Willis Music Company Chosen For Top 100 Music Stores In America

NAMM National Association of Music Merchants Top 100 2016 Willis Music

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) recently chose Willis Music Company for the final selection of 2016’s Top 100 Dealer Awards. The NAMM website elaborates, “Each Top 100 submission was reviewed by an independent panel of judges and numerically rated across categories that included customer service, music advocacy, store design and promotions and were scored in accordance to determine the Top 100 list, the category winners, and the overall award, Dealer of the Year.” (NAMM)

We would like to thank our customers and staff here at Willis Music for their continued support, allowing us to achieve this prestigious nomination. We pride ourselves on giving our very best to our customers and music community and we are very honored to be part of the Top 100.


How Does A Grand Piano Work?

If you’ve ever seen a world-class pianist playing a great piece of music, you might agree that they are possibly the world’s best musician.  It takes amazing physical, intellectual, and emotional brilliance to play such a complex instrument in such a captivating way, and only a small percentage of the world’s pianists are up to the job.  One of my personal favorites is Yuja Wang.


But it’s not just the musician who makes the music sound so fantastic: the instrument plays a huge part too.

Let’s take a closer look inside a piano and find out how it works!  How does a piano make sound?
A piano sounds quite unlike any other instrument and, if you heard it on the radio, you’d probably never guess how it was making a noise. The confusing thing about a piano is that it’s two different kinds of instrument in one: it’s a string instrument, because the sounds are made with strings, but it’s also a percussion instrument (like a drum) because the strings make sound when something hits them. Listen to the music of a composer like Bartok and you’ll often hear the piano being played percussive manner, almost beating like a drum.

So what happens when you press the key of a piano? The key is actually a wooden lever, a bit like a seesaw but much longer at one end than at the other. When you press down on a key, the opposite end of the lever (hidden inside the case) jumps up in the air, forcing a small felt-covered hammer to press against the piano strings, making a musical note. At the same time, at the extreme end of the lever behind the hammer, another mechanical part called a damper is also forced up into the air. When you release the key, the hammer and the damper fall back down again. The damper sits on top of the string, stops it vibrating, and brings the note rapidly to an end.

When the hammer strikes the strings, it vibrates, sets air molecules in motion and sends the sounds of the strings out toward your ears. To make the sounds louder, there is a large piece of wood mounted underneath them, called the soundboardWhen the strings vibrate, the soundboard also vibrates in sympathy  resonance. The soundboard effectively amplifies the strings so they are loud enough to hear.

If you’ve ever wondered why pianos are such a funny shape, that’s easy to answer.  Remember that they’re string instruments.  Lower notes need longer strings than higher notes, so the bass strings for the low notes on the left-hand side of the keyboard need to be much longer than the treble strings for the high notes on the right-hand side. That’s why the case is longer on the left than on the right and why it has that funny curved rim.  In fact, the strings on the left are so long that they cross over, on top of the middle and treble strings to save space.

Since each note can have up to three strings, it turns out that there are well over 230 strings inside a piano, each one stretched really tight. To stop the strings from collapsing the entire piano inwards, the rim and case are reinforced by a huge, heavy cast iron plate. The plate sits just above the sound board and large metal holes around its edge allow the sound to come up through it.

Take  a quick tour of how a grand piano works.  Check out the following video from the science channel.

Advice About Used Pianos and New Students.

Piano-Kid                                                                                                                       Piano purchase advice for parents of beginning piano students.

A common misconception about buying a piano for a young student, is that a suitable piano can be acquired for only a few hundred dollars.  The fact is that for a young student to progress they need a better piano, not worse.

Parents may not want to invest a lot of money in a piano.  After all, the child may lose interest and a cheaper, older piano may seem the logical choice.  However, a bad purchasing decision at this point in a student’s learning journey tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In many cases a piano that is too old, or simply not good enough will soon become useless to the student, unbeknownst to he parent.  When a piano’s action cannot be regulated to the correct touch, or the strings tuned to proper pitch, the student, unable to duplicate what was taught in a lesson, will become frustrated, discouraged, and will lose interest.  No amount of practice on an inferior instrument can overcome its shortcomings.  And, when you add the cost of moving, tuning, repairs, lack of warranty protection, and an older piano’s shorter life span; a new or more recently made piano may start to look like a bargain in the long run.

I would encourage a family to look at quality new pianos, or better used pianos no more than 15 years old.  And a young talented student, moving up to a quality grand piano is never a mistake.  If an older piano is chosen, it should be one that was of good quality to begin with, and restored to like-new condition.

Although good and bad pianos have been made, every used piano must be evaluated on its own merit.  Certain categories of pianos in today’s market should be avoided.


  • Old Upright – These are usually 48″ to 60″ high and about 100 years old.  Most pianos that are a century old and have not been discarded will need extensive restoration before they are useful to the student.  Many have difficulty holding a tuning and desperately need new strings, hammers, dampers, and pedal repairs.  Parents who purchase these deteriorating instruments for beginners will probably face a constant stream of complaints.  In most cases, this category of used piano should be avoided for use in serious practice.  And contrary to popular belief, they don’t have much of an antique value either.


  • Small, cheap, American-made pianos from the 1960’s to 1980’s.  During this period American companies started feeling the competition from Japanese makers who undercut their prices.  The result was that the few remaining American makers of inexpensive pianos began to cut as much cost as they could from their production.  Many of these pianos were Spinets, which are 36″ to 40″ high.  Spinets have a recessed, or “drop” action that is connected to the keys in directly.  These actions are difficult and expensive to repair.  Many of these spinets are manufactured with connecting parts, called “elbow”, made of plastic which eventually deteriorate and break off.  Installing a set of replacement elbows can cost hundreds of dollars.  Spinets were usually the least expensive entry-level pianos manufactured by a piano company, and most are not worth repairing.  The first wave of pianos from this era began to enter the used piano market in the 1980’s, as the people who originally purchased them began to retire.  Many were passed on to this generation’s children, and now, as they retire, a second wave of these instruments are entering the market.  Many of these instruments are now 30 to 50 years old, and need some restoration before they will be suitable for the student.  Besides, many of these small, cheap pianos were so poorly designed and constructed that, even when new, and regulated and tuned as well as possible, they played poorly and sounded terrible.


  • Early offering from the Korean and Chinese makers.  Korean pianos made before 1990 and Chinese pianos from before 2000, often exhibit unpredictable problems.  Quality control was erratic, and wood was often not properly seasoned.  These pianos tend to be plagued with sticking keys that repeat too slowly due to poor action design, a problem that cannot be inexpensively corrected.


The used piano market also offers many well made pianos from the past, that are of potential value to a student.  But even these, including famous names, can also present pitfalls for the unwary.  Don’t buy without professional guidance, a piano that is not playable and keep a tune, with the idea that you can simply have a few repairs done once you get the piano home.  Get repair estimates before you commit to purchasing a used piano.  Finally, don’t rely on a private seller for important information about the piano you are thinking of buying.  Hire a piano technician to inspect any piano you’re seriously considering buying.

Better yet, visit a local piano store and talk to a sales associate.  The majority of them are very honest and would be happy to answer any questions.


Quality is like buying oats.  If you want nice, fresh, clean oats, you must pay a fair price.  However, if you can be satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse ………………….. that comes a little cheaper!                       ~Anonymous.

There is hardly anything in the world that some person cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and people who consider price only are this person’s lawful prey.  J Ruskin


Robert Falcón                                                                                                                                                                           Steinway & Sons Representative                                                                                                                                              513-252-0445
















Summer of Music Education in Lexington

Our Lexington location has a summer full of
Music Education 
opportunities on its’ schedule.

Save these dates!


Saturday, June 4 – D’Addario Woodwind Workshop

Clinician, Krista Weiss, will present a workshop from 11am-3pm on clarinet & saxophone
fundamentals & equipment. Plus you can come test out  D’Addario products for yourself!

Tuesday, June 28 – Carolyn Miller Piano Workshop

Composer, performer, and piano teacher, Carolyn Miller, offers a morning full of
piano pedagogy tips and best practices from 9am-Noon. You won’t want to miss this!.

Friday, July 15 – Yamaha Music Educator Experience

Music Educators: Join us from Noon-5pm for a day of musical fireworks, as a team of
Experts from the Yamaha Corporation share their products made to enrich your life!

Friday, August 12 – DCI Semi-Finals Live Streaming Event

For the third straight year we invite you to pull up a chair, bring a friend,  and enjoy Drum
Corps International live on a big screen and in a thrilling surround sound from 2-10:30pm.

Saturday, September 10 – Young Percussionists Workshop

Created for 5-8 graders percussionists, this workshop featuring local percussion educators
will focus on fundamentals & musicianship for concert percussion & drumset from 1-5pm.

All of these events are free of charge and will take place in the John Thompson Recital Hall at Willis Music.
RSVP to lexington@willismusic.com

headshot of kevin cranley

What’s kept us going for 117 years?

Recital at MTNA Headquarters in Cincinnati

My wife Debbi and I were honored to attend a very special event this past Friday in Cincinnati.  Recently, MTNA moved into a beautiful new headquarters in Cincinnati. The offices were most recently occupied by a Cincinnati law firm and are richly decorated.  Gary Ingle (MTNA CEO) and Brian Shepard (MTNA COO) were approached by the landlord to take an additional space at an extremely attractive price.  While not in the original plans, Brian and Gary envisioned a recital hall where pianists could perform and music lovers could enjoy live piano performances.  After securing the room, they approached longtime partners Steinway and Sons, and Willis Music about securing a piano for the space.  Steinway and Sons supplied the piano and Willis took care of the delivery which was a challenge in itself.  Their offices are in the PNC tower which when built in 1913 was the fifth tallest tower in the world.  The only problem with this beautiful historic building is that it doesn’t have freight elevators and the passenger elevators are extremely small.  We carefully measured and determined that we could fit a Steinway and Sons Model S. Regardless of our careful measurement our fingers were crossed on the day of the move and it went off without a hitch.

This inaugural concert was held in conjunction with the MTNA Board of Directors Meeting with board members and friends present.  Steinway Artist and CCM Eminent Scholar, James Tocco performed and certainly showed off all this beautiful piano is capable of.  He entertained everyone in attendance with not only his music but entertaining stories about the music he chose.

Steinway and Sons and Willis Music were pleased to be asked by MTNA to partner in bringing another live music venue to MTNA members and the music community of Greater Cincinnati.


Pictured:  (L to R) Gary Ingle, MTNA; Rebecca Grooms Johnson, MTNA; Kevin Cranley, Willis Music; James Tocco, CCM; Sally Coveleskie, Steinway and Sons; Peter Landgren, CCM; Darren Marshall, Steinway and Sons

Unmatched Value In A Steinway-designed Piano

25th Anniversary Savings

Up to $2,500 Instant Rebate

Make an appointment or just stop in to view and play a Boston Piano:

    • Willis Music Kenwood
      8118 Montgomery Rd.
      Cincinnati, OH 45236
    • Willis Music Florence
      7567 Mall Rd.
      Florence, KY 41042

The Steinway-designed Boston piano is long unrivaled in its class and unmatched in value. Employing the unique patents and expertise that have made the Steinway name synonymous with musical excellence, Boston pianos offer the pedigree of Steinway engineering with the accessibility of a mid-priced piano.

Now, for a limited time, you can save up to $2,500 with an instant rebate on any new Steinway-designed Boston upright or grand piano in stock.* It’s all part of the celebration as we kick off Boston’s 25th Anniversary Year.

*Not applicable with any other offer. Piano must be in stock and purchased by 11/30/2015.


Features of the Boston Piano – Designed by Steinway & Sons

New Teacher Alert

Here at Willis Music we are always excited to add new teachers to our education program. Here are a few of our teachers to consider when choosing the teacher that is right for you. To sign up for lessons now, click here.

Jason Easter
West Chester Location

We are very excited to have Jason aboard. His love for the trumpet is evident in everything he does. He has taught at this location before with the Moeller Music Company, and is excited to be back. “I attended Miami University and Wright State university for a double performance major in voice and trumpet. I had moved to New York briefly and played with several salsa, jazz and funk bands in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I have experience teaching beginners as well as junior high school and high school level private lessons.”

To sign up for lessons with Jason, click here.

Deborah Hodge
Lexington Location

Deborah is a great find here in the Lexington location. Here experience really speaks for itself. “Hi, I am Dr. Deborah Hodge, and though I have resided in New York for about 25 years, I am a native of Lexington, Kentucky. I am a certified music teacher and I recently relocated back to Lexington after teaching music in New York for a numbers of years. I also taught music for approximately 10 years in the Fayette County School District. My teaching experience includes vocal, instrumental (band and orchestra), keyboarding (recording), and marching band (Assistant and Director). I have taught on both the elementary and secondary levels.

To sign up for lessons with Deborah, click here.