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#1034878 - 05/23/05 02:03 PM Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
Being an adult who learned to play piano as a child, then gave it up for 20-something years, I find myself playing lots of music the "fake-book way".

What I mean is that I play the right hand exactly as written, and simply "make up" the left hand based on the chords given for that bar. I not only "make up" the entire left hand, but also add lots of fills and add-libs or "color".

The reason I do this is because I can take "easy-piano" written songs (beginner-intermediate level) and make them souns glorious!! I.E very fancy or proffessional sounding. All while just reading a very simple piece.

I have played music "as written" in the left hand and I can honestly say that I can make it sound more "flowing" or better by just making stuff up based on the left hand chords.

My dilema; Am I hurting my piano learning ability by doing this?, am I "cheating"?. I almost feel guilty when I play like this as it is so much easier for me to do this. I enjoy it very much but to what expense?
I've been told by a piano teacher that not many people can just "make up" notes that work in tune and time with the song. I don't know if I should consider myself "lucky" to be able to do this, or am I just fooling myself thinking that I can play much better than I really can,

BTW, when I do play the left hand as written, things slow WAAAY down, not so fancy anymore!

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#1034879 - 05/23/05 02:16 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
The way your're playing is what lead sheets are made for. You get the melody and the chords. It's up to you to make it sound good. It's not easy and is a great skill to have. I wouldn't forego other aspects such as playing written parts, but faking is a great skill to have.
_________________________
markb--The Count of Casio

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#1034880 - 05/23/05 02:43 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
kateriniparalia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/04
Posts: 139
Loc: Cali
I agree with markb. I'm trying very hard to get to the point where I can do just what you describe. Feel blessed, and go with it, especially if you're fully satisfied with the kind of music it allows you to play. If you want to get better at sight-reading, then you'll obviously have to make time for working on that (and it is hard work), too, but I doubt you're hurting yourself by indulging in the improv.

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#1034881 - 05/23/05 03:43 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
My teacher encourages all extra musical study including playing more difficult pieces by only playing the melody and filling in chords. It all helps tremendously in our over all music education. I also love to read along with some of the more advanced pieces. Apparently this is a very good exercise as well!!
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#1034882 - 05/23/05 05:20 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
hervie Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/11/05
Posts: 3
Loc: California
Some of you might like to try a computer program I wrote called "FastChords" which was specifically designed to help playing from fake books. My web site (http://www.smartutils.com/fastchords) contains a link to the download page and program manual. And no, playing from fake books is not cheating, to the contrary, it frees the musician to experiment and enjoy the music without the shackle of full written scores.

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#1034883 - 05/23/05 10:46 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
bruceee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/04/05
Posts: 317
Loc: Wellington, New Zealand
I would love to be able to play from a fake book. So I echo the other posters here and say "Go for it!" You have a rare talent there -- use it and improve it to the maximum extent possible.

What you should do depends on your musical objectives. As adult "beginners", one of our objectives should be to enjoy playing. But if you have other objectives too, like learning to play classical, playing from fake books won't help you with that.

Even so, I would like to hear the Moonlight Sonata played from a fake book -- it might an improvement on what I am doing \:\)

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#1034884 - 05/24/05 03:23 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Rob Mullins Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/10/04
Posts: 318
Loc: LA CA
Hi,

Using fakebooks is ok, calling yourself "Mr. Super Hunky" is definitely cheating.
_________________________
Rob Mullins
www.planetmullins.com
28th album on sale now.

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#1034885 - 05/24/05 03:36 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Sweep88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/05
Posts: 190
Loc: Ohio
Congradulations!!!! You've discovered the gift of jazz.
_________________________
I try to live, love and laugh as much as I can every day, because every day may be my last

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#1034886 - 05/24/05 07:01 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
jjw Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/03/05
Posts: 20
Loc: Rockford
I'm an old accordian player, so faking is how I learned music in the first place. The benefit I get from that today is that I know my chords inside and out, and I can hear harmonies very well. Also, lead sheets are about the only thing I can sight-read.

I also, however, have a deep appreciation for the many fine piano players I know, who can play scores with precision, touch, and, most amazingly, by sight. That is a skill which I will probably never have, and I admire it very much.

From the practical side, I play mostly church music, and sometimes the piano scores in the published music are not very interesting, so I think I can actually add something to the piece if I improvise. I read the scores for the pieces I play, and if the piano part is interesting and offers some unusual counter melodies and harmonies, I take the time to learn to play the score as written (if I can).

Faking is my strength, and sight reading is my weakness, so I work at that. It's all good.
_________________________
jjw

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#1034887 - 05/24/05 10:01 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
My ultimate goal is to play exaclty as you describe. My teacher spends a lot of time on site reading/playing which is great but my goals are to be able to improvise/fake like you describe. Unfortunately my teacher doesn't have any experience in this so I have to learn this aspect of playing on my own (from various books).

Rodney

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#1034888 - 05/24/05 12:51 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
brudford Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/02/05
Posts: 3
Loc: Pittsburgh PA
That's me ! Being a guitar player for 30 years
and taking lessons from Pittsburgh great Joe Negri
at Duquense (Jazz guitar).We worked from fake books,it's called improvization.Taking piano lessons in my early twenties the traditional way
was painfull.Started back on piano my way I use
the EZ-Play series chords on top and single melody line,I love it.Working on some Vince Guaraldi tunes now.Try playing the fiths of the
melody line notes right hand that is.I have been
in recording studios and have watched session guys
play from lead sheets and thats all you get,I feel these are some of the best musicians.With enough training and practice anyone can sight read printed music,using a fake sheet also makes you use your music theory.

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#1034889 - 05/24/05 01:37 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
tk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/04
Posts: 695
Loc: Los Angeles County
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rob Mullins:
Hi,

Using fakebooks is ok, calling yourself "Mr. Super Hunky" is definitely cheating. [/b]
*snort, snort* That was funny!! \:D

mr_super-hunky: First of all, is there something you can do about the darn underscore and hyphen in your name?! It's too complicated for me!! ;\)

I agree the with above posters that you are indeed lucky to have such a talent! I don't see how it could be considered "cheating"! Of course, your method might not lend itself well to playing certain kinds of music (e.g., classical), but you clearly enjoy the music you are playing, so have fun with it!!

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#1034890 - 05/24/05 02:37 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
Okay all, thanks very much for the input you all have given me. I really did'nt know that if I just play the right hand as written and totally "make up" the left based on the chords given for that bar, that that was ok!...

You see, if a stranger heard me play while sitting across the room (where they could'nt see my music!...he he!) They might think that I am a very acomplished piano player as I not only make- up the left hand as previously mentioned, but I also add "frills" and "fills" with the right hand in some of the slower "dead" spots too.

What the listener does'nt know is that I'm basically just reading super-simple mary had a little lamb type music.!

Some if not all of you say that this is okay, and I'm glad,because I really have a lot of FUN with this method and can "do it" for hours on end.
By contrast, Although (If forced!) , I can read and play classical music with MUCH effort, by I really don't like too. Not that I don't like this type of music, but its just not "fun" for me as it requires soooo much work and effort; kind of like homework or a hard job.
I have an enormous amount of respect for people who can just sit down and sight read classical music. It is literally like mastering a complicated second language.
I only wish I could do that!.
I guess I just did'nt want to practice my mistakes or turn into a "piano hack" by playing in this fakebook/improvistional style.

Thanks again for all the input and sorry about the user name!, just havin' some fun!!

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#1034891 - 05/24/05 02:43 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
I'm in awe of all you "fakers." Improvising is still a mystery to me....I know how it's done but to play up to speed, throwing in the correct chords, choosing the best inversions, well...
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#1034892 - 05/24/05 04:40 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i guess that if you play classical music, you will have to play as written, as many original music pieces themselves are already master pieces. there are however some exceptions, when some comtemparory composers (at their time) were making their own arrangements or even rewrite the original pieces. Liszt himself did a lot of that, for example, he arranged Beethoven symphonies, Schubert songs, or Mozart operas into piano solo pieces. but then again, we are no longer call those pieces Beethoven's, Schubert's or Mozart's but Beethoven-Liszt or Schubert-Liszt or Mozart-Liszt or simply Liszt's sometimes.

in popular music, arrangement of an original theme or song or whatever piece of music is much more common. some composers arrange some famous pieces into some easy beginner pieces, or make arrangement sound more complicated from the original simple song, and they really do whatever they like. so, here you are, want to do the same and there's nothing wrong about it. jazz players do this more often, because they don't even make arrangement of original songs/pieces, they just improvise at the spot, and every time they would do the same song differently and have fun doing it.

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#1034893 - 05/24/05 07:41 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Stevester Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/03
Posts: 2851
Loc: New Jersey
I fail to understand why you underrate your gift. Maybe your musical goals are changing. Maybe it is time for you to start putting together your own work instead of playing that of others.
_________________________
"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

anon

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#1034894 - 05/24/05 09:41 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
Stevester;

I never really looked at what I am doing as a "gift". Quite the contrary, as I see and hear people all the time playing these really difficult and complicated classical pieces.

If I were to sit down and try to play the same song that they just played, well , lets just say I would be driving about 1 mile per hour!!

That is the point I am trying to make. I almost feel like a "hack" or a piano playing "imposter" who is trying to "hide" his little secret from the real piano players.

No, I am not into self degregation, Its just that I feel so guilty playing in front of real good players who can read and play complicated music as I can ONLY play this very simple/improvisational way.

Some may say, "it takes time, be patient" no one can learn to play classical overnight. I kind of agree with that, however, over the pasr few years, I HAVE gotten a little better;....at learning more improvisational styles! I just can't ever seem to improve- no matter how hard or long I try at reading music. Its like I'm "stuck". 3-years trying to do this BTW!

I'm kind of wondering if some people are just much better at being creative, and others better at more difficult or structured tasks such as sight reading. hmmm. Anyone else have this dilema?

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#1034895 - 05/25/05 05:59 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
hgiles Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 736
Loc: Charlottesville Virginia
 Quote:
Originally posted by tk:
mr_super-hunky: First of all, is there something you can do about the darn underscore and hyphen in your name?! It's too complicated for me!! ;\)
[/b]
Don't you dare change anything about your screenname! "Chunky" is an icon in these forums!

How's the Petrof?
_________________________
Haywood
-------------

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#1034896 - 05/25/05 06:06 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Stevester Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/03
Posts: 2851
Loc: New Jersey
You are right, some of us are better at some things than others. You certainly should not consider yourself a hack imposter. It is a gift, you just don't know how to use it at this point in time.

I still think your goals are changing and you are going to have to figure out what is going on. It has always been my experience in life to review my strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis and change my long term goals accordingly. This applies to everything in life, not just music. For the first half of my life I did not believe in setting goals but I now understand their importance.

Regards,
Steve

ps. - do a web search for Billy Steinberg and Tim Kelly when you get a chance. They work as a team and it is a very interesting story.
_________________________
"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

anon

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#1034897 - 05/25/05 06:10 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
hgiles Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 736
Loc: Charlottesville Virginia
BTW,
I am in the same boat, hunky. I can learn to read simple classical pieces (Chopin Preludes), but am not at the studio musician calibre of sight reading. I cannot even sight read on saxophone (my first instrument) all that well.

I say, go with what you got and exploit your abilities and have fun.

You know what gets under my skin is when someone watches and listens to me play from a fake chart, they get the impression that everything they hear is written down on that page and that's the way it is supposed to go...NOT!!
_________________________
Haywood
-------------

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#1034898 - 05/25/05 09:20 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
mr_super-hunky,

If you want to play classical pieces but can't bring yourself to learn the classical method then take a look at:

The Classical Music Fake Book

http://www.sheetmusic1.com/fakebook.classical.html
or

The Real Little Classical Fake Book

http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/book.asp?ppn=bkhl240021&bookmark=0&who=artist

It would be very interesting to hear a classical theme/melody improvised.

Rodney

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#1034899 - 05/25/05 05:01 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
Great idea Rodney;

I have both the ultimate fake book and the best fake book ever. I find them SOOO oversimplified that I had to improvise when I played them to add a lot back into the song. If you play these "fakebooks" as written, it can become very very boring quickly and you sound like your playing 1st grade "mechanical" music.

That said, These are my absolute favorite books as they give you a very simplistic "guide" and then you can just take off with it.
As long as you have the ability to eventually figure out some good fills and add lib sections.

People have described what I do as a "gift" ,but if you heard the first few passes of a song, you would leave the room with bloody ears!!. Eventually though, after a lot of "experimenting". I can come up with a home-made version that is really quite nice and a heck of a lot of fun to play!

I am currently working out my own piano version of "stairway to heaven" with a salsa flair to it. Its an absolute hoot! It combines a lot of jazz elements with a latin flavor all based of of an easy/intermediate hal lenard version of the song found in a common compilation book!

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#1034900 - 05/25/05 10:55 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
markj Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/25/05
Posts: 4
I prefer transcriptions over fake books. Why reinvent the wheel?

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#1034901 - 05/26/05 06:03 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
I wouldn't consider it reinventing the wheel. I'd consider it modifying or personalizing the wheel. That's the beauty of fake books. You get just enough to get started, and then you take it in whatever direction you want.
_________________________
markb--The Count of Casio

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#1034902 - 05/26/05 07:52 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
mr_super-hunky,

My son is a great improviser who spends much of his time writing new music but he also takes great pleasure from re-arranging existing music.

A couple of weeks ago we were sitting at the piano playing around and he managed to pull of a very exciting version of Fur Elise in a swing style. We had a great time joking about LVB dancing in the hallway (that is if he could hear). This to me is exactly what music is all about.

This skill is something that I simply don't have BUT desperately want to develop. When I ask my son to explain to me how he does it, he turns it around and asks me how I can play drums with a band that I've never practiced with. Of course the answer is that you feel it and simply act/re-act but when I play piano/keyboard, all I can do is think and analyze (which is exhausting).

Be proud of your abilities.... I wish I could find a teacher who could train me in this direction. Unfortunately my son (who is 15) has neither the patience or skill to teach me.

Rodney

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#1034903 - 05/26/05 03:48 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
tk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/04
Posts: 695
Loc: Los Angeles County
Hey, mr_super-hunky! I was just teasin' you about the name! I actually like the name and thought it was fun! But, you don't mind if I do like hgiles above and just refer to you as "hunky," do you? ;\)

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#1034904 - 05/31/05 03:11 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
tk;

"hunky" is fine; however "super-hunky" is a much more accurate assessment!

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#1034905 - 06/01/05 06:06 PM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
OK, I just have to ask this question.

About improvising a bass line over a melody vs. reading music straight. (I do both.)

First, I agree wholeheartedly it is more difficult to play note-by-note what is written on treble and bass cleff. It is more exacting work.

Playing a melody and improvising a simple running bass acompaniment and maybe a few fill notes is loads easier, at least for me.

I compare these two things to painting. If you are a "realist" painter(not sure that's the right term), you paint detail, down to individual leaves on trees and blades of grass. To me, this is like playing classical, or any piece of music - note-by-note as written. You get down to the nitty gritty details. There is NO leeway, whatsover.

If you are an impressionist painter, you have more "leeway", you don't have to strive to recreate every minute detail, only to give an impression of what it is you are depicting. YOu can have a bit more fun with your subject. This to me, is comparable to playing "fake books" - improvising accompaniment.

Improvising accompaniment really can be more fun a lot of times, than slavishly playing every note. It gives you a lot more freedom!

My question is this, when those of you here talk about having to have a "gift" to improvise, I'm not sure exactly what that means. I can improvise some very basic bass accompaniment and a few basic fills in my right hand, but feel woefully inadequate. I took about 6 or 7 lessons from a woman years ago who showed me how to play this way, and there's very little variety in what I do. There must be a whole lot more out there in the way of improvising that I could be doing with improvising, so I don't feel I'm doing anything very special or that I'm gifted in any way.

So my question is: When it is said a person has to be "gifted" to improvise, do you mean you have to be gifted to do it really, really well, or just to do it at all???

I really am trying to understand this.

Jeanne W

P.S. I'm a self-taught, somewhat clueless pianist, been playing many years. I'm now taking formal lessons for the first time in my life. The only other lessons I ever had were those 6 cocktail type piano lessons I took when I was about 21 years old. Bet I qualify as an "Adult-Beginner"!
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#1034906 - 06/02/05 04:37 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
I think being able to improvise at all is a gift.... I can still only "do what I'm told."
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#1034907 - 06/02/05 07:51 AM Re: Fakebooks, okay, or "cheating" ?
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
Jeanne W,

While basic left hand melody improvisation really isn't very difficult, it can still be a mystery to many people since only a few teachers actually include it in their curriculum. There are countless books, tapes, internet training programs, etc that claim to teach these methods but nothing beats direct training from a skilled teacher.

Anything beyond the basics becomes significantly more difficult as demonstrated by some of the Jazz greats who spend a lifetime developing their technique.

For those interested in learning the basics from a book, I recommend:

How to Play from a Fake Book
by Michael Esterowitz


There is another book with the same name by Blake Neely but it isn't quite as good as the version by Michael Esterowitz.

Rodney

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