Who Needs A REAL Piano Anyway?

Pam-CD-Cover-600pxThe following recordings are piano performances by Pam Farr from her 2007 CD  Who Needs A REAL Piano Anyway?

You can get the full story on why the CD was named that way and details about how it was recorded by reading the notes below.


Nocturne Op. 9, No 1
Frederic Chopin, Grand Piano Tone… 2:32

Chopin’s Nocturnes are, to me, his most romantic pieces with beautiful singing melodies. One can take extreme liberties with expression and they are subject to open interpretation. I don’t think I’ve ever played one of Chopin’s pieces the same way twice!

Three Nocturnes make up Opus 9 — this is a very short excerpt from the No. 1 Nocturne.

Rodgers and Hammerstein… 1:41

Edelweiss is one of the best-known European mountain flowers, belonging to the sunflower family. There are many interesting facts regarding this flower and it is a protected plant in many countries.

This recording is a very short excerpt of a tune made popular in “The Sound of Music”

Für Elise
Ludwig van Beethoven, Harp Tone… :56

Every piano student learns this interesting piece with its recognizable opening melody. When I learned this in the 4th grade, I’m sure my lack of maturity wasn’t able to fully convey the beauty of this deceptively simple piece.

With this extremely short version using a harp tone rendition, I’ve taken some liberties with the classical written piece.

I’ve always loved the sound of a harp and it has been on my list of instruments to learn someday. Now, with this keyboard, the beautiful harp sound is available at my fingertips!

Two-Part Invention, No. 1
Johann Sebastian Bach, Harpsichord Tone… 1:04

The two and three-part inventions were originally written by Bach as exercises for the musical education of his students.

J.S. Bach described his two-part inventions as a method “in which enthusiasts of the keyboard are shown a clear way to play cleanly in two parts.”

I’ve always enjoyed playing Bach which is just the opposite of the moving romantic pieces that I’m usually drawn to. I equate Bach’s music to a mathematical equation, very methodical and precise. Always a challenge for the fingers!

Charles Danvers, A combination of Voices and Strings… 2:54

A beautiful, romantic melody.

Felix Arndt, Mallet, Marimba Tone… :26

This is just the first section of a wonderfully interesting and fun-to-play novelty piano piece.

from Wikipedia…

Felix Arndt (May 20, 1889-October 16, 1918) was an American pianist and composer of popular music.

Arndt is best remembered for his 1915 composition, “Nola”, written as an engagement gift to his fiancee (and later wife), Nola Locke. It is sometimes considered to be the first example of the novelty piano or “novelty ragtime” genre. It was the signature theme of the Vincent Lopez orchestra, and a top ten hit for Les Paul in 1950.

His piano rolls reveal Arndt to be a fine pianist, and he is known to have been an influence on the young George Gershwin, who would visit him at his studio in the Aeolian Building on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation #18
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Grand Piano Tone… 1:06

I love this variation and I love playing it!

The entire piece is an amazing work of art and very intricate in details. The variation on this recording is a partial excerpt which was also made popular in the movie “Somewhere in Time.”

Dear Heart
Henry Mancini, Natural Nylon Guitar Tone… 2:05

The guitar tone is amazing clear and life-like. It’s easy to forget that it’s being played on a keyboard!

Two-Part Invention, No. 13
Johann Sebastian Bach, Harp Tone… :19

A very short segment of the beginning of this
Two-Part Invention and is played with a lovely
harp sound.

Clair de Lune
Claude Debussy (from “Suite Bergamasque”)… 2:29

This short segment is the beginning section to a lovely emotional dreamy piece.

“Claude Debussy is often described as an impressionist composer because of his genius for painting images in sound, and this is perfectly illustrated by the lovely sensuous strains of ‘Clair de Lune’ (moonlight).” — Claude Debussy by Betty Fry

Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago
Maurice Jarre “Somewhere My Love,” The tone is similar to a grand piano, but slightly more mellow… 1:15

Prelude, Op. 28, No. 20
Frederic Chopin, Various Piano and String Tones… 2:20

from Wikipedia…

The Preludes Op. 28 by Frédéric Chopin are a set of 24 short pieces written for the piano, one in each key. Although the term prelude generally means an introductory piece, Chopin’s Preludes stand alone. The easiest of them can be played by the intermediate student, while the most difficult are among the most difficult pieces in the solo piano repertoire. No prelude is longer than 89 measures and the shortest a mere 12 measures.

Chopin’s shortest prelude in C minor is played here with the opening line utilizing the Grand Piano tone to showcase the powerful and majestic beginning.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
J. Fred Coots & Haven Gillespie,
Jazz Scat & Ballad Bells Tones… 1:38

I performed this song in my 4th grade Christmas program. Our school put on a Mexican Christmas and I was the American visitor to entertain with a song. Only this time around it’s performed with scat and music box bell sounds!



Who Needs A Real Piano Anyway?

It seemed like a good idea at the time — to move the big grand piano from our former home in the Chicago area to our newly purchased “Farrm” in North Carolina.

Just one “glitch.”

The old farrm house we purchased was a little short on “climate control.”

As a result, the indoor temperature and humidity closely paralleled what was going on outside. This included fairly rapid, often daily, changes from cold to hot and wet to dry.

None of that is very good for a piano… first it goes out of tune a little — then a lot — then the keys start sticking, and eventually it becomes unplayable.

Pam has played piano as long as I’ve known her.

I have always enjoyed listening to her play — the Chopin and other pieces wafting through the house is magical — and I knew how much she enjoyed playing. It was hard to see her give it up due to an unplayable instrument.

Unfortunately, the options were not good.

Getting the acoustic grand piano fixed up would be an expensive short-term fix, and the electronic pianos we tried just weren’t up to the task.

So for quite a few years, Pam didn’t play.

Now, Pam and I don’t normally exchange birthday presents, but it was around her 61st birthday that the Roland 700SX Digital Stage Piano showed up here at The Farrm.

I had actually been researching digital pianos for a while, and figured that, at this point, any piano would be better than no piano and the Roland — the latest and greatest and top-of-the-line for stage pianos — seemed to be getting good reviews.

I also figured that if it was made for the road, it could probably handle the abuses of The Farrm, too!

So we took a chance, and Pam got a nice surprise for her birthday.

But, as it turns out, the “present” was really for me, because nothing makes me happier than to see Pam playing again, engrossed in her music!

So how did the Roland 700SX turn out?

You can hear for yourself.

Not only does it sound like a $100,000+ “real” grand piano, it can be made to sound like thousands of other instruments, too — either solo or in combination.

And the “action” — the keyboard — plays like a “real” classic acoustic grand, too. This instrument, for most players, really does bring up the question… Who needs a REAL piano anyway?

How this CD was made

In addition to the Roland 700SX, several other outstanding marvels of technology need to be mentioned.

The first is the Sennheiser 650 headphones. These are generally regarded as one of the best headphones on the planet and they live up to their reputation.

Plugged directly into the Roland 700SX, they give you the ultimate listening experience, and for practice, they provide precise, clear sound to the player so each nuance of the music can be properly heard and “tweaked.”

The other highly-useful “practice tool” is the Roland Edirol R-09 recorder. When this unit is connected to the 700SX, it will record exactly what was played in CD quality sound — pretty amazing for a battery powered unit that fits in the palm of your hand!

All the selections on this CD were played on the Roland 700SX Digital Stage Piano and recorded directly from the piano with the Edirol R-09. Some editing was done with Adobe’s Soundstage software, but no effects were added. What you hear is purely Pam and the sounds produced by the Roland 700SX. — Jeff Farr, profoundly privileged and grateful to be living in an environment that celebrates, music, art, nature, and life!

Notes from Pam…

Recording the pieces on this CD was an interesting adventure. It really made me appreciate concert pianists who perform live and don’t screw up!

While I’m not a professional musician, I love to play for my own enjoyment and wanted to share my love of music with you. I hope you will find the music included very “listenable.”

Most of the pieces on this CD are short excerpts of longer bodies of work and, in some cases, are taken out of context.

I’ve included a variety of classical, popular, and whimsical pieces that showcase a tiny fraction of the unlimited combinations of sounds that the Roland 700SX can produce. I’ve barely scratched the surface on that, but, when it comes right down to it, my first love is still the classical grand piano sound that this keyboard produces so beautifully.

Contact Us