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#30122 - 10/12/05 07:28 PM Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Glyptodont Offline
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Let me start with a story.

We met some people last summer who have a 9 year-old child in lessons. The mother hastened to inform me that they purchased and own a 7-foot Steinway in their home, pretty much exclusively for this child's lessons.

I asked if anyone else but the child played. The answer was no.

Her haste to blurt out a description of this very expensive piano made me wonder if a lot of the motivation for this purchase was for "bragging rights."

What if the child loses interest in a couple of years? What then?

Comparable situation -- I have read that many of the premier Viking kitchen ranges, costing up to $6000, are sold to wealthy women who do not cook. It adds class to the kitchen.

Does a 7-foot Steinway add class to the living room? Regardless if anyone can play it?

If you are wealthy and want an $85,000 piano, for any reason, have at it!

But perhaps some of this is the "conspicuous consumer" syndrome. Flaut your bucks by showing your neighbors you have them.

Just a question.


the Glyptodont
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#30123 - 10/12/05 07:44 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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My personal opinion is that it's such a shame and a "waste" of a lovely instrument to go in a house where it rarely, if ever gets used. I don't get envious and I am not impressed by people who have these highly expensive instruments for show. So, if they were trying to impress me, it wouldn't work!

From an aethestic perspective, yes a nice piano does add "class" to a room. But there are other ways to make a room look extremely classy and unique without wasting a nice instrument. Get marble floors or something. As soon as someone comes to the house, their first quesiton will be "who plays?" And if the answer is "no one"-- well, then I think it does become tacky.

But yes, I know of several well-off families that have grand pianos for decoration. My pet peeve when I was buying mine was the "Do You Play?" question. As if I would drop that kind of money on a status symbol. :rolleyes:


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#30124 - 10/12/05 08:03 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Glyp,

Tell them that the Steinway is a wonderful starter piano, but if they don't want to damage their childs self esteem, they need to consider an upgrade to a Bosendorfer Modell Artisan 2002. It is the standard for registered classy people.

#30125 - 10/12/05 08:06 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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If status among the neighbors is a motive, Steinway is the best choice ....alas. It's the one the neighbors will have heard of. Try telling someone you have a Fazioli and they'll ask you if that's a new Italian sports car.

I'm sure my new Grotrian will win lots of kudos with my neighbors laugh

David F

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#30126 - 10/12/05 08:18 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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I have a friend of means that called one day with a story about needing a piano for the kids (just starting to play) and his wife had located one they really liked. He wanted my advice on the brand (vintage restored Steinway 7' grand) and some pointers on other options. I let my dad advise him a bit, since he knows more about buying a grand piano than I did at the time.

This was a real impulse buy and in spite of some advice my dad provided that they shop around and look at some new grands, the guy's wife won based on the "furniture value" of the piano. It was something like $40k as an impulse piece of furniture the kids might play. A very pretty piano, but I probably would have picked a different one if I had $40k to spend.

Regards,
Eric

#30127 - 10/12/05 09:06 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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When my friends ask what kind of grand piano I bought, I often tell them, "a black one."

"oooo, nice!"

#30128 - 10/12/05 09:27 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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I used to have negative feelings about people who bought expensive pianos as furniture for their homes. But now I realize that if everyone had a piano in their home, it would give me more badly-needed opportunities to play in front of other people.

#30129 - 10/12/05 09:28 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Glyptodont

Stories like this sicken me, but are expected amongst those that want for nothing. For nearly 30 years, I lived in a somewhat up-scale town in eastern Massachusetts. We moved there because there was better train service to Boston than where we were living previously. I think my dad was one of the poorer people in town.

Anyway, I would go out bike riding and would see expensive grand pianos placed in huge picture windows just so the owners could show them off as status symbols. You know as well as I do that these pianos rarely got played on if at all.

Now that I think back, many of these so-called wealthier people have for nothing more than fancy toys, because many of them had family problems that would make a some of the stories read fancy novels look pale in comparision.

John


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#30130 - 10/12/05 11:03 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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I'm not sure its conspicuous consumption as often as human nature of wanting "the best" (& being able to afford it) & equating "the best" with a certain brand. Don't we all want the best, especially for our children?

I've found that so much is relative. I live in the land of public assistance & rusty trailers. Our family lives in a very nice house. I'm sure we appear pretty well off to a friend of mine who lives in a delapidated trailer in her fathers back yard & uses an old piano she found for free. My actually owning a new Kohler Campbell grand to her is like someone else owning a Steinway (or an Estonia :p ) to me.

Unfortunately people of wealth (or even just higher salary-again its all relative) can be easy targets. Envy is a powerful emotion. Take the story you related & substitute "Steinway 7'grand" with "Wurlitzer Spinet" & imagine how we all would have viewed that family much more kindly!
Please don't misunderstand, I'm not saying you are envious Glypto, this is just a general statement of my own experiences & observations.

Thanks for the interesting thread!

PS. Yes I think any grand lends "class" to its surroundings.

#30131 - 10/12/05 11:04 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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So what if people who can afford this do it? It's a chance for the piano salesman to dump a crappy S&S and the buyer won't give a rip. Seems like a win-win to me wink


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#30132 - 10/12/05 11:59 PM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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SS is the default/safe purchase for the "Ignorant" rich. Just like buying a Mercedes if you are into luxury cars. I got two neighbors where the parents don't play, kids play a bit, they got Steinways sitting gather dust in the livingroom. My wife played them and was dissapointed, more probably because they sit there untuned and unappreciated.

Give Steinway credit they created the name and the demand. They make some very sweet pianos, but also more that got to be sold that arent' so sweet. They got the strategy down pat. The rich are sold the cast aways that don't make it into the discriminating pianist's piano room.

#30133 - 10/13/05 04:29 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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I think that people with more money than sense should be actively encouraged to buy status symbol pianos. It is a great idea. In the fulness of time they find their way onto the second hand market virtually untouched by human hand.

Then the discerning player gets more chance of finding a bargain. A practically brand new piano for second hand prices. Can't see the problem myslef :-) I just wish I could find someone who has bought a Fazioli as a status symbol that they now want to replace with some other ornament......

Adrian


Currently playing 2017 C212 with carbon fibre soundboard, WNG action. Working on Bach, Beethoven, Grieg mainly.
#30134 - 10/13/05 04:45 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Very interesting post...!

I'm a poor slob who "plays",.. but has an ear for better pianos.

As a singer, I also look for a certain quality for accompanying as well as the sound needed for the 'great piano works'

My best solution has been so far to keep buying pianos I like, and grow from one to the next.

My first was a 5'1" Brambach. A what????/

Yes,...a lovely 'real' mahogany case,..I traded it in on a Yamaha G2...and laughed all the way to the bank.

Then a Petrof...then a Chickering....then the Steinway,...what I thought would be my last piano...now the Knabe D.

It's all part of the life cycle for musicians who follow their hearts and ears.

Whatever the people with unlimited cash do,...doesn't really matter, because it all rings hollow until the artist sits at the bench and plays the instrument.

Don't you agree?

skyblanche

#30135 - 10/13/05 05:50 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Very interesting.

From the latest Bösendorfer catalogue, one could be forgiven for thinking that this great old Viennese company existed purely to satiate the appetites of the idle rich. Its pages are full of the F.A.Porsche Design Model (interesting); the Swarovski Crystal Model (Lord save us!) Kaiser Model (retro and then some!) and the Georgio Model which appears to be clad in offcuts of 'Gator casualties from the Hurricane stricken South. The standard models are relegated to a section at the back of the book sandwiched between these prohibitively expensive showpieces and the new range of Cinema Loudspeakers for your 5.1 audio system.

Now I have nothing against Art Cases, but I start to worry when the latest innovation from one of my favourite piano makers is the addition of lumps of lead-crystal stuck to a steel grey cabinet liberally spattered with the kind of jewelled bits of glass which made good miniature headlamps on the toy cars of my childhood. I worry more when the definitive models of the range are made to take a back seat in favour of these Elton-and-Liberace creations.

I think the Glyptodont's acquaintances should be persuaded to part with their Steinway since there's now something better on the block...........


G.Colin Crawford MPTA
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#30136 - 10/13/05 05:53 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Quote
Originally posted by skyblanche:
...it all rings hollow until the artist sits at the bench and plays the instrument.
It's getting an artist to the bench that's the hard part. Compared to that, getting a truly spectacular piano is a breeze. smokin

#30137 - 10/13/05 05:57 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Quote
Originally posted by Colin Crawford:
...the F.A.Porsche Design Model (interesting...
The Porsche model is the only non-traditional design I've ever liked. It's the only one I think truly takes the traditional design forward in a way that makes sense in its lines. It looks functional rather than arty for art's sake.

#30138 - 10/13/05 06:06 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Quote
The Porsche model is the only non-traditional design I've ever liked. It's the only one I think truly takes the traditional design forward in a way that makes sense in its lines. It looks functional rather than arty for art's sake.
F.A.Porsche are good at that kind of thing. They designed great kettles for Siemens too. That piano is the only instrument in the catalogue which could be used as a prototype to advance mainstream piano styling. I'm sure in time it will.

As I said, nothing against Art Cases, and if they actually draw people in to the catalogue to look at a standard model, then I suppose they have a purpose. I'm just concerned that Bösendorfer feel they have to fill a catalogue with these objects of marginal appeal at the expense of the definitive models.


G.Colin Crawford MPTA
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#30139 - 10/13/05 07:03 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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I for one am happy that many people buy tier one pianos for show. It helps keep the industry alive for those of us who actually play.

Lets face it - the number of good pianists who have 60-100k in disposable cash is pretty small. If wealthy people want to help support the industry by buying new high-end pianos just to impress their friends, we should welcome it.


If you don't talk to your children about equal temperment, who will?
#30140 - 10/13/05 08:49 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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When I went to see Rich at Cunningham's I was unsure which piano I was going to end up buying. Although I cannot say I am an accomplished pianist, I am a musician and an audiophile. As a saxophonist for the past 26 years I understand the differences between mass market and professional level instruments. I also have a discerning ear and know what sounds "right" to me.

If I were buying a saxophone for my young child would I buy a top of the line instrument? Probably not, but that has more to do with the fact that young saxophone players tend to inadvertently damage their horns as they try to get comfortable with the instrument. Small dents in the instrument can have a negative effect on playability. There is, however, no doubt that a high quality instrument facilitates both the production and versatility of tone and control. After a certain level of proficiency a serious student will benefit from a better horn.

Do I feel the same way about pianos? I don't know. I know, for myself, I wanted a piano that I could grow into as I progressed and could be an instrument my family could enjoy for many years. After meeting with Rich and listening to a variety of pianos I chose a Bosendorfer 214CS.

I am lucky to be able to have music as a retreat from the rigors of work and everyday life. I feel comfortable with my decision to buy the Bosie. As far as other people are concerned - 99% of non-musicians wouldn't know a Bosendorfer from a Young Chang or Hyundai, and that's fine with me.

FWIW, I also am an avid cook and went with Wolf, not Viking. I've heard that Viking has some reliability issues.


Bösendorfer 290
#30141 - 10/13/05 09:22 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Show off (saxguy)!

Indeed 'it's relative'. If we have $50,000 to furnish a home, we spend it. If we have $500,000 to spend, we spend it. You don't necessarily buy 10 of everything, so the difference is made up in the cost of the individual higher priced items and/or expendable, luxury items (Steinway grands).

Personally, I am not much of a piano player either, but I bought a grand. I kind of reluctantly admit that I play piano when asked and wonder if I'd be better off saying I don't play -- that way when I sit down and play something the statement seems more accurate! :-)

I guess my point is, if we got the money we're inclined to spend it. How often do you really budget $10 for lunch and spend $2?!

Back to saxguy -- you sound like me only you obviously have more money. I would've probably chosen Bosendorfer (with your budget) over a Steinway. A Keilwerth over a Selmer and a Wolf over a Viking. Being barely middle class (and therefore budget constrained) I chose Charles Walter, B&S, and Jenn-Aire. If I had to guess what kind of car you drive I would guess it to be European -- probably a Porsche, Mercedes, BMW. And I bet you like F1!


Haywood
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#30142 - 10/13/05 09:22 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Quote
Originally posted by saxguy:
...I've heard that Viking has some reliability issues.
Reliability doesn't really matter if the purpose of the range is to impress rather than to cook food.

The downside to folks buying Steinways merely to impress is just like the reliability issue with Viking -- that Steinway isn't driven to improve their instruments or even maintain quality if a large segment of their customer base doesn't even play the piano. This is actually a plague on Steinway. In the opposite corner, Estonia has been improving so dramatically because they have no customer base that buys their instruments in order to impress others, since few people outside this forum have ever even heard of the company. I'd argue that it is a plague on quality to have your customer base buying your product to impress, rather than to perform.

#30143 - 10/13/05 09:33 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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The folk wisdom around here is that Steinways are more variable in quality than most (all?) of the other top shelf brands. My own experience confirms the folk wisdom, so I accept it. If (relatively) weak quality control is a feature of the Steinway production process, then the ability to fob off the lower quality pieces on less discriminating buyers would seem to reinforce their production model. Steinway could not do this without the high visibility they have established in the American market over the past century.

The question is whether this arrangement will remain stable in the face the globalization of the piano market. At some point, variable quality may erode reputation enough that this penetrates into the psyche of the non-pianist buyers. In a market that is so reputation driven, a decline in reputation can cause a company to hit a tipping point from which it cannot easily recover.

Then the snobs will have to buy something else. I think Cathy Harl has at least four Bechstein concert grands available laugh laugh

Best,

David F

#30144 - 10/13/05 09:39 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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I'm in the top 1 percentile financially. I'm debt free and own a 500k house; we could easily afford a 2 million dollar house but this one is fine. We drive a Range Rover and BMW. We buy our cars used. We live very simply. I would never buy an expensive piano for practical reasons. I wouldn't pay more than 20k. That's less than we clear per month. I just wouldn't do it. IT is not true that, "IT'S HUMAN NATURE TO SPEND MONEY". It's just the way Americans have done it for so long. Status and image are big to most people. We own the cars we do for performance. Our Range Rover is 10 years old and BMW I got used 3 years old for 15k less than new. I'm ALWAYS looking for a bargain. We are comfortable and probably not good for the economy, but just cause we have money, doesn't mean we have to spend it. IT's ALL relative. We've never got into the image game or tried to be better than the Jones' thing.

So what if someone wants to spend their money to look good to others. It's not a waste!!! It's your envy that's all. It's like saying a good looking man is a waste if he's gay or a woman if she's a lesbian. To who is it a waste only the hetrosexual person that won't ever be with that beautiful person.

Common people stop the judgement already!!!

#30145 - 10/13/05 09:45 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Oops! Double post. The one below is correct...


"Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory."

"A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become." --W.H. Auden
#30146 - 10/13/05 09:47 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Originally posted by klavierspielerin:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
[qb]
Then the snobs will have to buy something else. I think Cathy Harl has at least four Bechstein concert grands available laugh laugh

Best,

David F
I was just thinking about that. And I do believe someone purchased one a few months ago for their familyroom and really doesn't know how to play at all.

This also made me think about a friend of a family. She owns a nice house (HUGE house), nice things, and of course, a piano. She "tinkers", but doesn't play. Every year she puts on a Christmas party, and every year she tries to get me to tag along for the entertainment because she never really gets to hear the thing. It just sits there in it's (very nice) surroundings and looks pretty. I don't even know what make it is.

For the person who doesn't research and shop around: You think copying machine, you think Xerox, not Canon. You think painter, you think Van Gogh or Monet, not the guy down your street drawing outstanding portraits. You think piano, you think Steinway, not Schumann. That's just how it is.


"Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory."

"A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become." --W.H. Auden
#30147 - 10/13/05 09:47 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Justplay,

Don't worry about the economy. For far too long people in North America have been sold the crap that we have to consume in order to keep the economy going. Saving is just fine for the economy. Saving simply reflects a propensity to value the future. Countries that save more tend to grow faster because they are investing more heavily in plant & equipment, education, whatever, that pays off in the future.

Actually, I think a number of us who have posted here are not being judgemental (and the others are mostly kidding around). We've had some serious argument about whether (or how) the demand for top tier instruments (by non-pianists) helps or hurts the industry as a whole.

Best,

David F

#30148 - 10/13/05 09:56 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Piano Dad,

If there are people buying expensive pianos for furniture and the demand goes up then, will it hurt because the price will also go up? I would think that maybe if pianos were sold more often then the prices may come down because there would be more competition for a bigger market share???

I agree with you that saving money is good for the economy. That's how we live anyway.

I heard somewhere that only 6000 brand new grands are sold a year? Don't know if that's correct but it was interesting to know.

#30149 - 10/13/05 10:15 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Justplay,

Indeed in any simple supply/demand model higher demand leads to higher price.

Unfortunately, the piano market doesn't follow the rules of simple supply/demand models. That is because this is not a texbook "perfectly competitive industry." Pianos are highly differentiated products. A more appropriate "textbook" model is monopolistic competition. Each firm sells a distinct brand over which it has a monopoly, but there are enough other brands so that profit is low. Profit may be higher for some (Steinway) because of their size and influence on the market.

One of the virtues for consumers of a monopolistically competitive market is the variety of brands from which to choose. In some markets, brand differences are essentially meaningless (salt is sodium chloride after all), but brand differences are much more meaningful for pianos. In general, a bigger market supports more brands, and that is good for consumers, and if there are any scale economies at all in production then larger output actually can lower price to a point.

Best,

David F

#30150 - 10/13/05 10:50 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
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Quote
We've had some serious argument about whether (or how) the demand for top tier instruments (by non-pianists) helps or hurts the industry as a whole.
I was just thinking about this the other day...

I'm a "hack" at best on guitar, but I own a $2500 Larrivee. I don't deserve it, and my playing can't take advantage of the nuances that make it a wonderful instrument. Does that somehow reflect poorly on Larrivee as a company (that a hack bought their product)?

I'm a recreational tennis player (again, a hack). I use the same racquet as Andre Agassi (among others). Because I suck compared to him, does that reflect poorly on Head racquets?

My wife and I use professional cookware. And although we enjoy cooking, neither of us are master chefs (far from it). Does that devalue All-Clad's products?

Yet for some reason, it's become popular around here to devalue Steinway because doctors/lawyers purchase their pianos (in addition to music professionals, concert venues & recording studios).


PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...
#30151 - 10/13/05 11:21 AM Re: Premium Grand Pianos for Bragging Rights  
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 377
Glyptodont Offline
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Glyptodont  Offline
Full Member

Joined: May 2005
Posts: 377
Wisconsin
The statement appears above (paraphrase) -- "if a person has $50K they will spend it -- if they have $500K, they will spend it."

Comment: If that's their pattern, unless they inherited the $$$, they probably wouldn't HAVE any $500K to purchase anything.

As with JustPlay, we have a few $$$, but I would be more likely to add to my stock portfolio than spend $85K on a piano, or $125K on a Porsche car.

For myself, we have a nice, moderately priced 5'8" grand. I am not sure I DESERVE a premier line of piano, because I don't play that well.

To add to the thread, aside from prestige "show" pianos that are never played, I also resent "furniture" pianos that are never tuned. I played one briefly in a relative's home. Their children had used it for lessons for a few years. When they stopped, the piano was never tuned again. How unfortunate.

I went through a long period between about 1994 and 2003 when I stopped playing. But I had my piano tuned every year. Just "the principle of the thing."

For some families, the fine arts are artifacts. Purchase a Ming Dynasty vase or a Steinway grand and escounce it in your home. You get a feeling sometimes that they are melancholy that they don't play -- or paint, or write poetry, or craft pottery, whatever. Like poor children looking into a department store window. If you can't play music, buy the "bones" of music (unplayed pianos). If you can't craft pottery, buy a Ming vase instead.

Didn't John Keats write that "unheard melodies are sweeter"? This must be the mantra of the "pianos as furniture" school.

But Aristotle defined art as a "making," not an "owning."

For we pianists, the fine arts are NOT a spectator sport.

Regards-- this has been a fun thread --


the Glyptodont
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