Reznor wasn’t sure about it at first, he grew to love Mr. Cash’s version, saying “Having Johnny Cash, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, want to cover your song, that’s something that matters to me. It’s not so much what other people think but the fact that this guy felt that it was worthy of interpreting”. I also need to give a nod to Johnny Cash’s version of Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode at this point, which is equally amazing.

Forever Young – Bob Dylan/Audra Mae

A lot of people may disagree with me, but I’m firmly in the camp of people who believe that Bob Dylan should write songs for other people and not sing them himself! He’s capable of writing some incredible lyrics and melodies, but his vocals really don’t do it for me. This cover of his song “Forever Young” sounds beautiful when sung by Audra Mae and I genuinely think it’s far better than the original.

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley

This might be an obvious choice but for me, Jeff’s version is absolutely definitive. It may be because Leonard Cohen’s voice is a bit of an acquired taste, or the fact that Jeff Buckley’s voice is so astonishingly good (he had the same vocal range as Pavarotti), but I’ll always choose to listen to his version of this song over the original (and Alexandra Burke can GET IN THE SEA).

Running Up That Hill – Placebo/KateBush

Controversial opinion alert – I actually CANNOT STAND Kate Bush. Her vocal style sounds like someone bashing a bag of kittens against a brick wall, and it sets my teeth on edge. I do, however, absolutely LOVE the Placebo cover of this song. Brian Molko does a MUCH better version in my opinion, and I far prefer the actual arrangement of the song, too.

Respect – Aretha Franklin/Otis Redding

Probably the least controversial of my choices, I think you’d be really hard pushed to find anyone who doesn’t agree that Aretha’s version is the absolute definitive of this song. She’s not called The Queen of Soul for nothing! This is one of those songs that you absolutely cannot help but sing along to…even if you can’t reach the same notes as Aretha!

What are your favourite musical cover versions? I’d love for you to share them with me in a comment below.

Music

My Christmas Musical Wishlist

Quite a while ago, Husband and I stopped buying CDs and other ‘physical’ forms of music, in favour of using streaming services or online MP3s, save for a couple of bands whose albums we always try to get a proper copy of. However, I really do miss the experience of buying a CD, listening to it in the order the band intended and even reading through the sleeve notes and lyrics, so I thought I’d make a list of CDs that I’d love to have on my shelf and the reasons for them:

Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys

Husband and I went to see Brian Wilson performing the whole of Pet Sounds plus a few other Beach Boys classics just a few months ago, and for someone who doesn’t believe in god, it was about as spiritual an experience as I could imagine. The are SO many iconic songs on this album, which is often ranked in the top 5 albums of all time and having a copy on the shelf would remind me of one of the best evenings of my life.

Blackstar – David Bowie

Husband and I are both huge fans of David Bowie and were both devastated by his passing, earlier this year. Blackstar was released upon his death as he intended for his fans to enjoy it after he was gone, like a musical legacy, and it seems only right to have a proper CD copy of it.

Bad Religion – 30 Years Live

Another band that Husband and I adore is Bad Religion and we saw them this year too. They’re an incredible band to see live (for an atheist, Greg Graffin looks surprisingly like he’s preaching when he sings and his stage presence is phenomenal) and this album is a collection of live recordings from the bands 30th Anniversary tour.

The Streets – Original Pirate Material

This album is one of my favourites of all time and reminds me of being young and probably a little bit wild. Husband loves it too, and although we hadn’t yet met when it was released, our joint love of music is something which united us. In terms of first albums, Mike Skinner absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one but sadly my original copy got stolen when my car was broken into a few years ago, so a replacement would be nice.

Yann Tiersen – Amelie

There are quite a few soundtracks that make it onto my favourites list but nothing manages to capture so many emotions as the Amelie sountrack. Whimsically, tragically, optimistically beautiful and an absolute delight to the ears, this is an amazing album to listen to when you want something to get lost in without the urge to sing along. Keep a copy in the car, the kitchen, on your nightstand and it will ALWAYS seem like the right thing to listen to at any given time.

So, what CDs make it onto your wishlist? Leave me a comment below.

Music

The Importance of Music

Music is something which is hugely important in the Mum’s the Word house. Husband and I are both avid listeners of all types of music and it has marked so many important occasions. When we met, one of the things that we realised we had in common was a massively eclectic taste in music which, surprisingly, overlapped in so many places. When we discovered that our favourite song was one and the same, something just clicked and felt completely…right.

I can never get my head around those people who say “I’m not really into music”. There are some songs which seem to speak to my soul on such a deep level that I can’t imagine not being moved by music. I suppose I’m quite an emotional person (in both a good and a bad way!) and on any given day a song can make me smile, cry or change my mood completely. There are some songs which almost reach out and make me sob involuntarily.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year or so, you can’t help but have noticed that many wonderful musicians have been taken from us, quite unexpectedly in some cases. Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole, John Bradbury, Glenn Frey to name just a few. For both Husband and I, the music of these amazing artists has been hugely important to us and although we didn’t know them as people, the loss of them as artists has been quite rough.

When you love an artist, especially ones who’ve been around your whole life, I think you kind of have this image of immortality in your head, thinking somehow that they’ll always be around and that you’ll get the chance one day to see them in concert. We’d both have LOVED to see David Bowie or Price or any of the others (although we were both lucky enough to see Motorhead in concert back in 2006, so that’s a small consolation). I know it’s quite naive to think that these people will be around forever; many were in their late sixties and certainly didn’t live very…clean…lives, but it still feels as though we’ve been robbed.

As a result, Husband and I have made a silent pact with one another to try to get to as many gigs as we can from now on. Last year, we saw Bad Religion, a band we both love, and it was amazing timing as they played in London on our wedding anniversary, so we got to have a night out together seeing a band who’s music means a lot to us. We’ve also got tickets to see Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys in September, which is a real ‘Bucket List’ item for us both as we’ve both loved The Beach Boys since we were tiny (when I was little, I collected vinyl records that I’d buy every Saturday from the second hand record shop at the end of my road and a Best of The Beach Boys was one of my prized possessions!).

We’ve also got tickets to see The Cure when they tour at the end of November, which is another really exciting thing for us – The Cure are one of those bands who we’d both wanted to see for such a long time but they don’t tour hugely often and when they do, the tickets are like hens teeth, so getting hold if tickets for this tour was a bit of a dream come true.

It may sound morbid, effectively ticking our favourite bands off of a list to make sure we see them before any key members die, but I like to think it’s more of a pragmatic nod to the fact that even the biggest stars are only human and we need to make an effort to absorb their art while they’re still around. Live music is such a wonderful experience and having more of those experiences together can only be a good thing.

Are you still reeling from all of the sad losses of this past year? Has it inspired you to watch more live music? Who’s on YOUR gig bucket list? I’d love you to leave me a comment below. Also, if you know of any amazing gigs coming up, do let me know!