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#1170201 - 03/28/09 11:34 AM Bach-bash
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Has anybody noticed how the very mention of JS Bach ... and like shrinking spiders we have no legs to counter the mighty Baroquian. We bow in gormless wonder before the dazzling organist chappie ... label him with grandiose appellations ... Master of Harmony and Counterpoint ... and treat his WTC as the noblest of spiritual drinking holes.

Is there anyone out there who’d like to do a bit of Bach-bashing?

I’m presently playing Bach’s Prelude and Fugue XXI (WTC I) in
Bb major (penance for not having mowed the lawn this week) ...
and have to say that the staid repetitive format ... loaded with wisps of contrapuntal outline (but so lacking in emotional content) is wearing thin ... just a case of setting up a scalar motif and then grinding out a series of tweaked progressions.

Thank goodness for Bach’s progeny ... Rachmaninoff and Gershwin!!

Anybody else want to let their hair down?

PS Remember chaps ... we’re not talking organ or symphonies ... this is a Piano Forum.

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#1170262 - 03/28/09 01:17 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: btb]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Dang misleading thread titles!

btb, I thought that a Bach-bash would be like a beer bash—a festival, a celebration of Bach and his music. frown

But if we're listing his progeny, don't forget Chopin!

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1170266 - 03/28/09 01:25 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: sotto voce]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
I did, too. frown

_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1170321 - 03/28/09 02:43 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: Horowitzian]
davaofthekeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 243
I treat most of Bach´s preludes & fugues as technical exercises, as I sometomes find it hard to find emotional content within them (well, if you´re used to romantic composers anyway). I just don´t like playing him that much, and I can´t stand to listen to recordings of him, that´s just the way it is. Not my thang. So take that, in your face Bach, I bashed you good!

Although I still think he was a master, just not my master.

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#1170327 - 03/28/09 02:54 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: davaofthekeys]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
well, WTC - is indeed kind of dry.. but so very clever.

here's a plug for the organ works. wow.

back to your baash.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Ă•un (apple in Estonian)

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#1170347 - 03/28/09 03:39 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: apple*]
Acquiescence Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/09
Posts: 95
i agree that it sometimes does seem that bach composed to some mathematical formula but i still really like "invention no. 13" and harpischord concerto no 7 first movement

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#1170354 - 03/28/09 03:49 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: btb]
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2621
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Originally Posted By: btb
the staid repetitive format ... loaded with wisps of contrapuntal outline (but so lacking in emotional content) is wearing thin ...

Anyone who finds the WTC kinda dry and lacking in emotional content needs to be banished to the Kalahari Desert. grin

Try listening to this in a quiet room and then tell me there's no emotional content in Bach:
Prelude and Fugue in C# minor, WTC1
Another version
_________________________
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

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#1170367 - 03/28/09 04:12 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: jazzyprof]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i need to be practicing that NOW.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Ă•un (apple in Estonian)

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#1170378 - 03/28/09 04:31 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: jazzyprof]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4784
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: jazzyprof
Anyone who finds the WTC kinda dry and lacking in emotional content needs to be banished to the Kalahari Desert. grin

Try listening to this in a quiet room and then tell me there's no emotional content in Bach:



Wholehearted agreement jazzyprof!

btb your prose is lovely but I feel so much regret for your lack of appreciation of Bach. There is indeed deep emotional content in Bach. Unlike Romantic period music which candidly expresses tears, joy and pain, Bach is very restrained, which makes it all the more poignant. Bach can be romantic, crashingly dramatic, elegant, sweet, humorous... you name it. It makes me swoon. Every piece I've played is a sumptuous feast of complexity and feeling. I just can't get enough.
I am polishing his D minor concerto (first movement) and it gives me goosebumps and makes my heart beat faster. Don't give up on Bach; you may one day change your mind.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1170380 - 03/28/09 04:34 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: jazzyprof]
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
Originally Posted By: jazzyprof
Anyone who finds the WTC kinda dry and lacking in emotional content needs to be banished to the Kalahari Desert. grin


I agree! (sorry, apple. whome)

I find it amazing that Bach was able to convey such emotion and powerful music, considering the limitations of the era (instruments, key compass, harmonic language, strict rules of composition, etc.).

Just because Bach's music is cerebral doesn't mean that it is lacking in feeling.

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#1170388 - 03/28/09 04:47 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: whippen boy]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Would one of you Bach defenders please describe for me which deep emotion is being expressed in the Bb Prelude and Fugue?

Not all music is designed to tap great emotional depths. The c# minor prelude and fugue? Yes. Bb Major? I don't think so.

Nor do I think a lack of emotion in music is a negative criticism. Some music aspires to be emotional, but some music also aspires to be sublime, entertaining, fulfill a social or religious purpose, or encapsulate a more abstract or cerebral ideal.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1170391 - 03/28/09 04:51 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: whippen boy]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17837
Loc: Victoria, BC
It's one thing to admit to not having yet evolved to a state of appreciation of the genius of Bach; there might be hope in such a case.

It's quite another to use a lack of understanding as a "just cause" for bashing! The assumed mantra "I don't understand it; ergo, it's bad." has been the cause of much of the world's ills.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1170393 - 03/28/09 04:52 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: whippen boy]
newport Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/05
Posts: 492
Part of the reason you like it so much is because you know it's Bach first. You project your own emotion and admiration into it.

I am no Bach scholar but I think Bach is a reflection of his age and environment. He is an accumulator.

Why does all these great musicians have to be redicovered? Who are today's Bach and Mozart amongst us?
_________________________
Chopin Op.51
John

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#1170409 - 03/28/09 05:08 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: Kreisler]
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Would one of you Bach defenders please describe for me which deep emotion is being expressed in the Bb Prelude and Fugue?


Joy? At least I feel happy when I play it.

I wasn't suggesting that all of Bach's music has a deep emotional content; neither would I say it is supposed to be utterly devoid of feeling.

However, I do feel something when I play Bach: it is a special sort of contentment that I don't feel from other composers.

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#1170410 - 03/28/09 05:08 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: Kreisler]
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2621
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Would one of you Bach defenders please describe for me which deep emotion is being expressed in the Bb Prelude and Fugue?

Sorry, but Bach needs no defenders.

As for the deep emotion being expressed in the Bb Prelude and Fugue, for btb I imagine it is annoyance, irritation, and finally, joy that the ordeal is over!
_________________________
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

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#1170419 - 03/28/09 05:31 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: newport]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4784
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: newport
Part of the reason you like it so much is because you know it's Bach first. You project your own emotion and admiration into it.



Not so. For years and years I tolerated Bach as background music. I knew it was Bach; I thought it was "nice" but I didn't really love it or appreciate its complexity. About 4 years ago my teacher put me to work on the Italian Concerto. I can only describe it as delicious. It was so rich, beautiful, interesting and fun to play. I began to listen to more and more Bach. I delved deeper into WTC and suddenly found myself completely addicted. My technique and sight reading took a huge leap.I remember listening to Bach's E major keyboard concerto (BWV 1053) for the first time. When Perahia swooped into those arpeggios in the third movement, I literally whooped aloud.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1170421 - 03/28/09 05:36 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: gooddog]
newport Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/05
Posts: 492
Originally Posted By: gooddog

No so. For years and years I tolerated Bach as background music. I knew it was Bach; I thought it was "nice" but I didn't really love it or appreciate its complexity. About 4 years ago my teacher put me to work on the Italian Concerto. I can only describe it as delicious. It was so rich, beautiful, interesting and fun to play. I began to listen to more and more Bach. I delved deeper into WTC and suddenly found myself completely addicted. My technique and sight reading took a huge leap.I remember listening to Bach's E major keyboard concerto (BWV 1053) for the first time. When Perahia swooped into those arpeggios in the third movement, I literally whooped aloud.

I am only saying it as part of the reason. I know what you are saying. But remember that men created god smile.
_________________________
Chopin Op.51
John

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#1170432 - 03/28/09 06:03 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: whippen boy]
djtoast Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/07
Posts: 136
Loc: Glasgow
there are some moments in the WTC that you could accuse of being a bit mechanical.

but hmmm, a couple of example that really aren't... how about the A minor fugue from book one, and the E major fugue from the second book - they're very emotion-laden!

Here's Gould doing the latter (much more slowly than in the version included with his WTC):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mia9woisQZo

And here's Joanna McGregor playing the former. The camera angles at the start are as dizzying as the treatment of the subject later smile

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpz9Y_TUipk

Obviously rubato, dynamics, and such expressive tools are less of a feature in baroque music than in classical and romantic music etc, but rather than removing emotion I think you could argue that it sort of distills it.

Ha, maybe you could make a comparison with British and American attitudes to complaining. An American will say to a waiter "hey ya lousy bum, i ordered my steak an hour ago, you better get it here on the double or I'll kick your ass!" ; a Brit will say "I say, if it's not too much trouble, might you check with Chef whether he'll have a moment to see about my steak? That would be awfully decent of you!"

The Brit expresses himself in a more measured tone but the message is the same, within the contexts of the established conventions. He's no less hungry and he expects the same reaction in the waiter!

Debussy and Chopin spell out which direction your heart-strings are being pulled in; Bach's approach is more analytical but the elements are there I think.
_________________________
Brodmann BU 125 upright
1880 BlĂĽthner 7'2" grand

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#1170436 - 03/28/09 06:08 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: whippen boy]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
Originally Posted By: whippen boy
Originally Posted By: jazzyprof
Anyone who finds the WTC kinda dry and lacking in emotional content needs to be banished to the Kalahari Desert. grin


I agree! (sorry, apple. whome)

I find it amazing that Bach was able to convey such emotion and powerful music, considering the limitations of the era (instruments, key compass, harmonic language, strict rules of composition, etc.).

Just because Bach's music is cerebral doesn't mean that it is lacking in feeling.


please don't get me wrong.. dry is relative and dry is good. - i adore the WTC... God forbid that anyone think i not appreciate it for it's genius.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Ă•un (apple in Estonian)

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#1170446 - 03/28/09 06:21 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: djtoast]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: djtoast
Ha, maybe you could make a comparison with British and American attitudes to complaining. An American will say to a waiter "hey ya lousy bum, i ordered my steak an hour ago, you better get it here on the double or I'll kick your ass!"

Nah, we know better than to do that. smile

I know this was meant as tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, but treating a waitperson abusively isn't a good idea anywhere—unless one wants that steak served with special ingredients or a secret sauce. cool

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1170479 - 03/28/09 07:30 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: djtoast]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4784
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: djtoast
Ha, maybe you could make a comparison with British and American attitudes to complaining. An American will say... a Brit will say ....


I do hate generalizations, especially ones based on Hollywood caricatures. Most Americans are and have always been well mannered. People I know usually demur from expressing their displeasure, preferring instead to remain silent and take their business elsewhere in the future. The only people I have ever heard express themselves in this crude way were Hollywood actors like Cagney. Give us a break! Your ex-colonies are really quite civilized.

Now back to Bach...
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1170490 - 03/28/09 08:03 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: gooddog]
greyceol Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/06
Posts: 39
Bach is emotional in a way that is (in my mind and understanding, anyway) very in keeping with the prevailing norms of his day. The emotion in Bach's music is covered and subdued (although there are certainly instances when it is more apparent). It is much more difficult to understand and access this emotion than it is to understand that huge, crashing chords in Rachmaninoff signify anger. However, this does not mean that Bach's music is any less worthy of respect as Music, not as technical exercises - the WTC is much more than just a technique builder. It requires work to understand what Bach is trying to convey, but the reward is a rich one, indeed.

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#1170513 - 03/28/09 08:42 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: gooddog]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8825
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: gooddog
The only people I have ever heard express themselves in this crude way were Hollywood actors like Cagney.

Au contraire, Cagney's screen persona was at complete odds with his private life... which was always very private. He was a very devoted and loving husband who avoided the tabloid scandals of some of his fellow actors.

As far as Americans being well mannered, well as you wish. London has always been inundated with Americans, they think somehow that because they arrived on United or American airlines, they have come to some exotic location. But more often than not, they're totally clueless about history or tradition. Westminster Abbey -hey, we've racked another one up!, must be some low-church American religion for want of knowing better- is just another bloody structure to visit, and sorry for them that pictures are not allowed. Doesn't help their flickr accounts...

Alas, Salisbury is just a day trip via rail from London Victoria... so the Americans go there too, and they 'bagged' another one. Plenty of photo opportunities, the flickr accounts burst with activity.

But nothing will ever match some Americans I met at Ely. I was so embarrassed. Generalizations? Perhaps, but their 'batting' average ain't very good.

_________________________
Jason

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#1170524 - 03/28/09 09:13 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: argerichfan]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Jason, I'm sure when Deborah cited Cagney she meant behavior typical of one of his tough-guy characters on screen (though there are some actors—and people in other high-status professions, too—who do feel sufficiently empowered and entitled to engage in boorishness).

But why indulge in stereotypes at all, especially ones that concern national origin or ethnicity? If we're expected to laugh off the phenomenon of the "Ugly American," then what about the generalizations about other peoples that are significantly more noxious? In a global forum where every participant is an individual—and where feathers are easily ruffled even on a good day—it seems pointless to go down that road at all.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1170527 - 03/28/09 09:27 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: sotto voce]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8825
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: sotto voce

But why indulge in stereotypes at all, especially ones that concern national origin or ethnicity? If we're expected to laugh off the phenomenon of the "Ugly American," then what about the generalizations about other peoples that are significantly more noxious? In a global forum where every participant is an individual—and where feathers are easily ruffled even on a good day—it seems pointless to go down that road at all.

Sorry, Steven. I got a bit out of line, especially when 'pints' are involved. Emotions with me run very, very high as you so well know.

I was waiting for Deborah to come back at me for American ignorance, hardly the case, my mum is American, and... guess what?... I spent five years of my boyhood in the US Pacific Northwest. Hmmm, could it be Seattle? That's where Deborah is from. laugh We went to church every Sunday at St. Mark's Cathedral. Very 'Episcopal', hardly Anglican. Gorgeous building, though.
_________________________
Jason

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#1170532 - 03/28/09 09:37 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: Kreisler]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19228
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Nor do I think a lack of emotion in music is a negative criticism. Some music aspires to be emotional, but some music also aspires to be sublime, entertaining, fulfill a social or religious purpose, or encapsulate a more abstract or cerebral ideal.


Extremely interesting idea IMHO. For me at least, the "sublime" but "lack of emotion" made me think of Ravel and much of Debussy although I know from an earlier discussion about this many PW members don't feel that way about their music.

I think I could listen to Ondine a few times a week for the rest of my life and not get tired of it. But I don't find it emotional, just sublimely beautiful. Same for J'eux deux and many other Ravel pieces.

Could you give us some examples of pieces that you feel fall into the specific non emotional categories you mentioned?


Edited by pianoloverus (03/28/09 09:39 PM)

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#1170539 - 03/28/09 09:42 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: pianoloverus]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Much of Medtner's music falls into the same category, IMHO. smile
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1170545 - 03/28/09 09:55 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: pianoloverus]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8825
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

Extremely interesting idea IMHO. For me at least, the "sublime" but "lack of emotion" made me think of Ravel and much of Debussy although I know from an earlier discussion about this many PW members don't feel that way about their music.

Funny thing. Debussy and Ravel utterly amaze me with their technique and ingeniousness. Really terrific stuff. And yet, with the overwhelming exception of Ravel's two piano concertos, my life would not be significantly different or poorer without them. I truly hate Ravel's assault on Mussorgsky's Pictures, but that is a hopelessly hard sell. I must be one of the few on this planet who feels that way.

But could any two composers be more different? Mussorgsky, the unrefined, utterly stark genius of the Russians... Ravel, the French dandy and his foppy outfits and pretensions of... well, whatever.

Ravel had a marvelous gift of orchestration (no other orchestrations of Pictures come close- I've heard several others), but one really wonders if the punishment fits the crime.
_________________________
Jason

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#1170549 - 03/28/09 09:59 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: Horowitzian]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8825
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
Much of Medtner's music falls into the same category, IMHO. smile

Good grief, a whole 'nother bag... whew! let us be careful. grin
_________________________
Jason

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#1170555 - 03/28/09 10:05 PM Re: Bach-bash [Re: btb]
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
Originally Posted By: btb
We bow in gormless wonder ...and treat his WTC as the noblest of spiritual drinking holes.

I’m presently playing Bach’s Prelude and Fugue XXI (WTC I) in
Bb major (penance for not having mowed the lawn this week) ...
and have to say that the staid repetitive format ... loaded with wisps of contrapuntal outline (but so lacking in emotional content) is wearing thin ... just a case of setting up a scalar motif and then grinding out a series of tweaked progressions.


btb - Bach was not only a master of spiritual music, but a master of music of Baroque dance forms as well. I wonder if perhaps you are approaching the Bb fugue in the wrong way. If you think of it (and play it) as a lively dance it absolutely SPARKLES. I find the Prelude to be exhilarating - a tour de force etude.

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