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#1455854 - 06/13/10 04:05 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Feminicricket Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 136
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
The pendulum swings back and forth. When I was a student, musicologists, avant garde teachers, performers were reacting to the over-editing of Baroque period music using the standards of the Romantic period. In the opinion of many, myself included, they went way overboard in austerity. As we're not privy to actual Baroque performances (no recordings available!) we can only follow best guest approximations using written material of the period and the classical period immediately following. And we have to remember that language changes as well, so we're really only guessing at best.

That said, the music lends itself to certain performance characteristics. Each period being different. Yet Bach was highly intelligent as well as emotional, and his performances would not have been dry and rectangular. There would be life, vitality, and the gamut of human emotion as best he could on the instrumentation he had available.

For the sake of your students, I would clearly mark your performance expectations into the score. No reputable judge is going to ding the performer for following his teacher's directions.


I will mark the score. Thank you for your opinion and suggestions.
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#1455856 - 06/13/10 04:06 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Feminicricket Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 136
Loc: USA
Thank you to all of you. You have clarified my thoughts.
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LEARNING AND IMPROVING NEVER STOPS. It would be boring if it did.

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#1455897 - 06/13/10 05:39 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
Kevin Nolan Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/11/10
Posts: 4
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Bach also used forte and piano in some parts of French Overture. I think the last movement (Echo) had dynamic markings; however, they are very "terraced."

When I play Bach, I use all that's available on a modern piano--una corda, sostenuto pedal, damper pedal, crescendo, diminuendo, and all kinds of dynamic shadings.

My students still run into judges who write nonsense comments to them. Seriously, one judge wrote something to the effect of "you need to make the piano sound more like a harpsichord for Bach." Huh??? I guess there are still some folks leftover from the "no pedal in Bach" school of piano playing.



I'm new to this forum but I have to say I find this particular post a little worrying. The poster seems to suggest we have free reign over the performance of Bach; and is also a bit critical of those who might subscribe to a more purist approach (and I'm not saying purist is better!).

My own two penny's worth. Even performing Bach on a piano is questionable because he did not write for piano - but of course this is very impractical to get round. But I do feel that composers such as Bach make a case for the likes of Yamaha putting a LOT more care into the creation of Harpsichord sampled instruments (or Virtual Acoustic Instruments) for players to practice Bach as he wrote it.

Secondly - since Bach's keyboard music was not written with volume dynamics even in his perception, then I believe it is always prudent to minimise such dynamics when performing his music in particular. Indeed, not only did perhaps Bach address the same 'intention of dynamics' through the likes of ornamentation; but you could argue that his entire thinking when composing - as in the density of the harmony used, carefully placed held notes and so on - were his ways of articulating variety and dynamics (which could be provided by the later composers such as Beethoven with a lower density of harmonic movement but great volume dynamics?). In short - Bach's music was arguably inadvertently written with dynamic expression though variations in rhythmmic, melodic and harmonic movement and texture - suggesting that a correct interpretation of his phrases and proper practice of held notes and ornaments and so on will fully address any dynamic requirements inteneded in the music.

Finally, if this poster took similar liberties with music richly notated with volume dynamics, such as by Debussy for example, he'd run into a lot of trouble.

As incomplete or frustrating as it may be, the old axiom of trying to perform the music as close to the stated intention in the score; should surely be the best guide? We could certainly imagine Bach using all of the latest dynamic instruments to amazing effect if he were alive these days; but I could equally imagine him being pretty peeved with anyone taking liberty with his serious creative output.

Regards,
Kevin.


Edited by Kevin Nolan (06/13/10 05:49 PM)

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#1455903 - 06/13/10 05:45 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I would clearly mark your performance expectations into the score. No reputable judge is going to ding the performer for following his teacher's directions.


John:

I did that. Circled. Highlighted. Some judges still challenge my indications. There are also festivals in which no scores are required, so the judges just hear the pieces and write down comments. For these events, it's easier to get contradictory comments, which I completely understand.
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#1455909 - 06/13/10 05:58 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I would clearly mark your performance expectations into the score. No reputable judge is going to ding the performer for following his teacher's directions.


John:

I did that. Circled. Highlighted. Some judges still challenge my indications. There are also festivals in which no scores are required, so the judges just hear the pieces and write down comments. For these events, it's easier to get contradictory comments, which I completely understand.


Do you mean that the judges actually critique your indications themselves? If so, that's out of line, in my opinion (granting that they realize those indications are from you). I've judged many competitions (and a Bach festival annually) and I never make mention to a student anything I might disagree with that falls on their teacher. I might converse with colleagues about certain teachers, but never within earshot of a student. If I disagree with something marked in a students score I'll find a creative way of commenting on it in my critique, so that the problem is highlighted without directly challenging them, or their teacher.
I do have other thoughts about what you're describing, but I'll leave them alone for now.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1455926 - 06/13/10 06:11 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: stores
Do you mean that the judges actually critique your indications themselves? If so, that's out of line, in my opinion (granting that they realize those indications are from you).


YES! Unfortunately, local piano competitions are always uneven with the judging. Sometimes you get good judges. Other times you get judges who just want to show off how much they know.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1455932 - 06/13/10 06:17 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Kevin Nolan]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7410
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Kevin Nolan
I'm new to this forum but I have to say I find this particular post a little worrying. The poster seems to suggest we have free reign over the performance of Bach; and is also a bit critical of those who might subscribe to a more purist approach (and I'm not saying purist is better!).

.....

Secondly - since Bach's keyboard music was not written with volume dynamics even in his perception, then I believe it is always prudent to minimise such dynamics when performing his music in particular. Indeed, not only did perhaps Bach address the same 'intention of dynamics' through the likes of ornamentation; but you could argue that his entire thinking when composing - as in the density of the harmony used, carefully placed held notes and so on - were his ways of articulating variety and dynamics (which could be provided by the later composers such as Beethoven with a lower density of harmonic movement but great volume dynamics?). In short - Bach's music was arguably inadvertently written with dynamic expression though variations in rhythmmic, melodic and harmonic movement and texture - suggesting that a correct interpretation of his phrases and proper practice of held notes and ornaments and so on will fully address any dynamic requirements inteneded in the music.

........

As incomplete or frustrating as it may be, the old axiom of trying to perform the music as close to the stated intention in the score; should surely be the best guide? We could certainly imagine Bach using all of the latest dynamic instruments to amazing effect if he were alive these days; but I could equally imagine him being pretty peeved with anyone taking liberty with his serious creative output.

Regards,
Kevin.


Welcome, Kevin, to the forum and the on-going and never ending debate over Bach performances. This is just the latest chapter of many thousands of posts on this subject, here and elsewhere.

Many, many artists, pedagogues and musicologists are in agreement with AZN. It doesn't make us right, but it is certainly an opinion which is in its ascendancy at the moment.

Bach had both choruses and orchestras at his disposal, and I would wager that he did not allow them to speak in a monotone (dynamically speaking).

Regretfully, without the benefit of historical recordings, this is a debate which cannot be fully settled.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1455953 - 06/13/10 06:48 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Kevin Nolan]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Kevin Nolan
Finally, if this poster took similar liberties with music richly notated with volume dynamics, such as by Debussy for example, he'd run into a lot of trouble.


Hello, Kevin. Welcome to the forums. I'm honored that you took the time to address my previous post. You wrote some insightful info about Bach and his compositional process. I'm sure you know that the Bach Debate will never cease, but the act of debating makes us look closer at the music and study it more carefully.

FYI: Debussy is one of my idols, so I would never destroy his music by changing his marks. laugh
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#1457134 - 06/15/10 01:59 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: AZNpiano]
Kevin Nolan Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/11/10
Posts: 4
Hi John v.d.Brook and AZNpiano -

Thanks most sincerely for your warm welcome to the forum. I shot from the hip a little AZNpiano - so thank's for replying is such a balanced manner. My apologies for being a little too self-righteous.

FYI I'm an amateur pianist with my ALCM, and slog hard to play about OK, so I claim no special insight. And I have a confession to make - there's nothing I love more than playing Bach's 3-part invention in Cmin with a little damper pedal in places (blush!).


So I accept your point for sure that this debate will rage on long after we're around. And on thinking about it further, the pianists who play Bach I like listening to the most are those with incredibly clear articulation and sense of rhythm – there’s simply noting more satisfying.

Thanks most sincerely for your kind welcome to what is a very exciting and incredibly insightful forum.


Very best regards,
Kevin.

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#1457169 - 06/15/10 02:45 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Christopher Sedlak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 61
Loc: Indiana
A real purist would say most of Bach should never be played on a piano, but only on the original instrument intended. Yes, I've actually heard colleagues suggest this to my horror.

Christopher
_________________________
Composer & Solo Piano Artist
www.christophersedlak.com

(also offering piano instruction and web development services)


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#1457208 - 06/15/10 04:09 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Christopher Sedlak]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
If you listen to the music of Bach played on the harpsichord or the organ, you will notice the intensity that occurs as the voices build on top of each other at cadences.

It doesn't sound the same on the piano if you do not use dynamics. A pianist must make adjustments of volume and voicing to produce that same kind of intensity.
_________________________
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#1457269 - 06/15/10 06:24 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Christopher Sedlak]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7410
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Christopher Sedlak
A real purist would say most of Bach should never be played on a piano, but only on the original instrument intended. Yes, I've actually heard colleagues suggest this to my horror.

Christopher


Moments ago, our local FM radio station was playing some Bach, as performed by Angela Hewitt. Because of this current thread, I really tuned in. Dynamically, she was phrasing each and every thread with changes in dynamics. Of course, it sounded wonderful. If Bach could hear it, my guess is he would say, "That was wonderful. Move over, let me try that!"
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1457331 - 06/15/10 09:38 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: John v.d.Brook]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: Christopher Sedlak
A real purist would say most of Bach should never be played on a piano, but only on the original instrument intended. Yes, I've actually heard colleagues suggest this to my horror.

Christopher


Moments ago, our local FM radio station was playing some Bach, as performed by Angela Hewitt. Because of this current thread, I really tuned in. Dynamically, she was phrasing each and every thread with changes in dynamics. Of course, it sounded wonderful. If Bach could hear it, my guess is he would say, "That was wonderful. Move over, let me try that!"


Angela Rocks!
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1457365 - 06/15/10 11:47 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
+1
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1457405 - 06/16/10 01:13 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Minniemay]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense. -1
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1457426 - 06/16/10 04:00 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense. -1


No, it wouldn't make sense to a warped mind, I suppose.


Edited by stores (06/16/10 04:19 AM)
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1457429 - 06/16/10 04:17 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: stores
No, it wouldn't make sense to an warped mind, I suppose.
An warped mind? Am I missing something? Or is that just plain rudeness?
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#1463123 - 06/25/10 09:54 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
al-mahed Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/09
Posts: 769
Loc: Rio de Janeiro
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense. -1


Are you really saying Angela Hewitt is a bad Bach interpreter???????? crazy
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#1463135 - 06/25/10 10:30 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13813
Loc: Iowa City, IA
To my ears, Angela Hewitt's Bach is beautifully done, but expected. I find very little that's surprising. It's textbook in all the good ways - clear, transparent, stylistic, and unselfish; but there are risks that aren't taken and I sometimes wonder if a bit more daring would be worthwhile.

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#1463239 - 06/26/10 01:28 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: al-mahed
Are you really saying Angela Hewitt is a bad Bach interpreter???????? crazy

Yes. She doesn't understand the period. She plays an amorphous 19th century style rather than look carefully for what each piece is saying.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#1463408 - 06/26/10 12:13 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4437
Loc: San Jose, CA
"I always know when it's Angela Hewitt because the phrasing never makes sense."

Well, there are other interpreters.

I heard Angela in concert recently, and I had the opposite impression. She filled a good-sized hall on a week night, too.
_________________________
Clef


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#1463413 - 06/26/10 12:29 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Jeff Clef]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

I heard Angela in concert recently, and I had the opposite impression. She filled a good-sized hall on a week night, too.
So does Barry Manilow.
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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1463610 - 06/26/10 08:38 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: keyboardklutz]
Doctor Fugue Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/10
Posts: 45
Loc: Canada
And though the inadequacies of both Barry Manilow and Angela Hewitt are strangely similar (bland and inoffensive, little apparent passion, lack of subtle details), I would never begrudge audiences the right to love them.
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#1463611 - 06/26/10 08:47 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Doctor Fugue]
al-mahed Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/09
Posts: 769
Loc: Rio de Janeiro
She is very good, I wonder if keyboardklutz has any concrete example of what he is claiming.
_________________________
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Learning since ~ JUN/JUL-2009

Working on: music

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#1463615 - 06/26/10 08:54 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: al-mahed
She is very good, I wonder if keyboardklutz has any concrete example of what he is claiming.


No, because to state that she knows nothing of the period is absolutely absurd. In fact, such a claim is entirely laughable.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1463693 - 06/27/10 02:17 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Doctor Fugue]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: Doctor Fugue
And though the inadequacies of both Barry Manilow and Angela Hewitt are strangely similar (bland and inoffensive, little apparent passion, lack of subtle details), I would never begrudge audiences the right to love them.
Agreed.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1463694 - 06/27/10 02:20 AM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: stores]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: stores
No, because to state that she knows nothing of the period is absolutely absurd. In fact, such a claim is entirely laughable.
Doesn't sound like me at all. I said she doesn't understand the period - no doubt she knows plenty of stuff.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1463860 - 06/27/10 12:58 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
al-mahed Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/09
Posts: 769
Loc: Rio de Janeiro
Originally Posted By: al-mahed
She is very good, I wonder if keyboardklutz has any concrete example of what he is claiming.



???
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Yamaha P155 Digital Piano
Learning since ~ JUN/JUL-2009

Working on: music

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#1463866 - 06/27/10 01:28 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: al-mahed]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: al-mahed

???
My guess would be you wouldn't hear it. Like Ms Hewitt you probably have 19th century ears. 18th century ones take a lot of cultivation.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1479859 - 07/23/10 12:35 PM Re: BACH DYNAMICS [Re: Feminicricket]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 763
Loc: South Carolina
I was taught to articulate individual lines in Bach in a manner that is similar to what many organists and some hrpschrd-ists do, I believe.

I'm pretty strict on this - much to the consternation of the lazier students who just want to imitate what Angela Hewitt, or even Glenn Gould, does.

But without convincing articulation, it just doesn't sound like Bach to me. Regardless of whatever dynamic scheme you throw on top of it.

As a pianist/teacher, I disagree with much of what the aforementioned artists do in Bach. But yet as a listener - after much struggle to ignore preconceptions - I find what they do to be engaging (and in the case of Ms. Hewitt, really beautiful).
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