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MMD > Archives > June 2009 > 2009.06.11 > 02Prev  Next

The Future of Player Pianos
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  Call me a wet blanket, but I pose this question to all
who fear that the player piano will be lost or forgotten by future
generations.  Would a 1957 Chevy be worth anything if all of them still
existed today?  How about if half of them were still around?  And what
if there were 20% of them still here?  I believe most of us are smart
enough to know the answer.  It's a resounding "No!"  So let's assume
that only 10% of all the player pianos ever made still exist today.
Are they valuable?  The market says "No!"

Though player pianos have far outlasted cars because they are usually
kept in a nice home, the numbers of people who fancy them has declined
for the same reason the '57 Chevy declined in popularity.  People move
on to something more interesting or modern.  How many of you still own
a vacuum tube radio?  Probably just a few by comparison to the number
that were sold when they were popular.  Do you hear anyone complaining
about losing their job because the transistor radio became the rage?

When I entered this trade, I was one of very few people who had a
background in electronics.  So, I could work on both regular old player
and modern electro-pneumatic players.  They later evolved into fully
digital players with orchestrated background.  So, I can still work on
them as long as I keep up with the technology.

This idea that American Culture will be lost forever if tens of thousands
of Americans don't own a player piano is utter nonsense.  It's almost as
ludicrous as saying that American Culture was lost when people stopped
huddling around a crystal radio to hear what happened in some other
part of their city, state, or country.

Times change.  People's tastes change.  Those who see changes coming
prepare themselves for the future.  Those who don't are left wondering,
"What happened?"

Personally, I'm now working on player pianos that I restored over 35
years ago.  They were passed on to the next generation, and their
children's children (two- to five-year-olds) just love playing grandma's
player piano.  Of course, had it not been for great- grandma's and
grandpa's love of the instrument, those small children would be
enjoying something else.

But the question remains, "Is this something over which we should get
melancholy?"  I think not.  Those who truly love working on player
pianos and know how to make them work correctly will likely stay in
business until they decide to retire.  Those who think it's too much
work, or who feel they can't make a decent living, will get out of the
trade and move on to something similar, like regular pianos.  Some will
say 'the heck with it' and change occupations altogether.

In closing, considering that my business continues to grow in perhaps
one of the worst economic periods in modern history, I see no reason
to worry or complain.  And, the people I know who are masters at their
trade are busy as beavers.  So, I don't have any concern about the
future of the player piano.

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

(Message sent Thu 11 Jun 2009, 13:07:46 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Future, Pianos, Player

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