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#1594963 - 01/10/11 08:11 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Steve, the teaching of the rules today tends to vary with both the institution and the intended application. Students are taught one way if they're studying only modern music, and another way entirely if their area of study is, say, the origins of Western music. You're exactly right- it is frowned upon in academic circles, and for good reason. Students with a background in the modern approach spend a lot of time having to unlearn the beliefs of those who haven't studied what came before and who in many cases don't consider it important.

The thing is, it is important if you're a composer, because a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of past areas of discipline makes for a better composer, primarily because it makes both your ear and your comprehension more astute.

Rules are tools, and really knowing and understanding your tools allows you to get a lot more out of them. Bach's counterpoint might be out of date today, as is Palestrina's, but knowing how they work is very helpful when it comes to working on a project of your own. Any guy who used to work on muscle cars in the 60's can tell you that such knowledge is immensely helpful when it comes to working on cars, period, as opposed to working on a brand-new car, never having done as much as an oil-change before. Yes, there are new things to be learned, but that body of knowledge from the past provides both a solid framework to build upon, and the instinct and intuition to carry things further.

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#1595084 - 01/11/11 12:39 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Nikolas, you should really go back and read. Your comments are incorrect, and sticking to your guns and not making a single attempt to listen to the facts is only serving to derail this thread.
I will in due time and when time allows it (which should be today), but in the meantime, I find your posts quite funny in fact.

You claim that in this very thread there's facts... Posted by who and where and how? What if I told you that I've been studying music for sooooo long that I do have my own "facts" to believe in? Unless we are talking about something different I find that your persistent claim that I'm simply wrong (and more over that in this thread are facts to which I'd have to fully agree for some reason?!?!?!... in music aesthetics? Facts?) to be entering the realm of annoying.

Or even better, how about you attempt to answer to my own questions, instead of claiming I'm wrong simply because I did not read the entire thread! I mean really... If I was you I'd attempt to state a few 'facts' to myself in order to bring the thread back to its rails. wink How about that!?!?


Edited by Nikolas (01/11/11 12:42 AM)
Edit Reason: spelling...
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#1595103 - 01/11/11 01:34 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Nikolas]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
gsmonks: I read the thread. Here's my understanding:

1. There isn't a single shread of evidence in this thread, to be taken as 'facts'. So your persistance in this seems a bit off at best.
2. Keystring already mentioned what I did with this quote from a book he owns in page 4 (or 3?) of this thread. Common practice avoided parallel movement because of clashing with the current common practice aesthetics pretty much. It's not so hardcore in my opinion, but it does boil down to historic and aesthetic reasons rather than some kind of universal rules.
3. What I did find quit funny, which is pretty much the same as my lost post, was your tendency to claim that someone is 'wrong', or 'dead wrong', or 'making a mistake'. heh...

________________________________

To get back to the thread, in order not to derail it with personal chit chat with gsmonks.

I find that when you start mentioning the word "rules" you are already entering a grey (or is it gray?) area.

I, personally (<-WOW! a personal opinion... not a fact... what do you know), have doubts that classical composers were going 'by the book', or with the handbook next to them in order to avoid making any 'wrongdoings'. On the contrary they did devise some of the rules (otherwise you're not much of a composer. I mean either make your own set of rules, or at least evolve some existing ones), kept some of the older, went by practice (ouch... the soprano CANNOT sing that high... let's lower that high E, or get a coloratoura sopraon (?)), and by avoiding what was already there.

It's a combination of all.

a. To sound good.
b. To avoid difficult stuff for performers.
c. To avoid entering different aesthetics.
d. To follow on what other composers did.

Until rather recent times, the aim was to sound good, or at least acceptable. This explains "a". Until the 20th century, the aime was also to facilitate performers. Until Ives (who didn't give a rats... tail about perfomers, or other notable composers who disregarded alltogehter performers), people did want their music to be possible to be performed live. In that sense Ives was trully ahead of his time by 90some years! This explains "b". "c" seems to be self explanatory. I'm also attempting to come up with something somewhat new, rather than imitate the old. And this includes knowing the work of the previous composers and finding ways to using new tools, or changing the existing. "d" is also self explanatory: Depending on with which teacher you sit with, this is the kind of lessons you'll learn (awful translation of a greek saying).
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#1595129 - 01/11/11 04:21 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Dara Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/18/09
Posts: 1034
Loc: west coast island, canada
I enjoyed reading your posting Nikolas.
And just when it got to the end, and read your last sentence.... it was funny to hear you say, "awful translation of a greek saying"

I just started reading a few nights ago, "Zorba the Greek", and enjoying it. Would love to read it in the original language as there is such wonderful humour and spirit in the telling of this story.

The word "rules" can have a very rigid connotation to it, as in very controlled and predictable.

I don't believe composers need to know all rules throughout western music tradition to observe, perceive and develop new pattern and orginization of compositional practices, whichever musical genre that may be in.

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#1595131 - 01/11/11 04:38 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
Thank you Dara!

I was in a hurry, but hope that the saying makes sense... And, yes, Zorba the Greek is an excellent book. Too bad that the film was certainly not up to par with the book itself! (which seems to be the case for 95% of all films taken from books).

And, as I already said, I think that "rules" is such a strong word which brings in mind negative things and rigid control! That is not to say that one should disregard common practice, history or anything similar, but really... that there are other ways to do thing and the idea of 'right' and 'wrong' is simply misleading! smile
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#1595142 - 01/11/11 05:02 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Dara Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/18/09
Posts: 1034
Loc: west coast island, canada
Yes, I understood the saying. For myself, I take "teacher" in a very broad way, often not recognized consciously, at any one time.

I haven't seen the film.... certainly books are entirely another matter, though often brilliant films have proceeded from inspiration taken from books and writing.

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#1595266 - 01/11/11 10:40 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
***Deleted by moderator***


Edited by BB Player (01/11/11 02:55 PM)
Edit Reason: Personal attacks deleted

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#1595300 - 01/11/11 11:29 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11707
Loc: Canada
This thread is interesting to a lot of us. I request that it remain on topic -- meaning musical considerations instead of attempts to prevent others from presenting their point of view, or undermining them. It is one thing to counter someone's factual statements with other factual statements. It is quite another to write that a person doesn't what they are talking about, and go on about that person's stated lack of knowledge. It is not enjoyable reading for the rest of us. You had some interesting things to say about music, gsmonks. I would be quite interested in reading more such information. Thank you.

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#1595386 - 01/11/11 02:18 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
** Post deleted due to deletion of the above post **


Edited by Nikolas (01/11/11 06:44 PM)
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#1595413 - 01/11/11 02:59 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2614
Loc: Not in Texas
Let me suggest that some of the posters have a look at the forum rules, in particular:
Quote:
Discuss what has been said, not the person who said it. Feel free to disagree, even strongly, with something someone has said but note that they're as entitled to their opinion as you are and just because they don't share your opinion doesn't mean they're wrong or deserving of abuse.
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Greg

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#1595547 - 01/11/11 06:33 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
I really think it is as simple as the following:

-thirds, sixths, tenths, etc. exist in nature. Those are definitely not arbitrary.

-whether or not we really enjoy the sound of these particular intervals is subjective.

-taken on their own, the sound of concords is very much on the borderline of being inherently pleasant compared to discords. However, like strong coffee or spicy food, once you gain a taste for discords they can stand on their own.

-it is understandable that people who were first studying musical intervals would want to exaggerate concords. There are fewer of them, and thus their discoverers must have felt they were extra special.

-since they wanted to exaggerate certain concords, they can then proceed to objectively develop rules to aid in this pursuit.

Therefore, there are no universal rules, but understandable objective reasons for why rules were developed to effect certain ends.

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#1595548 - 01/11/11 06:35 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
sudoplatov Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/08
Posts: 78
Loc: Near Dallas Texas
Think of the "rules" somewhat like physics "laws." They are observed "regularities" taken from the practice of those acknowledged to be "good composers."

That's sort of a non-philosophical version. There may (but I don't think so) a psysiological reason behind the rules. Other cultures have other rules.

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#1595621 - 01/11/11 08:48 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: BB Player]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: BB Player
Let me suggest that some of the posters have a look at the forum rules, in particular:
Quote:
Discuss what has been said, not the person who said it. Feel free to disagree, even strongly, with something someone has said but note that they're as entitled to their opinion as you are and just because they don't share your opinion doesn't mean they're wrong or deserving of abuse.


There's a world of difference between expressing an opinion and expressing a belief. The latter tend to have an absolute lack of respect for facts, and even less for academics who have earned it.

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#1595705 - 01/12/11 12:03 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
sudoplatov Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/08
Posts: 78
Loc: Near Dallas Texas
I've read some good comments on doubling somewhere (probably from several places.) One reason that the leading tone isn't doubled (CPP of course), is that the leading tone nearly always progresses to the tonic (unless it's part of an arpegiation or a descending scale passage.) Thus one get parallel octaves (which sounds like a voice drops out.) Note that consecutive octaves (and fifths) are avoided between voices, not instruments. One may double in octaves (or fifths like Ravel or organ builders did) for texture or color.

The third in minor chords is often doubled. This doesn't seem to cause much of a problem. In major chords, doubling the third is avoided for a couple of reasons. If the chord is a dominant (or even a secondary dominant), the leading tone (even a secondary leading tone) would be doubled.

In other cases, a major chord with a doubled third tends to sound like a Neapolitan Sixth.

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#1595930 - 01/12/11 09:55 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: sudoplatov]
Mirior Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/10
Posts: 68
To Nikolas:

The impression I got from reading the entire thread leads me to believe that you're answering the wrong question. The main question, as I understand it, isn't "why do rules exist? full stop", but "why do rules exist in the way that they do?" To say "because the original masters used them" answers the first question, but not the second, which I think is closer to what BBB is trying to get at.

What are the theoretical underpinnings of the rules? We know they're taught because Bach et al. used them, but why did Bach et al. use them?

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#1595953 - 01/12/11 10:29 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Mirior]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2739
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: Mirior

What are the theoretical underpinnings of the rules? We know they're taught because Bach et al. used them, but why did Bach et al. use them?

This question has been addressed, but the problem is there isn't a definitive answer. I've never seen a study that addressed the issue from a theoretical point of view.

To review, parallel fifths and octaves do yield a perceived reduction in polyphony in contrapuntal music. Add to that they have a distinctive sound which is heard as old fashioned or inelegant. As far as I'm concerned those are the principal answers. Thus 20th century and later composers used them as special seasoning in their music. Given their pungent quality this seems to me an appropriate use, which means if you're composing a fugue you should think twice before using parallel fifths.


Edited by Steve Chandler (01/12/11 10:31 AM)

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#1595955 - 01/12/11 10:32 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Mirior]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11707
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Mirior
We know they're taught because Bach et al. used them, but why did Bach et al. use them?


One of my theory books has a small section with short excerpts from Bach and analysis of what he did. This is followed by exercises with short excerpts of the melody portions of some of Bach's chorales stripped of the other notes, which we are to harmonize. The instructions warn that we should not break the taught rules which Bach broke in the examples.

So, *did* Bach use those rules? Or did Bach start out with particular aims in music whereby he ended up doing those things which we see as patterns and turn into rules? (This isn't rhetorical, by the way).

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#1595966 - 01/12/11 10:42 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
Mirior: I see what you mean, but in the end it boils down to this:

You either take a rule from the past (ancient (?)) times and evolve it, or you create a new rule. In the end there can be no other alternative really! What is/was acceptable by the society, of whatever time, always plays an important factor in the creation of the artists, either by following the general aesthetic rules, or clashing with them, but there's always a reference.

If one wants to think/believe/know (whichever is true, I don't care or mind) that some of the rules were there from the very start (which start, btw? I'm really asking, cause it seems to me very hard to pin point the exact beginning of music historically and start there) by all means I'll partially agree. There is a subjective reason for why (for example) an A-Bb interval sounds dissonant, yet an A-C sounds consonant. It's the relationship of the frequencies, the position in the harmonic series, etc, which helps this take place. There appears (to me, and again call it an opinion, a belief, a whatever) to be a less subjective (universal?) reason for the use of tritone (ban it at first, then find ways to have control over its resolution, etc). So the use changed all together throughout time, but the initial spark was there.

Once you look further in the time sequence, most "rules" can be taken back to previous ones.

Of course the subjective part of anything should be examined against other civilizations (Indian, Greek, Chinese), in order to see what "rules" are carried from one to another. Otherwise you can't really speak about a universal rule, can you?
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#1595967 - 01/12/11 10:43 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
I feel like this thread has already found good answers to the question, but there are a number of people here who don't like the idea that the answer may be as ridiculously simple as:

"
composers of early music enjoyed the sound of thirds, sixths, tenths, etc. more than anything else."

If you look at any of the traditional harmonic rules, they are always about making the arrangement of intervals align such that thirds, sixths, tenths sound as uniform and full as possible. Dissonance is used only to "arouse the passions" before resting on these concords.

This is of course an oversimplification---you could also add that they enjoyed "diatonic movement" as well. Also, they enjoyed fairly uniform rhythm. I think uniformity, purity, etc. was one of their goals, and thirds were a convenient way to express that goal in harmony.

Today of course we have gained a taste for discords standing alongside concords as equals. So we find in blues music a piece ending on a roaring dominant 7th chord, without resolving, but it sounds like a strong, convincing ending. The idea of universal rules is laughable I think, but the idea of rules to help one attain the goal of "uniformity of thirds all over the place" is not laughable and is completely understandable, since the early composers were tinkering with scales and were probably really fascinated with the concords they found.


Edited by BBB (01/12/11 10:46 AM)

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#1597899 - 01/15/11 08:53 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
soulshaker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/11
Posts: 26
I don't know specifics about sixths sevenths whatevers, but I think in different times, different "moods" of music appealed to the masses. Rules pertaining to that style/mood = the language of music/emotion.

If playing a certain way, and using certain succession of notes produces specific emotional responses in humans, then it's a fact that there are rules/structure in music.

Unfortunately, most pianists get caught up in the whole "It's MY interpretation!!!" thing, which is why I'm convinced there are so many pieces that have never been properly communicated by any musician. If you play properly it's relatively few things that can be left to interpretation... </rant>

This study might be interesting:
study
"To draw clear conclusions about music universals, however, it is necessary to address music listeners who are completely culturally isolated from one another. Here, we employed a research paradigm to investigate the recognition of musical emotion in two groups: Mafa listeners naive to Western music and a group of Western listeners naive to Mafa music."

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#1598250 - 01/15/11 08:11 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
pjang23 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/22/10
Posts: 106
The preference for parallel 3rds (as opposed to parallel 5ths and 8ves) has to do with the overtone series.

A very non-rigorous explanation:
When you play any single note, you also hear the note an octave above it and a perfect fifth above it (perfect twelfth actually) as "overtones". Thus, when you play C, you also hear (less audibly) the C that is an octave above and the G that is a perfect twelfth above.

Thus, the upper note of an octave or a perfect fifth in some sense "duplicates" the bottom note, and in four-part writing or in counterpoint, it would simply be a waste of a voice to write them parallel. The major and minor 3rd are also heard as overtones, but they are even less audible than the perfect fifth/octave and therefore have less duplication.

As for why major/minor thirds, perfect fifths, and perfect octaves sound good, consider their frequency ratios:
Perfect Octave is exactly 2:1
Perfect Fifth is approximately 3:2
Perfect Fourth is approximately 4:3
Major 3rd is approximately 5:4
Minor 3rd is approximately 6:5

Very roughly speaking, they sound good because their sound waves combine nicely. If you juxtapose the sound waves (think of them as sine waves) of the two notes of these intervals, they eventually "start over" together after a small number of cycles.

For example, if you juxtapose the sound waves of an octave, you have the higher note with double the frequency of the lower note. Thus, they "start over" together after two full cycles of the higher note's sound wave. (Graph sin(x) and sin(2x) together)

If you juxtapose the sound waves of a perfect fifth, you have the higher note with 3/2 times the frequency of the lower note. Thus they "start over" together after three full cycles of the higher note's sound wave.

On the other hand, a tritone has a frequency ratio of sqrt(2):1, where sqrt(2) means square root of 2.

Thus, when you juxtapose the sound waves of the two notes of a tritone, they never recombine, and thus sound dissonant to our ears.
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#1598641 - 01/16/11 01:42 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
goodkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/15/10
Posts: 70
I haven't gone through the whole thread, so sorry if this has already been mentioned:

I've been taught that parallel fifht, and parallel octaves too, should be avoided in a polyphonic setting because it becomes very difficult to tell two voices (not only singers, but any instrument) apart if they are moving in parallel octaves or fifht. The voices are loosing their individuality which is to be avoided, especially in contrapuntal writing. This seems perfectly reasonable to me and it also explains why octave-runs in piano pieces and doublings in orchestrations etc. are ok. It's simply because these are not individual parts in the musical setting (it also explains why parallels between inner voices are less bad. It's between the inner voices are of lesser importance than the outer voices). An example: When orchestrating a four part chorale, then there shouldn't bee any parallel octaves or fifth between those four parts. If this is true, then you can double each part with as many instruments as you see fit. So maybe you let the first violins play the main part and double it an octave higher by the flutes to make it more prominent. These are not parallel octaves because it's one part (played by different instruments at the same time).

Why not to double a leading tone: This is because the leading tone should resolve upwards. If the leading tone is doubled, then two voices need to resolve upwards which leads to a parallel unison between two voices (bad!) or it results in one voice jumping down from the leading tone, which also should be avoided.

Running through my post it seems like very basal theory of harmony knowledge to me. So apologies if everybody already knew


Edited by goodkeys (01/16/11 01:42 PM)

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