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#241762 - 12/10/08 10:42 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
scottjoyce Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 2
Loc: Nashville, TN
I live in Nashville TN and there will always be some pianos in the recording studios here. However, there are less than there used to be because it costs $75 a day to maintain them and it costs nothing to maintain a digital keyboard or a computer based piano plug in. Steinway even has a plug in now. I think if the players (like me) didn't insist on real pianos there would be even fewer. Real pianos tend to draw out the best performances.

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#241763 - 12/10/08 11:38 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7439
Loc: torrance, CA
I think if the players (like me) didn't insist on real pianos there would be even fewer. Real pianos tend to draw out the best performances.
Yes, real pianos and real players who keep the dream alive! Masters with 10,000 hours of bench time too [mixing threads here]! I just read on another thread that digitals are dead and acoustics are alive. I guess that's why real living acoustics can speak to you, sing to you, and catch a seasonal flu when the weather changes. \:D

Don't get me wrong. I like a acoustics too, and it's hard to keep a fire alive without stoking the embers occasionally. But some of this stuff is just over the top.
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

#241764 - 12/10/08 02:10 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
88obsession Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/29/07
Posts: 4
Loc: Denver
I think successul companies find ways to survive. I work in advertising and if an auto dealer advertised as little as piano stores do, they probably wouldn't sell much either. Here in Denver, I rarely see any advertising for pianos anywhere and I don't know when I last saw an ad for pianos on TV. As with most products, one has to create top-of-mind awareness. Word of mouth is great but some creative advertising targeted to the right demographic groups, in my opinion, would recreate some awareness for the piano. Even manufacturers do very little to promote their products outside of having artists that represent them. And that usually consists of just making sure that when they perform they're using one of their instruments. And who pays any attention to that except people like us?

#241765 - 12/10/08 03:27 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
It is estimated that for every new piano sold, 4-5 used pianos change hands each year. Much of this statistic is never captured in industry stats.

Digital pianos represent about 1/3 of our unit sales currently. The trend is moderate growth in this segment of the product market in my experience here. Yamaha and Kawai are in the digital business in a big way and will likely grow.
Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.

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#241766 - 12/10/08 04:14 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 15233
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
I recently asked a large dealer how the recession is affecting him.

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

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

Instead, becoming a family treasured musical instrument again.

Norbert \:o
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642 www.eliteheritagepianos.ca Edmonton, Alta dealers for Estonia,
Brodmann 780-405-8908

#241767 - 12/10/08 06:19 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
Terry C. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/28/08
Posts: 316
Loc: Melbourne, (Suntree) Florida
I totally agree Norbert!

Terry C.
Proud owner of a Rebuilt 1912 Feurich concert grand with the new Phoenix system.
5th generation piano makers
Gotta love that German Craftsmanship

#241768 - 12/11/08 11:59 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
Noel249 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/01/08
Posts: 18
There are so many sides to this story ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#241769 - 12/11/08 12:46 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
Koichan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/25/08
Posts: 32
Loc: Belmont, CA
I don't have kids, so I may be speaking out of turn here. (i'm 44) But, I wonder with the budget cuts in our schools that we are not giving kids the opportunity to learn an instrument or generally expose them to structured learning of music. Neuroplasticity or the brains ability to form heightened pathways for music or language occur at around age 5. We need to get the kids into structured learning while they're young! Get them into music and not sports....

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

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


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

#241770 - 12/11/08 01:29 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
Robert H Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/07
Posts: 261
Loc: Central Iowa
Hi all,...

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mason & Hamlin - A - 92514
Roland A-90 EX
"When you fall down,... pick up something!"

#241771 - 12/11/08 06:42 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
james c Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/23/08
Posts: 31
Loc: Berkeley, CA
I've often thought it strange that I have a machine from the 19th century in my living room to play music of long dead europeans on. Fortunately my living room is from 1923 so they have enough to talk about.

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

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

#241772 - 12/11/08 10:02 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2528
Loc: NYC
Originally posted by james c:
I've often thought it strange that I have a machine from the 19th century in my living room to play music of long dead europeans on. [/b]
Think of violins. They're even older. \:D
And isn't it wonderful that these relics still stir our souls?


#241773 - 12/11/08 11:16 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
DanLaura Larson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 695
Loc: Pocatello, Idaho
A few thoughts here.

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

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

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

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

Someone said in this thread that we need to start people young. Well Laura is 18 weeks pregnant and our daughter to be was doing back flips during the concert. She's hooked I think.
Dan and Laura Larson
Fazioli and Ibach grands
Larson Piano Studio

#241774 - 12/12/08 07:25 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
dsch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/08
Posts: 325
Loc: florida
[Well Laura is 18 weeks pregnant and our daughter to be was doing back flips during the concert. She's hooked I think.]

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

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

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

#241775 - 12/12/08 07:46 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
DanLaura Larson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 695
Loc: Pocatello, Idaho
Wow dsch, that is so cool that you got to hear Solti and the CSO. I am a tad jealous. ;\)
Dan and Laura Larson
Fazioli and Ibach grands
Larson Piano Studio

#241776 - 12/12/08 07:52 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
dsch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/08
Posts: 325
Loc: florida
Well DanLaura ,that is so cool that you get to hear Laura playing a Fazioli every day. I am more than a tad jealous.

#241777 - 12/12/08 11:06 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
FormerFF Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/08
Posts: 476
Loc: Roswell, GA, USA
As someone who recently bought a piano, I thought I'd add my story...

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, it may well be that the number of acoustic pianos sold will decline some more before bottoming out. But if the piano industry can refocus itself a bit towards what most people want from music, I think it can have a bright future.
Piano self teaching on and off from 2002-2008. Took piano instruction from Nov 2008- Feb 2011. Took guitar instruction Feb 2011-Jul 2013. Can't play either. Living, breathing proof some people aren't cut out to make music.

#241778 - 12/13/08 01:32 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past"
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7439
Loc: torrance, CA

I've read a lot of posts on a lot of these 'demise of the piano' threads. I read yours three times. It made more sense to me than any other I've read.
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

#1391514 - 03/08/10 04:48 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" [Re: turandot]
chris_scotland Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/31/06
Posts: 3
Loc: Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Intersting topic. Turandot, I would endorse your observation that digital pianos are fantastic for those of us who make our living, or some of it, from playing gigs outside of the highbrow concert venues. It's great not to have to lift gear and have a really good, well maintained acoustic provided at a gig, but I know around where I am (the west of Scotland), most venues don't have that. So the digital option lets us take more gigs, make a living and produces a decent sound.

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

#1393277 - 03/10/10 10:49 PM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" [Re: chris_scotland]
BGJ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 165
Loc: Texas
I have had midi keyboards and piano modules for 15 years, I routinely go to the music stores and test the latest electronic keyboards and piano sounds, they have their place. I also have an acoustic 1984 Yamaha C7D in my home in excellent condition. I think there is no comparison between the pleasure of playing the acoustic piano compared to the digitals. The feel of a real piano is far greater and more sensitive, and the tone is not even comparable. In my opinion it is not currently possible to really record and playback an acoustic piano or digital piano and come close to the sound of being in the room with a real live acoustic instrument. I just love the tone of real live acoustic instruments, grand pianos and acoustic guitars, etc.

#1393392 - 03/11/10 02:32 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" [Re: BGJ]
Dave Ferris Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/07
Posts: 1873
Loc: Glendale, Ca.

2005 NY Steinway D , Yamaha CP4, CP5

#1393542 - 03/11/10 10:04 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" [Re: Dave Ferris]
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1464
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
The same can be said for guitars wrt electric vs acoustic. You can easily get a playable electric or acoustic for $200 and a pretty nice one for under $500. With electric, like with a DP you can get a range of sounds and effects with the option to play quietly. As you start going up the curve, the electric guitar cost starts to plateau, whereas the best acoustics can cost many thousands of dollars.

When the kiddies quit their lessons, it is easier to stow or sell the guitar. Also many better guitars do increase in value over time.
Estonia L190 #7004
Casio PX 310
Yamaha NP 30

#1393559 - 03/11/10 10:30 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" [Re: Dave Ferris]
Plowboy Offline

2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2842
Loc: SoCal
Originally Posted By: Dave Ferris

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

My acoustic cost less than some digitals.
Essex EUP-111 at the mountains
W. Hoffmann T-122 at the beach

#1398342 - 03/18/10 04:22 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" [Re: Plowboy]
Serena03 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 27
The piano is a thing of the past as well as the present. Listen hard enough through all this modern day fabrication, piano is still breathing fine. However, ambition for guitar has seemed to be the higher and more affordable motive.

#1398427 - 03/18/10 08:56 AM Re: "The piano is a thing of the past" [Re: BGJ]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3876
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: BGJ
I think there is no comparison between the pleasure of playing the acoustic piano compared to the digitals.

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

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