The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ?

Posted by: Glyptodont

The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 02/26/07 05:13 PM

Our piano tuner recently came to do his thing on our mid-sized grand.

He is an older guy who has been an independent tuner for many years, and he does contract work for the largest local piano retailer.

He suggested that this establishment may be quietly going out of business. I myself recently visited their showroom -- they only have three grands on display in a showroom that held more like 15 of them some years ago. Our tuner stated that they are selling out their inventory and are NOT ordering any pianos shipped to replace what they sell. His "confidential" tip to me -- their days are numbered.

He told me that quite a few independent piano retailers have quietly gone out of business here in the Midwest. Increasingly, viable piano showrooms are limited to the three or four largest cities in our state.

There also seems to be an increasing popularity of very small grands in the 4'8" to 5'1" category. One wag called these "playable coffee tables." This suggests that people continue to appreciate the prestige and status of a grand, but it is becoming increasingly a "decorator."

The impact of improved and affordable digital pianos on all this is beyond my ability to assess.

I'm old enough to remember the years before television. Pianos were a source of entertainment and they could enliven social gatherings in homes. The tube took a while, but has pretty much torpedoed this sort of genteel culture.

Many of you know MUCH more about the big picture on piano culture in America than I do.

Do you think we are seeing a kind of "fading away" here?

Colleges and universities will always supply a market for mid-sized to large grands, so the retail market will never disappear. But I wonder if the acoustic piano is increasingly fading as a fixture of American middle-class lifestyle.

I will read any posts with great interest-- thanks.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 02/26/07 05:30 PM

 Quote:
There also seems to be an increasing popularity of very small grands in the 4'8" to 5'1" category. One wag called these "playable coffee tables." This suggests that people continue to appreciate the prestige and status of a grand, but it is becoming increasingly a "decorator."
Very true. \:o

In fact, many businesses today cater exactly to this mentality trying to make the most while life is good and the show goes on....

On the other hand, there is an emerging new, if somewhat smaller, but very serious group of new piano buyers out there as well.

The one that have discovered music as an integral part of their own and their family's life.

Norbert
Posted by: ftp

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 02/26/07 05:54 PM

Glyptodont/Norbert:

The stats in my head are that in the 1920's 300K pianos sold in the US and last year 100K pianos sold in the US. I don't know how much the population has increased but it is clear that the piano has moved from being a staple in the living room to an option. I am assuming that the drop out rate has always been fairly high in terms of years of lesson taking, yet my question is are the group that buy today more likely to stick with it or not. I wonder if there has always been alot of fallout in the initial stages but not a lot of fallout of those who play for more than 5 years and beyond. Does the question make sense?

Another point is that there has been a seismic shift in purchasing patterns from vast majority upright to near equal split between uprights and grands. This could account for the increasing popularity of 4'8 to 5'1".

As families have more entertainment options to choose from piano playing has become a casualty. Guitars seem to be selling well though. Not sure what the answer is, maybe we just need to see "50-cent" on a few MTV videos playing the piano and all will be well again.

Can you add an acoustic piano to RAP music? More seriously look at the ballroom dance and ballet movies coming out targeted to our youth. Time for a moving piano story filled with underprivleged kids, romance, competition and a come from behind victory. Who are the Hollywood pianists that we can pull on their heartstrings-any ADD or depressed or delinquent kids saved by the piano. Thus I digress...
Posted by: Bill_G

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 02/26/07 06:02 PM

Glyptodont,

I think there is hope for the future of the acoustic piano, if from nowhere else than this wonderful pianoworld website. It was reading piano-enthusiastic posts from here that pushed me to buy my CW 1520.

Oh how I wished I had purchased an acoustic piano when my children were younger. Both my daughters were/are musically talented. I started with the piano late in life and am really enjoying it now, but I missed out on an incredible family experience of having a piano in a home with children. However, Daddy knows better now, and if I have grandchildren, the grandkids WILL grow up with a piano in their home, even if I have to pony-up the cash for another Charles Walter or two.

We can't always change the "Big World", but we can change our "little worlds".

Bill
Posted by: Ken Knapp

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 02/26/07 06:11 PM

You ever see those medicine commercials on tv? They begin by describing a symptom, and then they proclaim that their medication is THE cure. I'll bet there a lot of people going to the doctor insisting they need a prescription for THAT medication to cure their ills and asking for it by name.

Marketing certainly works. It's a shame a few of the piano manufacturers don't pick up on that style of advertising. Create a feeling of need in the minds of consumers for their product. Heck, it's been years since I've seen any ads on the tube for pianos, period.

Ken
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 02/26/07 10:37 PM

In other threads in the past, the issue of organized sports for children has been raised as one possible factor for the decline in piano purchases. Parents want to enrich their children's lives by including extracurricular activities, but the activity of choice appears increasingly to be organized sports, which (as any parent knows) can easily consume nearly all a family's discretionary time. Couple that with the decline of music education in the schools, and you have a recipe for families just not bothering to make piano (or any instrument) lessons a priority.
Posted by: KatieB

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 02/26/07 10:59 PM

In my area, my piano tuner told me that the PT Guild was dying 10 years ago but had "picked up" (his words) new work and new members in the past few years. IDK, but it encouraged me to hear him say it.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 12:19 PM

I address this subject in some small way in our press release...
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/3/prweb509227.htm

I do agree more should be done to incourage new players. I've approached the NAMM organization a couple of times, offering to work with them utilizing our reach (our traffic), no response.

When I was in the retail end of the business (many years ago), we used to offer piano classes (group lessons using electronic pianos and headphones), and free introductory lessons.
We also provided practice rooms (free).

Of course there were (and still are) organ clubs, where people get together and have fun playing and listening.

I like to think of our Piano Forums Parties as sort of a Piano Club.

I have read that while acoustic piano sales are down, electronic/digital piano sales are up.
And that's ok too, if that is what it takes to get someone interested in playing the piano, it works for me.

I think the biggest challenge getting younger people interested (besides tearing them away from their electronic toys) is somehow making it cool to play.
When I was a teenager everybody wanted to play in a band, and playing piano/keyboards was considered cool (not as cool as guitar, but cool enough).
Posted by: J. Mark

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 12:53 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by fathertopianist:
Glyptodont/Norbert:

The stats in my head are that in the 1920's 300K pianos sold in the US and last year 100K pianos sold in the US. [/b]
I've had those general figures tossing around in my head since I read Fine (or something). Demographics and economic trends are a sort of hobby of mine. Clearly, there is something to be learned from these numbers.

I wonder... how accurate are the numbers in the first place, for one thing? Do we really know that 300,000 pianos a year sold in the 1920's?

I also wonder about the secondary market. I mean, in 1920 (or even 1950, to a lesser degree), simply getting a piano from Point A to Point B was a huge job. So once a piano was purchased, it was less likely to ever move (eg, be sold). If unused, it just sat there. But mobility is much greater today, and there are 50 "man with van" listings in any town of any size. Moving a piano is easy, and so I wonder if many of the previous "300,000" are now on the secondary market. ?

Still, it certainly does seem to me that the role of the piano in the lives of Americans has changed dramatically. When I was a kid in NC, pretty much every member of our extended family had a piano in their house. And a large percentage of my family members "played," at least at some rudimentary level. The pianos were always getting a workout. These were practical pianos, just small uprights or spinets or whatever. But no one cared, they were pianos, and they got played.

Everything is different today. The vast majority of families do *not* purchase pianos for their homes. The vast majority of people do not provide musical training for their children. With more parents working, and more time taken up with outside organized activities, school time taking longer, more "competitive" parents pushing their kids academically, and a host of other factors...music seems like a silly luxury that gets you nothing.

Plus, yes, television, but these days even moreso, the Internet. My 4 year old daughter logs on, finds her favorite websites, and plays online games (her favorite being something called Wa Wa Wubsie). That and movies movies movies -- download 'em, rent 'em at the grocery store, get them as gifts, etc. Even my 2 year old knows how to operate the DVD player and the tv (it's sad, really, I blame my wife \:\) ).

I truly believe all of this, and much more, is part of a general decline in the cultural lives on the majority of people. Not only the cultural lives, but also the intellectual and personal development. Sure, there are "offsetting" factors -- my children will be whiz kids on the computer, and no doubt, there will be increasing avenues for creativity there. But music is fundamental. It is part of what we are. And it is becoming increasingly a product to be consumed, and not an activity to be pursued.

I feel like Miniver Cheevy...but then, I always have. ... Maybe I should have a drink... \:\(
Posted by: U S A P T

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 12:55 PM

FATHERTOPIANIST:

Try multiplying your stats by 3 and then you will be much closer to the actual number of pianos sold in the USA alone.
Posted by: U S A P T

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 01:04 PM

What concerns me are these playable coffee tables or "PSO's" as I call them. "Piano Shaped Objects."

From a moving perspective, a cheap baby grand made mostly of MDF is a NIGHTMARE to move and you can only put those legs on so many times before they start to wobble.

An MDF piano is VERY heavy, much heavier than the older solid wood pianos of yesterday.

Sadly, a lot of people fall for these pianos on price.

When I sold I was DAMN good at it. One way I bumped people up to better-quality pianos was to have a cheap PSO on the floor and then a better quality one.

I'd grab the rim of the cheap piano and shake it. It would squeak and make a horrible sound. Then I'd grab the better-quality piano and it would do NOTHING. Like it was bolted to the floor.

I spent the rest of the time talking about empowerment and fun and family time and goals and dreams.

I hated talking about backposts and pinblocks.

Somewhere in the process they'd sit down and buy the quiet piano.
Posted by: Reaper978

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 02:37 PM

I will always play, regardless of anyone else does or not. If you want a piano-shaped coffee table, be my guest, but don't complain to me when I sit down and play it and make it breathe. It's a dying art, for sure, especially in this petty culture with its need for instant gratification. People have no good values anymore.
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 04:11 PM

If owning and playing an acoustic is the criterion, then we're in trouble. If playing and arranging/composing is the criterion, then thanks to digitals we're in good shape.
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 04:17 PM

USAPianoTrucker posted
 Quote:
a cheap baby grand made mostly of MDF is a NIGHTMARE to move and you can only put those legs on so many times before they start to wobble. Sadly, a lot of people fall for these pianos on price.
I don't disagree, but sometimes that's all people can afford. Those PSO's will let them get started.

On the other hand, there is no harm at all in learning if they are willing/able to make a greater commitment. And rim and case materials are a good place to make a comparison. Sustain/projection A/B's might also have worked, tho those lack the dramatic value of a good shake;-)
Posted by: Jolly

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 04:49 PM

Larry and lb both predicted a blood bath in the retail piano industry a couple of years ago.

The ROI is simply not there.
Posted by: gaffster

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 09:05 PM

..the way of the harpsichord perhaps???
Looking at the extreme long view here...
Instruments do come and go with musical tastes and styles. eventually they become merely oddities used to re-live old times. I wonder what place a piano will be - say by March 12,2307..
Posted by: Shoshana1224

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 10:20 PM

Everyone still loves music. In 1920, if you wanted to hear a piece, or have a sing a long, someone had to sit down and play the piano. Now it's easy to download whatever you want instantly, or turn on the karaoke machine.

So there is participation, the instant ability to get music, and the pleasure of participation. And no practicing.

IMHO, supporting school music programs is the answer. In my school district, like others, funding is limited. The parents raise money to help fund the programs, scholarships, lessons for some kids who can't afford them, etc.


Shoshana
Posted by: Reaper978

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 10:32 PM

But sports are far more important than the arts :rolleyes:
Posted by: M&HAAdriver

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/12/07 11:08 PM

Let's hear it for the aging baby-boomers whose lowly Yamaha P22 followed along on three corporate moves, but nevertheless sat relatively unused for several years while the kids were in sports, and even (thankfully) lots of school choirs. Such a person wakes up one day and realizes the guy who bought the old piano still lives, and will want to play an even nicer piano in the years between now and the nursing home.

I saw such a person again today in a reflection from my grand's music desk. I am not alone.
Posted by: turandot

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 02:10 AM

from Monica Kern
 Quote:
In other threads in the past, the issue of organized sports for children has been raised as one possible factor for the decline in piano purchases. Parents want to enrich their children's lives by including extracurricular activities, but the activity of choice appears increasingly to be organized sports, which (as any parent knows) can easily consume nearly all a family's discretionary time. Couple that with the decline of music education in the schools, and you have a recipe for families just not bothering to make piano (or any instrument) lessons a priority.
I think all of this is true. But school bands for middle schoolers and high schoolers seem to be flourishing in Southern California where I live. In fact, a lot of kids somehow manage to be in school athletics and school bands simultaneuously. A study I read cited statistics on the academic achievement of students involved in band as being higher than the general student population.

I think one of the problems with traditional piano lessons steeped in the classical piano repertoire is that kids don't relate to the music, and the piano as an instrument doesn't give kids much opportunity to relate to each other. Bands teach kids to know their role. Like sports there is a realization that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, that you have to depend on team members and be a complementary part of something that can be pretty exciting.

I grew up with piano lessons. Interaction with other kids musically was limited to seeing them arrive as I was leaving after a lesson, seeing them leave as I was arriving, or being part of recitals. I'm afraid it's the same today. That's why so many professional and amateur pianists are prima donnas who do not integrate easily into ensemble work. Often kids who do play and play exceptionally well are quiet loners. That was certainly true in my case. (the loner part / not the exceptionally well part). I didn't really come out of my shell until an electric keyboard got me into a garage band. My own kids studied piano a short while. When they wanted to change to band instruments I encouraged them. Piano taught them the fundamentals. Bands and ensembles gave them the chance to have fun.

You meet so many ADULTS who say "I took lessons for two years as a kid. I wish NOW I hadn't quit." Maybe the solitary pursuit of musical fulfillment at the keyboard is a better fit for adults and not such a great one for most kids.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 06:55 AM

Good points made by all.

turandot, I understand what you're saying about piano being more of a "solo" instrument. But it doesn't have to be.
Like you, I grew up with music in our house. My father and sister both played piano, and a local rock group sometimes practiced in our living room.

I first learned piano because I wanted to play in a rock band. Practice was at my house (the other parents didn't want to suffer through it).

So I had plenty of interaction with my bandmates, and actually did go on to play out professionaly.

Although a lot of folks on the forums probably play their pianos as a solo instrument at home, it doesn't have to be.

There is no reason (other than shyness) not to invite friends who play other instruments over to play along with you.

And as I point out in our Press Release , piano forums parties are a great way to share your love of music and of playing the piano.

I agree school bands are a great way to introduce kids to music, but the weak link here is usually the parents. They need to encourage their kids to play, and support their practice, lessons, instrument rentals, etc.

The NAMM organization promotes a program called Wanna Play?

It's focus is spreading the word about the fun, educational, and even health benefits of making music.

Check out the Wanna Play? section of their web site, pretty interesting (and lots of resources).

As a member (or guest) of these piano forums, you have already demonstrated that you have an interest in making music.
Share that interest with somebody, encourage them to take up an instrument (any instrument), tell them how much fun it is to play, and that getting started isn't as difficult as they might think.

The AOPA (Airplane Owners & Pilots Association) has a program called "Project Pilot". The idea is that anybody with a pilots certificate is a potential ambassador for recruiting new pilots.

They do this by offering to take people up for a flight, to show them how much fun it is, and that while there is certainly a learning curve, it's worth it.

Take someone for a test flight of your piano today!
Posted by: mjs

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 07:29 AM

My 2 cents:

OK - all of this relates to growing up in Germany, but then I think it still applies.

The piano teacher I had until about 10 years ago was very eager that her better students (she didn't take on that many in total) would play piano 4-hands - in my opinion an invaluable experience. You have interaction with other people and you have a vast repertoire at your fingertips. Almost all of the literature written for orchestra up to the 1920's as at some stage ben transcribed for piano duett. We played things ranging from "Rhapsody in Blue" over "Till Eulenspiegel" to "Sheherazade". Obviously, this is more work for everyone involved, but also the beginners seemed to enjoy playing their little duets of even trios (piano 6-hands ...). So piano playing and learning does not HAVE to be a lonely excercise.

Interestingly, when our house was still being built, we got talking to our future (and now present) neighbour while insepcting the site. We soon realised that we both played the piano, and shortly after we had moved in, she arrived with some music and the thought that we should make music together -- we haven't had time to pursue it yet, but it will be great fun.

Another thing I'd like to do is find people to do some chamber music - as much as I love playing the piano myself, I enjoy playing in a group as well.

Markus
Posted by: Shoshana1224

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 09:54 AM

This issue of the lonely piano player really resonates. In my own life, I found myself in my teenage years doing much more singing than piano playing because of the social aspect, and the opportunity to make music in a group.

In high school I had the chance to play piano in the jazz band, but years of classical playing did not prepare me well for quick jazz improvisation. It was a struggle. The other kids had been playing together in the school band since elementary school.

I like the idea of building a social aspect and rock/jazz into piano lessons. This kind of teaching could certainly make piano more attractive for kids.

My own kids have been playing in the school band and orchestra since elementary school. (They are now in 8th grade.) And they participate in soccer and basketball. We try to maintain a balance--music is important, but if you sit for hours and practice, sports are important for your physical health.
Posted by: thunder

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 10:26 AM

The need to be social is very strong in many kids/teenagers. In order to keep the piano interesting and relevant for them, I agree that you have to go beyond the traditional model of the solo pianist.
We are lucky to have a teacher that understands this. Recently he made the effort to connect our child with another child who needed a piano accompanist for her flute recital. The girls got along famously, share a similar work ethic, and now are busy working towards the next event. It has been a great opportunity for my daughter to develop the ability to listen to the other player, and to take a background role when necessary.
When my daughter was younger, she attended Suzuki institutes, which are one-week summer camps in which children who all play the same repertoire come together and take master classes, attend group classes with games, and hang out with other kids who play the same instrument. People have very strong opinions one way or the other about the Suzuki method, but encouraging group playing and making games out of practice makes it very fun for younger kids especially.
Posted by: lilylady

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 10:42 AM

Thunder,

Sounds great that the kids could get together.

I was a lonely child pianist for several years until I discovered a few friends as a sophmore who were at my level of playing and we shared pieces with each other.

Although, I must say, I did like the solitude of playing for myself. I could get lost in the music all alone and it became my companion.

LL
Posted by: Piano World

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 10:51 AM

This NAMM sponsored web site ... http://www.themusicedge.com/ is one of their attempts to get more kids interested in playing music, and playing together.

Check out the Wanna Play? web site for other ideas.
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 11:49 AM

The dealer I work for was a Piano /Organ only dealer for many years.

He had the vision to see the decline in sales of both and expanded successfully to a full line MI and sheet music dealer. We have hundreds of guitars on the walls,drums, 12 baby grands on the floor, (10 under 5"3). 1 grand over 6' (still crated for the past year.) 6 new uprights and all the digital Keybords from Yamaha and a few Kurtzweil.

He found the $5000-$10,000 grand piano market to be the bread and butter in new piano sales. Uprights dead, Used uprights very much dead as digitals are much better choices for $1500-3000.

It has served him well as stores all around are closing their doors who clung to piano only rooms, I sense he felt in a few cases their egos would not allow them to submit to market forces and become full line MI dealers. They carried more expensive brands hoping fewer sales would bring larger profit.

Rather then make "value" judgments and try to "educate" the public why not just give them what THEY want? It works much better and takes a lot less effort and frustration.
Posted by: J. Mark

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 12:02 PM

Will someone please explain to me what "MI" is?
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 12:45 PM

turnadot posted
 Quote:
I think one of the problems with traditional piano lessons steeped in the classical piano repertoire is that kids don't relate to the music, and the piano as an instrument doesn't give kids much opportunity to relate to each other. Bands teach kids to know their role. Like sports there is a realization that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,
Great points made in your post. Glad others are picking up on them.
Posted by: M&HAAdriver

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 12:47 PM

Hey I work for an airline in engineering. We have so many acronyms that they start repeating. YIKES!

That said, I believe MI is "Musical Instrument" in this case.

But what's MDF (A few posts up the line)? Obviously a material used in certain types of pianos. But what?
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 01:37 PM

medium desity fibreboard.
Posted by: M&HAAdriver

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 01:44 PM

Ah...not moisture densified fruitwood.
Mildly delaminated firewood.
musically destined foam.

thanks FVL!
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/13/07 08:54 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by turandot:
from Monica Kern
 Quote:
In other threads in the past, the issue of organized sports for children has been raised as one possible factor for the decline in piano purchases. Parents want to enrich their children's lives by including extracurricular activities, but the activity of choice appears increasingly to be organized sports, which (as any parent knows) can easily consume nearly all a family's discretionary time. Couple that with the decline of music education in the schools, and you have a recipe for families just not bothering to make piano (or any instrument) lessons a priority.
I think all of this is true. But school bands for middle schoolers and high schoolers seem to be flourishing in Southern California where I live. In fact, a lot of kids somehow manage to be in school athletics and school bands simultaneuously. A study I read cited statistics on the academic achievement of students involved in band as being higher than the general student population.

I think one of the problems with traditional piano lessons steeped in the classical piano repertoire is that kids don't relate to the music, and the piano as an instrument doesn't give kids much opportunity to relate to each other. Bands teach kids to know their role. Like sports there is a realization that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, that you have to depend on team members and be a complementary part of something that can be pretty exciting.

I grew up with piano lessons. Interaction with other kids musically was limited to seeing them arrive as I was leaving after a lesson, seeing them leave as I was arriving, or being part of recitals. I'm afraid it's the same today. That's why so many professional and amateur pianists are prima donnas who do not integrate easily into ensemble work. Often kids who do play and play exceptionally well are quiet loners. That was certainly true in my case. (the loner part / not the exceptionally well part). I didn't really come out of my shell until an electric keyboard got me into a garage band. My own kids studied piano a short while. When they wanted to change to band instruments I encouraged them. Piano taught them the fundamentals. Bands and ensembles gave them the chance to have fun.

You meet so many ADULTS who say "I took lessons for two years as a kid. I wish NOW I hadn't quit." Maybe the solitary pursuit of musical fulfillment at the keyboard is a better fit for adults and not such a great one for most kids. [/b]
What a great post. I can relate to the keyboard player loner part as well. (not me I started on a B-3 when I played in cover bands and learned from copying the parts from Santana,Deep Purple,James Gang, Humble Pie.) Many real studied piano players had a harder time in bands, especially those classically trained. There is so much discipline needed to learn to play the classics and today's kids have such short attention spans.

You really don't see or hear keyboards as much an integral part of todays most popular bands like the B-3 was.

My wife is classically trained and hates to play classical music yet has made her living her whole life playing keyboards for shows, piano bars and singles. She has played in one resort for the past 4 years. She was one of those who hated piano lessons but was forced to take them as a child. Thankful now she did.
Posted by: Scott The Piano Guy

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/14/07 02:15 PM

 Quote:
In high school I had the chance to play piano in the jazz band, but years of classical playing did not prepare me well for quick jazz improvisation. It was a struggle. The other kids had been playing together in the school band since elementary school.

I like the idea of building a social aspect and rock/jazz into piano lessons. This kind of teaching could certainly make piano more attractive for kids.
We're trying to address that very situation with our new teacher certification program that focuses on including some non-classical lead sheet based training along with the traditional classical training. The hopeful result will be a well-rounded student having a ball in a myriad of styles that will be less likely to quit.
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/14/07 03:24 PM

Scott, [/b]just posted re those materials in the Teachers Forum.
Posted by: Jeffrey

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/15/07 10:38 PM

I would think the rise of recorded music (records, CDs) put an end to the need to have a piano in the home to have music in the home. I do not ever see pianos overcoming this basic fact of 20th century music technology.

Guitars are cheaper and smaller and more portable for playing regular music. They are also well suited for popular "folk" music versus less popular "art" music. Even those who want to play music and not just listen, do not need an acoustic piano.

Playing piano also takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, and has few monitary rewards even for people of significant talent and dedication.

All of this means that acoustic pianos played in the home will likely always remain a tiny niche activity.
Posted by: AJB

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 04:47 AM

The question was focussed on America. It may be true that it is the twilight.

I cannot comment on America, but in the UK I think there is a divide. If I look at the grass roots:

The state school sector, as far as I can see, generally appears to set very little store in teaching children about music. I am familiar with one local school that has about 400 pupils and two music teachers, of which one is part time. Both have to cover other subjetcs as well.

My son, almost 10, goes to a private school where I forget the number of pupils but it is less than 200 aged 7 to 13. They have a music and drama department that utilises several full time teachers (two of them at least have music doctorates and extensive performance experience) and a broad complement of 35 specialist music teachers when part time staff are added in. They have four grand pianos, several uprights and numerous digitals. Plus just about every other musical instrument you can think of that is commonly played in the West.

The stupid educational divide in this country means that the better off (and perhaps better educated) parents opt out of the woefully under-resourced state system and pay for private education. Kids emerge having experienced piano, guitar, violin etc and often having learnt to play one of them quite well. There are 13 year olds doing ABRSM grade 7 and 8 exams in piano, violin, flute, etc. ALL children sing, ALL take part in school musical events, and ALL are encouraged to perform. The contrast between state and private is staggering.

This at least leads to one segment of society having a broad musical appreciation. But it also means that the great majority of children in this country, those educated in the state sector, have minimal exposure to the potentially life enriching musical education. This does not bode well.

I live in the largest and probably wealthiest city in the UK outside London. Guildford. It now has precisely zero acoustic piano dealers. The demand has apparently vanished. (To be fair London is only an hour away). It is not just America that is seeing the twilight of acoustic piano?

However, from what we read on this forum, a vast number of pianos are being made in China. So piano music is presumably alive and well and living in China.

Kind regards

Adrian
Posted by: Rock4Bach

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 08:45 AM

I think the issue is one that we all know is a reality: Kids being the future of music and the market being discussed. Right now, our kids time is under attack from IM'ing, pc chat, playstation, sports and more sports....heck they need a palm pilot to organize their days. Kids want an immediate fix and gratification...why work at something that takes time and is hard????

In the same statement music funding in schools is down and I believe our nation's dedication to art is declining unless you think Britney Spears is art. I strive to be a virtuoso in guitar and I am now agressively attacking piano (and I will buy my first acoustic piano this year). As a kid, I would sit in my room for hours trying to learn a song or technique because I was driven and because the culture was there to encourage me (other guys were trying to shred and be the best as well....and we all wanted the title or an advanced knowledge of music). Today is hip hop garbage and techno nonsense mixed with protools and that makes me want to puke. Do our nations parents love the "art" of music and are they passing it to the kids?

I do and I am trying, however I could not get buy in from my 2 daughters who are still in school...very very disappointing and frustrating. I am encouraged that things are cyclical in history, so it is not a matter of if but when a generation will be hungry for piano, acoustic tone, "real" sound. May not be in our time gang...so get ready for some rocky roads.
Posted by: Glyptodont

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 09:24 AM

I'm the guy who began this thread, and have just read the great assortment of responses. A few comments.

One respondent said that "pianos are easy to move." Ours is just a mid-sized grand (5'8") but weighs approx. 800 lbs. A smaller upright might fit his description better, but is still not a feather.

As for popularizing the piano for younger players, bear in mind that many rock greats play their own pianos. Billy Joel and Elton John for two. To find as an example a new artist who is up and coming, consider the lead singer for "Five for Fighting." Plays his own piano accompanyment.

One interesting comment made by several is that the seeming diminution in piano ownership may be linked to a decline in the arts (or "culture") in general in this country. Maybe so.

It is slender consolation that universities and the education establishment provide a large market for piano sales and generate lots of lesson hours. and move a lot of expensive pianos out of showrooms. Universities make a cottage industry out of endeavors that have lost their popular appeal. They are often hopelessly out of touch.

For example, university English departments offer numerous courses in poetry, and have courses in contemporary poetry featuring poets no one (except the university faculty) has ever heard of. Even poets with some reputation sell just a few thousand books per release, most of them to libraries. The well-known poet Karl Shapiro used to say that contemporary poets have no audience -- and he was quoted as saying, "poetry is a flower that grew in England. They tried to take it to America, and it died on the way." Well, fine. The universities, in their little vacuum chamber, build whole academic departments around this hothouse plant.

It is the same with piano pedagogy. It will live on in academia, as well as in subsidized performances sponsored by arts organizations, presented in taxyayer-subsidized salons. This is a kind of hothouse. Instead . . .

Have ma wash the dishes and then come in to bang something out, or a coterie of friends gathered around an upright singing popular music of the time, or bars with a piano and a lounge singer -- once ubiquitous -- these are examples of something indiginous to the cultural life. Let's hope there's something of a resurgence of this sort of popular enjoyment of pianos.

Judging from the comments of "Piano World" above, the picture has some hope to it, and is not as gloomy as I had feared.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 10:01 AM

I'll read these more thoroughly later.
Posted by: Rock4Bach

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 10:56 AM

KevinEleven, good insight (ps send me those cheat codes on that Tom Clancy game \:\) ). I agree. I manage in a facility wtih approx 250 20 somethings that I mingle with. Of that, I have only found 2 people that have an true intensity for music, and of that only 1 plays. Maybe I am getting crusty because the younger crowd today doesn't attack the limits of their instruments with passion as I did (thus, I don't think it is just a piano twilight thing in the US...it is musical talent).

I know this is a piano forum so I will keep it there. Today's pianos are not cheap for an average family. Is cost prohibiting the growth of this vs say guitar per a prior comment? It did for me, even as an adult (mom and dad didn't buy poor ol' me a piano as a kid) When I talk to people with discretionary money, they are into LCD tv's, surround sound, investments, Hummers and anything but a piano. That is why I joined this crowded forum, to get a better crowd!
Posted by: Robert 45

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 12:44 PM

In the 19th century, America was the power house of piano culture with improvements in piano technology and the availability of the piano as the main provider of home entertainment.

The fad for cheaper and simpler forms of home entertainment has always badly affected new piano sales and consequently piano culture has waned not only in America, but in all western societies.

Now it seems that Asian countries, especially China, have become the guardians of piano culture. There are hundreds of thriving "piano schools" in China and now more affuent, educated parents perceive piano education as very important for their children. Confucian values still prevail in China.

Unfortunately for piano culture in the West, the acquisition of the latest plasma television is often considered a household priority with a piano well down on the wish list. For average households, the cost of buying a piano and children's piano lessons are deterrents to a flourishing piano culture.
However, piano culture has waxed and waned through economic downturns, the competition from radio, television and now the gadgetry of information technology.

As people still cling to religion for spiritual fulfillment so we music lovers, pianists and piano enthusiasts will always cherish the instrument which opens the treasure of the richest musical literature in the world.

Kind regards,

Robert.
Posted by: tjbsb

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 01:29 PM

In my opinion the market for acoustic pianos will continue to shrink in per-capita terms around the world. I doubt the market will dissapear altogether. However, there are way too many entertainment choices out there now and there will be even more in the future. Furthermore, digital pianos will continue to improve to the point where it will be difficult for a player or a listener to tell the difference between an excellent digital and an upright or small grand acoustic. At that point, the small acoustic grand and upright piano will be a specialty item selling to collectors and purists. Piano dealers, that up to now have not had to compete too much with the big box and Internet retailers, will face a very tough road as digitals that can easily be shipped cross-country replace more and more of the market for the acoustic piano.

The market for large grands will likely remain stable as they are the best choice for performance and should remain so in the future. However, that market is truly small and requires a very few dealers to service.
Posted by: bach1

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 02:05 PM

I also think that the market for pianos is going to get smaller because we live in the information. I mean big screen plasma tvs, music down loads on cell phones not to mention you tube. It is so easy to find ways of not only listening but also of seing the music being performed by Britney Spears etc. American Idol also has only singers, but not anybody who plays piano while singing. I remember when I was in grade school, Herb Alpert was the number one on the radio, as a result the trumpet was one of the most popular instrument to learn on and school bands had large trumpet sections. I think that if we had an talent show like american idol for talented musicians, then the kids would be inspired to take up piano, trumpet etc and maybe the schools would put back the music programs that I guess don't exist for most schools anymore.
Posted by: Rock4Bach

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 02:37 PM

Bach1, agree...the problem is the genetic pool of talent via muscianship, which is running dry before our eyes. Sing and dance in a video on myspace that you view on your blackberry while you watch a movie on your Ipod nano. ARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH! Hang on my Moto Razr phone is ringing, check out the ringtone(yeah....I have 2 cells and a bluetooth)

Robert45's comments were very intriguing seeing as he is on the other side of the globe from me. China's boom in piano production, demand and learning is curious to say the least, as is their total economy and growth. Maybe it is cultural evolution and they are slightly behind the West based on socioeconomic parameters (wealth trickling into their nation). The true majority of Chineese do not live in the mass production zone of their emerging economy. No slight to my Chineese brothers. Perhaps the majority there is where we were 75 years ago??? Perhaps I am jealous in some form or fashion.....
Posted by: Helen&Ken

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 03:34 PM

This is a very interesting discussion. We're in Canada so our perceptions may be slightly different than the U.S. Sports are popular here but aside from hockey, not held with the zealous devotion observed in the US with football, baseball and basketball. Certain ethnic backgrounds, (there is a very high Asian population in Vancouver) seem to value classical training, from our observations of customers of piano stores, and music recitals, festivals, camps, and classes. Definitely private schools and more affluent areas have higher opportunities for music and any other extra-curricular activity whether cultural, educational or sport related.

We think that music appreciation, whether piano or any other instrument begins in the home and requires constant exposure and encouragement. In our situation, music has always been available whether as a recording on the stereo or live on the piano or flute. It was just accepted that our kids would learn an instrument. They like to watch mommy play and the wanted to imitate. There are Gymboree programs for infant/toddlers and Kodaly Orff programs for preschoolers. There are Suzuki programs for "Pre-twinklers" to learn by ear. There is a Vancouver Symphony Kids Program that we have taken our 4 and 8 yr old girls to for a number of years and they always look forward to it.

As Thunder stated earlier, Suzuki is a nice program for exposure to the classical repertoire and is very social, making group classes mandatory with a lot of games, group play-in recitals and interactions with peers, although more so with the violin than piano. Although my older child goes to private violin lessons now, she loves going to the summer Suzuki camps to and because it is fun to play with others. She's also eager to join the youth symphony.

Unfortunately, the school music curriculum is severely lacking, especially in the public setting and in the primary grades where there may be insufficiently trained teachers and absence of resources. The music program tends to "dumbed down" and instruments are rarely available except a cymbal or drum or two. Emi was especially appalled that a CD she had brought to a Grade 1 class for show and tell of favorite music (Seitz Violin Concerto she was playing at the time) was used for a "freeze dance" game .

Not everyone likes classical music and the RCM program has brought in a popular music alternative repertoire for piano examinations to encourage more players. As for piano shaped objects, sound quality doesn't seem to be as important to most people as it used to be eg. MP3 compression and IPods vs audiophile stereos. Very few people actually sit in front of an instrument or stereo and listen. With our busy lives, music is background ambiance rather than something that requires concentration and attention to fully appreciate. Surprisingly, there are some people who just cannot distinguish the difference between an upright and a concert grand or a mass market violin and a handmade one, or perhaps worse, don't care.

Sports and other activities do cut into time for music but effort needs to made to continue to incorporate music into her life. Emi is a competitive gymnast and trains for 4hr per day 2-3 x per week , the younger is in pre-competitive gymnastics 1x/wk and both have piano +/- violin, Mandarin, art, skating, swimming, indoor climbing and general loafing activities. They chose to parcipate and enjoy all their activities except for the practicing (the younger one likes to practice \:\) ) . There is no coercion to continue lessons or any of the activities.

In the end, if one is brought up with the belief that it is natural to play the piano or other instrument, and that music is an integral component of the enjoyment of life, then perhaps piano sales will pick up. The family environment is fundamental to this happening.
Posted by: stephenc

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 03:56 PM

i guess it's typical of modern culture that piano's and playing have been relegated to a large extent to the status of a fad that comes and goes, but one that will always have die hard fans like us who must frequent internet forums to share our passion for the instrument. In Australia for example, piano sales and demand for lessons soared among young girls when artists such as Alicia Keys and Delta goodrem surfaced with their heavily piano influenced music, but like Pokemon, the interest soon fades and the market for second hand piano's is flooded by instruments that are "hardly played".
Posted by: thunder

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 04:28 PM

Really interesting thread. About American Idol: my daughter and I were watching it while they did a brief interview with each contestant to find out their hobbies. One played a few bars of a Chopin waltz (on an electronic keyboard, oh well) and said that he enjoyed playing the piano. That show has many, many viewers -- maybe we'll see an upswing in the number of piano students now!

I love the idea of an Idol show for musicians... except that I don't to end up with a show where the public just votes for the contestant with the cutest hair!!
Posted by: ftp

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 04:37 PM

Just a thought...is it the parents and adult society or the kids that are having the most influence on the decline of piano playing?

We all know that disciplined activities such as homework, piano playing ect... become laborious and have the potential to be naturally avoided. If kids have all the current technology and compete hard at sports- isn't it the parents that are the enablers?

A separate issue is the solitary vs. group activity aspect of piano playing but even this is influenced by cultural mores correct?
Posted by: Stephen Hazel

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/16/07 04:44 PM

Well, there was no one on the piano but me in my childhood. And I only plunked out McDonalds melodies with one finger.

In my -whole- extended family.

So I'm bringin' that ole piano back INTO the family. Well, via a digital. My kids LOVE changing the sounds. And i do too !!

I may not be able to play many songs yet, but by the time I'm a grampa, my grandkids are gonna see how cool this instrument is.

Now that I've started lessons, my son is plinking through the first couple songs of my grade 1 book, too.
And thanks to midi files, I can play something he recognizes - the gamecube "Animal Crossing" theme \:\)

I think there's eventually GOT to be a "tv backlash"... SOME of the people are gonna get SICK of sittin around on their butts just staring off...

The acoustic piano may be fading a bit, but the digital is there beckoning those that just can't deal with a big ole acoustic. And let's face it... They =ARE= big !!
You think my wife will go along with one of those in our computer room ??
I DON'T THINK SOOO !!

And eventually, after dinkin' around with a digital, SOME of the people will grow up and want the "magical" one. The one our ancestors used with real hammers and strings and power.

I dunno if I'll ever be one of THOSE people.
But I'll sure be happy if my son keeps goin.
I sure as heck know that i will.

...Steve
Posted by: Jeffrey

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/17/07 11:19 AM

*If* there is a difference betweent he piano culture of America versus Europe or other areas, it might be due to population density. NYC, for example, where I am, has no lack of piano culture. Many people own pianos, piano teachers and schools are all over the place, and piano concerts can be heard by name performers almost every week, usually more than once.

I suspect all of this would be very hard to replicate in a less population dense environment. Europe has more population dense areas per population than America.

There might be other cultural differences, like America idolizes sports stars and hedge fund managers, rather than cultural figures, but I suspect a lot of it simply has to do with population density.
Posted by: TLuvva

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/17/07 06:25 PM

Relax folks, IMHO the acoustic piano will not wither and die because it is THE most incredible instrument known to man - PERIOD. Digital pianos will rival the recorded piano, but until a digital piano is made that shakes and vibrates and rattles it will NEVER have the same impact. Through a set of speakers? Sure. Live in person - NO WAY.

The decline of the world has been going on forever except that it is not declining - it's changing. There are tons of things combating the decline of the American Piano culture, for one this forum. It's just like TV channels. Once there were three and everybody watched them. A hit show was watched by everybody in the country. Now there are a million channels and have the original channels suffered? Maybe. But more people watch TV now. It's like the whole long tail theory. Have you heard of this? Hit songs don't matter so much anymore because it's the same to sell one of one million different songs than one million of ONE song. Think of how many different kinds of music there is now. That's because the whole globe is able to support all these different kinds of music that would have never been able to survive without the niche audience and the dissolving of the competition for shelf space. Think about it, in the olden days, you couldn't choose to be something too specialized, you had to be a carpenter, or a metal smith or a farmer. Now you can be a doctor specializing in removing warts off the backs of wart hogs! And make a LIVING! And that guy lives next door. You always wondered what the hell he did for a living.

That's where piano culture is. It will live strongly in perhaps fewer people and that group will be fine and use cell phones and the internet to passively promote pianos and concerts and events. Yes, piano makers will go out of business, but others will remain. And if interest dips too low, something will happen to bring it back. As it is, ANY given town has incredible pianists that NOBODY has ever heard of. Piano culture is not dying. It just seems like it's dying. Millions with cheap digital pianos dream of having a REAL piano. And the Chinese are working on it!

I'm telling you people the concern is going to be NANOBOTS! That's when everything changes and there's no going back. Pianos will be fine until then. And then? There ain't no tellin' And nanobots are just around the corner.
Posted by: JohnEB

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 02:05 AM

I blame the parents. Music (other than popular) is like olives - you don't realise you like it until you've grown up a bit. So parents have a role to play encouraging children to learn (and practise).

Yes I agree that there is a lower proportion of children playing now then 30 years ago, but I don't think there's any danger of it dying out.

And as for piano shops closing down - it's obviously due to the competition from internet based piano suppliers.
Posted by: turandot

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 10:56 AM

from JohnEB
 Quote:
I blame the parents. Music (other than popular) is like olives - you don't realise you like it until you've grown up a bit. So parents have a role to play encouraging children to learn (and practise).
Two points

If kids are doing well in school and have extra-curricular activities that parents concede to be worthwhile, it's unfair to force them to eat olives in their little free time.

The classical student repertoire needs an overhaul. Piano teachers need to look beyond the glories of Hanon, Czerny, Haydn, Mozart etc., and find a curriculum that today's kids can relate to. It's about time.
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 11:10 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by JohnEB:
I blame the parents. Music (other than popular) is like olives - you don't realise you like it until you've grown up a bit. So parents have a role to play encouraging children to learn (and practise).

Yes I agree that there is a lower proportion of children playing now then 30 years ago, but I don't think there's any danger of it dying out.

And as for piano shops closing down - it's obviously due to the competition from internet based piano suppliers. [/b]
Piano shops are closing down because fewer people are buying pianos. The internet barely makes a dent in local piano sales. MI stores can be said to be closing because of internet sales though. More guitars are being sold then ever. Those who diversify survive and prosper.

Piano Superstore is on the right track. If it were not for decreasing piano sales they could be the "Musician"s Friend" of Piano sales.
Youth and more and more and more adults are choosing the internet for all kinds of shopping including CARS!

I would think cars are the ultimate "play before pay" purchases, Yet Auto sales on Ebay are thriving. I have a friend who bought his last three cars on Ebay. I bought my motorcycle on Ebay.

Reality bites.
Posted by: David Andersen

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 11:21 AM

That's why I've decided, as a piano seller, to go to the high end and stay there. I've made a great living as a piano technician working on top pianos at top rates, and I'm starting to sell expensive and/or quality made and prepared pianos to that market. It's going well; slow at first, but there'll pretty quickly be a time when our biggest problem will be where to get the vintage unrestored Steinways and others we need as platforms (for marketing purposes) to build great new pianos.
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 11:54 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by David Andersen:
That's why I've decided, as a piano seller, to go to the high end and stay there. I've made a great living as a piano technician working on top pianos at top rates, and I'm starting to sell expensive and/or quality made and prepared pianos to that market. It's going well; slow at first, but there'll pretty quickly be a time when our biggest problem will be where to get the vintage unrestored Steinways and others we need as platforms (for marketing purposes) to build great new pianos. [/b]
You can't go wrong selling to the ostentatious.
Posted by: TLuvva

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 11:58 AM

It's interesting though, why aren't there more small shops in the U.S. like the guy talked about in Europe? He said there are piano repair and rebuilding places that sell pianos as well occasionally to boost income. Maybe there are these places but they are just individual folks (piano techs, etc) working from home so they don't get into new piano sales because they don't have a retail location.
Posted by: Jeffrey

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 12:13 PM

kingfrog: "ostentatious"

There is a typo in your post. I think you meant to spell it "people who can play piano".
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 12:17 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeffrey:
kingfrog: "ostentatious"

There is a typo in your post. I think you meant to spell it "people who can play piano". [/b]
I rest my case.
Posted by: Jeffrey

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 12:28 PM

king: I can tell why you are such a successful salesman. It's the personal charm.

Let me ask you: do you think that being "ostentatious" is the only reason to buy a piano of higher quality than a Pearl River, or do you admit there are musical differences? If you cannot tell the differences, it is ok to admit it publically.
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 12:44 PM

There is a difference.But where we part ways is the AMOUNT of difference in totally immeasurable terms. Is it $60,000 worth of differance? Nope! I will never (Thank God) hear that.

I just don't see the pragmatic or otherwise "value" in the amount of dollar separation between the two. But then again I don't see the value in a $5,000 Stainless steel Rolex over a Stainless Steel Seiko. Or a $375,000 Maybach over a $40,000 Lexus.


I am successful because I'm NOT a salesman. Never wasted money on prestigious stuff. I make people feel good about what they CAN buy. I sell them what THEY want not what I think they should want. I save them money. I am who I sell to.
Posted by: AJB

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 01:00 PM

This is just the law of diminishing returns.

There is no doubt that though Kingfrog may take a polarised position at times, his perspective on value judgements is an entirely reasonable one to take.

I agree in many ways. I do not buy new cars and I would not buy a new piano unless it was unrepeatable in some way used. I prefer other people to pay for my depreciation.

I also agree that in many ways we overpay for well known brand names. So we have a choice. Don't. Buy used, or buy something else.

I do think that the Steinways and Faziolis etc of this world are better than the cheap pianos. So narrow the price gap hugely and buy used. Everything is used as soon as you have bought it, so why worry?

I do not extend this argument to food though!

Or clothes (though I have nothing against vintage).

And I do have a penchant for watches - even though I know perfectly well that a manual Panerai will not be as accurate as an electronic Seiko. We just choose what we want to spend money on.

A
Posted by: Jeffrey

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 01:04 PM

king: I understand that your market is lower-end pianos to people who do not know much about pianos (this is simply a summary of what you yourself have said about your business), maybe for kids' lessons or something like that. I think it is great that you get more acoustic pianos into people's homes, of any type. But I have no idea if you "save" them money (maybe you could post your prices??), and many of your comments on this board seem misleading or disingenuous, at best.

As for your being "NOT" a salesman, I can say your posts are among the most salesy and pitchy of the dealers currently posting: they contain almost no piano-related information, and are almost exclusively salesy hype about buyer psychology, and who is getting a deal and who is wasting money, with irrelevant watch analogies. This is pure sales bs, and has almost no piano related information contained in it. It does nothing to impart piano information, and relies on standard psychological sales techniques to sell pianos (rather than imparting information about pianos).

On the topic of "prestige" or "ostentatious". Do you think people who buy Estonias, Masons, or Forsters are buying for ostentation and prestige, rather than the musical enjoyment of a quality hand-made piano?? The reason I ask is that few people have ever heard of these brands, and a cheaper (and cheaper made) Yamaha would have more brand-pretsige to the non-playing public. So I don't see how you argue that these brands are purchased for "ostentation" when few people know much about them.
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 08:00 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeffrey:
king: I understand that your market is lower-end pianos to people who do not know much about pianos (this is simply a summary of what you yourself have said about your business), maybe for kids' lessons or something like that. I think it is great that you get more acoustic pianos into people's homes, of any type. But I have no idea if you "save" them money (maybe you could post your prices??), and many of your comments on this board seem misleading or disingenuous, at best.

As for your being "NOT" a salesman, I can say your posts are among the most salesy and pitchy of the dealers currently posting: they contain almost no piano-related information, and are almost exclusively salesy hype about buyer psychology, and who is getting a deal and who is wasting money, with irrelevant watch analogies. This is pure sales bs, and has almost no piano related information contained in it. It does nothing to impart piano information, and relies on standard psychological sales techniques to sell pianos (rather than imparting information about pianos).

On the topic of "prestige" or "ostentatious". Do you think people who buy Estonias, Masons, or Forsters are buying for ostentation and prestige, rather than the musical enjoyment of a quality hand-made piano?? The reason I ask is that few people have ever heard of these brands, and a cheaper (and cheaper made) Yamaha would have more brand-pretsige to the non-playing public. So I don't see how you argue that these brands are purchased for "ostentation" when few people know much about them. [/b]
You are digging far too deep. I use the watches as a metaphor for people paying more then they should for something who's purpose is easily had for less and in many case more accurate.

People buy those expensive pianos because they have developed a taste for them in their quest to get the very best they can afford in their world. And as well in thier "piano buying public" world those brands are respected MORE then Yamaha which as I gathered here is considered
"less then" to "serious" piano enthusiasts.

I also believe they pay far too much for many of them. Handmade to me means inconsistent, which means you can get a good one or not so good one. Many manufactured products are better because of less human intervention not more.

I'm not "selling" anything here. I do not bash PSS and applaud the guts to try the internet model.
I wish he was more upfront though. I do dislike stenciling old used American names on Chinese pianos and believe it's dishonest and primarily used to get more money out of a mediocre product based on some long dead reputation.

I believe Steinway is a great piano. Every bit as good as a Mason,Forester, or Estonia.But hardly worth what people will pay up to and put up with for the hype over those brands.

A 300 year old musical instrument has not changed really all that much and is pretty much the same across the board or can be made that way after the sale by a great technician as I read here.

So what is it that makes a 7' Steinway $60,000+ better then a 7' Pearl River anyway? Human hands?
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/18/07 09:23 PM

The "death" of the piano ignores all those kids using digitals for composing.

If schools could find a way to mimic the Digital and Adult Beginner forums here on PW, we could see a resurgence.
Posted by: AJB

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/19/07 04:41 AM

KingFrog, you quite often use the watch metaphor. This argument assumes that the most valuable thing is function. This may mainly be true of a watch, as its job is to show the time. Aesthetics may or may not add to the perceived value.

However, the argument is surely more complex with pianos? Although they have a function - to make sounds by depressing keys - the subjective element must surely play a large part in the equation. Pianos do sound different and whilst they may all fulfil a similar function, the tonal and volume capabilities do differ quite a bit.

The point that was surely being made is that there are pianos that are in a similar price bracket to Yamaha that are different tonally. Some of these pianos do not have Yamaha's well know brand image, yet piano buyers still choose them.

Does this not indicate that many people are making very considered choices that take account of value for money but which do not lean towards favouring a well know brand?

I can see that you may argue that for you a Steinway (say) does not deliver enough tonal benefit, or firm residual value, or longevity to justify its higher price than another piano. Many others may also think that way. It is a valid argument as it must be agreed that the returns diminish as we go up the price scale.

But the anti brand philosophy is surely a weaker argument when the comparisons are between instruments at a similar price point.

Adrian
Posted by: CozyWriter

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/19/07 07:25 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by turandot:
Two points

If kids are doing well in school and have extra-curricular activities that parents concede to be worthwhile, it's unfair to force them to eat olives in their little free time.

The classical student repertoire needs an overhaul. Piano teachers need to look beyond the glories of Hanon, Czerny, Haydn, Mozart etc., and find a curriculum that today's kids can relate to. It's about time. [/b]
That's probably the saddest thing I've ever seen on here. It's 30 minutes a day to practice piano.

I certainly did it, extracurricular activities and all. But then I didn't have computer games, the Internet, my own cll fne 2 cht w/, or 300 channels of cable TV.

To paraphrase those weepy "Save the Children" commercials, "only 30 minutes a day" could change a child's life (for the better) forever.
Posted by: CozyWriter

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/19/07 07:34 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Kingfrog777:
Or a $375,000 Maybach over a $40,000 Lexus.


I am successful because I'm NOT a salesman. Never wasted money on prestigious stuff. I make people feel good about what they CAN buy. I sell them what THEY want not what I think they should want. I save them money. I am who I sell to. [/b]
Um.... I thought you drove an Avalon, over an equally drivable Corolla or Yaris (or a Prius at 2x the fuel economy of that big Lexus LX in Toyota Skin.)
Posted by: turandot

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/19/07 11:43 AM

 Quote:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by turandot:


If kids are doing well in school and have extra-curricular activities that parents concede to be worthwhile, it's unfair to force them to eat olives in their little free time.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

from Cozywriter
That's probably the saddest thing I've ever seen on here. It's 30 minutes a day to practice piano.

I certainly did it, extracurricular activities and all. But then I didn't have computer games, the Internet, my own cll fne 2 cht w/, or 300 channels of cable TV.

To paraphrase those weepy "Save the Children" commercials, "only 30 minutes a day" could change a child's life (for the better) forever.
Let me try to explain my thinking. My kids have 7.5 hours or sleep, 7 hours of school, on average 1.5 hours of homework, 0.5 hours of getting ready for school and eating breakfast, 0.5 hours of commuting time to and from school, 0.5 hours of reading time that I impose on them each evening, 1 hour with the family at dinner time, and .5 hours for an evening shower and getting ready for the next school day (packing backpacks, getting things signed etc.). That adds up to 19 hours day. Of the remaining five hours of discretionary time I prefer to let them make the choices as long as the choices are reasonable. They have chosen team sports and school band. Believe me, these can be quite time consuming. It’s not just the daily practice. It’s the travel to and from away games, band festivals, tournaments and the like. I do not feel a necessity to force them to study piano.

Of the activities that you mention and I’m assuming you don’t approve of, my kids do play video games and watch cable tv. I’m not sure cable tv is necessarily a bad thing. My kids (and I) like Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet. I think those have some value. They like Cartoon Network too. It’s probably of little value. But when I was a kid and had free time, I would often curl up with a stack of well-worn comic books and read them yet again. I think it’s good for kids to have some time that requires nothing even if it yields nothing.

When you say “I certainly did it” about the thirty minutes a day of piano practice, I can relate to that. I did it too, more in fact. But I also delivered newspapers for pocket money and sang in a choir. Should I make a point that my kids do those things too? I think not.

As to your reference to being sad, I suspect that you are more mad than sad. As to “weepy Save the Children commercials” it has no relevance. Are you trying to pour a little gasoline on what has been (to this point) a very civilized and thoughtful thread with a lot of people sharing ideas on how to re-invigorate the piano culture?

I look forward to your contribution to those ideas.
Posted by: Kingfrog777

Re: The Twilight of American Piano Culture -- ? - 03/19/07 10:18 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by AJB:
KingFrog, you quite often use the watch metaphor. This argument assumes that the most valuable thing is function. This may mainly be true of a watch, as its job is to show the time. Aesthetics may or may not add to the perceived value.

However, the argument is surely more complex with pianos? Although they have a function - to make sounds by depressing keys - the subjective element must surely play a large part in the equation. Pianos do sound different and whilst they may all fulfil a similar function, the tonal and volume capabilities do differ quite a bit.

The point that was surely being made is that there are pianos that are in a similar price bracket to Yamaha that are different tonally. Some of these pianos do not have Yamaha's well know brand image, yet piano buyers still choose them.

Does this not indicate that many people are making very considered choices that take account of value for money but which do not lean towards favouring a well know brand?

I can see that you may argue that for you a Steinway (say) does not deliver enough tonal benefit, or firm residual value, or longevity to justify its higher price than another piano. Many others may also think that way. It is a valid argument as it must be agreed that the returns diminish as we go up the price scale.

But the anti brand philosophy is surely a weaker argument when the comparisons are between instruments at a similar price point.

Adrian [/b]
Value itself is subjective. The more expensive a piano is the less of a value it becomes.That can be applied to most big ticket purchases. I am not anti-brand. I believe Masons, Estonias,and most other mid tier brands to be as good if not better then the Steinway and even Bosendofers. I also believe from what I learned here they are respected within enthusiast's circles more then a similar Yamaha.

I do believe many people are buying pianos They choose because of tone regardless of the price. They become flag bearers for that brand and eager to share what and why they bought. I believe this is a small segment of the total piano buying public though. Just like the elitists are a small segment on the other end of the scale.

The watch analogy may be trite because the only reason one buys a Rolex has little to do with the actual time keeping ability unlike a piano where there are indeed differences both measurable and immeasurable.

One must take my comments in perspective as to who I deal with day to day as well. People buying their first piano with limited resources who are not accomplished players for the most part and are not "piano enthusiasts". They put an awful lot of "trust" in me to deliver the best I can for the money they want to spend. That means NO misleading. NO false German brands. Names of the manufacture on the fall boards. No stencils.
My salary is high enough. 2.5-5% commission will not make me pressure a customer into a certain brand or price. The owner pays a decent salary. Some of the employees are able to live on it without commission. They don't sell pianos at all.

If someone gave me a Steinway or Bose I would sell it and invest the difference. I have not acquired a taste for those brands, nor does my playing take advantage of any subtle differences those brands offer. My wife however is a professional and earned her living for 20 years playing and is very happy with Yamaha..even the GB1.

We are wholesaling an old 5'11" Steinway for $9k rather then try to sell it in our demographic. On the other hand we are selling a much newer 5'8" Baldwin in excellent condition for $10-12K because we know it will sell.

BTW Cozy. I drive an Avalon because I like a full size car for safety, options, comfort and the reliability of the Lexus and I bought it used for the cost of a new Corolla.