A Piano Technician is like Santa Claus because…

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Piano
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For my musician Tweeter followers, here is a point to ponder.

English: Lyre piano (Berlin, around 1840) at t...

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Who is promoting piano as a preferred instrument for music development and enjoyment? Who indeed? As musicians we are aware of our network. We live in a tight-knit group of players, teachers, suppliers and a few organizations which promote music education. There are music store personnel, repair persons, and most important, countless numbers of people who are performing publicly.

But who is promoting music education? We know who promotes cellphones, beer, automobiles, and all those common products that have popular appeal. When was the last time you saw an ad on TV (or in print for that matter) advocating the merits of piano playing? By comparison, how many times have you heard someone say, “I took piano lessons for 12 years, but I no longer play.”?

Why do people buy pianos? Really! One customer answered by saying, “My mom had a piano and we…”. That strikes me as cultural conditioning. People cling to cultural values. Have you heard someone say, “We have our piano on an inside wall in the house.”

And why would someone make a big deal about that? It is because that placement was recommended back when houses were made with plaster walls. In those days, (I have no idea how long ago that was), before insulation, an outside wall did little to insulate the home from the outside weather. The course of heat was a fireplace, usually in every room. The outside walls were cold to the touch in winter. It is not wise to place a piano close to a fireplace, but with modern construction, it is no longer necessary to place a piano on an inside wall. Yet people still believe that it is necessary! Why? Because someone (Mom) said it was important.

Before radio, the piano was the number one source for home entertainment. The instrument remains a mainstay in many homes, but so few people actually play them it makes me wonder why they bought a piano in the first place.

Our industry is made of people who are self-interested. We are no different than any other industry. A music teacher will promote teaching in order to gain more students. A piano store will promote selling a piano. A music store will promote buying an instrument.   But after the student drops out; after the piano is sold; after the instrument is sold – no one contacts the customer ever again.

There is one exception: the piano tuner. A piano technician is like Santa Claus because, when it comes to who is playing their piano, he knows who has been naughty and who has been nice!

The prime suspect in this break in communication falls squarely on the shoulders of the piano store owner – the guy who made money selling the instrument. How often do piano store personnel contact owners of pianos? Consider that 99.99% of customers only buy one piano in their lifetime, and that piano may be sold and resold in the used piano market four or five times during its 75 year life. Who is calling these piano owners and encouraging them to play the piano or to take lessons again?

No one.

So it is of particular interest to me that the piano remains popular in our cultural. It is as popular as gossip, and it sticks around for much the same reason – because someone said so.

And like gossip, we believe it if enough people repeat it.

So this is a very interesting sociological phenomenon to me. Piano playing receives much indirect promotion, but no one is out there banging the drum for piano education and performance, unless they can make a buck from doing it.

And while we are a culture that values HAVING a piano, that is not quite the same thing (by a long shot) as belonging to a culture of people who actually PLAYS the piano. Most pianos are not played, not tuned, not valued for anything more than a piece of furniture and status symbol.

Can you think of anything else that people buy and then do not use? Can you imagine buying a car and then parking it in the garage and never driving it? “Yeah, we took lessons for a couple of weeks, but now no one drives it.”

The piano business is insane!

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