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Dear all,

Long time no see!

As untrained, apologies, I’m wondering what perspectives &/or rules there are in classical for the device of the Scottish Snap (also originating in Lombardian), so widespread in strathspeys, but also prevalent in popular or many of the jazz/song standards that I study/practice from scores not arrangements/transcriptions on English Concertina as piano.

Glossaries report it as specifically dotted quaver orientated but I don’t think it has to be confined to that by default as such, even Scots has another (the dotted crotchet to quaver [& vice versa of course] example). A dotted minim to crotchet instance can also be quite feasible for more drawn out passages (I think of the bridge to ‘Sophisticated Lady’ as an opportunity of the longer enrichments that I’ll need to get back to soon).

2 other songs in my repertoire, ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ are riddled with them, intertwining amongst each voicing [..and I’ve managed to work out the raft of these going on at times, arguably 5 voicing lines at a point or bar..., but 3 or even 4 is sometimes prevalent for such scores – another thread perhaps (?)].

I’ve hopefully sharpened up on these snaps by making all their spacing uniform (ie the value of the dotted note without the dot; or in other words double the smaller counterpart - it's all one). The alternative or rather norm being a rudimentarily commensurate value of spacing akin to the value of the preceding note, making each spacing different between such dotted and counterpart notes rather than making them collectively uniform - I’d argue for or - as in Scots snap mode

I find that on the above songs – depending on the context and so forth – there’s a call of WHEN OR WHEN NOT to apply the snaps including for the longer value notes up to and including the minim variants. In other words, they’re applicable on a case by case basis. Again, I always apply the mode to ‘dotted quaver to semiquaver’ and vice versa variants as they’re usually clumped in phrases to obviously intend such snaps. I think vocalists like to avail of this spacing mode too to help space out relevant sections more equally for breathing if not for the effect per se(?). I think musically per score it really is down to what the context is whether runs are clumped or not - of readable snaps (dotted notes against notes of ½ their value proper]). Hard to put into words!

There’s no symbol as such for the snap – it seems to be more of an implied thing. Can anyone shed any more light or leads on the topic? I’d love to hear about any classical examples, experience, opinion or viewpoint.

-

[An aside: I drew my conclusion on the scots snap spacing value (of being a uniform mean between the long and short counterparts) by looking at the notes graphically, of course using a note-to-space ratio/clarity of equally 50:50 to help, albeit I never play exactly this 50:50 to help differentiate each voicing because I’m on so clear cut an on/off sound with the concertina (tho nonetheless, instead, try to use a sliding rule of thumb – per note value – that keeps me closely connected and relative to it, this preferable ratio with a clearer, less muddy, view of note values. It’s then also a relief to posit other things on the button along with simple note initiations, like 3-as-2 notes, tenuto releases, or accent-ons, etc)! All other topics I guess.]

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Even though I'm often found on Munros (as per my name) - when not under lockdown, that is - and have attended more than a few Highland flings, I think it is something you 'get' from listening, rather than from exact notation.

Incidentally, an honorary Scot, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, has composed some Scottish-sounding music (with that characteristic rhythm), including for piano:



And of course, this knees-up (where everyone has had a little more than a wee dram), complete with bagpipes thumb:



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Originally Posted by concertinist25701
There’s no symbol as such for the snap – it seems to be more of an implied thing. Can anyone shed any more light or leads on the topic? I’d love to hear about any classical examples, experience, opinion or viewpoint.

-

[An aside: I drew my conclusion on the scots snap spacing value (of being a uniform mean between the long and short counterparts) by looking at the notes graphically, of course using a note-to-space ratio/clarity of equally 50:50 to help, albeit I never play exactly this 50:50 to help differentiate each voicing because I’m on so clear cut an on/off sound with the concertina (tho nonetheless, instead, try to use a sliding rule of thumb – per note value –


The lombardic rythm has been used quite frequently by Italian composers but also English (typically Purcell, but others as well) ones and French ones (the term is "coulé").

Often it is used on a case by case basis to break the uniformity of the rythm and add spice to the music. Most often it would apply to pairs of 8th notes (or groups of 4) or to 16th by goups of 4. There is not a generally accepted sign for it so you just have to know when to play it. It is often in pieces not too fast and in descending stepwise motion (but occasionally ascending too).

The french composer have a sign for it which is that the pairs are slurred with a dot on top or bottom of the second note. In baroque music signs have often multiple meanings. IN this case the dot does not mean staccato but on the contrary that the second note is longer than the first. Couperin is using it. But you could also have ot without any particular sign or just a slur.

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Excellent educational replies there, many thanks. So, a few other thoughts to add as well!

Nice to hear a straight-forward and even mix together of the quaver and crotchet length ones in the above piano piece by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. It concurs with me on that instances needn’t necessarily have to be part of clumps or in long groups worth. Good evidence also that there’s something special about the effect that can give as much to expressiveness/sentiment as to attempts in accuracy, which I think some latest Celtic music can often ignore due to serving pace before precision.

Interesting that both these avenues of approach (accuracy or expression) can instill the desired effect that such a small rhythmic change in rule can have, even perhaps hair-raising goose-bumps when composed and performed best. Thanks bennevis.

‘Learning by hearing’ I’d agree with too. I forgot to mention this. It’s not all been about seeing what’s actually going on graphically on paper either. First I had to embed extreme examples heard (of both the forward and the backward configurations) and then explore their sound/silence ratios via stepping or tapping (in slow motion for both ways round) and then when drawn out on paper (by graph) I could see the actual logic being used and what I’d be stepping out or through (the mean value of the coupled notes to follow as each spacing rather than the each note’s normal independent rudimentary spacing). It’s so easy to make sound effortless via pace, and I’d confide more in pieces of expression as above than of such effortlessness. When canvassing examples I had to in fact ignore the fast Scots based stuff for being either too fast or so randomly expressive to gain leads from. So I then thought of classical (film soundtrack via Imperial March by Williams), and not to mention the Addams family (also bearing 3-as-2s) or the likes (e.g. Laurel and Hardy), which were perhaps one of the closest to a perfection given that comedy seems to have been another facet to have taken this rhythmic formula, but even very seriously so or consistently so to support its profession, to posit that counter-convention of spacing to perhaps muster a feel of perfected displacement – and what better way than to hone this oddball rhythmic formula (of mean in lieu of rudimentary spacing) to a tee – I imagine started in circus music before reaching the screen).

The other video linked is also tapping greatly into this same feel, so it shows the effect is not owned by any particular field across all of the music that utilises it.

Thanks also Sidokar.

‘Adding spice’ definitely (maybe even exhilaration I’d wonder in some extreme cases); and
‘not too fast’ very understandable relative to those confirmed value of notes most applicable.

Looking forward to exploring these leads at some point, thanks also for the stepwise motion pointers to expect. Also interesting to hear there’s indeed been symbols in use despite not being adopted generally or later.

-

I wonder where it originated first between Scotland or France before reaching the classical period, and whether or not this was a product of the enlightenment given the aforesaid seemingly very mathematical nature behind the change of spacing convention.

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PS oops, I mean first between Scotland or Italy (Lombardic presumably from the Baroque origin).

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In fact the first written traces of that rythm is in french songs in the 16th century. But of course it likely existed in popular dance and songs before that. As very frequently the music imitates the language or supports the text, the iambic rythm is very old. Greek poets used it already several centuries b.c. So in effect the origin is likely neither scottish nor italian.

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Thanks SIdokar, brilliant overview and its all becoming clearer!

I don’t know about music, but in architecture the periods were first introduced in Italy before spreading as national styles probably in parallel with the musical periods. These transitions were not far from sinuous regarding French. To presume cultural exchange was also in a reciprocal direction would not be wrong, but going on architecture this would have been more possible at the end rather than beginning of the C16th –

so regarding France being sooner to fuse this (as you say) probable poetical root of rhythm into music (in line with the earliest trace) I can quite believe. Many thanks for divulging those suggestions.

I’d also wonder if like poetry, theatre too would garner a possible root, given there was ‘Commedia dell'arte’ from C16th Italy where both music and dance were components!

I can add (from previous knowledge) that culturally there was a Scot commissioned in the early 1600s (Thomas Dempster) by Cosimo II de' Medici to write on the Etruscan civilisation; and Lombardy is of course from that very geography in Italy.

[aside, While France was so sinuously interconnected with cultural trends emanating from Italy I think it was nevertheless mainly Scots a century later whod help/struggle, greatly, to put Ancient Classical Greece (architecture at least, daringly as much as Roman classicism if it were possible) onto the map.

All the nations were leading on disciplines during the enlightenment, which was probably more when the Scots made much more from the rhythm – also with the charactestic coulé as you say: and I can see from my strathspey anthologies that much of the Scots Snaps (over the top with every configuration) are indeed (often even mainly) slurred, but so much isn’t (much akin to my jazz/song standards anthology) and therein this is where I think there’s the mindedness (or understanding) to make much more of the effect than always a simply skipping slur. Hence my earlier suggestion that it can even occupy the minim end of pace – to help make a different, but no less legitimate – tho apparently freer sounding, rhythmic or otherwise space between notes.]

Thanks again all, for helping to make something of the topic!

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To be complete, i have to say that the fact that early traces are in France does not mean that it wasnt used elsewhere. As you know we have only a subset of manuscripts remaining, in particular for popular songs which were not necessarily always notated but transmitted orally. In addition the fact that thete is no sign for it makes it more difficult to spot.

It is a fact though that english poetry and theatre made very early more usage of the iambic pentameter. It clearly naturally suits more the english langage which tend to put the accent on the first syllable. It is very certainly the reason why it had a strong presence in the english baroque music. The french poetry uses more the alexandrin or the 4+6 verse.

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Thanks again, fascinating thread to the topic!

I believe that for Baroque music there was in fact exploration of Greek in Italy. I’m not sure if that was immediately transitional from the renaissance or transpired after the aforementioned Tuscan interest in its Etruscan roots with Dempster in the early 1600s, I forgot to say being more related to the Greek world despite its Italian geography. However I still trust in the absence of traces that your suggestion of the root of language points towards - the later to be termed Scottish Snaps or Lombardic Rhythm of the Baroque to be of - a non-Tuscan origin. Hmm: despite Lombardy being in Tuscany! You mentioned earlier, first, that it was often in Italian compositions. Is it termed Lombardic because it was so frequently used in Tuscany as it was in English Baroque (?) and in spite of earlier traces and likelihood in France &/or England. It’s ‘frequency of use’ I suppose that credits Scotland after all, not origination per se.

Originally Posted by Sidokar
... In addition the fact that thete is no sign for it makes it more difficult to spot...

Again, as per my capitalised thread heading, in a way there’s at least always a veritable sign I believe, which one sees from a dotted note alongside a note of half its un-dotted value. For me, whenever a score shows this relationship it begs the question, ‘what’s the intent : 1) a regulating Scotch Snap spacing to equally space out the sudden with the lengthy; or 2) is it suddenness against lengthiness that’s the intent – like note like space’?

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Thanks again all

I’ve now some more thoughts/considerations; less focussed on the WHEN & WHEN NOT question, but more on the HOW TO aspect!

, and spot on Sidokar with the poetry connection. Blue Moon maybe having an accidental clue in its verse lyrics on the ‘Shadows of the night’ “...that po - ets find...”, eh ‘beguiling’ – indeed!

Okay, it’s the front-to-back way round – as common with the interwar song standards mentioned, or as prevalent in swing I guess, but in Scots – even moreso – it’s indeed quite the mix up whatever way around they’re displaced; and being thrown off guard is quite fun to play and train thru, I supopose especially if country dances, hornpipes and Schottisches etc. are another mainstay. I’m guessing!

You mentioned the word accent too.

I believe Scotch Snaps are indeed literally a product of the musical accent [excepting their initial note on the beat of course]. They accidentally tap into such without a symbol, the literal notated arrowed type of accent that I like to think are generally spaced a quaver ahead of the beat, if I’m correct in saying (?, which is where I see or hear them most whatever value of note that’s accented – again I’m not trained so wouldn’t know what’s classical convention), but..

..that the natural accents of Scotch Snaps would indeed relatively vary to this (going on the aforementioned mean spacing they seem to be regulated with) :-

Hence, they work out by also seeming to be accented by a half-measure so of this – i.e. a semiquaver’s in lieu of quaver’s worth - for the archetypal ‘semiquaver to dotted quaver’ length Scots snaps; and a full measure so (quaver worth accented) for the crotchet variety; and doubly (a crotchet worth) so for such ‘minim-spaced dotted minim to crotchets’!

That said, they (scots snaps) can also be in turn notated as accented themselves, e.g. as appears in some bars to the bridge on ‘Stormy Weather’, which in turn can obviously cancel out some of the accidentally underlying accents in terms of when they then fall on/off a beat rather than being offbeat (I’d think: a bit like already-accented grace-notes - to a then accented noted – therefore initiated on a beat instead of off one). Remebering all this theory is if there’s that seeming ‘uniformity of spacing’ that seems to be going on whether naturally or when accurately posited.

-

Might it also be that :-

These (perhaps rightly termed Scots Snaps) are ‘exacting’ most when:

A) if not for in Scots trad. itself, definitely at least when either for comedic expression (I imagine showcasing how askew or odd the music can sound when an actual maxim for accenting a uniform spacing whatever the note is precisely struck as opposed to a like note like spacing convention); or yes even when adding spice too to classical and related; and maybe least exacting, much looser/freer when

B) more generally in reels related trad. music; or I’d like to add to the gamut, for Swing (?) since it’s littered with them (dotted to half counterpart notes) to consolidate? Rhythm – to cause dance not merely any sway.

For the latter (B) so much swing I think was also very accurately conducted too when making these Scots Snaps (the ‘long note on the beat 1st’ way round) exactingly as in (A) as much as it managed them simply to generate swing unerringly through pace since dum-dee dum-dee rhythm will naturally seem to self regulate per its said origins into being most comfortably uniformly spaced – I’d presume. I think that dance (as well as poetry) as an origin cannot be ruled out either (more below).

There was a ‘Swing and Sway’ orchestra from the movement/genre. One might even imagine the Guy Lombardo outfit to have the exactitudes given the coincidental name – who often launched swing compositions to introduce them for composers!

He actually released a performance of ‘Winter Wonderland’ in 1934, and one might say a combination or rather great tension between having a swing element and neighbouring phrases of restraint from such, the verse almost having none of the swing element at all except to add dashes of scots snaps between lines worth of normal repetitions. Although reversing this come the chorus.

Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’ is again very copious on the Scots Snaps so as to engender actual dance I guess in common to actual flings, but to the point that swing replaces sway – I guess conversely the foxtrot (also commonly displacing Scots Snaps) and like the waltz would celebrate more sway in common – and noting that they don’t overload the composition with such dotted notes, but rather structure them around a majority of non-accented (or conventionally spaced) notes.

Out of all these guesses and unlearned/trained assumptions, I find that at the most exacting end – at the ‘not too fast’ a pace – is an energy that might not only muster sway, but at least not concede on it while availing of any jovial jolts of spice/swing/etc. hence the not uncommon (but not swamped) usage of such dotted notes in song compositions for fox trot – and that’s maybe also the case in any classically orientated material too (?)

[In working through ‘I’ll be Seeing You’, I find a strong sense of sway as much in the common time verse as with the waltz section despite there being no such dotted notes off their counterparts implied in this mode anywhere on the piece!

Funnily in another song in my current sub-repertoire at the moment, ‘I Surrender Dear’ there is amid the words and feel of sway “...lending a spice to the wooing, but I don’t care who is...” in an slow foxtrot utterly devoid entirely of dotted notes working in this – let’s maybe also call it – “swing” mode or manner. Perhaps it also has a spice nonetheless through being articulated with different kinds of 3-as-2 notes as opposed to accenting notes.

Also, the rhythmic concept has no nomenclatures other than its so called Scots or Lombardic Rhythm descriptions that are so symbol-less and thereby ‘hard to spot’ in notation, but that said never far from always at a spot!

To recap for the time being:

(B) = is interpolated/interspersed to give a jovial or pick me up accented/jolting feel even cause/encourage dance and movement as with so much scottish country dancing etc. including swing as a non-trad. exemplar (the nature of dum-dee-dum-dee-dum, or an interspersal of these as in strathspey, kind of naturally self regulates with uniform spacing owing to that suggested guttural if not poetic origin, which becomes inconducive relative to faster pace)

(A) = ditto, but when conducive to slower pace and therefore able to be conducted (and not dum-dee-dum-dee per se, but rather spaced with (or accented to give) an exacting uniformity that’s calculably - not merely naturally - mean between the dotted and counterpart notes.

All in the end of course being fine-tuned off an exact relativity by different sound to silence ratios depending on the player’s rules! I don’t know about anyone else here, but mines is near to 50:50 to help me learn about noted music – and this in turn going on the above makes my Scots Snaps not too far from 75:25 & vice versa for each way round, which I think is the easiest ratio to regulate – the accenting aspects of the Scots Snaps – to, otherwise there’s as much a muddle of the mind by trying to offset off such an offset.

[An aside: Is staccato considered to be 50:50 sound silence. I would prefer it to be half at 25:75 since my convention for sound to silence is based on 50:50, my tenutos conversely 75:25; and slurs 100:0; all basically to help me understand music per the real value of notes, which is not as arithmetic as first believed but rather in breadths or durations that are more graphically spaced not arithmetically spaced per se... It’s tough to put into words as well!]

-

Ps As well as adding spice to break from the monotony of conventional spacing (of a more normal note to space rule), might this other tier of accenting off that also mean to help realise or maintain a feeling of flow or sway in danger of becoming subordinated via convention monotony: hence accents proper, which do actually have a symbol.

I think of ‘Winter Wonderland’ as a simple interwar song standard that does actually make it very clear cut WHEN & WHEN NOT – and notwithstanding that in the much swing orchestrations/arrangements Scottish snaps would be built in anyway to replace all or any rhythmic runs of straight quavers into dotted ones with semis / such with an urge – and from humming I think I can detect that a feel of sway would be replaced by swing and vice versa if the written-in articulations were to be ignored (i.e. a verse all sway; and with a chorus all swing), but the isolated appearance runs (between the majority) in the verse and vice versa the reciprocal opposite going on in the chorus are also perhaps primers serving each other going between the mood of the verse (of convention monotony) to the mood of the chorus (of the converse monotony concerning the break in this convention via the scots snaps to add swing to the same given rhythm). I think the Winter Wonderland score might now be public domain due to the early passing of its writer.

-

So (B) for encouraging actual all out dance; and (A) for encouraging more of a listening delight, but also dance if that accuracy can be expressed

(and I think it is indeed via professional Highland Dance, which has recorded roots back to the 1500s too – so it brings around the argument of origin again: guttural, but maybe also with danceable leads (?)

From Highland Dance, especially because of its precision qualities, I think I can sense the readiness for this arguable uniformity of spacing that seems to naturally occur in Scots snaps (understanding a play of equally lengthened silences – both forwards and backwards articulated) with equal command as might clowns also care of an oval wheeled unicycle that could perfectly see-saw to always be level on the beat with a pedal at top; a normal circular wheel also getting to that same point, but with a different, less jolting (i.e. the more conventional), relativity of sound to silence ratio per note (rather than the somewhat relatively different one that’s momentarily per ½ of the sum of the dotted note against its shorter counterpart; or again as above on that very differently relative accent behaviour depending on the note value/type – resulting in this either quaver, crotchet, or minim spaced variety).

And isn’t such a uniformity of spacing indeed Baroque - I’m thinking of Bach pieces with quavers from start to finish); and the Scots Snap I’ve argued provides this almost related uniformity of spacing in spite of increasing and lengthening the notes to either side of the spaces, and that’s again I must reiterate in a mixture of long 1st against short 1st configurations that I don’t think has occurred anywhere else in the world so intensely – and perhaps therefore deserves the credit of the nomenclature it gets.

Lastly, I wonder if symbolised accents come before or after Scotch Snaps. Perhaps one had influenced the other, besides any likely germination from Greek poetry (?) The accent symbol itself, like I argue the Scots snap also doctors the said arithmatic of conventional spacing (whether conventionally from 50:50, nearby or IMO muddier to understand at greater than say 60:40) to say that aforesaid quaver-in-advance duration that I have warmed to from unschooled guesswork, but is this the duration used in convention?

My apologies for any incomprehensibility as it’s so tough to put into words coming from an untrained or different background/discipline as a newbie; and because I’ve been all of today on the reply so I’d rather not edit it too much (especially if there’s a lot of short-sightedness in what I’ve said, for which please do feel free to correct; or even to develop further or in another way).

At the moment I’m treating accuracy not as a rulebook per se, but simply to first learn the basics of music and then maybe later I can look at how rules are not adopted, but adapted. For now I’m afraid it’s the former I forsee for a very long time. Rules first abandonment later! 

Thanks all for reading too.


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