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#503537 - 03/22/03 04:32 PM Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Below is a ranking of teh thirty-two Beethoven Piano Sonatas by difficulty - the first on the list is the least difficult, and #32 on the list is the most difficult. It was based on a combination of my experience playing Beethoven, and some opinions among the piano playing world - e.g. Op49#2 is the easiest, and Op106 is the most difficult.
I am posting this ranking with the utmost humility, and it is in any no definitive.
Please let me know what you think of this ranking.

1 - Op 49#2
2 - Op 49#1
3 - Op 14#1
4 - Op 2#1
5 - Op 79
6 - Op 10#1
7 - Op 14#2
8 - Op 10#2
9 - Op 26
10 - Op 13 "Pathetique"
11 - Op 54
12 - Op 27#2 "Moonlight"
13 - Op 28 "Pastoral"
14 - Op 31#3
15 - Op 78
16 - Op 31#2 "Tempest"
17 - Op. 22
18 - Op 2#3
19 - Op 2#2
20 - Op 90
21 - Op 31#1
22 - Op 27#1
23 - Op 10#3
24 - Op 7
25 - Op 110
26 - Op 57 "Appasionata"
27 - Op 109
28 - Op 81a "Les Adieux"
29 - Op 53 "Waldstein"
30 - Op 111
31 - Op 101
32 - Op 106 "Hammerklavier"

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#503538 - 03/22/03 05:18 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
MichaelD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 69
Loc: USA
Have you acually played them all? IF you have, congrats on my part!
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#503539 - 03/22/03 07:04 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Marquis de Posa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/02
Posts: 157
Loc: New York
 Quote:
Originally posted by Phlebas:
Below is a ranking of teh thirty-two Beethoven Piano Sonatas by difficulty - the first on the list is the least difficult, and #32 on the list is the most difficult. It was based on a combination of my experience playing Beethoven, and some opinions among the piano playing world - e.g. Op49#2 is the easiest, and Op106 is the most difficult.
I am posting this ranking with the utmost humility, and it is in any no definitive.
Please let me know what you think of this ranking.

1 - Op 49#2
2 - Op 49#1
3 - Op 14#1
4 - Op 2#1
5 - Op 79
6 - Op 10#1
7 - Op 14#2
8 - Op 10#2
9 - Op 26
10 - Op 13
11 - Op 54
12 - Op 27#2
13 - Op 28
14 - Op 31#3
15 - Op 78
16 - Op 31#2
17 - Op. 22
18 - Op 2#3
19 - Op 2#2
20 - Op 90
21 - Op 31#1
22 - Op 27#1
23 - Op 10#3
24 - Op 7
25 - Op 110
26 - Op 57
27 - Op 109
28 - Op 81a
29 - Op 53
30 - Op 111
31 - Op 101
32 - Op 106[/b]
I pretty much agree, except for a few things:

1. I would put Opus 7 at 29 and shift everything else down accordingly.

2. I would order Opus 53, 81a, 109, and 57 like this: 57 (most difficult), 53, 81a, 109

3. Opus 31 Number 3 is so much more difficult than what you're saying it is. It deserves to be at around 22 or 23.

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#503540 - 03/22/03 08:14 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by MichaelD:
Have you acually played them all? IF you have, congrats on my part![/b]
MichaelD
Thanks for the question. I have not played them all. That is why I say this ranking is in no way definitive.

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#503541 - 03/22/03 08:17 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19575
Loc: New York City
How many have you seriously studied/played? What is the most difficult one you have played?

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#503542 - 03/22/03 08:23 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
magnezium Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 722
Loc: Singapore
I don't know, I don't think Op. 90 is that difficult.

But anyway, great job!! \:\) very useful.

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#503543 - 03/23/03 04:23 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
Phlebas !

Thank you ever so much !

This proposed ranking of Beethoven's sonata by order of difficulty is so precious.
I would never have thought of starting with op 49 n°2.
Beethoven , a nous deux ! (your time has come)
\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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#503544 - 03/23/03 04:35 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
David_J Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/02
Posts: 175
Loc: Australia
It's wonderful to see you devote your time to analysing the pieces completely to rank them... I feel inspired to do the same with Mozart \:\)

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#503545 - 03/23/03 05:37 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
Please do.

And if anybody is motivated by doing it with Chopin and Debussy, he will get three free years in Heaven.
(meals included)
\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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#503546 - 03/23/03 08:45 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
How many have you seriously studied/played? What is the most difficult one you have played?[/b]
I have only played seven of them, the most difficult being Op. 110 (according to my list - I also played Op. 7, which I found at least as difficult technically). That is why I say the ranking is presented with all humility, and I welcome your feedback.

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#503547 - 03/23/03 09:42 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by magnezium:
I don't know, I don't think Op. 90 is that difficult.

But anyway, great job!! \:\) very useful.[/b]
You may be right about Op. 90. I was struggling with that one - in terms of ranking it that is \:\) . Op 90 is ranked as high as it is because of its difficulty to play well musically. Also, the first movement is fairly difficult technically. However, based on your feedback, I may bring it down more on the list.

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#503548 - 03/23/03 09:49 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Marquis de Posa:
[QUOTE]I pretty much agree, except for a few things:

1. I would put Opus 7 at 29 and shift everything else down accordingly.

2. I would order Opus 53, 81a, 109, and 57 like this: 57 (most difficult), 53, 81a, 109

3. Opus 31 Number 3 is so much more difficult than what you're saying it is. It deserves to be at around 22 or 23.[/b]
Opus 7 is very difficult. If I read your post correctly, if you put Op 7 at #29, then it will be placed higher than 53, 109, 81a, and 57. I think all those sonatas are more difficult than Op7. An argument could be made that they are technically on a par, but the later sonatas require a maturity that, IMO, Op 7 does not.
I may take your advice about Op 57, and 31#3.

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#503549 - 03/23/03 10:58 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by David_J:
It's wonderful to see you devote your time to analysing the pieces completely to rank them... I feel inspired to do the same with Mozart \:\) [/b]
I would love to see a ranking of the Mozart sonatas. I have only played about four of them, and find them very difficult to perform (wouldn't have a clue how to rank them).

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#503550 - 03/23/03 11:06 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Marquis de Posa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/02
Posts: 157
Loc: New York
 Quote:
Originally posted by Phlebas:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Marquis de Posa:
[QUOTE]I pretty much agree, except for a few things:

1. I would put Opus 7 at 29 and shift everything else down accordingly.

2. I would order Opus 53, 81a, 109, and 57 like this: 57 (most difficult), 53, 81a, 109

3. Opus 31 Number 3 is so much more difficult than what you're saying it is. It deserves to be at around 22 or 23.[/b]
Opus 7 is very difficult. If I read your post correctly, if you put Op 7 at #29, then it will be placed higher than 53, 109, 81a, and 57. I think all those sonatas are more difficult than Op7. An argument could be made that they are technically on a par, but the later sonatas require a maturity that, IMO, Op 7 does not.
I may take your advice about Op 57, and 31#3.[/b]
That's right. Opus 7 is more difficult than the Appasionata. Much of this difficulty comes from the symphonic sound of the entire piece and particularly the very fast pace the first and third movements need to be played at.

This is just my opinion however. Different people find different things difficult.

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#503551 - 03/23/03 06:40 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Praetorian_AD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/24/01
Posts: 717
Loc: England
Very interesting indeed. Though some may call it a fickle task, I think it would be great if some people with an absoutely encyclopaedic knowledge of the piano literature (like David Dubal, for instance) should really get together and try and rank these pieces (maybe somebody's already done it) and put them in a catalogue or something. I only say this because people (esp amateurs) are *always* bloody asking 'how difficult would you say this is?' and 'am I ready to conquer this piece?' (not that these questions bother me). At least with the charts, they would have some idea, right?

Peter

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#503552 - 03/23/03 08:53 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
StanSteel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 646
Loc: Los Angeles
Hi Phlebas,
Thank you for this rating, it might be useful for those who like me want to one day go about learning some of the Beethoven sonatas.
I have a suggestion though. Could you put the sonatas nicknames (Appassionata, Hammerklavier, Waldstein, etc) next to the respective opus numbers? \:\)
_________________________
"War does not determine who is right; only who is left."

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#503553 - 03/24/03 12:50 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
katie_dup1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 1838
Loc: Canada
I agree with StanSteel. This ranking is quite useful, but I too would appreciate the "descriptors".

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#503554 - 03/24/03 09:54 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19575
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Praetorian_AD:
Very interesting indeed. Though some may call it a fickle task, I think it would be great if some people with an absoutely encyclopaedic knowledge of the piano literature (like David Dubal, for instance) should really get together and try and rank these pieces (maybe somebody's already done it) and put them in a catalogue or something. I only say this because people (esp amateurs) are *always* bloody asking 'how difficult would you say this is?' and 'am I ready to conquer this piece?' (not that these questions bother me). At least with the charts, they would have some idea, right?

Peter[/b]
I think it would be more useful to rank the Beethoven sonatas (or any long list of pieces) in 3-5 general categories from easiest to hardest. That's the way pieces are ranked in Clavier magazine and in Hinson's book on piano literature. Putting such a long list "in order" seem like too much nitpicking to me. Just my opinion!

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#503555 - 03/24/03 10:48 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18216
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Praetorian_AD:
Very interesting indeed. Though some may call it a fickle task, I think it would be great if some people with an absoutely encyclopaedic knowledge of the piano literature (like David Dubal, for instance) should really get together and try and rank these pieces (maybe somebody's already done it) and put them in a catalogue or something. I only say this because people (esp amateurs) are *always* bloody asking 'how difficult would you say this is?' and 'am I ready to conquer this piece?' (not that these questions bother me). At least with the charts, they would have some idea, right?

Peter[/b]
I think it would be more useful to rank the Beethoven sonatas (or any long list of pieces) in 3-5 general categories from easiest to hardest. That's the way pieces are ranked in Clavier magazine and in Hinson's book on piano literature. Putting such a long list "in order" seem like too much nitpicking to me. Just my opinion![/b]
pianoloverus and Praetorian_AD

Excuse the double quote here, but I think it applies in this case to what you were both asking. Here is not an ideal answer, but a curious aid.

I have a photocopy of a work entitled : Principes Rationnels de la Technique Pianistique published by Editions Maurice Senart, (Paris, 1928) (no author credited on the title page!!) which has several hundred piano works rated in 4 degrees of difficulty:

p.d. (peu difficile) - easy
a.d. (assez difficile) - fairly difficult
d. (difficile) - difficult
t.d. (très difficile) - very difficult

However, it's not as easy as all that, because each piece is divided into five (possible) categories and each piece's difficulty is rated relative to those categories when those categories apply: (I'll translate directly from the French, but if you want the French, I'll send it to you)

Category 1 : independence and flexibility of fingers
Category 2 : passing of the thumb, scales, arpeggios
Category 3 : double notes and polyphonic voicing
Category 4 : stretches
Category 5 : wrist technique and chord playing

For example : Beethoven's Op 13 (Pathétique) is rated :
Category 1 : fairly difficult
Category 2 : easy
Category 3 : difficult
Category 4 : fairly difficult
Category 5 : fairly difficult

For example :
Chopin : Etude Op 10, No 3 : (extensions and polyphonic voicing)
Category 1 and 2 : not rated (not applicable?)
Category 3 : difficult
Category 4 : very difficult
Category 5 : difficult

Chopin : Berceuse is rated
Category 1 : very difficult
Categories 2, 3, 4, 5: difficult

Brahms : Ballade, Op 118, No 3 (chord playing and wrist control)
Categories 1 and 2 : not rated (not applicable)
Category 3, 4, and 5: difficult

... and on and on I could go.

This work is limited in its usefulness as it rates only compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Clementi, Beethoven, Hummel, von Weber, Schubert, Czerny (!), Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, and Franck, along with some works for harpsichord by such as Frescobaldi, the Scarlattis, Couperin, Rameau, Farnaby (?) and John Bull.

Still, this is a curious and sometimes highly interesting work.

(Whew! Forgive the length of the post!)

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#503556 - 03/24/03 11:51 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Peter[/qb][/QUOTE]I think it would be more useful to rank the Beethoven sonatas (or any long list of pieces) in 3-5 general categories from easiest to hardest. That's the way pieces are ranked in Clavier magazine and in Hinson's book on piano literature. Putting such a long list "in order" seem like too much nitpicking to me. Just my opinion![/QB][/QUOTE]

You're right. I just did not have time to categorize them in the way you describe. Nitpicking aside, I always hear people asking whether a certain Beethoven sonata is easier or harder than another, which is why I posted this ranking.

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#503557 - 03/24/03 12:11 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by katie:
I agree with StanSteel. This ranking is quite useful, but I too would appreciate the "descriptors".[/b]
Katie and StanSteel,
I think only a handful of them have names. I edited the first post adding the names of those I know.

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#503558 - 03/24/03 12:33 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
Phlebas

What you did was great.
And everybody can propose his own list according to his criteria.

But thanks to you, we can think of Beethoven's sonata not as huge monuments that should intimidate us but as works of various difficulties like mountains that we can choose to climb according to our skill and stamina of the moment.

Thank you in the name of the people.
\:D
_________________________
Benedict

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#503559 - 03/24/03 01:18 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
PianoMuse Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 902
Loc: Philly, PA
I would be inclined to push Op.10 No.3 up on the difficulty rating...My piano teacher has done all of them ,and he stated that, for some reason, this is one is right up there with Waldenstein.
_________________________
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff

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#503560 - 03/24/03 01:26 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by PianoMuse:
I would be inclined to push Op.10 No.3 up on the difficulty rating...My piano teacher has done all of them ,and he stated that, for some reason, this is one is right up there with Waldenstein.[/b]
Op.10 #3 is indeed very difficult. Those broken sixths can keep you up all night with worry, and the last movement presents interpretive problems. Ah, but that second movement!
I still think it is placed appropriately on the list. It is not as difficult as the Waldstein, Op. 7 or the few that are ranked agead of it.
Could you tell me why your teacher thinks this one is so difficult. It is somewhat subjective, but since he has done all of them, I might have to defer to his opinion.

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#503561 - 03/24/03 01:30 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by benedict:
Phlebas

What you did was great.
And everybody can propose his own list according to his criteria.

But thanks to you, we can think of Beethoven's sonata not as huge monuments that should intimidate us but as works of various difficulties like mountains that we can choose to climb according to our skill and stamina of the moment.

Thank you in the name of the people.
\:D [/b]
Anytime, Benedict.
We got some very good feedback in this thread, and I may amend the list a bit. I wish I had time to do more of a categorization of the difficulties, as was also suggested, and which would be more useful.

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#503562 - 03/24/03 07:42 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Rick Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/01
Posts: 559
Loc: Chicago
What might also be very nice is ranking the individual sonata movements in order of difficulty. That would be quite a bit more work, and I'm not suggesting that you do it. But as someone at an upper intermediate level (I think?), there are very few Beethoven sonatas I could play completely. So I'm just picking a movement here and a movement there. In fact, I really wish that McGrath and Hinson did that in their publications.

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#503563 - 03/24/03 08:31 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
I would like to comment a trifle on the sonata I am doing now, the Op.22 in B flat major. It is really a fairly large work, about 25 minutes in duration. Compared to Mozart's sonatas, or even his earlier sonatas, this work is built on a larger scale. It is in the same key as the Hammerklavier, and they are both large works. (Although the Op.22 is obviously shorter and easier).

Of the 4 movements, I find the first, Allegro con brio, to be the hardest technically. The technique is mostly composed of arpeggios and scales, but to achieve maximum accuracy and play every note cleanly requires a good deal of work.

The Adagio con molta espressione is very beautiful, as Czerny points out in his book on playing Beethoven, the main interest lies in the different degrees of touch, rather than too much rubato or the like. The middle section is very interesting, it sounds a good deal like a Bach prelude.

The minuet is very graceful, the first part is relatively simple to play. The only possible difficulty could come in cleanly executing the grace notes. The minore reminds one of Chopin's C minor etude (Revolutionary) in its design, I did not find this part too difficult, although there are one or two tricky spots.

The last movement is fantastic, the Rondo Allegretto. The opening theme requires a playful singing touch, with the left-hand counterpoint clearly played as well. (The figurations in the left hand serve as a more subdued melodic role). The section with the left hand thirds and fast right hand 32nd notes fits well under my hands after some practice, the difficulty perhaps is in making it piano while gradually increasing the dymanics. I had a little bit of trouble on the last page, with the rapid left-hand scale and the right hand chords. My main problem was making those thirds in the right hand come out evenly; the left hand itself where most of the action is going on is not too bad.

In conclusion, this sonata not only great to develop numerous facets of one's technique, but it is surely a masterpiece that is beautiful and exciting.

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#503564 - 03/25/03 07:01 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by CrashTest:
I would like to comment a trifle on the sonata I am doing now, the Op.22 in B flat major. [/b]
Good luck in playing the Op. 22. I always loved that piece - esp. the last movement - and you summed it up very well. Do you think it is placed correctly on the list, since you have an extensive knowledge of this peice?

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#503565 - 03/25/03 10:31 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
BruceD

Thanks for taking the time to translate and post the scoring rubric.

I agree with the idea-- to simply say something is easy or difficult doesn't really catch the true flavor of the issue (although it is still a worthwhile exercise).

I'm thinking of all the comments we've probably all typed and read here that provide the same flavor: something is easy to play, but difficult to pull off musically, or easy to play except for that middle section, really really hard to even get the notes in at speed, etc.

Nina

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#503566 - 03/25/03 04:08 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas ranked by difficulty
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
I think the Op.22 could be a bit higher on the list, since it is probably a trifle harder than Op.90 or one of the other ones. The difficulties are not as much as in the later sonatas, but it is still a challenging piece.

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