"The piano is a thing of the past"

Posted by: horatiodreamt

"The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 05:56 PM

Sad news story recently published by California newspaper website:

http://www.pe.com/localnews/rivcounty/stories/PE_News_Local_S_piano06.233261c.html

****


Piano sales are melancholy for Inland dealerships[/b]

08:36 AM PDT on Saturday, September 6, 2008

By SEAN NEALON
The Press-Enterprise

Sales of the piano -- once a status symbol and gathering spot for middle-class American families -- have plummeted, driven by a weakened economy and the rising popularity of electric guitars and electric pianos.

Inland piano store owners said deflating home values and evaporating home equity have resulted in more calls from people selling pianos than people buying them.

Music experts said guitars are sexier than traditional acoustic pianos and electric pianos are portable and less expensive. They also said status symbols change with time.

"The piano is a thing of the past," said Greg Shultz, owner of Oak Valley Piano in Yucaipa. "I think it's pretty much done in our society. There's no appreciation for it."

In the past decade, acoustic piano sales, which include uprights and grands, dropped by almost half in the United States, according to NAMM, an international music-products group in Carlsbad. In 2007, 54,000 acoustic pianos were sold, the lowest number since 1940.

Inland piano store operators report drops of 50 percent or greater in the past two years. Shop owners in Riverside and San Bernardino say business is the worst they've seen in 30 years. A Colton piano store is closing. Shultz's rent has been reduced, but he's still struggling to stay open.

Store owners are using a variety of tactics to stay open. Shultz started selling other musical instruments and more sheet music. Piano Music Center in Riverside cut its staff from nine to five employees. Cannon Pianos in San Bernardino is relying more on fees from servicing pianos.

Status Symbol No More

The decline in piano sales doesn't surprise William Roy, sociology of music professor at UCLA. In fact, he's surprised the decline didn't start earlier.

He said the piano used to be a status symbol, a sign of middle-class respectability. Today, televisions, not pianos, are the focal point of many living rooms.

Walter A. Clark, a music historian at UC Riverside, called the piano "a bit of a dinosaur." It has been replaced by the electric guitar as today's most popular instrument, just as earlier the harpsichord replaced the lute and the piano then replaced the harpsichord, he said.

He cited several reasons for the piano's drop in popularity:

Electronic pianos -- which are cheaper, portable and can hook into a computer -- were introduced.

Many accomplished pianists are working jobs that don't use their talents, which leads Clark to conclude it's often "a dead-end career."

The electric guitar has taken over, with sales nearly tripling in the past decade.

Clark said 19th century European composers such as Wagner and Verdi had political clout. Now, rock musicians raise money for famine relief.
Posted by: DanLaura Larson

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 06:08 PM

How sad for our culture.

On the bright side, we own a 10 year old TV and have no plans to replace it. Today we just bought a new grand.
Posted by: U S A P T

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 06:27 PM

I don't buy the accuracy of an article that mis-spells NAMM as NAAM as the source for its chart numbers, or which refers to DIGITAL pianos as electric ones.

People should always poofread their work lest they leave some out.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 06:34 PM

Sure sales are down. The economy is as well.

I don't meet many people that don't say they would love a grand piano one day.

There is still a desire, perhaps not always the finances.

I do believe there is enough used instruments on the market that it is hard on those manufactures that build as many units as they possibly can.

Especially when they are entry level units.

Pianos last longer than dish washers, it does not matter how cheaply you make them. Make them too cheap they don't sell, make them too good and they last for a very long time.
Posted by: U S A P T

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 06:37 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Rod Verhnjak:
I do believe there is enough used instruments on the market that it is hard on those manufactures that build as many units as they possibly can.

Especially when they are entry level units. [/b]
AMEN!
Posted by: Piano World

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 06:46 PM

Gathering spot yes, status symbol, not so much.

When I was growing up (watch the wise cracks, I can pull your membership) it seemed like everyone had a piano, but... they were hardly status symbols.
Most of them were old uprights or spinets.

But yes, someone in just about every house played, and people did gather around them.

Sort of like this...


Oh wait, that was piano party in Maine last month.

Or maybe this...



Oh wait, that was a Mason & Hamlin Piano Factory Tour, followed by a party at Larry Buck's shop in Lowell last May

How about this...



Oh wait, that was the SO CAL Piano Party and Grand Obsession Book Reading/Signing (the one the LA Times covered)...

Well maybe this one...



No wait, that's last years Cape Cod Piano Party


Ah, here we go, a So Cal piano party from 2003...



I guess what I'm trying to say is, our 35,000+ registered members (who have created over 1 million posts), and 300,000+ unique (piano loving) visitors a month, who by the way view 5-6 MILLION page views a month, just might not be quite ready to bury the piano.


Those who think the piano isn't still popular just don't know where to look for piano lovers (we do).
Posted by: Rickster

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 07:03 PM

Great pictures, Frank! You’ll get no wise-cracks from me. \:D

Thanks for sharing! \:\)

Take care,

Rickster
Posted by: Bear904

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 07:21 PM

Nor any wise cracks from me. I'm no spring chicken (I don't play) and my 14 year old daughter has taken the piano up.I do however LOVE hearing one live. I think the naysayers are a little premature. MY parents who are 84 years old still have one in their living room.

I don't think it's going away any time soon...
Posted by: apple*

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 08:53 PM

go pianos!
Posted by: vlamb

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 09:06 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by horatiodreamt:

Music experts said guitars are sexier than traditional acoustic pianos
[/b]
Who are these "music experts", we should hang them.
Posted by: Avantgardenabi

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 09:46 PM

This is a sad topic... \:\(

When I compare my century-old Knabe (with ornately carved legs and a music desk) to today's newly produced grand pianos, I can see how pianos were a respected symbol of status back then.

I guess many piano industries today do not make pianos like they did in the past...

But I love pianos. I love electric guitars, too, but I cannot imagine a world without a sound of an acoustic piano.

Besides, I even recently bought one! \:\)
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 09:46 PM

Guitars sexier? Maybe to a 14 year old!

Interestingly, a recent grand piano buyer was also a guitarist. He is a well respected physician in the Philadelphia area and, at 40 years old, had always wanted to get a very nice grand piano andhis time had come. He felt it was a more "mature" instrument and he could get more expression from a piano than from a guitar.

I also play a little guitar and whole heartedly agree.

Rod hit it squarely on the head when he said that the desire, if not the finances, are still there.

Frank,

Great pics! Thank you for spreading the word and gathering us all together here.

Wait a minute..... couldn't we be politically referred to as a "special interest group" here at PW?

Maybe we just need a lobbyist or two to push through a grant that would place one piano with every family in the USA. It might just cost less than war.
Posted by: sotto voce

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 09:52 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by DanLaura Larson:
How sad for our culture.[/b]
I lived the first 28 years of my life in Southern California, so I couldn't help noticing where that article was researched and published.

Even if there are broader implications, I would caution against assuming that the "Inland Empire" is necessarily representative of anything outside that region.

Perhaps the kindest thing that can be said is that it's never been known as a stronghold of culture.

Steven
Posted by: DanLaura Larson

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 10:07 PM

Great points Steven!

Dan
Posted by: Terry C.

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 10:14 PM

People are still buying pianos! I just bought one as well! Long live the piano!!!
Posted by: kenny

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 10:24 PM



Hey, who's that handsome man in the black shirt under the piano between those hot Asian babes???
\:D

Boy that was at JohnC's house a zillion years ago.
Great party, that was!
Posted by: DanLaura Larson

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 10:27 PM

But the real question is this: are accordians sexy? 'Cause Laura has two of them. And she can play a mean polka when she practices.

Dan
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 10:28 PM

Inland piano store owners said deflating home values and evaporating home equity have resulted in more calls from people selling pianos than people buying them. [/b]

Sales are down everywhere in every field. But, those used home pianos that are being sold are also being re-purchased by someone else somewhere. So, they are just relocated. \:\) I personally feel that pianos will always be around. Tastes change, times change, clothes change but, sooner or later, most of these changes come back into style once again.
Posted by: kenny

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 10:34 PM

Yeah, pianos are dead.
Here are a few of the dead people at my last piano party a couple months ago.
They were moving around okay, so it must have been before the rigor mortis set in.

Oh My! This was in Southern California too [/b] !

Posted by: apple*

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/06/08 10:39 PM



(it's been a while since this one)
Posted by: lilylady

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 08:12 AM

"The piano is a thing of the past,"

??????????????????????????????????

They said that when radios became popular!

*
*
*

But here are some more piano soiree's...













Posted by: izaldu

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 08:29 AM

I read figures of the electric guitar market over the last 30 years a while a go, and the tendency is the same for guitars. Sales are so much lower now.

Piano is fundamental in so many styles of music ... iyt just cant die
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 09:55 AM

The trouble is a site like this is preaching to the converted. However, the piano shops going bust left, right and centre don;yt get many sales from the converted, because pianos last so long there is minimal repeat business.

The piano is possibly in terminal decline in popular music. It will inevitably persist in classical music but that is bound to be a minority market.

I do not know any parent in the last few years who regards buying a piano for the family as remotely aspirational. The aficionados (residing here) may value high quality instruments, but I would expect that the sellers of them will not see the piano glory days again in their lifetimes.
Posted by: JDelmore

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 10:42 AM

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated..." Mr. P.I. Anner, Esq.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 11:08 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by AJB:
The trouble is a site like this is preaching to the converted. However, the piano shops going bust left, right and centre don;yt get many sales from the converted, because pianos last so long there is minimal repeat business.

The piano is possibly in terminal decline in popular music. It will inevitably persist in classical music but that is bound to be a minority market.

I do not know any parent in the last few years who regards buying a piano for the family as remotely aspirational. The aficionados (residing here) may value high quality instruments, but I would expect that the sellers of them will not see the piano glory days again in their lifetimes. [/b]
"As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap"

Those who believe the piano business is dying (or dead) will realize a self fulfilling prophecy.

Those who still believe in the business, and behave accordingly, will continue to succeed.

Sure there will be challenges, always have been.
But businesses that remain proactive will survive and prosper.

I've found at every piano forums party I've attended there are always people who don't play but wish they could.
And many times there are children who are either just learning or expressing an interest.

In other words, there are still plenty of potential piano players/owners out there.

Piano World receives over 10,000 unique visitors a day (333,000+ in Sept). I can guarantee you they are not all "converted". In fact, I'd venture to say the majority of them are looking for information because they've recently become interested in the piano, are thinking of getting a piano, or want to fix one up.


Do you know what the top visited pages are on Piano World?

In this order:

~ The Piano Forums (talk and learn about pianos)
~ Free Piano Music (listings of sheet music sites)
~ Virtual Java Piano (play the piano online)
~ Piano Exchange (used and new pianos for sale)
~ Piano Dealers
~ Piano Tuners
~ Piano Teachers

This out of over 1,000 pages that make up the rest of the site (other than the forums).

I also believe it is up to us (those who already know we like the piano) to share our joy with others, and try to get people interested in playing.

I belong to an organization called AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association).
They are constantly prodding members to introduce their friends/family/neighbors/co-workers to the joys of flying.
Current membership is 415,000 and growing.

We should be doing the same thing.

So ... take a friend up in your piano today :-)
Posted by: plays88skeys

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 11:18 AM

Scenes from the Central Virginia party in August, 2008:










http://well-temperedforum.groupee.net/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2850024535/m/3430081765
Posted by: Genaa

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 11:41 AM

lovely to see so many people gathering for piano parties - such a lovely idea \:\)

I am sure that the piano industry will survive this current downturn, much as it did with previous ones. The piano (for me at least though I am sure many others) occupies an interesting position as a luxury item that I simply would not be without - take the house, the car etc - just leave me a piano and I will be smiling \:\)
Posted by: Marty in Minnesota

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 12:19 PM

I am still optomistic and here's why.

I have only been in Minnesota for about 2-1/2 years and moved into a newer development. There are many families around with young children. In the last two years, two different families came a' calling when I had the windows open and they could hear me playing. Both had children who were taking lessons, practicing on digitals, and were considering an acoustic piano for the kids.

Would I help them pick out an instrument? Certainly!

The shopping was fun, I had a chance to develop new friendships, and the owners of two different piano stores are happy. All of this within only one block. Proud parents, enthusiastic young pianists, and real pianos have become one of the centers of our little neighborhood. Two other kids began lessons this year and have started on digitals. I am sure that will change soon. Those kids are envious of their friends who have "real" pianos.

So, in only a one block stretch of 3rd Street, we have added an RX-2 and a 5'-7" Story & Clark. Both are brand spankin' new pianos. The family who bought the S&K were thrilled to discover that they could actually have a decent grand within their budget.

I think there is still hope for the world.
Posted by: lilylady

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 01:13 PM

Marty,

Is the message here...

for us to open our windows while playing?

;\) ;\) ;\)
Posted by: Zormpas

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 02:07 PM

Guitar is sexier?

I don't know - its kinda hard to have sex on a guitar, but plenty of folks have had sex on a piano!

Seriously, the guitar is mainly a folk instrument. Nothing wrong with that at all - but it doesn't have the versatility of a piano, IMHO.
Posted by: ChatNoir

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 02:08 PM

And remember:
A house without a piano is no home!
Posted by: JDelmore

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 02:58 PM

Nice pics, plays88. Why aren't tongues wagging about the 'death' of the cello? The French horn?

Bah!
Posted by: Marty in Minnesota

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 03:16 PM

Yes Lilylady,

Throw open the windows and proclaim the Joy of Piano to the whole world!

Posted by: Aley

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 04:48 PM

The piano is, and will continue to be, one of the most versatile instruments out there. I can't imagine a school or a church not having a piano, for instance. Think of a vocal teacher trying to get by with an electric guitar, for that matter!

I suspect that many kids would rather learn the guitar than the piano because that's what's commonly used in today's most popular music, and many adults who want to learn an instrument probably pick up a guitar for the same reason.

I think the cost of a piano really works against it. Many parents want their children to be able to play some musical instrument, but there are a lot of options that are less expensive than the piano. Even for those who want to learn the piano, there's a very high initial cost of actually buying the instrument. This isn't helped, of course, by those dealers who post prices on their pianos that are much higher than what you'd really have to pay to walk out the door (metaphorically speaking) with the piano. I'd be willing to bet that a significant plurality, if not an outright majority, of people walking into a piano store for the first time don't realize that the listed prices are a starting point for negotiation, not the final out-the-door price.

Another factor that works against acoustic pianos is the availability of inexpensive electronic keyboards and digital pianos. In my recent piano shopping, several people have asked why I don't want a digital piano. I can explain the differences in touch and tone between an acoustic piano and a digital piano, but I think most of the people who have asked this question still don't really get my motivation to buy an acoustic piano. It's a bit like the people who go to great lengths to get vinyl records instead of CDs; many people realize that analog recordings can have higher fidelity, but most can't hear the difference.

My own prediction is that acoustic pianos will survive, but the increasing quality of digital pianos and the whims of the buying public will push them into a smaller market share. Eventually acoustic pianos will be almost exclusively the domain of dedicated pianists. At that point I don't know how (or if) the entry-level piano brands will survive.
Posted by: Brian Bennett

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 04:51 PM

And then it will be guitar hero!

I had the fortune to grow up in a house with a nice piano, a family full of working musicians, and all the help I could have ever wanted. Leaving home to chase a different calling, I went without a "real" piano for 15 years.

Owning the best of the proline electronic versions during this period never came close to a replacement. Now that I again enjoy a good acoustic intrument, the sound, sense and visual it provides is without equal.

Most unexpected was the quality time I enjoy with my daughter, something completely off my radar when I made the purchase. It saddens me that the HiDef screen is even considered as competition.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 05:11 PM

Very well put Frank.
Posted by: rhumbob

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 06:23 PM

This article forgets about the cyclical nature of popularity. I suspect the lute is poised to make a huge comeback.
Posted by: verania5

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 07:37 PM

Don't worry about the demise of the piano - here's why: nearly all Asian families with the means have children who play the piano. There is actually a boon in piano sales and teaching overseas. The rise of the Chinese piano manufacturers is parallel to the unquenchable demand from the newly affluent middle class.
Posted by: Dram

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 08:17 PM

where or where did those guys get the M&H leathers in the pic above?? from a gearhead and a piano lover, that is way cool...
Posted by: Morgaine

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 09:58 PM

So much enjoy all the photos. Thank you all for sharing them!

I must say that I've been without a piano since I was kid (15 years I'm thinking...), and I've just recently bought one and am playing again.

I have to agree that...the desire is there, it's just the finances that limit so many of us! As is true in a million other areas as well.

A sad story...but a good reminder to share our love for the Piano.

Thank you.
Posted by: Morgaine

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/07/08 09:59 PM

OH....and my boyfriend wants me to teach him to play...I love that he wants to learn!! :-)

Not sure I'm the one to teach him however....we'll see. The interest is there, though!!
Posted by: swampwiz

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 01:14 AM

The piano has always been the fundamental instrument of music, and always will be (I'm lumping all hand operated keyboards in with the piano here - e.g. organ, harpsichord, etc.) It is the most logical instrument for general music.

We will never see the day when music majors will NOT have to have a basic proficiency in piano. The nearest competitor for a general instrument, the guitar can only be strummed for multiple notes. Of course, the portability of the guitar most definitely has an advantage, and makes for a better experience for the vocalist.

Interestingly, the rise of synthesized sound has made the keyboard preeminent again. Folks who play the synthesizers must learn to play the piano just like folks a century ago.
Posted by: David Jenson

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 04:22 AM

"the guitar can only be strummed for multiple notes." swampwiz

Oops! Good finger-pickers can do a lot more than strum. Heck, some of us can even read music ... a little.

I'm a piano booster. Don't get me wrong.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 07:28 AM

"the guitar can only be strummed for multiple notes." swampwiz

Ever hear of Segovia? \:D
Posted by: Randy Karasik

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 08:02 AM

Yep pianos are in decline, but they are still gold to those that love them, and unlike the buggy whip have no substitute. When some young kid asks me "Have you played (the latest computer game) yet?", I reply "No, I play my Steinway", and I know deep down inside that I have more passion and share more joy with my playing that he ever could with his.
Posted by: Philip Yeoh

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 10:01 AM

Long live the piano (digital, acoustic, etc. It doesn't matter) I can't imagine the world without it!
Posted by: Kymber

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 10:44 AM

Ok everyone...
If you don't have a pinao, GO BUY ONE!!!
If you do have one, PLAY IT LOUD, so the knucklehead that wrote that article can hear you.

The piano will never die!!!. Sure it may go into hybrintation for a period of time while people play around with the electronic stuff. But soon they will want to discover the roots, where it all started and then they will discover the beauty of the accoustic paino and realize they MUST have one. Soon the trend will catch on and everyone will be on the piano buying band wagon.

I like the guitar too. But, can you really have a holiday sing along gathered 'round the Gibson. Not quite the same.

Sadly, all types of stores are closing around where I work and live. Most of them being taken over by banks. Others by another hoepfull retailer. Some stores have changed over 5 times in less than a year.
Posted by: stanw909

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 10:50 AM

"The piano is a thing of the past".I don't think so just yet.Most music for television and movies is performed on keyboards by pianists using computers, samplers and synthesizers with guys like me (trumpet player)providing sweetening,so in that area there will always be a demand.I think acoustic piano ownership however is certainly in decline as are all traditional orchestral instruments but with the cheaper instruments from the East,we may see a resurgence in piano sales.The comment about the Inland Empire in SoCal(I.E. Riverside,San Bernardino,Redlands) is unfortunately kind of true.We do however have three active orchestras within 20 miles of one another and I don't think most places in the country can make such a boast.I think the recent credit crunch must be pretty hard on piano sales since most people buy with financing,but hopefully this shall pass.If my kid has anything to say about it,real pianos will still rule.BTW.Most guitars are bought and put away in closets as my sons is.
Posted by: stanw909

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 11:05 AM

I forgot to add that if more people were exposed(sounds like a disease)to real acoustic pianos,they would be more inclined to buy one and get their kids lessons.Unless they stumble into a piano store with a salesman that can really play then this is highly unlikely.Maybe these Costco roadshows someone was talking about in another thread are the answer.Taking pianos to Schools and having little concerts might be another avenue to explore.
Posted by: Kymber

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 11:37 AM

stanw909
you make a very important observation. I remember when I was in elementary school, (many, many years ago-lol) and was told to pick and instrument you only had a choice between flute, trumpet, clarinet or other "smaller instruments". I chose the clarinet. I never really saw a piano up close until I was 10 or 11 and my step father moved in with his Steinway. I agree if more kids were had the privelage of being introduced to an accousted early on they would fall in love just as we did.
Posted by: apple*

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 04:46 PM

here's another

Posted by: apple*

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 04:47 PM

and another one

Posted by: Piano World

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/08/08 05:48 PM

Thanks Apple, great seeing the kids involved (and I see my friend Indrek lurking in the first one).

Exactly the point, if you take the initiative to expose people to the piano, you'd be surprised how many of them would like to learn to play.

Keep them coming folks.

I realize being Piano World, our group is bound to be biased, but the point is...
Every time our members/friends have a piano party, there are always new people introduced to the instrument (adults and children).

We're doing our part. Are you?
Posted by: gweaver

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/13/08 05:04 PM

I knew I should not have bought that Steinway. I just purchased a rebuilt Steinway and now I must send it to the junkyard because of a newspaper article. A newspaper also elected Dewey over Truman, so I should trust a paper. No way.

We are looking for a rebuilt upright also.

If anything as the economy goes south because of greed, more people will be home playing the piano and other instruments,
George
Posted by: Colin Dunn

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/13/08 07:05 PM

The Inland Empire is Ground Zero for the housing bust. Prices in California zoomed to 3-5X fair value, based on actual income levels and conservative lending ratios.

Had there not been a real-estate bubble, many people in that area could have afforded a house AND a Steinway B.

I'd be curious what mix of brands / price points are represented at the struggling piano shops mentioned in the article.

New grand pianos from top manufacturers (Steinway, M&H, Boesendorfer, etc.) have gotten so expensive that they are completely out of reach for aspiring middle-class families. The list price of these pianos approaches or exceeds many middle-class families' annual pre-tax incomes.

The Asian brands occupy a more realistic price range for aspirational buyers. The top brands sell uprights in a similar price range, but I suspect many buyers think it more worth the financial sacrifice if they get the "Wow!" factor of a grand in their living room.

As for popular music - I wish there was more mainstream exposure for piano rock. Back in the '70s, performers like Billy Joel or Elton John were quite popular. Progressive rock bands (Yes, ELP, Asia, Genesis, etc.) used a lot of keyboards - including acoustic piano - in their music.

More recently ('90s-2000s), a few have come along (Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Keane), but I wish for more...
Posted by: hotkeys

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/13/08 08:31 PM

...but there is hope...
Posted by: musica71

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/13/08 09:54 PM

If the piano is a thing of the past why are these Amateur Competitions taking off?? Berlin, Paris, Boston, Colorado Springs, Wash. D.C., Seattle, Fort Worth,..to name a few.
Posted by: analogdino

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/14/08 02:01 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano World:
(snip)
I belong to an organization called AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association).
They are constantly prodding members to introduce their friends/family/neighbors/co-workers to the joys of flying.
Current membership is 415,000 and growing.

We should be doing the same thing.

So ... take a friend up in your piano today :-) [/b]
What a great combination - flying and piano... envy! I gave up flying around 1980 when I ran out of time and money (went back to university for an MBA; was a former member of COPA in Canada.) Many years later I took up the piano again but no space for a grand and, since now retired, limited funds (the stock market meltdown has not helped!) I play a General Music PRO1 keyboard through a top-of-the-line vintage sound system (it sounds pretty good) and plan to upgrade now that keyboard/sampling/virtual piano technology is even closer to various "real grand" sounds. Meanwhile, I try any grand piano I can get my hands on (very few!) in an attempt to keep the ears "educated".
Cheers,
Roger (retired professional engineer)
Posted by: Wayne K

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/14/08 02:59 PM

Are we talking about pianos in general being obsolete, or just acoustic pianos? Because I agree that acoustic pianos (with very few exceptions) are a thing of the past. The reason being that people such as me (a middle-class joe) just can't afford one. The only kind of acoustic piano I could reasonably afford wouldn't sound as good as my Yamaha YDP-223, feel as good, look as nice, have as many sounds available, have midi support for recording via a midi sequencer, etc.

I have no doubt a high-end acoustic would sound and play better than my YDP-223, but I can't afford a high-end (or even a middle-end) acoustic so it makes no difference to me.

So all sentiment aside. Why would I spend a ton of money on an acoustic which will take up more room in my house and require much more maintenance? I have played many acoustic pianos, mostly uprights, which were all no-name pianos. And they felt like crap. That may just be because they were old. But still, if old is all I can afford, then that is what I am gonna use for my comparison. It doesn't do me any good to compare my YDP-223 to a new Steinway grand because I could never afford the Steinway (or even Yamaha grand for that matter.)

Anyway, I am a musician through and through. I love playing all of my instruments. I play guitar and have several both electric and acoustic. I play electric bass and I also own and play a symphonic acoustic 3/4 bass. I play trumpet, fluglehorn, french/english horn. I sing, and I play piano and keyboard. I love playing all of these, but my YDP-223 sits in my living room. My keyboard (M-Audio Axiom-61) is in my music room closet. My guitars are hung on my music room walls. And my trumpet is in a closet. My upright bass is also in the living room, next to my mandolin and violin hanging on the wall.

Almost without exception at times when I have nothing to do and I am just feeling creative I will sit at the YDP-223 before any other instrument. Even though it's probably my weakest instrument, I still love to play it. Guitar and drumset are my strongest instruments, and well drumset obviously is never going to be a solo act unless I join the Blue-Man-Group or something, and really even they have a band backing them up. And I just can't create music on my guitar like I can on the piano. When I do create music on my guitar, it's just simple stuff.

So to summarize. I will always love playing my piano, and it will always be my go-to instrument when I am just feeling creative. But as far as acoustics go. They have just never been practical for me, and most likely never will be. But I am 30 years old, so I am from a generation who really embraces new technology. I am very glad that technology has provided me the opportunity to have a very good sounding, well playing, affordable piano that I don't even have to do anything for maintenance at all. I just turn it on and play whenever I want to.
Posted by: jollyroger

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/15/08 07:37 PM

Frank,
You have such a way with words (and pictures). Reminds me of the old saying, to wit, "the king is dead, long live the king".

Best regards,
Roger
Posted by: Wumpletoad

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/17/08 02:29 PM

Wayne K I think, has put it rather well.

I have been an organist for more than sixty years and have been down the "obsolete" road before with the mechanical/electronic organ argument and this is now being paralleled in the piano world with the acoustic/electronic debate. The discussion has been pretty well sealed by the huge advances made with the adoption of digital synthesis.

The guitar-piano argument is irrelevant - the instruments are different, their music is different and they are just not in any sense comparable beyond some adolescent fad consideration. However, changing fashions have impinged upon piano popularity and concomitant production numbers but this has been happening since The War, so is nothing new.

My own view is that despite mechanical action pipe organs becoming ever-more expensive (and infinitely pricier than any piano could ever be), they are being made in healthy numbers for an educated and discerning market and I imagine something similar will apply in the piano world. The concert recital at least will accept nothing less than a "proper" instrument and there will always be those who will somehow find the money to possess a real piano whose character is beyond replication but things may not extend much beyond that.

But I own a "real" piano; an ex-Busoni Erard and it is a dog! Sounds great but the under-damper action, worn wrestplank and all the other problems attending this venerable instrument make it impractical as a serious musical proposition. That is why I have a Kawai CA71 which sounds almost as goood, feels much the same, takes up much less space, holds its tune indefinitely and (so far) requires no maintenance at all. Frankly, in my judgment, there can be no competition in a domestic environment but it is a very sad situation which I liken to the passing of steam traction - another form of music.

Odd about the flying connection - they pulled my ATPL a long time ago. Age, they said . . . .
Posted by: Bubbleghost

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 04:59 AM

Posted by: Bubbleghost

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 05:00 AM

I took up learning the piano two years ago as a 50th birthday present to myself (about 45 years too late but I'm not letting that stop me). When I move house there are four considerations:

1) a large garden because I love plants

2) a powered garage because I do a lot of DIY

3) (semi-)detached house so I can play without annoying my neighbours (I've never played any other instrument so I'm still struggling with sight reading)

4) enough money left over to buy a reasonable grand piano because every piano feels different to me and even my expensive digital doesn't have the "real feel".

No matter how good the sampling on digitals, or the progressive weighting of their keys, there is NOTHING like a real piano, even for a beginner.

Thing of the past? - no way! Not here in the UK.
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 05:22 AM

I think that here in the UK the acoustic piano has indeed become obsolete except for very small, largely middle class, market.

Pianos shops selling lower to middle tier pianos struggle to survive and are few and far between. There are plenty of music stores - but they sell a mix of guitars, keyboards and percussion, often along with a range of recording and amplification gear.

Classical piano has become somewhat elitist and almost no one is teaching or learning contemporary acoustic piano playing. Piano is barely taught in state schools anymore, and has shifted almost entirely to the private school sector (back to that middle class niche again).

When I was a kid many homes, including mine, had an upright acoustic. 99% of these are long since gone and are rarely seen in homes anymore. Pubs also frequently had a piano: but no more (and if there is one it was tuned 30 years ago).

But the acoustic piano will survive as an elitist instrument for those who are willing to commit thousands of hours to learning and of course a few who with to have a PSO decorating their drawing room.

The problem with debating this on a piano forum, is that we are dealing with an audience of aficionados. It is easy to preach to the converted who will all tell each other what they want to hear - and post photos to prove it. Means nothing.

Nor does the supposed membership here demonstrate much. Frank occasionally likes to post about the many thousands of members here: but in reality not many are active. Many have left long ago, or just dipped in for a few days to get a valuation on their ancient upright.

But supply and demand will eventually match each other. The dealer/manufacturer shake out is not over yet.
Posted by: Starting Over

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 09:40 AM

We just returned from 2 weeks in Ireland, staying in hotels the first week and B&Bs the second. The first hotel had an upright Yamaha in the lobby which was badly out of tune but otherwise ok. No piano in the second hotel. The third hotel had an old Bechstein upright in a room next to the bar. The soft pedal was missing, some notes and dampers were sticking and it was so badly out of tune that it was pretty well unplayable. Three of the B&Bs had pianos but only one was barely playable and terribly out of tune. Note, I am not being overly fussy here. When I say terribly out of tune I mean really bad. I was told by two of the owners that piano tuners have basically disappeared from the scene in Ireland, possibly explaining the state of the these pianos. I was also told by one of the B&B owners that I was the first person to attempt to play their piano in a long time and that they wished more guests would play.

This is admittedly a small sample but is consistent with the assessment of the piano as a dwindling cultural artifact, at least in Ireland.

Pity.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 12:41 PM

Starting Over,

Pity is right!

As you were noticing this decline, did you experience disappointment, or was it only in hindsight that it came together as to what you had witnessed.

This is neglect over a lot of time, not over night.

Is it a good thing that the pianos remain in their spots in the condition they are in so that visitors get the message.

Are these pianos accumulated with dust? That would be the only other thing missing to show the decline of the piano.

What a message! "Grave" in Italian!

Betty
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 01:00 PM

People in Europe are at least as clean as those in America you know Betty! We have dusters and those new fangled things called vacuum cleaners. Some of us have further embraced advanced technology and chucked out the tin bath in favour of a sprinkler thing - I think it may be called a shower?

The piano is in decline because hardly anyone is interested any more. Music fashion has changed. Pressures on time have changed. Entertainment has changed fundamentally. And very many people can see no point in investing thousands of hours learning to play an instrument - when they can get all the music they want via iTunes and Utube.

We also have daft government policy in the UK that requires licensing of pretty much all establishments (apart from the home!) that play live music, so this makes it increasingly harder for working musicians. The performing rights society and especially the musicians union have not helped themselves in this regard as they have failed to fight the corner of the average working musician.

Street music is thriving in places - but guess what, no one lugs a piano around!

Some classical pianists give free recitals in halls and London churches - and still struggle to get an audience of more than a couple of dozen (I know as I have both played and attended a good few of these).

I am encouraging my own son to learn guitar mainly, because it is much more useful for him to have fun with his friends with live music. And this is in a household where music is quite central.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 02:35 PM

It seems to me that a piano not being played is going to have dust upon it - and when I think unplayed pianos as in Starting Overs post, I think of a piano graveyard.

I can see you think to the future, and good for you. But, some of us have lived a lifetime with our love of piano, and without the acoustic uprights and grand pianos, life is not the same.

At one time pianos were everywhere, so many homes had them, before there were radios, tv's, and before the modern 21st Century.

That pianos, as we've known them, should be missing from our environments is a considerable loss. And, it is a sign of more things to come....is it not?
Posted by: Starting Over

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 03:46 PM

Betty, I was disappointed in the condition of these pianos and it struck me at the time that it would not have been this way a generation ago. The pianos were neglected and forgotten. Unfortunately, I think it's only a matter of time before they are gone, disposed of by the next generation who, with no sentiment or nostalgia holding them back, will not think twice about it.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 03:52 PM

Thank you for your comments, Starting Over,

I agree with your viewpoints.

Things that are part of our arts heritage being dumped in desperation, no longer coveted in a world too busy - instead of a proud possession they are now becoming relics.

Hasty wouldn't you say?

Betty
Posted by: turandot

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/18/08 08:03 PM

Music has always been a perilous choice for those who demand nothing less than a career in performance. Cast your lot with the acoustic piano and the odds are even longer. There are plenty of community orchestras, bands, and ensembles, but precious few that require anything more than occasional representation from an acoustic pianist.

What is a concert pianist? What is a concert-level pianist? Is there a difference? Is the player who performs a little second-rate Chopin gratis for a church fund-raiser a concert pianist? a concert level pianist? Even the few acoustic soloists who break through to elite status have a devil of a time staying there.

It never ceases to amaze me how parents embrace competitions for their acoustic-piano-playing youngsters. The odds that the sacrifice of your childhood and adolescence will pay off in a sustained career performing to packed audiences at the world's elite soloist venues are getting longer and longer.

Inculcate an appreciation of music in the home....fine. Begin musical training of youngsters on a keyboard to develop basic musical skills....terrific. Dictate to the young the choice of instrument or repertoire....it just ain't gonna work. Force-feeding often brings about revulsion and rebellion at a later time.

If the acoustic piano continues to have unique charm in the world of today and tomorrow, recreational users will find instruments. pay for them, play them, and buy tickets to hear those who can do with them what they themselves cannot. If present and future generations choose other means of self-expression and support artists who explore and exploit those means, there's nothing we can do about it.
Posted by: theJourney

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 06:07 AM

Life moves on.

Where are all those lamenting the demise from home and small venue music making of the hydraulis, dulcimer, harpsichord, clavichord, fortepiano, etc. ?

The pianoforte was the next step of keyboard musical evolution and trumped them all. Of course one still hears many old instruments in limited, specialist settings, but their days of ubiquity are condemned to antiquity.

The next steps in widespread, popular musical instrument evolution would not seem to point towards the acoustic piano. It would appear to already have had more than its day in the sun. Personally I enjoy riding its cusp of inevitable obsolescence from the mass market towards the almost counter-cultural, unique depth of experience that it provides. At the same time, I shave with a wet straight razor, enjoy flying vintage planes make out of wood and canvas instead of composite materials and read lots of real paper printed books instead of watching TV.

If the current youth scene is any indication, mass music making in future will be more about semi-passive sample reproduction and integration with other concurrent activities versus active, naked, character-building, long-term invested soloing with its concomitant worries about notation, intonation, sound production, structure, direction, etc. Think combining video games, guitar hero, garageband, itunes, DJ workstations, etc. into new (combined) forms. Is this an advance? It depends on your point of view.

As for professional music making, I believe there will always be a place for real musicians and real musical instruments (with difficult to penetrate but rewarding markets for the few winning composers and performers). How many pianos and piano manufacturers will we need 50 or a 100 years from now? Well, how many harps and harp manufacturers do we need today?
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 06:30 AM

I think your perspective is spot on The Journey. I have only just noticed that you live in Amsterdam - one of my favourite cities: my son and I go there regularly and I was there only two weeks ago. Oddly enough I can't think of a piano shop anywhere in the city centre.

I think the Dutch international schools have much less focus on musical education than the UK private schools. And as far as I can see the musical focus in the Dutch state system has all but disappeared.

If we do not invest in musical education, then we cannot be surprised if our children grow up without any real sense of the pleasure to be gained from making music, as opposed solely to listening to it.

It is increasingly clear - from this thread and general experience - that we are witnessing the dying breaths of the the acoustic piano as it has already lost its status as an everyday instrument for all and slipped inexorably into the realms of elitist exclusivity and relative obscurity.
Posted by: Starting Over

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 08:13 AM

While the acoustic piano may be on it's last legs, I'm not so sure that the current trend in popular music, emphasizing production and technology over musical creativity, has any future either. Eventually, people will turn their backs on the wasteland that is today's music scene creating enormous opportunities for anyone with the natural talent combined with the training and the drive. Surely, the gene pool has not been completely purged of these traits. There simply hasn't been time. Where are the Mozarts and Beethovens and Porters and Gershwins? They are among us but there are no rewards for them today. The bar is set so low that complete rubbish is often sufficient; excellence and all the hard work needed to acheive it is not required. This situation cannot not last. All of the people cannot be fooled forever. When the market starts demanding more, composers will be forced back to the piano keyboard and all it entails in order to compete.

The Journey writes of the evolution of keyboard instruments with each improvement eclipsing what came before. This is true, of course, but there is a slight difference in the current situation; there is no clear improvement on today's acoustic piano which is sweeping it away. Instead, we see digital pianos in all their various forms for which the acoustic piano is still the reference. The best digitals are the ones that sound most like the best acoustic pianos. The real problem for the piano is not that it has been replaced by a successor so much that it has been abandoned because it is so difficult to learn; there are no instant rewards. It is much easier to learn a few guitar chords and to patch together a hodge podge of synth samples on a computer than to learn music theory and technique through years of training and practice. Unfortunately, as we have seen, there are no short cuts to creating lasting beautiful music that will be played and enjoyed by future generations.

I am cautiously hopeful.
Posted by: theJourney

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 08:21 AM

Unfortunately, the piano store has all but disappeared from the high street in Amsterdam during the last 3 years. Cristofori, majestic on the Prinsengracht, with its funky emphasis on (unsellable for 99% of customers) electic German/European manufacture and active concert and master class scene is gone. Ypma and the Steinway Centre have moved from their prominent, plush, parquet-floored place on the Spui to a cold, low-rent concrete mall in a North Holland cheese town's cow pasture. The myriad of smaller tuner/technicus/one brand stores that were once scattered all across the city have mostly closed their doors.

What is left in Amsterdam proper? One very commercial and uninspired Yamaha dealer next to the ugliest concrete parking garage monstrosity ever built on the edge of the historic centre and one older, wildly unpredictable, on-the-edge-of-Alzheimer's dealer just south-east of the Albert Cuyp market. There are, however, signs of life: Bosendorfer has opened a renewed one-brand store across from the last-named store, there are several smaller businessmen who have started mini-showrooms off the visible path (e.g. behind the Spiegelgracht antique stores street) for Chinese grands with limited opening times of 2-3 days/week max. with the rest of the time being rented to piano teachers and for weekend concert series. Finally, there are several talented and dedicated piano restorers with their own workshops on the canals or in the new harbour development on the IJ.

As far as education is concerned, Amsterdam and Holland have found themselves in the last decade hurtling uncontrollably down the dead-end road of perdition of Anglo-Saxon-inspired utility theory and free market worship: privatising, pragmatising and reducing to soulless monetary terms all that comes in their path.

One must bear in mind that the Dutch have always considered school a place for academics, period. Sports, music, drama, etc. are seen as more appropriately taking place in charities, associations, clubs and private institutions. The public school associated but separate music schools have provided for decades quality, heavily subsidised music edcuation to school-age children of all socio-economic classes. However, government subsidies and support have been greatly reduced as part of the fashionable American philosophy and therefore access to music education has been greatly reduced. Making music on the piano or in a string trio, like reading the classics, or playing field hockey is more and more seen to be an elite activity where the rest of us just need to put our nose to the grindstone and focus on a pragmatic, job-oriented, narrow technical training so we can...MAKE LOTS OF MONEY!!! so that our grandchildren might be able to become rounded, renaissance individuals who can have the luxury of learning a musical instrument.
Posted by: turandot

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 10:25 AM

 Quote:
When the market starts demanding more, composers will be forced back to the piano keyboard and all it entails in order to compete.
Starting Over,

I don't see it this way. In terms of composition, the acoustic piano is at a significant disadvantage to the digital unless one is composing strictly for solo acoustic piano. There are two reasons for this. The digital allows a composer to test the interplay of different instruments through its menu of individual instrument simulations and the ability through an interface to layer tracks and simulate the resulting ensemble. Second, the digital allows the use of music notation software to lessen the burden of notation.

I know that beautiful hand notation is a minor art form in itself, but the fact is that most of us never achieve that level of notation proficiency and instead create scores and charts that strain players' sightreading abilities and hamper the productive use of rehearsal time. I took four semesters of notation and my ability ranges from decent when I have no creative ideas that create urgency to chicken scratch gibberish when creativity (or a deadline) applies pressure. Don't get me wrong. I think there is great value in musicians' studying and understanding notation, but today's production costs cannot support poorly executed hand notation.

I honestly cannot imagine that the great orchestral and operatic composers of yesterday would say "No thank you" to the opportunity to employ some sort of digital workstation as a collaborator in composition.

As to your comment about the bar being set so low, I'm not so sure. There has always been a rebellious vigor and impudence to the music that the younger generation enjoys. That music has always been discomforting to their elders. I don't like rap, but I would much rather give my attention to a rapper's attempt to express his honest reaction to the world he has been presented with than listen to someone like John Tesh trivialize pop and classical traditions to a point of absurdity.
Posted by: ftp

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 11:19 AM

I don't believe it's a stretch to generalize the issues associated with the acoustic piano to other instruments as well. To be sure, in the short run a digital keyboard with lots of buttons or better yet an electric guitar or bass appeals to fantasy role play/ego and these instruments show signs of life.

In each case however, its the same number of solitary hours of practice to become worth listening to. Perhaps a few more electric guitarists will make it through the hard part because there is a superior effort/pleasure relationship.

The larger elephant in the room is the discussion of happiness/fulfillment as a spectator sport versus participant sport. While we all complain that we and our kids are overprogrammed and in fact doing too much---how much of that is really dedicated to apprecenticeship in certain focus areas? I would argue that both exposure and deep focus are both lifelong habits worth pursuing.

Finally piano can be a "gateway drug" to other instruments. A few years of piano at an early age makes other instruments much easier to master-so parents could justify the investment for that reason alone. My oldest who has been at the piano for 9 years can pick up just about any instrument and sound like someone who has had several months of lessons within a few minutes. He does play the electric bass (takes lessons) and saxaphone (first chair) and is taking up the trombone on the side. I only mention this because the piano has been the enabler.
Posted by: Starting Over

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 01:35 PM

 Quote:
I honestly cannot imagine that the great orchestral and operatic composers of yesterday would say "No thank you" to the opportunity to employ some sort of digital workstation as a collaborator in composition.

Turandot, I absolutely agree with you.

To clarify, I didn't mean that composers would be forced back to the acoustic piano keyboard. The digital piano is better as a compositional tool for the reasons you cite. I'm no Luddite. However, making effective use of these amazing tools requires training in music theory combined with the ability to play the piano. I suspect there is precious little of either in today's pop music world and the results speak for themselves IMHO.

I have wrestled with the notion that I am just part of the older generation rejecting the musical preferences of our children as part of the endless circle of life. Sorry, but I just don't buy it. I am forced to listen to this stuff at the gym; if it was any good it would start to grow on me just like rock and roll grew on my parents despite their complaints about it. It doesn't grow on me because most of it doesn't cut it by any objective standard. It just doesn't sound any good. Melodies can't be coaxed out of a computer; they are human creations; training and hard work are required.

Again, I am cautiously hopeful that this will turn around and the piano, in both it's forms, will make a comeback.
Posted by: stanw909

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 02:10 PM

To reiterate what I stated earlier.The only way to get people to buy real pianos is live exposure.Pianos resonate physically and visually with the human body in a way that keyboards cannot.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 03:38 PM

Stanw909 says: "Pianos resonate physically and visually with the human body in a way that keyboards cannot."

And, I would say definitely!

Now why is that true? Can we elaborate??
Posted by: apple*

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 03:49 PM

very interesting.. this is probably more info than most of you want to know, ...

recently i had a mastectomy. I play the organ and notice that my 'exposed' ribcage noticeably vibrated with the low 16' notes of the organ. I checked my other side of the ribcage and felt it vibrating too. I check it all the time.. i can feel vibrations of louder music through my hands, particularly on the piano.

there is a certain resonance.

check it on yourself and see.
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 03:55 PM

It is not true.

Pianos merely create soundwaves. So do electronic instruments, albeit in a different way.

It is the MUSICIAN that creates this resonance, emotion, feeling, that sense of being overcome by the music. I have felt it with pianos, the human voice, the violin, Aeolian pipes, and yes the electric guitar, and occasionally even electronic keyboards in the hands of great players.

Betty - you agree because it is what you want to hear I suspect. But open your mind and you may discover a different perspective.

I was interested in the Amsterdam details - thank you for that. My son is in fact at school in The Netherlands. He has had guitar lessons for a year (and learnt next to nothing from a truly hopeless old school teacher who is obsessed with technique) but is prgressing well now with a bew young guy. I have sat with the piano teacher and students for an hour or two. He is a nice guy - also rather old school so he is obsessed with note accuracy at the expense of enthusing his students. His own expressive ability is not amazing and I would say his ability pretty much tops out at ABRSM grade 8 equivalent. I am not sure how the Dutch music diploma system works but finding good teachers in Holland is incredibly difficult in my experience.

I would get my son to learn piano if I could find a brilliant teacher. I will teach him more advanced guitar myself when he is a bit older - and if he gets the bug.

Back on topic - it is pointless kidding ourselves that acoustic piano has much of a future. All we can do is try to keep some appreciation of it alive through our children.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 05:18 PM

The vibrations of the musical instrument are a gift to us from the universe. One needs to have some knowledge of the "Music of the Sphere's" in that the universe vibrates constantly everywhere, we just are not hearing all of it.

From your own instrument that you play, you are bathed in vibrations potentially condusive to your well being. In the other direction the instrument will provide harmful resonances to you: think of startling noises, horns in cars, crashes, airplanes overhead, earthquakes rumbling, etc. Noises of the modern world. Shopping malls, restaurants alive in distracting, clashing sounds.

How wonderful to find respite with a good instrument in a soulful voice and what good it can bring to us. Espressive, controlled, beneficial playing on a quality instrument - and you are a quality instrument, too.

If you (addressed to anyone) have no idea what I am talking about you might consider resourcing to create a balanced information bank with which to speak from.

Playing the piano well will bring these vibrations up through your fingertips as you play, but you have to linger on the key in anticipation for a second to feel the transfer.

Please read my Plato signature and imagine this is still true for our world. I believe it is.

Betty
Posted by: Starting Over

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 05:22 PM

Betty...
\:\)
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 05:26 PM

Betty. You are clearly nuts. But I like you.
Posted by: Starting Over

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 06:06 PM

LOL!
Posted by: apple*

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 08:51 PM

bravo Betty!
Posted by: Scott The Piano Guy

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 09:42 PM

This comment, I think, needs some rethinking IMHO...

 Quote:
The piano is possibly in terminal decline in popular music. It will inevitably persist in classical music but that is bound to be a minority market.
My experience, life, career, profession, and passion lead me to rephrase that quote into something like this:

"The piano will "possibly" be in terminal decline if we persist in trying to teach the majority of interested students classical music at the expense of popular music."

I'm sure that comment will probably start a firestorm here on the forums, which is not my intent at all...

My point is simply that the entire reason I have the career I have hosting an Emmy Award winning television show (we're going in to shoot seasons 11 and 12 in couple of months) and producing the books, videos, and other educational things we do, is because of the HUGE desire people have to play piano.

I categorically reject the notion that there is a lack of interested warm bodies able to sustain a healthy piano market. (and BTW, who cares if it is an acoustic or a digital, as long as we're creating lifelong happy music makers?)

The issue is that the huge desire a majority of these potential piano buyers have is to be taught how to play music of the modern era on the piano as opposed to classical techniques and repertoire.

Good or bad, right or wrong, (and we can debate the reasons ad nauseam,) the fact is that only a minority of these potential piano buyers have a desire to learn to play classical piano. Yet, to this day, the vast majority of piano education available to beginners funnels students right down the path toward "classicalville."

Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that guitars sell so well as they allow players to play music of our modern era fairly quickly. Go to a beginning guitar class and they have everyone playing some recognizable pop tune right from the start.

Give that same promise and ability to piano students and there will be no shortage of enthusiasts.

OK, I'll now step down from my soap-box. ;\)
Posted by: Rickster

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 10:12 PM

Hi Scott,

I enjoyed reading your post and I love your YouTube piano lesson videos! Wow, there are some really famous people on the PW forums!

By the way, I think you have a unique talent for teaching piano lessons.

Take care,

Rickster
Posted by: Piano World

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/19/08 10:24 PM

Thanks Scott, I was hoping you would chime in on this thread. Based on the success of your show and your products, I was pretty sure there is still a lot of interest in the piano.

I'd also like to address some comments made earlier in this thread.

It's true our 35,000+ registered members are not all "active" because many of them drop by to get some information and move on. (By the way, over 26,000 of them elected to still receive our newsletter, and all 35,000+ are still registered [they haven't chosen to leave]).

But what is that information they seek?
Often times it's help decided what piano to purchase, or if their's is worth fixing, or where/how to get lessons.

Does this make them any less enthusiastic? I think not.

And while we don't have 35,000 people on the forums every day, we do have over 10,000 unique visitors EVERY DAY (actually over 11,000 unique visitors a day in September).

Our page views run into the millions every month.

These are all people with an interest in the piano.
Sure, sales of acoustic pianos are down over years past (but digitals are up). Even so, many people who start with a digital move to an acoustic later in life.

And as for the comment that it takes "thousands of hours" to learn the piano, I think Scott might refute that statement.

It may take thousands of hours to become a professional, but it doesn't take much more time and effort to learn the basics than it does to learn to skate board or get good at computer games.

Those who insist on a negative view (the piano is dead) are not helping. Luckily those of us with a more "glass is half full" positive view can still help spread the joy of playing.

Piano Parties are one way, shows like Scott's are another. If you play piano, share it with your friends, invite them over, and let them know they could do it too if they really wanted to.

Every time I play for a group of (non members) people, I hear "I wish I could play like that", or "I've always wanted to play the piano".

You know what? You can.
Posted by: turandot

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 03:02 AM

 Quote:
However, making effective use of these amazing tools requires training in music theory combined with the ability to play the piano. I suspect there is precious little of either in today's pop music world and the results speak for themselves IMHO.
Starting Over,

I'll agree wholeheartedly with that. It drives me nuts when people infer that digitals are toys that require little more than pushing a few buttons. They present different challenges than acoustics, but there are challenges.

Probably the technology is running ahead of the ability to utilize it effectively. We can only hope that greater sophistication among listeners will demand higher standards. In the meantime, you could always change your membership to a different gym. \:\)
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 05:58 AM

Frank - my thousands of hours reference was specifically for classical piano. It does indeed take that long to get to the point where desirable Concert Pianist repertoire begins to become accessible.

I also think you are to a degree deluding yourself with some of your statements about forum statistics. You make a point, for example, of members rarely leaving, stating that they have "chosen" to remain. This is obviously nonsense. Many of them, having dipped in, have simply chosen to ignore the forum and their membership rather than take the trouble of leaving. This applies to all active forums. Forum owners like to make reference to the iceberg of inactive members below the tiny peak of active ones - but the reality is that iceberg is frozen and most of those members are gone forever.

I also think that daily hits statistics have to be treated with great care as they can be hugely misleading. Those of us who are often approached to place internet advertising are well aware of some of these facts.

And there is a difference between having an optimistic view and a realistic one. Realism is not necessarily negative (as you have chosen to portray it) but simply recognizes practical reality.

The acoustic piano industry faces numerous hurdles in its struggle to survive. As well as musical fashion, economics, competition from cheap imports and digitals and so on, the reality is a dwindling customer base and minimal repeat business from people (such as most of those on here) who already own pianos.

Lots of folks on here like to chat about pianos - but only a minute percentage buy more than one or two in a lifetime.
Posted by: kenny

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 06:59 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano World:
Luckily those of us with a more "glass is half full" positive view can still help spread the joy of playing.

Piano Parties are one way, shows like Scott's are another. If you play piano, share it with your friends, invite them over, and let them know they could do it too if they really wanted to.

Every time I play for a group of (non members) people, I hear "I wish I could play like that", or "I've always wanted to play the piano".

You know what? You can. [/b]
Indeed! [/b]

And I'll add that it's never[/b] too late.
A common misconception is you must start as a child.
I started at age 40.
Sure, Carnegie Hall isn't begging me to appear but a music career of fame and fortune is not the point.
Making music is the point, for yourself and for others around you.

Sure learning to play pianos is hard work, but it's immensely satisfying.
Posted by: izaldu

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 08:43 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
Unfortunately, the piano store has all but disappeared from the high street in Amsterdam during the last 3 years. Cristofori, majestic on the Prinsengracht, with its funky emphasis on (unsellable for 99% of customers) electic German/European manufacture and active concert and master class scene is gone. Ypma and the Steinway Centre have moved from their prominent, plush, parquet-floored place on the Spui to a cold, low-rent concrete mall in a North Holland cheese town's cow pasture. The myriad of smaller tuner/technicus/one brand stores that were once scattered all across the city have mostly closed their doors.

What is left in Amsterdam proper? One very commercial and uninspired Yamaha dealer next to the ugliest concrete parking garage monstrosity ever built on the edge of the historic centre and one older, wildly unpredictable, on-the-edge-of-Alzheimer's dealer just south-east of the Albert Cuyp market. There are, however, signs of life: Bosendorfer has opened a renewed one-brand store across from the last-named store, there are several smaller businessmen who have started mini-showrooms off the visible path (e.g. behind the Spiegelgracht antique stores street) for Chinese grands with limited opening times of 2-3 days/week max. with the rest of the time being rented to piano teachers and for weekend concert series. Finally, there are several talented and dedicated piano restorers with their own workshops on the canals or in the new harbour development on the IJ.

As far as education is concerned, Amsterdam and Holland have found themselves in the last decade hurtling uncontrollably down the dead-end road of perdition of Anglo-Saxon-inspired utility theory and free market worship: privatising, pragmatising and reducing to soulless monetary terms all that comes in their path.

One must bear in mind that the Dutch have always considered school a place for academics, period. Sports, music, drama, etc. are seen as more appropriately taking place in charities, associations, clubs and private institutions. The public school associated but separate music schools have provided for decades quality, heavily subsidised music edcuation to school-age children of all socio-economic classes. However, government subsidies and support have been greatly reduced as part of the fashionable American philosophy and therefore access to music education has been greatly reduced. Making music on the piano or in a string trio, like reading the classics, or playing field hockey is more and more seen to be an elite activity where the rest of us just need to put our nose to the grindstone and focus on a pragmatic, job-oriented, narrow technical training so we can...MAKE LOTS OF MONEY!!! so that our grandchildren might be able to become rounded, renaissance individuals who can have the luxury of learning a musical instrument. [/b]
I agree with you 100%. What you said applies to Spain as well. Musical education is seen as some "useless" knowledge that is not necessary in the "real world".
I for one, if/when i have children, will definitely encourage them to study music from a very young age. The benefits of this are so many , i think it is a actually a gift for the kids to have music loving and encouraging parents. Education standards , in Europe, are going downhill. I recently rejoined university to finish my second degree and you would not believe the spelling some of these soon to be graduates have. Absolutely outrageous. The elimination of the Music subject from high school programs is a sign of this educational system deterioration. We will end up having doctors who kow about Medicine but cannot spell right, culture is seen as some kind of unnecessary "plus" . I think that is absolutely terrible.

Having said all thsi , i still think the piano will outlast pretty much any other instrument, These days, dp s are affordable, and let s face it, if people learn piano on a dp, they will go for an acoustic (providing they can afford it) sooner or later.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 08:45 AM

Scott wrote:
 Quote:
categorically reject the notion that there is a lack of interested warm bodies able to sustain a healthy piano market. (and BTW, who cares if it is an acoustic or a digital, as long as we're creating lifelong happy music makers?)

The issue is that the huge desire a majority of these potential piano buyers have is to be taught how to play music of the modern era on the piano as opposed to classical techniques and repertoire.

Good or bad, right or wrong, (and we can debate the reasons ad nauseam,) the fact is that only a minority of these potential piano buyers have a desire to learn to play classical piano.
[/b]

Yes, Scott! Yes!

You have gotten to the crux of the issue at hand, I think.

By the way, many of these beginners who go into piano to learn pop stop right there. But many develop a desire for more. As an analogy, nobody I know started drinking single malt whiskeys at 18 and enjoyed them. For many, classical music is a delicacy that needs to be accessible to them. Without somewhere to start from, a desire to hear or play classical music will not be there.

BUT - start playing the piano, begin to experience how cool it is, and some of those people will develop a taste for more. Some of those people (your students included Scott) have bought grand pianos from me and have gone on to "live" teachers. My wish (and I am a fan of yours Scott) is that you could expose people to just a little more carefully chosen, easily mastered classical music.

IMHO, it is not that classical is boring or hard to listen to (although some of it is) it is that so many people today have no frame of reference for it.

As an example, I took my daughter to a concert last night - all Haydn - which included a concerto for piano and a concerto for violin and piano. There were lots of kids there. This was a great show for kids because the music is easy for them to listen to. My daughter (and other kids there that I chatted with) loved the concert!

I would not have recommended an all Wagner evening to so many parents.

What these kids are doing is developing an experiencial base that can be built upon. They are developing a taste for music that they may otherwise never be exposed to. This is a challenge that every music teacher has to deal with on a consistent basis.

This is something that many adults (who may have grown up on Billy Joel and Bruce Hornsby) do for themselves or with a little prodding from a good teacher or mentor.

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to put into this post that it deserves, but I will check in later.

Thank you again, Scott for contributing.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 09:51 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by AJB:
Frank - my thousands of hours reference was specifically for classical piano. It does indeed take that long to get to the point where desirable Concert Pianist repertoire begins to become accessible.

I also think you are to a degree deluding yourself with some of your statements about forum statistics. You make a point, for example, of members rarely leaving, stating that they have "chosen" to remain. This is obviously nonsense. Many of them, having dipped in, have simply chosen to ignore the forum and their membership rather than take the trouble of leaving. This applies to all active forums. Forum owners like to make reference to the iceberg of inactive members below the tiny peak of active ones - but the reality is that iceberg is frozen and most of those members are gone forever.

I also think that daily hits statistics have to be treated with great care as they can be hugely misleading. Those of us who are often approached to place internet advertising are well aware of some of these facts.

And there is a difference between having an optimistic view and a realistic one. Realism is not necessarily negative (as you have chosen to portray it) but simply recognizes practical reality.

The acoustic piano industry faces numerous hurdles in its struggle to survive. As well as musical fashion, economics, competition from cheap imports and digitals and so on, the reality is a dwindling customer base and minimal repeat business from people (such as most of those on here) who already own pianos.

Lots of folks on here like to chat about pianos - but only a minute percentage buy more than one or two in a lifetime. [/b]
Were you hit in the head by a grand piano lid when you were a child AJB?
I have to wonder why you insist on refuting anything positive anyone has to say about pianos.

You also insist upon shooting down anything positive I say about our forums, yet you have chosen to make over 2000 posts yourself.

Perhaps we should have you recruiting for us, as you seem quite found of hanging out here.

I appreciate your warnings about the numbers I throw around. Having spent the last 10+ years building these forums, and working as an Internet Marketing consultant, I'm pretty familiar with how it all works, and what statistics are relevant.

Click the Statistics link at the top of the forums and you'll find that for the past 10 months the forums have been averaging over 2 million page views a month (except for a dip in Aug. when we switched over servers and lost some counts).
That's just for the forums, not the other 1000+ pages of Piano World.
And yes, they are true Page Views, not "hits".
(Our hits run in the 28-30 million a month range).
We generally transfer about 240GB of data a month.

As for how many people remain "active" in the forums, hard to tell. You see, the majority of people choose to watch rather than participate.

As an example, earlier this morning there were only 89 logged in users, but 460 "guests".
Often times those "guests" are a combination of members who didn't bother to log in and people checking us out.

So, how do I really know how active our forums and our site overall are?
I check my server logs every day, I read the AwStats reports on activities (unique visitors, pages viewed, paths taken, time spent on site, average number of pages per visitor, etc.), and I read the reports generated by our Google analytics.

I also monitor our position in natural search results on the major search engines.
We enjoy top 10 rankings for tons of search terms related to the piano.

In fact, here is a little exercise I did in Jan of 2007 to show where some of our numbers come from ... http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/16715.html


You see, for years PW was just a hobby for me, my livelyhood was from developing and marketing web sites with a special emphasis on Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Statistical Analysis, and Ecommerce.

I developed and managed multi-million dollar projects for McGraw-Hill (the publishing giant), and consulted for companies like EDGAR online.

I know what Piano World is doing, because it's my business to know.

And by the way, you are correct that advertisers want to know what kind of traffic they can anticipate.
And yes, there are sites that will try to inflate their numbers. That's a losers game because your advertisers will quickly learn you can't deliver, and leave.

And yes, I do sell advertising on PW. And you know what? Our advertisers are very happy with the results, to the point where I often hear "whatever you do, don't let our ad run out".

And the bottom line is, watching our traffic continually grow tells me we are seeing more and more people interested in the piano all the time.
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 10:19 AM

That is quite a defensive reply Frank! It is because I knew that you make a living as an internet consultant that I was surprised that you make statements (for example) about people staying as members. It is true but it does not present a fair picture.

I am indeed a piano enthusiast: that much is pretty obvious from my large post count. However, I am also a businessman and a realist. Anyone can post statements about how everything in the garden is rosy - or at least pinkish - but we are deluding ourselves if we believe this stuff.

The acoustic piano industry in Europe and America is shrinking because demand has dramatically diminished. Very few dealers do anything positive to stimulate demand other than being reactive.

Let me tell you a personal story. A couple of years ago I tried to donate a good quality and immaculate eight year old grand piano to a local state school. I would have paid for delivery and I offered to do a deal with a tuner to maintain it properly for 5 years. The purpose of the piano was to enable pupils to take lessons and to provide support for school plays etc.

The school was concerned about finding piano teachers as their sole qualified music teacher was not a skilled pianist.

I tried to interest two reasonably local piano shops in sponsoring the deal by subsidizing some lessons and providing some music work books. The quid pro quo for them was that they could develop an opportunity to sell pianos (acoustic or digital) to parents of pupils taking lessons. I was trying to create a virtuous circle.

I also sold the idea to the parents committee, who were willing to allocate a few hundred pounds to a lessons fund.

Both dealers declined the opportunity as there was no clear link to sales.

The school declined the opportunity unless I would undertake to find teachers and underwrite funding if demand was low or parents defaulted on lesson fees. They also wanted me to insure the piano (which I was gifting to them). There is no legal requirement to insure the piano so to my mind they had nothing to lose.

I gave up at this point as it was clear that i was pushing water uphill.

I have tried pretty hard to do something positive to encourage piano education locally. I don't think I have ever posted about it here. This experience is one reason why I feel that chatter on forums such is this is simply the converted gossiping with the converted. We can all bask in a rosy glow but it is not doing much to deal with the decline.

That said I do think, Frank, that your forum is a positive thing (and I do not agree with an ex poster here who runs his own forum and who reckons PW damages the business).

Until dealers start to adopt a more lateral thinking approach to the business, I think the business will continue to shrink. It needs building up from the childhood level. Selling a few pianos to middle aged adults coming back to music, is not really a long term solution.

Kind regards

Adrian
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 10:37 AM

 Quote:
Both dealers declined the opportunity as there was no clear link to sales.

The school declined the opportunity unless I would undertake to find teachers and underwrite funding if demand was low or parents defaulted on lesson fees. They also wanted me to insure the piano (which I was gifting to them). There is no legal requirement to insure the piano so to my mind they had nothing to lose.
This is the kind of conservative thinking that holds many organizations back. It is quite common in schools, especially if administrators have little independence from central control. In my area, at least, most school principals are a little more entrepreneurial. I think your proposal might have flown.


Frank,

I too thought your post a touch defensive. You have made some good points about how to understand traffic on a website, but I don't think a good case is strengthened by adding weaker arguments or hyperbole. Over the years you have repeatedly used the member count as a signal of PW's strength. Yes, we really don't know exactly how many of those people are still here, but I think any reasonable person would regard that member count as a wild exaggeration of the real membership here. Continuing to report it as though the number itself has meaning (though many of those members joined eons ago and have left eons ago) just weakens the rest of your quite good case.
Posted by: apple*

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 11:14 AM

i've bought 7 pianos in my life and helped more than several others buy pianos as well.

just thought I'd throw that in.
Posted by: stanw909

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 11:16 AM

Frank B.I wish to thank you for this wonderful website.I hope you make lots of money here because you truly deserve it.Some people seem to think that providing a great service and resource should be just an altruist endeavor and nonprofit.I feel that I have been given great advice and knowledge here from many experienced posters and have not been pressured to spend a penny.I have found a couple of great books for my son through your posters and advertisers but I searched these out myself.Please keep up the good work.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 11:34 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
 Quote:
Both dealers declined the opportunity as there was no clear link to sales.

The school declined the opportunity unless I would undertake to find teachers and underwrite funding if demand was low or parents defaulted on lesson fees. They also wanted me to insure the piano (which I was gifting to them). There is no legal requirement to insure the piano so to my mind they had nothing to lose.
This is the kind of conservative thinking that holds many organizations back. It is quite common in schools, especially if administrators have little independence from central control. In my area, at least, most school principals are a little more entrepreneurial. I think your proposal might have flown.


Frank,

I too thought your post a touch defensive. You have made some good points about how to understand traffic on a website, but I don't think a good case is strengthened by adding weaker arguments or hyperbole. Over the years you have repeatedly used the member count as a signal of PW's strength. Yes, we really don't know exactly how many of those people are still here, but I think any reasonable person would regard that member count as a wild exaggeration of the real membership here. Continuing to report it as though the number itself has meaning (though many of those members joined eons ago and have left eons ago) just weakens the rest of your quite good case. [/b]
Yes, I probably was a bit defensive.
Although I called PW my "hobby" for a number of years, I've worked hard for over 10 years to make it an overnight success.

I will give you that "members" is more ambiguous than something like unique visitors or page views.

Perhaps a better way to look at the continuous increase in registrations is that we are constantly attracting new members.

Most sites report their "membership" based on the number of people who sign up, and don't drop out (Facebook, Flickr, Friendster, etc.).

I also consider the fact our page views on the forums alone continues to increase (without a corresponding increase in the average number of pages viewed per unique visitor), which means there must be more people visiting (as evidenced by a rise in the number of unique visitors).

We are getting off track here now, my fault for trying to support my assertion that the piano is still popular based on our traffic.

I now return you to our regularly scheduled debates.
Posted by: turandot

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 12:43 PM

Quotes from Scott the Piano Guy
 Quote:
"The piano will "possibly" be in terminal decline if we persist in trying to teach the majority of interested students classical music at the expense of popular music."
Quite true. Most piano teachers have been trained in the classical tradition. (Ask one to comp or sightread a chart cold-turkey at a rehearsal. \:D ) The market for live and recorded classical piano performance is so small that many talented and highly-trained classical musicians earn their daily bread teaching others rather than waiting for the phone call from Carnegie Hall (or even from the Elks Club). How many young pianists who work assiduously for ten to fifteen years mastering the requisite classical literature for competitions and conservatory auditions are dreaming of a career in teaching piano to youngsters?

Talented and highly-trained non-classical pianists are less likely to be teaching and more likely to be out gigging or doing studio work. The work may not be glamorous, but for many it beats teaching. Working non-classical pros will not knock digital instruments since those instruments usually put bread on their table. Good non-classical piano teachers can certainly be found, but not in the numbers that classically-trained teachers can.

 Quote:
I categorically reject the notion that there is a lack of interested warm bodies able to sustain a healthy piano market. (and BTW, who cares if it is an acoustic or a digital, as long as we're creating lifelong happy music makers?)
Who cares?

The makers of acoustic instruments

Retailers who sell acoustic instruments exclusively

All those in the acoustic piano industry who prefer to harp on negative factors beyond their control rather than cleaning up their own image and practices.

The snobbish piano 'ownership' element who keep insisting that only an acoutic is a real[/b] piano, that only a grand is a real[/b] acoustic, and that only classical piano literature has real[/b] depth.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 01:10 PM

Turandot: "The snobbish piano 'ownership' element who keep insisting that only an acoutic is a real piano, that only a grand is a real acoustic, and that only classical piano literature has real depth."

All of those things above are true in my mind accept for the snobbish piano ownership attribution.

I have never owned a grand, I am happy with my Yamaha, it has been an excellant teaching piano bought in 1981.

Classical piano literature has depth and volume and a place in music history, I've enjoyed piano classical music greatly.

At the same time, I play digitals upon occasion, I can see what they offer to people in meeting different needs, recording, ear phones, rhythms, fun machines. So many piano students have them.

In the meantime, I've studied and played all kinds of music on the piano, and not limited to classical.

It's better to not make devisive statements about the piano as an instrument. I think each of us chooses what we need and can afford.

Not wearing wedding rings does not make me any less married than my 47 years of marriage. And even without presently owning a piano, I would still be a pianist and teacher, should that come to be.

Choose your instument for whatever reason, but the snob comments have to go. MHO.

Betty
Posted by: Starting Over

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 01:45 PM

Regarding popular music vs classical, I stick mostly to classical because, for the most part, music written for solo piano is mostly classical and is more interesting to play than most adaptations of popular music for piano. Perhaps there would be more interest in teaching popular music if there was more well arranged material to choose from. I assume this would increase the prices but it would be worth it. I haven't tried to play from fake books which, as I understand it, provide only a melody line and chords, leaving the arrangement up to the player in real time. I don't have that ability.

As for acoustic vs digital, I consider both to be real pianos, each with it's own strengths. A good acoustic piano is nicer to play but digitals are portable, offer expanded functionality and can be played silently. I own both.
Posted by: turandot

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 01:48 PM

Betty,

Thanks for your thoughts. The element of which I spoke does exist. It doesn't take much effort to find it here. In fact, you can't read far on the Piano Forum without bumping into it in one way or another. I was certainly not blaming it on piano teachers.

Keep those ringless fingers lingering on the keys in anticipation of the transfer. ;\) I enjoyed that comment a lot!
Posted by: Wumpletoad

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 04:20 PM

As a protagonist in the war - I bought a DP! - I could not help but feel a deep sense of loss at the weekend.

I was walking the dog and passed the local piano shop which, being Sunday, was closed. Looking through the glass door, I could see displays of Korg, Yamaha, Roland et al. Outside, obviously awaiting transport to the big pianomaker in the sky, parked nose to tail were seven old uprights in various degrees of disrepair but most seemed capable of at least partial restoration.

Lids were off, falls were open and it was raining. I can't remember when I last witnessed such a depressing spectacle but it did seem a portent of the acoustical future.
Posted by: Bob Snyder

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/20/08 04:56 PM

Hello everyone - and let me start by apologizing for not getting in on this topic sooner. I have a brief comment related to the very gloomy article that started this discussion - which was sent to me multiple times, by multiple business acquaintances.

After reading the "melancholy" article, I actually communicated directly with its author (Sean Nealon). I told him that I had personal, firsthand knowledge of two Southern California piano dealer representatives who had spoken with him, giving him positive views about the piano industry. I asked him why he didn't include those comments in his article. His answer was not at all satisfactory - as is typically the case when these so called "journalists" are the ones being asked the questions, rather than asking them.

In my view, he had a conclusion already determined - and the only "facts" he included were those that supported his pre-defined position - to which he was already committed.

I'm sensitive to the press - because I've seen this sort of thing happen over and over again. In one case in particular, it had a tremendously negative impact on us for quite some time. How many reporters are there who have any interest in "good news" - or in "positive news"? This guy - he's the sort of guy who, if home building was way up - - would report "Shortage of Building Materials Looms"!

The other side of the piano story can be dramatically and powerfully presented - just by visiting any one of the many RMM (Recreational Music Making) groups that have been started all over the country. What we as an industry must continue to do is consistenly and effectively communicate the benefits of music - and specifically the benefits of playing the piano - and offer our clients the convenient and enjoyable opportunity to do so. When the pure joy of music making is combined with the "fellowship" component, you have something that will never die.

And while I'm not at all naive as to the realities of the business climate - and the piano market today, I can tell you that there are dealers out there who's business is UP.

Let's identify people who "always wanted to play the piano" - - and prove to them that they can do it! Once that happens, they'll purchase the piano that makes the most sense for them. Let's be so busy doing this that we literally will not have time to read articles by authors who reject any positive story, simply because it's positive.

Thank you!
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/21/08 07:49 PM

While pianos sales are down, so is everything else. To blatantly say that the piano is dead is simply not so. For what it's worth and it probably doesn't mean much in this topic but, you might find it interesting regardless... I believe, it was Yamaha that came up with figures back in 1970 that stated at that time, there were roughly 10 million pianos worldwide. I have no idea how many more have been added since.

I get calls every single week sometimes several times daily from people that have either been given a piano, purchased a piano either new or used; their parents bought them a new one as a gift, or, their grand parents bought them a new one and now they want it tuned as their child is going to take lessons.

I also get many calls asking for references for piano teachers as "I have just bought a new piano" and need a recommendation. (not having it tuned at that time)

In just one piano sale, for one dealer here last spring, they sold in 2 days, 35 pianos. Not a lot perhaps but, not bad either for a 2 day sale in a slumped economy. That's 35 new pianos in one town added in only 2 days. And that is just one dealer. There are two dealers left here that have sales regularly and usually do fairly well in each sale, considering...

Are sales down? Of course they are but, new pianos ARE selling.

I haven't kept an exact count but, I know that at least 30 of my own clients have purchased brand new pianos this year alone upon my recommendation to do so and I, am just one technician among many in this city and throughout the USA.

I know as a fact that most piano teachers also run into very similar situations asking for advice on what to buy besides what we see here on the forums.

So, while sales are down and again as I said, everything is, pianos are most certainly NOT dead by any means. What's more, is that people still take very good care of their good quality instruments because I am as busy as a beaver in a state forest full of dams.
Posted by: DarkGreenChocolate

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/21/08 09:25 PM

turandot makes a good point about non-classical repertoire being almost nonexistent in teachers' offerings. As a decent classical pianist and ardent jazz listener, in fact, I'd like to find just such a teacher.

However, I do take exception to the implication that teaching piano is a kind of fallback position. For better or worse, there are many professions in which the teachers of said skill or knowledge far outnumber the practitioners. Ever met an actual philosopher, as opposed to a professor of philosophy? So it goes with most of the humanities. The question for me is why we've evolved this separation between teaching and practicing: in the old days, there were masters and apprentices, the boundary between study and work effaced. Now we have trade schools, conservatories, and other institutions of "learning" totally isolated from garages, concert halls, and other places of "doing."

Our celebrity-obsessed culture, ease of travel, and of course stereos, only exacerbate the situation: why listen to a good performance by some local unknown when you can follow the herd to Lang Lang et al? Sadly, our obsessive demand for the superstars ensures they won't do more than a token amount of teaching, even if they want to. (And yes, some people actually enjoy teaching!)

The piano is a victim of its own success, in that the number of highly competent players has for a long time far outweighed the number of gigs or venues. This is why savvy parents encourage their kids to study the bassoon, bagpipes, mandolin, etc. If digital pianos do someday outnumber acoustics (a horrid, horrid thought, to me), those who can play acoustics may suddenly find themselves in much higher demand, just as today players of harpsichords, organs, sackbuts, cornetti, and the like are often in undersupply.
Posted by: AJB

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/22/08 04:11 AM

Never encourage a child to play the bagpipes. Do you want to listen to the sound of a cat being strangled, day after day, for year after year? There is a reason why so few people live in Scotland you know.
Posted by: DarkGreenChocolate

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/22/08 09:06 PM

Quiet--hear something? That's the ground rumbling beneath the feet of the horde of angry kilt-wearers about to descend on you.
Posted by: athomik

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 10/23/08 10:30 AM

In the long term, the piano industry (and the music industry in general)relies on a continuing supply of new players, many of whom will become repeat musical instrument customers, irrespective of type of instrument or brand, and some of whom will, at some point, become piano customers. The fact that there are still a lot of potential musicians out there has already been confirmed by Scott and can also be seen by the fact that Yamaha music schools, for example, have approx 700000 active students (still mostly keyboard)at the moment. Many of these learners are taught using contemporary, popular music, but even if only a relatively small percentage end up serious enough to drift towards classical music and/or the Piano, that still makes a substantial number of piano customers for the future.
Posted by: soy

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/09/08 08:53 PM

I just wanted to say, and I hope I'm not reiterating what's already been said in this thread (it's a long thread), that I think what really drives people towards a particular instrument is usually inspiration from the music they listen to.

While piano may have traditionally been supported in this regard by classical music, I really do think piano is being incorporated into more and more pop/modern music.

For example, in terms of popular western music, you can hear the piano being used prominently in songs by groups/people like Muse, Alica Keys, Ben Folds, Coldplay, etc. As long as you have this in modern music, I really don't think piano will ever go away. As long as the inspiration is there, so will the interest in piano also be.

In China, I think a large part of the popularity of the piano has actually been from pop music icons. There's one artist you may have heard of called Jay Chou (or Zhou Jie Lun in Chinese pinyin) who's insanely popular over there, and features the piano in some of his most popular songs.

Personally, I picked up piano again within the last year after listening to music (mostly modern, but also lots of classical) and realizing how much I've been wanting to play again.

Granted, much of what I talk about is anecdotal, but I really find it hard to believe the piano is a "dying" instrument. Like someone else on this forum said, this is probably just another casualty of the current economic situation.
Posted by: Marty Flinn

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/09/08 09:43 PM

I am sorry that I missed this thread the first time around. The business is more certainly not dieing in Orange County, CA. Our single store sells in the neighborhood of 500 instruments per year. That number includes a representative sampling of digitals, acoustic uprights and grands in all price points.

I will say that we are fortunate to be located in an area of a high concentration of ethnicities that value piano lessons in the home. The bulk of our sales are drived by Asian, Persian, and Indian families who are embracing piano music in the home in a big way. A recent survay showed 300 piano teachers within 20 miles of our store.

We are closely connected with Clavinova Connection, Yamaha recreational music making program in a near by community.

The business has gone through ups and downs and evolutions during my 35 years, but is not dieing or dead.
Posted by: Horwinkle

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/09/08 10:58 PM

Quoting the original post's quotation from the media ...

 Quote:
Walter A. Clark, a music historian at UC Riverside, called the piano "a bit of a dinosaur." It has been replaced by the electric guitar ...

He cited several reasons ...
- Electronic pianos, which are cheaper, portable and can hook into a computer, were introduced.
- Many accomplished pianists are working jobs that don't use their talents, which leads Clark to conclude it's often "a dead-end career."
- The electric guitar has taken over, with sales nearly tripling in the past decade.[/b]
These author's reasons seems valid, but I think he underestimated the effect of the recession.

 Quote:
The decline ... doesn't surprise William Roy, sociology of music professor at UCLA. In fact, he's surprised the decline didn't start earlier.[/b]
I think the drop-off didn't start sooner because there **wasn't** a recession.

Let's wait and see. I'm guessing 2009 will be as bad as 2008. But in 2010, things might be very much better.

Well ... better for the dealers, anyway. Maybe not for the customer ... If some dealer close up shop during the recession, there will be less competition and prices will rise.
Posted by: hipianogal

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 01:31 AM

Is it really just 54,000 pianos sold last year? Surely that's only counting new pianos. Still, that seems awfully low.
Posted by: Dave Ferris

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 03:33 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by horatiodreamt:


By SEAN NEALON
The Press-Enterprise

Walter A. Clark, a music historian at UC Riverside, called the piano "a bit of a dinosaur." ....
He cited several reasons for the piano's drop in popularity:
Many accomplished pianists are working jobs that don't use their talents, which leads Clark to conclude it's often "a dead-end career."
I have so many gigs in Dec. that I barely have enough time to post my usual 25 times a day on Piano World.
Posted by: Gregor

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 04:27 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by horatiodreamt:

Music experts said guitars are sexier than traditional acoustic pianos and electric pianos are portable and less expensive. They also said status symbols change with time.
[/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by DanLaura Larson:
But the real question is this: are accordians sexy? [/b]
Yes, accordions are definitely sexy! Look at this video clip and you will see what I mean. Stadium rock played on an accordeon. Now, that´s really cool. These instruments could become the next status symbol \:D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOq13SA6OW4

Gregor
Posted by: Ceoltóir

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 05:54 AM

The purchasing of a piano is always going to be a luxury to some extent and in these times, sales of luxuries such as that are always going to recede, especially when there are cheaper alternatives like digital pianos. I myself have a digital precisely because of the cost but hope to buy an acoustic as soon as I can afford.
Ultmately, I don't think this decline is terminal, but indicative of the times. The piano's popularity has endured through wars, economic collapses and through centuries.

I work in a music college and we are inundated with applications to study piano. No other instrument, including guitar, touches it in popularity and we have to turn scores of people away. The popularity is truly staggering and we have pianos stuffed into nearly every room to accomodate it. That said, I hope it continues as often music lessons can be the first thing to go if a family are facing difficult financial times.
Posted by: tjbsb

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 09:55 AM

I don't think it is accurate to say the piano will die. However, the popularity and importance of the acoustic piano is declining and will continue to do so. At one time, there was a banjo boom. How many people play it now? I do (a little) and I do love the acoustic piano. As my wife said, the acoustic piano feels like a living thing when she plays it while digitals just feel dead. There will always be a place for the acoustic piano. I just think it will continue to get smaller over time.
Posted by: scottjoyce

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 10:42 AM

I live in Nashville TN and there will always be some pianos in the recording studios here. However, there are less than there used to be because it costs $75 a day to maintain them and it costs nothing to maintain a digital keyboard or a computer based piano plug in. Steinway even has a plug in now. I think if the players (like me) didn't insist on real pianos there would be even fewer. Real pianos tend to draw out the best performances.
Posted by: turandot

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 11:38 AM

 Quote:
I think if the players (like me) didn't insist on real pianos there would be even fewer. Real pianos tend to draw out the best performances.
Yes, real pianos and real players who keep the dream alive! Masters with 10,000 hours of bench time too [mixing threads here]! I just read on another thread that digitals are dead and acoustics are alive. I guess that's why real living acoustics can speak to you, sing to you, and catch a seasonal flu when the weather changes. \:D

Don't get me wrong. I like a acoustics too, and it's hard to keep a fire alive without stoking the embers occasionally. But some of this stuff is just over the top.
Posted by: 88obsession

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 02:10 PM

I think successul companies find ways to survive. I work in advertising and if an auto dealer advertised as little as piano stores do, they probably wouldn't sell much either. Here in Denver, I rarely see any advertising for pianos anywhere and I don't know when I last saw an ad for pianos on TV. As with most products, one has to create top-of-mind awareness. Word of mouth is great but some creative advertising targeted to the right demographic groups, in my opinion, would recreate some awareness for the piano. Even manufacturers do very little to promote their products outside of having artists that represent them. And that usually consists of just making sure that when they perform they're using one of their instruments. And who pays any attention to that except people like us?
Posted by: Marty Flinn

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 03:27 PM

It is estimated that for every new piano sold, 4-5 used pianos change hands each year. Much of this statistic is never captured in industry stats.

Digital pianos represent about 1/3 of our unit sales currently. The trend is moderate growth in this segment of the product market in my experience here. Yamaha and Kawai are in the digital business in a big way and will likely grow.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 04:14 PM

I recently asked a large dealer how the recession is affecting him.

He said "the piano lookers aren't coming but the piano buyers *are*"

Perhaps it's time that the piano is not only used by some people 'out of convenience' to have their kids get good academic marks in High School.

Instead, becoming a family treasured musical instrument again.

Norbert \:o
Posted by: Terry C.

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/10/08 06:19 PM

I totally agree Norbert!


Terry C.
Posted by: Noel249

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/11/08 11:59 AM

There are so many sides to this story ...

- over the past 40 years we've seen "popular music" transformed from "ability" to "volume." What's Pop and Rock if not loud? My 19-year old, who is a very talented guitarist, started out on classical violin for his first six or seven years of learning music. It made him an excellent guitarist, but even he adores playing his electrics with distortion. Billy Joel and Elton John helped keep pianos in there, but how many kids even care to listen to classical or jazz? (there was a news story about a rap music lover who was brought before a judge for playing his music too loudly and was given a choice: listen to 20 hours of classical or go to jail for three days - he made it 15 minutes listening to classical then begged for jail.)

[Our lunch in a trendy restaurant (The Elephant Bar), largely filled with other 50-somethings like us, was pretty much ruined by the intrusive, loud, stupid "pop" music that made it hard to hear each other or our waiter. It's just like movies - they're getting dumber and dumber because the studios are making "what sells," which is often to the lowest common denominator, the 15-17-year-old crowd. But that's not who can afford to eat in those trendy places, so who's watching the demographics?]

- where are the piano teachers? We used to see "piano lessons" shingles on every other block. Who does that these days? I think it's as much about who's available to pass on the skills and training as it is about sales in the stores. It's far easier to find electric or acoustic guitar lessons than piano lessons. That's got to have an effect.

- pianos are moving. I lost out on several used ones in my area, which might have been first choice pianos, but there were others in Albuquerque looking for good used uprights. While many think of Santa Fe as the more sophisticated city, it's only got 70,000 residents, while ABQ has close to 700,000. So there's more competition for all things.

- pianos have been status symbols of late ... a grand was an "essential" part of decorating a nouveau riche living room, even though no one in the house played. That hurts, too, I think, since it's regarded as furnishing. Reminds me of decorators who bought expensive used books by the linear foot to stock "library" shelves in clients' homes. Nobody was reading those books, and nobody is playing those status symbols. So they start to look like old books, an outdated thing of the past. Not good.

- finally, the economy. A good piano can cost as much as a used car. That's a choice that means it's not a purchase based on a whim, it's a commitment, or should be.

So sales being down may be true, but sales of everything are down. Hopefully it's a cycle.
Posted by: Koichan

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/11/08 12:46 PM

I don't have kids, so I may be speaking out of turn here. (i'm 44) But, I wonder with the budget cuts in our schools that we are not giving kids the opportunity to learn an instrument or generally expose them to structured learning of music. Neuroplasticity or the brains ability to form heightened pathways for music or language occur at around age 5. We need to get the kids into structured learning while they're young! Get them into music and not sports....

also, about that rap music guy - he chose to pay the $150 fine instead of $35 so he could get to basketball practice. There was no jail time involved.

What if it were the other way around? He couldn't sit through rap music because he had to get piano practice?? ;\)

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world...by_judge-1.html

Vactor said his decision to skip out on the classical music was a matter of time, not taste. "I didn't have the time to deal with that," he said, citing his busy practice schedule. "I just decided to pay the fine."
Posted by: Robert H

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/11/08 01:29 PM

Hi all,...

A bit off topic,... a bit of a break from the heavy discussion,...

Following up on Gregor's and Dan & Laura Larson's post on accordions,...

I never thought that I would enjoy accordion music until I watch this video and listened to his music,...

Dave Thomas - Yann Tiersen\'s La Noyee on Accordion

Very talented young man,... who's also very good on the digital piano!!

Dave Thomas - Yann Tiersen\'s Comptine d\'ete No. 3 on Digital Piano

Enjoy,

Robert
Posted by: james c

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/11/08 06:42 PM

I've often thought it strange that I have a machine from the 19th century in my living room to play music of long dead europeans on. Fortunately my living room is from 1923 so they have enough to talk about.

After more than a century of rapid change, what we think of as a modern piano has remained relatively unchanged since the adoption of cross stringing in the mid 1800's.

The piano has been a niche interest for quite a while, and one that has happily consumed the better part of my life.
Posted by: RealPlayer

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/11/08 10:02 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by james c:
I've often thought it strange that I have a machine from the 19th century in my living room to play music of long dead europeans on. [/b]
Think of violins. They're even older. \:D
And isn't it wonderful that these relics still stir our souls?
Posted by: DanLaura Larson

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/11/08 11:16 PM

A few thoughts here.

Every day Laura teaches on a Fazioli 212 and a Clavinova. The more advanced students really like the grand. A lot of the intermediate students really enjoy the Clavinova. They all spend most of their time on the grand, but Laura tries to have fun excercises and some non classical music on the Clavinova.

Despite the recession our business has grown by leaps and bounds this year. Some of the parents of Laura's students have bought new pianos for their homes to replace their old uprights.

An elderly neighbor of ours spent many years working the hotel lobbies as a jazz pianist. He's pretty good. He's been wanting to give a concert at a local church where he would play some of his own jazz arrangements of traditional hymns. Laura helped him make book the church, printed up the programs, bought refreshments, and got the word out. We expected maybe 20-30 people but got about 100. Nearly ran out of treats. Everyone loved it, including some of Laura's students who went. They never knew that Jazz could be so fun.

This semester the chair of the music department at the local university is on sabbatical. Her replacement is performing next week, I think. He wanted to give a private recital to get a feel for his program. He called us up a few weeks ago out of the blue and asked if he could do it at our house. We were very happy and excited to host it. Laura invited as many of her students to come as we could fit in our piano room. All of her students are under 18, and all that came were extremely excited by the performance. He played a Beethoven Sonata, two Bach preludes and fugues, five Chopin pieces, four Ginastera dances, and three Rachmaninov preludes. All of the students were greatly invigorated to go practice more. \:\)

Someone said in this thread that we need to start people young. Well Laura is 18 weeks pregnant and our daughter to be was doing back flips during the concert. She's hooked I think.
Posted by: dsch

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/12/08 07:25 PM

[Well Laura is 18 weeks pregnant and our daughter to be was doing back flips during the concert. She's hooked I think.]

Yes, I think so. It's not possible to get them started too soon. It's kind of like crack cocaine or something like that, a very strong correlation.

When I was still in the womb, my mother sang for Solti with the CSO.

Funny, out of all three of us kids, I was the only one who really "took" to music.
Posted by: DanLaura Larson

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/12/08 07:46 PM

Wow dsch, that is so cool that you got to hear Solti and the CSO. I am a tad jealous. ;\)
Posted by: dsch

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/12/08 07:52 PM

Well DanLaura ,that is so cool that you get to hear Laura playing a Fazioli every day. I am more than a tad jealous.
Posted by: FormerFF

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/12/08 11:06 PM

As someone who recently bought a piano, I thought I'd add my story...

When I was growing up back in the 60's, most of my friends who had a sister, also had a piano. It was standard practice for the girl children to take piano lessons, typically for two years, after which most quit. A few would continue, and some others would switch to band or orchestra instruments, but by and large, the piano were unused.

Fast forward to today. I live in a neighborhood of 45 houses, most of which have families with children. It's still the case that most of the houses with girls in them either have a piano or an electronic keyboard. Most of these pianos are the exact same pianos that we grew up with. They're typically old spinets, and not very well maintained. We were offered my wife's family's spinet about six years ago, which I declined, as I didn't want my daughters to have to struggle with a 40 year old neglected spinet. It's also still the case that most of the girls in the neighborhood are either taking piano lessons, have taken them, or will take them. Also interesting is that three dads are taking music instruction. Two of us are taking piano (I'm one of them) and one is taking guitar. I don't know of any moms that are.

I suspect part of the issue with new acoustic piano sales being down, other than the obvious problem with the economy, is the vast inventory of used pianos out there. What we bought was an older grey market Kawai from a technician that also imports gray market pianos. Since none of us plays all that well, we didn't feel like we could make an informed decision, and so went with what we would consider to be a starter piano.

I will also add that if it had been up to me, we would have gotten a digital. My wife was the one who wanted the acoustic. What got this whole process going was that our third grade daughter began taking lessons. We had an electronic keyboard, but I was concerned that she'd get frustrated with the difference between the keyboard and her instructor's acoustic. So, we now have two people taking lessons, one who has taken them in the past, and a first grader who will probably do so within the next couple of years.

I've read all these posts, and I really think that Scott the Piano Guy said a lot that needs to be said. While I do very much enjoy playing our acoustic, a digital has enough practical advantages where I think we'd have been better off with one. I would rather be playing than typing right now, but the girls are in bed and the acoustic would wake them up. It does have a practice pedal, which I can use to do some drills, but I'm not far enough along that I can do without the audible feedback from the instrument. We still have the keyboard, but it's not very good practice for the piano, the feel and key spacing are different. I also think that the instruction side of the business needs to rethink where the focus should be. The reason that my daughters are going to learn to play is to give them the opportunity to experience the enjoyment of playing music, not because we expect them to go to a conservatory. If they someday choose to play classical music, that's great, if not, that's OK as well.

Families today have some challenges that they didn't when I was a child. Now, most families have both parents working, and more of them are divorced. Children get more homework than they used to. (My third grader brought home an economics study guide that I would have guessed was from high school.) I do believe that they are under greater financial pressure than before. The big jump in cost in housing, food, and medical care particularly affects families, and real wages were stagnant at best even before the recession took hold. Anything that holds costs down helps, and aren't digital pianos a good substitute for the inexpensive spinet of 40 years ago?

So, it may well be that the number of acoustic pianos sold will decline some more before bottoming out. But if the piano industry can refocus itself a bit towards what most people want from music, I think it can have a bright future.
Posted by: turandot

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 12/13/08 01:32 AM

FormerFF.

I've read a lot of posts on a lot of these 'demise of the piano' threads. I read yours three times. It made more sense to me than any other I've read.
Posted by: chris_scotland

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 03/08/10 04:48 PM

Intersting topic. Turandot, I would endorse your observation that digital pianos are fantastic for those of us who make our living, or some of it, from playing gigs outside of the highbrow concert venues. It's great not to have to lift gear and have a really good, well maintained acoustic provided at a gig, but I know around where I am (the west of Scotland), most venues don't have that. So the digital option lets us take more gigs, make a living and produces a decent sound.

Pleased to say that I find lots of interest in the piano as an instrument around here. Revivals of old songs by the likes of Jamie Cullum, Rod Stewart and Michael Buble have been great for attracting a new audience to songs which I love to play. Lots of people at gigs asking advice about buying pianos for the home, for themselves or their children. Restaurants and hotels appreciating the classy image a piano projects, and more importantly, employing musicians to play regular gigs and bring in extra customers. I come across people buying pianos at every level too. Cheaper digitals or older uprights from the classifieds, right up to premium grands. There's a future for the piano yet.
Posted by: BGJ

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 03/10/10 10:49 PM

I have had midi keyboards and piano modules for 15 years, I routinely go to the music stores and test the latest electronic keyboards and piano sounds, they have their place. I also have an acoustic 1984 Yamaha C7D in my home in excellent condition. I think there is no comparison between the pleasure of playing the acoustic piano compared to the digitals. The feel of a real piano is far greater and more sensitive, and the tone is not even comparable. In my opinion it is not currently possible to really record and playback an acoustic piano or digital piano and come close to the sound of being in the room with a real live acoustic instrument. I just love the tone of real live acoustic instruments, grand pianos and acoustic guitars, etc.
Posted by: Dave Ferris

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 03/11/10 02:32 AM

.
Posted by: Stanza

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 03/11/10 10:04 AM

The same can be said for guitars wrt electric vs acoustic. You can easily get a playable electric or acoustic for $200 and a pretty nice one for under $500. With electric, like with a DP you can get a range of sounds and effects with the option to play quietly. As you start going up the curve, the electric guitar cost starts to plateau, whereas the best acoustics can cost many thousands of dollars.


When the kiddies quit their lessons, it is easier to stow or sell the guitar. Also many better guitars do increase in value over time.
Posted by: Plowboy

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 03/11/10 10:30 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Ferris

A big HOWEVER--The price of even an entry level "really nice grand", Yamaha C3, Kawai RX-3 are so out of reach for most people they turn to the Digitals.


My acoustic cost less than some digitals.
Posted by: Serena03

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 03/18/10 04:22 AM

The piano is a thing of the past as well as the present. Listen hard enough through all this modern day fabrication, piano is still breathing fine. However, ambition for guitar has seemed to be the higher and more affordable motive.
Posted by: TimR

Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" - 03/18/10 08:56 AM

Originally Posted By: BGJ
I think there is no comparison between the pleasure of playing the acoustic piano compared to the digitals.


Do you play for your own pleasure? I play for the audience.