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#946354 - 08/14/05 12:24 PM the past, present, and future of piano study
Colin McCullough Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/01/05
Posts: 12
Loc: Sutton, Massachusetts
Iíd like to put forward the following comments/questions to the people in this forum:

-As far as I know, many more pianos are manufactured today than 100 years ago.

-If there are more pianos being made and sold now than ever before, I find it safe to assume there are more people studying piano than ever.

-From my perspective, I see classical music growing more culturally irrelevant over time. Several reasons I believe this is so are the changing tastes of popular music, the continued decline of music education in schools, and the distractions of a hundred competitors for time like TV, internet, school sports, etc. To be clear, I donít want this to happen, but I think it is.

-I believe that 100 years ago, the piano was far more important culturally than today. From what Iíve read, playing piano was more expected in learned society then. There are many reasons for this, of course; chief among these would be the more obvious fact that people didnít have TV and radio then, so reproducing music had to be Öer...by hand.

-If it was more expected for people in learned society to play piano, can one then assume that more people are playing today because they want to, less because that is what society expects?

-If all of the last five suppositions are true, itís hard for me to put them all together, since they seem somewhat contradictory.

-If some or all of those suppositions are true, how much of a telling indicator is that of the future of piano study and popularity of classical music in general? Iím not trying to raise alarm; Iím simply curious what other peopleís perspectives are.

-Iím curious if anyone here has come across any statistics that estimate the number of people currently studying piano today, and various times in the past?

- Is it possible that the percentage of students who quit within 1 or 2 years of study is higher now as well?

Colin McCullough

Please visit the McCullough Piano Tuning Tutorial, a free online resource for anyone interested in how a piano is tuned, featuring the entire tuning in MP3 audio format.

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#946355 - 08/14/05 07:53 PM Re: the past, present, and future of piano study
saxguy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/05
Posts: 163
Loc: New Jersey

I read through your post a few times and I, too, am wondering about the correlation between your first two statements.

Granted there are more pianos being produced now, the question is where are those pianos ending up? For certain, there are many insitutions that have allocated monies toward the purchase of pianos. Even my humble university had more than an adequate number of relatively new pianos. I would assume that the more prestigious universities and conservatories would have even more. Even with school systems cutting budgets, there are still pianos present in most schools - and the number of schools are increasing. Of course this is only one part of the piano market.

You had mentioned that in your own assumptions there was a contradiction. I purchased my piano in order to learn how to play. I also am having a player system installed. As a musician already (a saxophonist of 26 years) I want to be able to grow into my piano but also enjoy it as much as possible as I do so. When I bought the piano I was a bit worried - in fact, I though that my piano salesman would think I was downright crazy to install a player system into such a fine instrument. I was told at the time that the particular shop I bought my piano at sells more pianos with a player system installed than not (at least for the brand of piano I bought - Rich please correct me if I misquoted you).

So now the question becomes who is buying the pianos? If it is true that television, internet, sports, etc. is taking potential players out of the equation; who does that leave?

In Larry Fine's Piano Book, he makes a point of at least mentioning the value of a piano as furniture. As a new home buyer I can say that the majority of new construction homes I visited had a piano somewhere in the model that was available for viewing. One cannot overlook the fact that for many, ownership of a piano imparts a level of status. To be honest, I was always quite impressed when family friends had beautiful polished ebony concert grands in their homes. Too bad no one in the house could play much more than Heart and Soul on those beautiful pianos (many of them player pianos, as well, I might add).

Considering we're still in an economic boom with more and more people gaining financial wealth, it could very well be that this is where many of the pianos being manufactured today are going.

In the plaza where I work there is a small music center that gives group lessons. Although one might expect that you would see a majority of younger children there I actually see a far greater majority of seniors there. In that regard, there is also the possibility that people at retirement are investing in a piano to learn something they've been putting off for most of their life and now have the time to devote.

So, basically, I don't really know the answers to your questions. I'm sure some of the teachers on the forum will be able to address the questions you specifically targeted at students and their longevity with studying.
Bösendorfer 290

#946356 - 08/14/05 08:04 PM Re: the past, present, and future of piano study
saxguy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/05
Posts: 163
Loc: New Jersey
BTW, your third statement about classical music becoming less relevant is something I want to address from a slightly off-beat perspective.

I am an audiophile. In fact I worked in a high end audio shop for a while. Before I started there I was looking for a high end two channel system. The shop owner told me that I was definitely in the minority and that most people are looking for larger multi speaker based systems for home theater, music was secondary. Furthermore, the types of systems I was looking into were designed to bring out the highest level of detail in the music - the smallest dynamic changes, the detail of the playing - basically everything that makes someone truly appreciate what's happening in the composition, artist's interpretation, and recording.

I'm not about to say that today's music is any less important. Many artists are pouring their hearts and souls into their craft. I just don't necessarily believe that the younger people today are able to appreciate it quite as much - possibly because of the things you've listed in your original post. Being that the arts are still taking a hit at the early scholastic levels it may be something that we, as a society, are inadvertently slecting out.
Bösendorfer 290

#946357 - 08/18/05 09:03 PM Re: the past, present, and future of piano study
Rob Mullins Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/10/04
Posts: 332
Loc: LA CA
Interesting how so many things can be true yet somewhat contradictory, eh? Welcome to the world of grey.
RE classical becoming more irrelevant over time, that is really up to teachers and how they present material today and in the future. Media has chosen the guitar as the symbol of today, few understand the importance of the keyboard and its usefulness in today's music until it is explained to them correctly. Classical music has always been a small niche market, but is thankfully well funded by the rich and will continue to be well-recorded for many years to come.
Re how many pianists now versus then...people have many more alternatives now than they did 100 years ago, and music carries different significances now. There are far fewer pianists out there based on my own experience and the last study I remember seeing about this was several years ago when they said the guitar was more popular than the piano by 4-1 ratio. I don't know what it is now, probably the same or worse.
I believe the piano will continue to be popular with people as they go through their life stages and move from rebellion to adulthood, into acceptance of reality and cognizance of the status of having a 100,000 instrument in the living room.
RE the dropout rate, I think this comes back to the teachers-I know a lot of teachers lose students to the challenges of modern life but good teachers instill an interest and understand into students that carries them over the years.
Rob Mullins
Recording Artist and Jazz Piano Instructor

#946358 - 08/19/05 05:40 AM Re: the past, present, and future of piano study
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4264
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
The doom and gloom conjecture that modern distractions prostitute youthful ambitions to play the piano is laughable.

We're moving at hectic speeds in the Computer Age - and yet the human mind continues to cope easily with the input - provided always that the information format is readable. Youth absorbs the torrent of expanding info within their stride - and are ever ready to take on more.

The insrutability of piano notation is the weak link and the reason why youth pack in their piano lessons. They can't come to terms with the symbolic notation format which nonsensically demands memorisation for quality performance - and wasteful hours of drudge practice.

Many pioneering minds are currently wrestling with a new format - the hope is to replace the old with a user-friendly format - to make sight-reading of any piece of keyboard music as easy as reading a newspaper.

Then there'll be a piano in every home.


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