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Piano History

The piano has long been a valuable member of American families. The writer of the section on pianos for the Eighth Census of the United States gives us an insight into the high status regarded this noble instrument in the middle Nineteenth Century (Manufactures,., 1860).

"First in importance among musical instruments stands the piano-forte , whether we regard the high place which it deservedly holds in the popular esteem , its wide-spread social influence, or the extent of its manufacture considered as a branch of trade. In addition to several powers peculiar to this most valuable of instruments, it possesses nearly all the elements of expression which belong to all others. The rapid increase, both in Europe and America, within a few years, in the number of piano-fortes relatively to the population, Is not only capable of statistical proof, but is apparent to almost every one in the limited sphere of his own observation, a fact which does not apply to any other instrument. Evidence of this adaptation of the piano to the wants of the community is also found in the large proportion of piano music now to be found on the shelves of music dealers everywhere, and In the great number of persons who obtain support by teaching the use of the instrument. As the character of a people changes with its advancement in civilization, this general disposition to transplant to the home circle enjoyments which formerly could only be indulged abroad is an evidence of progress.

In our country, where wealth is more equally distributed, the piano is no uncommon appendage to the farm-house and Is often found in the cottage of the humbler class of artisans and laborers in our cities. It becomes in all, from the highest to the lowest, a source of innocent and intellectual pleasure and moral improvement. It beguiles the hours of sorrow and alleviates the cares of business , while it diffuses through all classes an increasing taste for the enjoyments of the social and domestic circle, harmonized and elevated under the Influence of music. Even the higher sentiments of religion and patriotism are powerfully stimulated by Its aid, as the national and sacred character of the popular songs and airs heard in public and private at all times abundantly testify.

In 1988, however, the Census Bureau wrote with less enthusiasm about the piano, referring to declines In sales"partly due to a consumer trend toward electronic instruments".

The Bureau of the Census ties their projections of piano sales to the interest rate of loans and the number of children between 5 and 13. The age group 18 to 34 remains the primary purchaser of musical instruments. Competition among domestic producers of musical instruments will be fierce as imports continue to capture a larger share of the U.S. market. In addition, sports and other leisure-time activities will increasingly challenge the musical instrument industry for consumers' free time (Corea, 1988).

Musicians, teachers and students who become piano owners need to know certain concepts about pianos in order to objectively select and effectively care for their instrument. The piano Is a complex and changing musical instrument with a fascinating history that is far from over. The wide variety of styles and qualities of pianos available adds to the adventure of selecting an appropriate instrument. The delicate nature of the mechanism and the sensitive character of the construction demand special care. Those who are trained In piano performance should also become informed in their history, selection, and care, both for their own good and for the benefit of those whom they train and advise. In the 1980s and 1990s, it will be important for piano teachers and piano owners to understand and believe in the value of piano playing in order to compete effectively with the wide variety of activities, including other types of musical instruments, that can take attention away from the piano.

A comprehensive treatment of these subjects would require the space of many volumes.

Piano Keys
Piano History
Piano Tuning
Piano Strings

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