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Joined: Mar 2007
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KevinEleven, good insight (ps send me those cheat codes on that Tom Clancy game smile ). I agree. I manage in a facility wtih approx 250 20 somethings that I mingle with. Of that, I have only found 2 people that have an true intensity for music, and of that only 1 plays. Maybe I am getting crusty because the younger crowd today doesn't attack the limits of their instruments with passion as I did (thus, I don't think it is just a piano twilight thing in the US...it is musical talent).

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


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

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

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

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

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

Kind regards,

Robert.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my -whole- extended family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...Steve


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Reality bites.


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


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


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

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kingfrog: "ostentatious"

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

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Originally posted by Jeffrey:
kingfrog: "ostentatious"

There is a typo in your post. I think you meant to spell it "people who can play piano".
I rest my case.


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