The AP reports that America’s piano stores are shutting their doors, as children are taking up other recreational activities. “Fewer people take up the instrument and those who do often opt for a less expensive electronic keyboard or a used piano. Some blame computers and others note the high cost of new pianos, but what’s clear is that a long-term decline in sales has accelerated.”
They hey day of the new piano was in 1909, when more than 364K new pianos were sold. That figures has dropped to the 30,000-40,000 range currently.
Larry Fine, a Boston-based piano technician, consultant and author, said it’s an indication of a changing society.
“Computer technology has just changed everything about what kids are interested in,” said Fine, who also publishes a website offering consumer information on new and used pianos. “People are interested in things that don’t take much effort, so the idea of sitting and playing an hour a day to learn piano is not what kids want to do.”
“Children these days are being recruited for so many other activities, whether it’s soccer, gymnastics, or swimming,” said Robin Walenta, CEO of West Music, a music retailer with a chain of stores in Iowa and Illinois.
Many stores began including digital pianos with electronics to keep interest up. “On a digital piano they can practice with a harpsichord sound or a trumpet sound. It makes it more fun,” she said. “Kids these days need that kind of interaction to be interested.”
Likewise, retailers selling new pianos were competing with themselves, as their merchandise would hit the market as a “used” item at a fraction of the cost.
A well-maintained piano can last between 50 to 70 years, according to Peter Stumpf, a piano technician with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. But Stumpf is optimistic about the piano’s relevance: “Having all the notes laid out in front of you spatially is really an important way to learn music,” he said. “It’s why it’s one of the most important instruments for people to begin on. That’s not going to change.”