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#213519 - 01/27/08 07:14 AM What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Bear 1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/06
Posts: 1348
Loc: Hillsboro Beach South Florida
Greetings Piano Forum folks. \:\)

Just some food for thought.

What caused the Accordion decline in the US?
What caused the Home Organ decline in the US?
What is causing the Acoustic Piano decline in the US?

Does it have anything to do with the manufacturers or the dealers or is it a decline in popularity of those products in the US?

Is it a lack of family commitment and discipline to learn to play Acoustic Pianos?
Is it parents that are afraid that their children will drop out of learning to play the piano and therefore won't buy one.
Is it that some piano teachers teach boring music to their students?
Is it a lacking of instant gratification by having to study the Acoustic Piano?
Is it the fact that many US schools have very small budgets or no budget at all for Acoustic Pianos in the classrooms?

Has anybody considered that Acoustic Piano "affectionados" are less in number than the regular folks that just want to noodle around with something easier to play than an acoustic, just for the fun of it?

What caused the Digital Piano increase in the US?
Was it the manufacturers or the dealers or an increase in desire by some folks to have some easy fun with bells and whistles while playing a keyboard instrument?

Does the Computer, as a leisure time product, provide more interesting things to do as opposed to buying and learning to play the piano?

Are computer games, X-Box, Nintendo, etc,. taking away from children having the desire to study the piano?

Will diehard pianists continue to debate which piano is the best in the world and why it is?
Then, where will piano "affectionados" go to audition the pianos of their choice if the Brick and Mortar dealers go bust?

Folks, I don't know the answers. I just ask the questions. \:\)

Cordially,

Bear
_________________________
Barry J "Bear" Arnaut ♫
46 Years in the Piano Industry
Retired Kawai/Shigeru Kawai Regional Manager
(My posts and threads are my opinions only)

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#213520 - 01/27/08 08:20 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
CTPianotech Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/06/06
Posts: 1473
Loc: CT
The answer is..... "Yes"
_________________________
Rich Lindahl
Piano Restorations in Central CT
D-C installations, Player-Piano installations/service
Ritmuller/Pearl River

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#213521 - 01/27/08 09:28 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
ftp Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia
My understanding is that the first decline of pianos came at the advent of the radio. The second major decline was associated with the TV.

I've also read that pianos were very important to immigrants as a reflection of "arriving" or acheiving middle class status and everything that meant to them.

Of course the number of choices kids have today, the solitude of practicing and everything else you mentioned play into it.

Just some quick thoughts.

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#213522 - 01/27/08 09:37 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
Believe it or not I work with a nurse who told me she would love her little boy to take piano lessons but her husband said that playing piano wasn't masculine and wouldn't allow it...

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#213523 - 01/27/08 09:45 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
J. Mark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 1323
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mark...:
Believe it or not I work with a nurse who told me she would love her little boy to take piano lessons but her husband said that playing piano wasn't masculine and wouldn't allow it... [/b]
I suspect this is much more common than most of us tend to think. Very sad, actually. It's the same kind of thinking that causes dads to push their little boys into things like hockey, and to (subtley or otherwise) encourage violence and aggression. Depressing.

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#213524 - 01/27/08 09:56 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
 Quote:
Originally posted by J. Mark:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mark...:
Believe it or not I work with a nurse who told me she would love her little boy to take piano lessons but her husband said that playing piano wasn't masculine and wouldn't allow it... [/b]
I suspect this is much more common than most of us tend to think. Very sad, actually. It's the same kind of thinking that causes dads to push their little boys into things like hockey, and to (subtley or otherwise) encourage violence and aggression. Depressing. [/b]
Yes, very sad. I told her how the piano helps in all other areas especially academia and she just sighed...

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#213525 - 01/27/08 09:58 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Twin Cities
Hi all:

I believe that there are many reasons that contribute to whatever decline in acoustic ownership there may be, and several of these have already been mentioned here.

But another thing to consider - during the time (at least when I was a kid in the late 50s - 60s), a lot of homes had acoustic pianos that functioned as little more than furniture where pictures of the family were displayed in little stand-up frames. In other words, even in the "good old days", the piano was not played as much as the number of homes that had one might lead us to believe. As somebody else said in this thread, the piano was often a symbol that a family had "arrived". I suspect that the number of people who actually play the piano actively has not changed that much.

In at least some cases, the digital piano has replaced the acoustic piano due to convenience and the fact that people who live in places where practicing an acoustic piano would bother the neighbors (apartments and condos, or houses with lots of people living in them), can play a digital without disturbing them. Also, it is much easier to move a digital piano, and that is important for people who tend to move even occasionally.

One might even consider that it is possible that more people are playing today because of this convenience factor of the digital piano. I am not saying that a digital is "the real thing", but it can be a reasonable substitute in the situations I mentioned. Just because a digital instrument may have lots of bells and whistles, that does not necessarily mean that all who own such an instrument are fiddling with the bells and whistles instead of playing the keyboard as a piano substitute. I have a Yamaha P80, and the only "bells and whistles" I use on it is the built-in recorder so that I can readily hear what I have just played. Hit a button to record, and another to play back. I t couldn't be simpler and less distracting to my practice time. It is certainly better than fiddling with a computer or separate recording device, when all I want is immediate feedback as to how well I just played a (hopefully) musical passage. The P80 is a substitute for a "real" piano in my case. I live in a condo and the times that I can practice would be disturbing to my neighbors. If I had an acoustic, I would probably not be playing regularly, so here is a case where a digital piano enables me to play more frequently, rather than less so, and I am using it as a practice piano, rather than as some "digital toy". I am learning to play piano the same way that any student would, even though my piano does not have all the nuances that an acoustic can produce.

I do understand the feeling that real piano players may have toward digital pianos. My main instrument has been the guitar for the past 30 years. I have never really cared for the electric guitar, preferring the sound and responsiveness of a well made acoustic or classical instrument. To me, a slab of wood with strings on it, very loudly amplified and distorted is simply now what my idea of "guitar" (or even music) is, even though mainstream culture would dictate otherwise. So I do understand the stance that the piano "purist" might take.

Tony
_________________________
Roland V-Grand
Casio PX-5S
My blog: http://ajourneyintomusic.blogspot.com

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#213526 - 01/27/08 10:02 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
turandot Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7304
Loc: torrance, CA
Hey Bear,

Impressive list of reasons. Father's additions are valid too. Here's a thread which discusses your topic in detail.
"Twilight of American Piano Culture"
I've heard the home organ used as a precedent for the decline of the acoustic piano often. The potentate of Piano Facts Forum espouses that view. I remember Jolly mentioning it here (before he became an itinerant poet \:D . That was a terrific poem Jolly.). I don't see it that way. I think the home organ was buried by electric pianos which then were superseded by digital pianos. To me the key factors were price, versatility, ease of use, and space requirements. I think a better parallel for the home organ demise is the replacement of 'tube' home audio by solid state equipment.

Accordian was killed by a decline in interest in music such as that provided by Lawrence Welk. Been to a polka dance club recently? \:D Another factor in play was the proliferation of 'accordian studios' where sleazy teacher / merchants offered free introductory lessons followed by a strong overbearing salespitch to buy an instrument from the studio's inflated price inventory. This push invariably came at the end of the trial lessons when the teacher / merchant would tell parents in a private consultation that their child was a true prodigy who really needed a good instrument.

I suppose it wouldn't surprise you if I pointed to the antiquated marketing, pricing, and retail display concepts of piano as something to add to your list, even if you don't agree with me on that.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#213527 - 01/27/08 10:46 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
PianoKat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 13
Loc: Ohio
Interesting topic! Here are some of my musings:

There have been studies that show that people like better what they know and are "used to..." Marketing campaigns (for products or political candidates) know this - the more ads that a viewer sees, the more "comfortable" they feel with this new product.

So if more and more people in recent times are becoming used to the digital piano sound and touch because of various reasons like price, availability and ease of practice, then even more and more people will learn to like the sound and touch because they are familiar with it. It's possible it will "feel" and "sound" better to them than an acoustic piano because they are "used" to it. Just as Tony prefers an acoustic guitar to an electric, there are millions of rock afficionados who prefer an electric to an acoustic.

I don't believe music will ever become outdated. ;\) Styles and instruments may change, but music is everlasting. And I think that nothing can beat the acoustic piano right now as for as harmonics, but who knows where digital instruments will go in the next 10 - 50 years? Probably in ways we can't imagine - both good and bad to our ears!

I wonder if the Baby Boomer generation will be the last generation putting the "hurrah" into the acoustic piano market, as we are the last generation that regularly had them in our houses as we grew up. Hopefully we will be influencing the grandchildren positively as we decide to take up that playing again in our middle-age!
_________________________
PianoKat

"Some people have cats and go on to lead normal lives."

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#213528 - 01/27/08 10:46 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
ftp Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia
TonyB brings up an interesting point about not confusing piano sales with actual utilization.

Piano mastery requires years of solitary, consistent effort with good teachers. If our yardstick is short term the reward/effort ratio can't compete with alternatives. As example, my older son also plays electric bass. Within a few weeks of concentrated effort of getting and learning the instrument he played in a band in a park, which the audience enjoyed. The music was recognizable and visceral and everyone had their dose of thrill.

The rewards of piano are so delayed that the full reward only manifests itself years if not decades later. (Reminds me of other good lifestyle habits). It's a tough sale if the parent doesn't have other priniciples and conviction at the ready, as well as a child with some passion.

Ironically, many parents/children choose sports over music in the early years but in middle school and high school even that crowd is winnowed down to a select group. (The participant quickly becomes a spectator idolizing the few who made it). Perhaps one could argue that playing an instrument may have been a better investment or at least a hedge strategy.

The decline of the piano does indeed at least touch on another subject of the pursuit of mastery. If piano is a dead instrument playing dead music, what are the alternatives today for personal development and appreciation that evolves from within?

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#213529 - 01/27/08 11:01 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Twin Cities
fathertoppianist (and group):

Mastery is an interesting subject. I have mentioned in other groups, a book by George Leonard called "Mastery". In it, Leonard talks about adding richness and depth to one's life by choosing something to pursue over a long period of tiem (possibly a lifetime) as a "goalless" pursuit in which it is the journey from which we derive fulfillment.

I mentioned the guitar in my post to contrast the electric with the acoustic as a parallel to the feelings many acoustic pianists express regarding the emergence of the digital piano and its displacement of the acoustic in many homes and elsewhere (i.e. more and more churches are going digital too, for example). But another aspect of the guitar is its place in the pursuit of mastery. There are those who will learn to play a bit of guitar, as you illustrated with the bass guitar example. But there are others who transcend that and make the guitar their lifetime goalless pursuit. There is a whole universe of acoustic fingerstyle players who seek to achieve a very high level of competency, on the level normally associated with the classical guitar.

There are many avocations that can be paths to mastery, not the least of which are the martial arts (on which the ideas of mastery or most often modelled). For example, "new age" (or sometimes referred to as "neo-classical) piano styles are often looked down on as too simplistic and lacking in the stuff that "good" music is made of. However, there are a few such pianists who have drawn heavily from the classical pool to give their compositions a depth and attendant technical requirements not normally associated with this style. There are players of a variety of styles who have pursued mastery within that style and gone far beyond the skill level normally associated with that style. All of this has occured outside the classical realm, but much of it has drawn from the classical realm.

It seems to me that today, there are many musical forms that are more commonly accepted than there were 40 or 50 years ago. There is a lot of "tripe" within all this acceptance, but there are some gems, if one has the time and inclination to look for them.

My overall point is that the pursuit of mastery can occur along any one of a large number of paths, and there is evidence (however minuscule) to support this belief. For those who choose this path, delayed gratification is a conscious part of this choice, and it shows in their results.

Tony
_________________________
Roland V-Grand
Casio PX-5S
My blog: http://ajourneyintomusic.blogspot.com

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#213530 - 01/27/08 11:24 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Twin Cities
PianoKat:

I agree with your points. Since I never had an acoustic piano, for me a decent digital is good enough (at least at this stage of my learning). There may come a day when the real thing will be more desireable. Though I like the sound of the "DX7 electric piano" (the most common of the electric piano sounds since its inception) in small doses, I personally have always preferred the sound of a decent acoustic piano. I have never liked the sound of the Clavinet as associated with people like Stevie Wonder, even though it was very popular in the 70s. My personal preference has always been for unamplified, acoustic instruments and the music normally associated with them. I realize that I am part of a small minority, and I don't believe the music that I don't care for is any less valid than what I like.

In GENERAL terms, I would say that most people do like what they have been conditioned to through repeated exposure. The electric guitar is far more popular than the acoustic in terms of the music most people I know choose to listen to. There was a relatively brief period when "unplugged" was all the rage, but this sort of thing has a definite fad-like quality to it, in that it comes around for a while and is again marginalized, with the mainstream taste returning back to status quo.

There is something about hard-driving loud music that captures the mainstream sensibility. Country music, for example, is more popular now than ever before. But it has changed so dramatically that only the southern accent is in common with what people typically considered country music 30 or 40 years ago. Now, it sounds very much like rock music. Rather than the typical settings for a country show of that past era, now the shows are very much like huge arena rock shows of the 70s. Musical tastes and expectations have changed over the years, and those who make and present the music have changed with it to survive. This is an observation, rather than a complaint. I would believe that many people who were born during the current phase of country music would not consider the old styles in the same way as they do the current mainstream version of that music.

Ironically, it was the British who really got into early American blues music, rather than the American listening public. Then, the Brits served it up in a more modern rock/blues format and we ate it up. If you listen to Robert Johnson's versions of his songs, and then to the remakes 50 and 60 years later by the likes of Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, you will find a nearly complete disconnect between the two styles. It is the latter that the public considers "the blues" because that is what they know. Some people have gone back to the original music and made connections between that and what is played today, but for most of the consumer listening public, what they hear today is what they link to "blues". My comments are intended to make a specific point, rather than explore all the tributaries that fed into modern blues, such as the Chicago blues music.

We do readily prefer what we become accustomed to. There are cases where a person is not satisfied with the mainstream and chooses to look elsewhere for music. That is how I became acquainted with the acoustic guitar and other acoustic instruments. I grew in the era of The Beatles and Top 40 radio, and had to look elsewhere to find music that I really connected with. That is not a reflection on the quality of either type of music, but instead a statement of personal tastes in music.

In the case of the digital piano, it is becoming the "norm", and I agree with your reasoning. It is that way with the electric guitar too. All of the foregoing stuff in this post was simply background that parallels tastes in popular music with a similar line of reasoning.

Tony
_________________________
Roland V-Grand
Casio PX-5S
My blog: http://ajourneyintomusic.blogspot.com

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#213531 - 01/27/08 11:28 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
turandot Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7304
Loc: torrance, CA
 Quote:
Ironically, many parents/children choose sports over music in the early years but in middle school and high school even that crowd is winnowed down to a select group. (The participant quickly becomes a spectator idolizing the few who made it). Perhaps one could argue that playing an instrument may have been a better investment or at least a hedge strategy.
This winnowing is so true. My 16-year-old son made varsity baseball as a sophomore and then spent the season riding the pines mostly with spot appearances as a mop-up relief pitcher and utility infielder. He's already bracing himself for more of the same this spring. In a different twist on the sports / music dichotomy, he and his 14-year old brother already quit school band because of a new rule mandating that all band members must participate in marching band and entertain at home and away school football and basketball games.

 Quote:
The decline of the piano does indeed at least touch on another subject of the pursuit of mastery. If piano is a dead instrument playing dead music, what are the alternatives today for personal development and appreciation that evolves from within?
After packing away their clarinet and trumpet at a point well short of 'mastery', my two unfinished teenage musicians have started a greeting card and tee shirt website where they indulge their imagination for the offbeat and downright strange by selling merchandise with their original designs. A week ago they asked me for help in setting up a Paypal account. Now they know more about Paypal than I do. Who knows if this venture will enhance their personal development and appreciation of what is fine in life? I'm in no position to judge since they are marching to the beat of their own generation, not mine.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#213532 - 01/27/08 11:55 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3490
Loc: US
Another factor might be the mobility of American families now. People don't continue to live in the same home for a lifetime as was more common previously. Cross country moves are not uncommon. Let's face it, acoustic pianos, even verticals, are difficult and expensive to move and don't lend themselves well to apartment living or small houses. Digitals solve that problem nicely and at far less expense than an acoustic,

Sophia

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#213533 - 01/27/08 11:56 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
SCCDoug Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 663
Loc: Canada
If I may, I would like to challenge at least some aspects of the assumption that piano playing is on the decline.

First of all, by narrowing the discussion to just ‘acoustic’ pianos you are eliminating a significant number of players who have chosen, with good reason, to use another type of keyboard. Any discussion of the decline of acoustic sales has to be tempered by the access to a cost-effective alternative to uprights. We are among those who chose an electronic piano. Secondly, there is a significant pool of acoustic uprights that people inherit or purchase that hides the true number of people still playing or learning piano. This pool of pianos is huge, the result of the decades where upright purchases were very high. Basing the assumption that we are giving up on acoustic pianos based solely on new sales is, I think, risky.

Thirdly, ask yourself whether we can say for sure that the number of people choosing to play piano as an avocation has really declined. Many people from the era of ‘everyone has a piano at home’, never continued to play or use the skills they learned as children into adulthood. Can we say with any certainty that the number of adults who are actively playing today is proportionally less than before? And, do we really know what the adult profile will look like ten, twenty or more years from now. I don’t doubt that the percentage of kids who take lessons has declined, but I am less certain that the numbers who pursue piano to the point where they become reasonably skilled has dropped.

And finally, any discussion of acoustic piano sales has to include reference to the dramatic swing from uprights to grands. In our city, the split between the two has reached almost 50/50 and I believe this ratio is not uncommon. Looking only at a profile of grand piano sales over the decades would bring a much different perspective to the analysis. What this tells us about the level of serious interest in piano playing is worth thinking about. I am not saying that only grand piano purchasers take the piano seriously, but most people do not casually put a six or seven foot long piece of furniture in one of their rooms.

I am perhaps being too optimistic, but there is an aspect of human nature in play here: when things are perceived to be in decline we can see no way out and are filled with doom and gloom, just as when things are going well we start to image that it will be like this forever.
_________________________
Doug

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

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#213534 - 01/27/08 11:56 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Woody-Woodruff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 615
Loc: Coastal Mississippi
I think there are several resons for the decline. First, the acoustic piano is a commitment (cost, maintenance, lessons, practice) and unfortunately, we live in an age of instant gratification.

Second, what are we basing the decline on? Sales of new pianos? Sales of all pianos versus digitals? IF we are talking new pianos, check out some of the pricies the dealers are asking for the name brand recognized pianos. $50,000 for a 6' Steinway? True, they are probably giving some kind of discount, but there has to be some kind of sticker shock to a person buying a piano for the first time that has never been to this site.

Finally, everything that is popular goes in cycles. 15 - 20 years from now when the current used pianos are about ready for replacement, there wil another surge. I've seen it happen with other things over the years and I think it will be the case of the acoustics.
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#213535 - 01/27/08 01:56 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
gutenberg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 380
Loc: Wichita, Kansas
I think the instant gratification problem has something to do with it. So does the fact that it is a solitary, not team, effort. Over the years, my commitment level to practice and playing has ebbed and flowed.I have benefitted from some very good teachers. But it has only been in the last few years that I have come to fully appreciate the gift of this journey.

I think its also significant that not much music is being written for acoustic pianos. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be around to try out the latest composition of, say, Debussy. Something like working out a Beatles song on the electric guitar.

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#213536 - 01/27/08 03:04 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Craigen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/05
Posts: 1815
Loc: West Coast
Near the turn of the century (20th that is) homes were built with formal parlors where the piano was proudly displayed and performed on for intimate evening entertainment after dinner. Larger homes had drawing rooms where larger parties would gather for ad hoc performances of "chamber music".

The 1920's-30's saw the advent of the player piano to enhance this experience of evening entertainment.

Clearly radio and later TV supplanted this concept of music making in the evening. Along with early TV came shows featuring organ music that created a demand for the home organ and companies like Hammond and Thomas were the in thing.

In the 1970's the advent of the one-finger ez-play organ brought the "recreational music making" dream to families. You could play simple songs and sound musical the first day. This was a huge wave the swept the country through the mid 1980's.

The mid 1980's saw the advent of the portable (cheap) keyboard with all the bells and whistles. The promise to learn to play without the space committment and dollar outlay waylayed many families with young beginners. The promise never delivered.

Throughout each decade the sale of traditional acoustic pianos continued to plod along. A surge in the late 1980's in the sale of black shinny baby grands from Korea drove the numbers up for the first time in years.

I see weekly that piano sales on the West coast are being driven to a large degree by Asian (including Indian) families (God bless them) that still have a cultural imperative for a piano in the home and children taking piano lessons.

Contrary to a lot of speculation on this forum, I do not believe acoustic piano sales are down due to malfeasance or misfeasance of retailers or manufacturers.

There are many distractions today that were not in the picture in the 1930's. Big screen TV's, gaming equipment, computers, jet skis, ATV's, organized team sports, Karate lessons, and the list goes on and on.

Our culture had evolved (devolved) into one of immediate gratification. Activities with learning curves of months or years are shunted away in favor of activities that can be "mastered" in hours.
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Piano Technician, member Piano Technicians Guild.

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#213537 - 01/27/08 05:50 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Begin Again Dave Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/08
Posts: 27
Loc: Quiet Corner, CT
A GREAT thread. Much to chew on here. I suspect hyper-emphasis on sports, the decline of music & arts programs in public school budget wars, the electronic piano, video/computer games and the Internet general in general, aided and abetted by a decline in what constitutes music and less willingness to make the needed commitment in all areas have all fed into it.

That said, I'm here because my 15 year old son found the background music in a Halo III (shoot 'em up) video game ad intriguing enough to find out what it was, find sheet music for it and start teaching it to himself on his sister's (unused) electronic keyboard. At his first chance to play it on an acoustic piano, he nearly fell off the bench at the sound and feel. The background music was Chopin's Raindrop Prelude. Go figure.

 Quote:
Turandot: I think a better parallel for the home organ demise is the replacement of 'tube' home audio by solid state equipment.
I'm not sure about the organ, but I think the acoustic --> electronic piano progression is almost perfectly parallel to home audio. In both cases, convenience, space-saving, $ and energy efficiency both in manufacture and use all favor the new-comers. However, if you want real music, old school wins - no contest. BTW, did you know tube audio has been on a tear since the mid-'70s, and for those who know what unamplified acoustic music sounds like, it's still the way to go?


The above is about 100lbs and $85,000 of audio heaven. \:D
_________________________
2002 Y.C. Pramberger JP-175
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#213538 - 01/27/08 09:08 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
MoodyBluesKeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 258
Loc: Trent Woods, NC
On the electronic organ side: I spent several decades servicing electronic organs, keyboards, amps, PA, guitar, etc. In the 1990-1995 time frame, this service business went from keeping me busy to next to nothing. My personal observations: (1) most of the home organ players were older people, there was not a large volume of younger people coming in. (2) A lot of the organ manufacturing companies, especialy the Asian companies began designing complex computerized organs. The consumer would purchase the instrument, and never be able to efficiently use it. Kind of like bells & whistles designed in by 20-something engineers instead of trying to update in a format that was understandable to the potential customer. (3) Electronic keyboards took over the market for the younger customers. (4) the disappearance for the most part of music training of any type in the public schools. (5) A gradual cultural shift, at least in the US, I am not qualified to speak of elsewhere - a shift from DOING to WATCHING - example: decades ago, a "sports" store was a place where one bought baseballs, bats, footballs, etc. More recently, a "sports" store sells clothing with logos of famous teams, so that little Johnny LOOKS like a Redskins football player.

On the piano side: I can't tell you how many homes that I went into that had a piano sitting in the parlor - that had been neither tuned nor played in decades! Then the family moves, maybe to a city apartment - no where for the piano, besides, it wasn't ever played, so it is given away/dumped.
Also (not to start a war - I know full well that electronic instruments do not fully duplicate the feel nor sound of acoustic) - The electronic keyboards - digital pianos have gotten better. Just for the sake of discussion, let's say that they were at 10% in the 1960's, 15% in the 1970's, well in 2008 they are at maybe 70% - and for a lot of people that is "good enuf." Other factors make the digital a necessity for some people - living in a condo or apartment with nearby neighbors that do not want to hear piano practice, size requirements, even tuning and maintenance.

Yet another reason - for most teenagers today, it is a LOT more "cool" to play guitar, bass, or drums than to play violin, clarinet, or piano. Not saying that is "right" but it is a factor.

Jim
_________________________
Jim Cason
Promised LAN Computing, Inc.
Howard C171 Grand, Kurzweil PC3X, PC3, PC361, PC2X, PC2.
JBL 10&15 EONG2s, EV SxA100+s QSC K10s, HP & ThinkPad DAWs, eMu 1820M & 1616M.
Epi Les Paul & LP 5str Bass, Trace amp-cabinets.
Formerly in electronic keyboard repair trade - semi-retired

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#213539 - 01/27/08 11:50 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
JonBrom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/07
Posts: 123
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
As for the decline of accordions...

I'm reminded of a classic FAR SIDE cartoon. One panel shows St. Peter welcoming a new arrival at the Pearly Gates with "Welcome to Heaven. Here's your harp."

The second panel shows Satan greeting a condemned soul with "Welcome to Hell. Here's your accordion."

:-)

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#213540 - 01/28/08 12:20 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
U S A P T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 1645
Loc: An Indiana University
People like you are retiring, that's why sales are declining.

\:\)
_________________________
Full-Time Music/Entrepreneurship Major: (Why not compose music AND businesses?)
Former Piano Industry Professional
************
Steinway M
Roland Atelier AT90R
************
All Posts are Snarky Unless Otherwise Noted
************

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#213541 - 01/28/08 12:35 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
U S A P T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 1645
Loc: An Indiana University
To elaborate a bit on such a flattering comment, I don't think that sales decline because of the object, but because of a dwindling supply of people whose expertise and selling ability make the product relevant and interesting.

As we continue to move towards an era where consumers only look at model numbers and prices, sooner or later people will realize that their homes are filled with worthless junk that is only as valuable as the next cheapest product number that replaced it. Price pressure therefore chokes the talented people out of perfectly viable products, like pianos.

As proof, there are certain brands of pianos that are not being squeezed as badly as others. Why? Because people are talking about them. They get excited about them and tell their friends and elevate them. Those that rely simply on some feature of the piano itself usually disappear quickly.

The products that are booming right now are the ones that have visionaries behind them, shouting out the relevance and importance of the product, creating demand -- and hence sales.

The piano has been around for 300-plus years. I believe that its relevance is as firm as a a musical scale or the circle of fifths.

We are coming into a time where economic challenges will put the squeeze on everyone, but I DO think the piano will rebound -- perhaps in a different kind of way -- but it will.

It has the momentum of 20 generations of music makers behind it. Its design is the basis for all of western music.

As for the accordion? I think that was more of an evolutionary thing and something of a fad. Fads come and go.

But at the end of the day, it's the people that give an industry critical mass -- not the product.
_________________________
Full-Time Music/Entrepreneurship Major: (Why not compose music AND businesses?)
Former Piano Industry Professional
************
Steinway M
Roland Atelier AT90R
************
All Posts are Snarky Unless Otherwise Noted
************

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#213542 - 01/28/08 03:51 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by turandot:
Hey Bear,

Impressive list of reasons. Father's additions are valid too. Here's a thread which discusses your topic in detail.
"Twilight of American Piano Culture"
[/b]
Great thread reference, turandot.
Don't know how I missed this one before.
Yet more food for thought.

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#213543 - 01/28/08 05:47 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Bear 1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/06
Posts: 1348
Loc: Hillsboro Beach South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
 Quote:
Originally posted by turandot:
Hey Bear,

Impressive list of reasons. Father's additions are valid too. Here's a thread which discusses your topic in detail.
"Twilight of American Piano Culture"
[/b]
Great thread reference, turandot.
Don't know how I missed this one before.
Yet more food for thought. [/b]
Hey theJourney and turandot,

I finally found enough time to finish reading that thread.
Yes a great read.
Thanks for pointing it out to me.
Wish I had known about it and read it before starting my thread.

Bear
_________________________
Barry J "Bear" Arnaut ♫
46 Years in the Piano Industry
Retired Kawai/Shigeru Kawai Regional Manager
(My posts and threads are my opinions only)

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#213544 - 01/28/08 05:54 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Bear 1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/06
Posts: 1348
Loc: Hillsboro Beach South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by USAPT:
People like you are retiring, that's why sales are declining.

\:\) [/b]
Hi John,

Thanks for the compliment. \:\)
I appreciate it very much.

Sincerely,

Bear
_________________________
Barry J "Bear" Arnaut ♫
46 Years in the Piano Industry
Retired Kawai/Shigeru Kawai Regional Manager
(My posts and threads are my opinions only)

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#213545 - 01/28/08 06:11 AM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Woody-Woodruff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 615
Loc: Coastal Mississippi
 Quote:

by USAPT
As for the accordion? I think that was more of an evolutionary thing and something of a fad. Fads come and go. [/b]
Don't give up on the accordian either. 10 - 1 says that the accordian will also return to popularity. It's portable unlike the other boards instruments.

The other thing to consider is if the Acoustic continues to decline can I get that Bosie grand for $1,000 ?
_________________________

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#213546 - 01/28/08 12:21 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
byebye Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/03
Posts: 1426
You can add classical church organ to the list.

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#213547 - 01/28/08 12:22 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
The total amount of pianos that are still out there floating around from household to household that are trading hands as kids grow up to new families with young kids is tremendous. The acoustic piano will be around for decades yet even if they stopped making them today.

A part of the problem is who recommends the digitals and why? Often times, music teachers recommend them in an attempt to keep the childs interest peaked in practicing. Salesmen sometimes recommend them because the profit margin might be greater than the acoustic. I can't blame either one but, as mentioned too, eventually, people may realize that the long term value of a digital is nothing in comparison to an acoustic instrument.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#213548 - 01/28/08 01:32 PM Re: What is causing the decline of acoustic pianos in the USA?
SCCDoug Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 663
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jerry Groot RPT:
The total amount of pianos that are still out there floating around from household to household that are trading hands as kids grow up to new families with young kids is tremendous. The acoustic piano will be around for decades yet even if they stopped making them today.

A part of the problem is who recommends the digitals and why? Often times, music teachers recommend them in an attempt to keep the childs interest peaked in practicing. Salesmen sometimes recommend them because the profit margin might be greater than the acoustic. I can't blame either one but, as mentioned too, eventually, people may realize that the long term value of a digital is nothing in comparison to an acoustic instrument. [/b]
But Jerry, don't you think that at a certain price point, say $1,000, a digital is a reasonable alternative to an older used upright?
_________________________
Doug

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

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