[1.IV.6.4] The Future of Piano

The “Testimonials” section gives ample evidence that our new approach to piano practice will enable practically anyone to learn piano to her/is satisfaction. It will certainly increase the number of pianists. Therefore, the following questions become very important: (1) can we calculate the expected increase in pianists? (2) what will this increase do to the economics of the piano: performers, teachers, technicians, and manufacturers, and (3) if piano popularity explodes, what will be the main motivation for such large numbers of people to learn piano?

Piano teachers will agree that 90% of piano students never really learn piano in the sense that they will not be able to play to their satisfaction and basically give up trying to become accomplished pianists. Since this is a well known phenomenon, it discourages youngsters and their parents from deciding to start piano lessons. Since music is generally not a highly paid profession, the economic factor also discourages entry into piano. There are many more negative factors that limit the popularity of the piano (lack of good teachers, high expense of good pianos and their maintenance, etc.), almost all of which are eventually related to the fact that piano has been so difficult to learn. Probably only 10% of those who might have tried piano ever decide to give it a try. Therefore, we can expect the popularity of the piano to increase by 100 times (10X more deciding to study and 10X more successful) if the promise of this book can be fulfilled.

Such an increase would mean that a large fraction of the population in developed countries would learn piano. Since it is a significant fraction, we do not need an accurate number, so let’s just pick some reasonable number, say 30%. This would require at least a 10 fold increase in the number of piano teachers. This would be great for students because one of the big problems today is finding good teachers. In any one area, there are presently only a few teachers and the students have little choice. Within a few teacher/student generations, the quality of teachers will improve and become uniformly good, and the teaching methods will be standardized. The number of pianos sold would also have to increase, probably well in excess of 100%. Although many homes already have pianos, many of them are not playable. Since most of the new pianists will be at an advanced level, the number of good grand pianos needed will increase by an even larger percentage, possibly more than 300%, and the quality and quantity of digital pianos sold will increase dramatically.

Is an increase of 100 times in the population of pianists reasonable? What would they do? They certainly can’t all be concert pianists and piano teachers. The very nature of how we view piano playing will change. First of all, the piano will, by then, become a standard second instrument for all musicians (regardless of what instrument they play), because it will be so easy to learn and there will be pianos everywhere. The joy of playing piano will be enough reward for many. The zillions of music lovers who could only listen to recordings can now play their own music -- a much more satisfying experience. As anyone who has become an accomplished pianist will tell you, once you get to that level, you cannot help but compose music. Thus a piano revolution will also ignite a revolution in composition, and new compositions will be in great demand because many pianists will not be satisfied with playing “the same old things”. Pianists will be composing music for every instrument because of the development of keyboards with powerful software and every pianist will have an acoustic piano and an electronic keyboard, or a dual instrument (see below). The large supply of good keyboardists would mean that entire orchestras will be created using keyboard players. Another reason why the piano would become universally popular is that it will be used by parents as a method for increasing the IQ of growing infants.

With such huge forces at work, the piano itself will evolve rapidly. First, the electronic keyboard will increasingly intrude into the piano sector, quickly obsolescing acoustic uprights. The shortcomings of the electronic pianos will continue to decrease until the electronics become musically indistinguishable from the acoustics, and possibly much better. Regardless of which instrument is used, the technical requirements will be the same. By then, the acoustic pianos will have many of the features of the electronics: they will be in tune all the time (instead of being out of tune 99% of the time, as they are now – see Gilmore), you will be able to change temperaments by flicking a switch, and midi capabilities will be easily interfaced with the acoustics. The acoustics will never completely disappear because the art of making music using mechanical devices is so fascinating. In order to thrive in this new environment, piano manufacturers will need to be much more flexible and innovative – future piano manufacturers will look nothing like those we have today.

Piano tuners will also need to adapt to these changes. All pianos will be self-tuning, so income from tuning will decrease slowly, over several generations. However, pianos in tune 100% of the time will need to be voiced more frequently, and how hammers are made and voiced will need to change. It is not that today’s pianos do not need voicing just as much, but when the strings are in perfect tune, any deterioration of the hammer becomes the limiting factor to sound quality. Piano tuners will finally be able to properly regulate and voice pianos instead of just tuning them; they can concentrate on the quality of the piano sound, instead of just getting rid of dissonances. Since the new generation of more accomplished pianists will be aurally more sophisticated, they will demand better sound and keyboard touch. The greatly increased number of pianos and their constant use will require an army of new piano technicians to regulate and repair them. Even the electronics will need repair, maintenance, and upgrading. Piano tuners will also be much more involved in adding and maintaining electronic (midi, etc.) capabilities to acoustics. Thus most people will either have a hybrid or both an acoustic and electronic piano.