Piano ownership in Britain

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jayrayner
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Piano ownership in Britain

Post by jayrayner » 02 Feb 2011, 11:29

Hello

A first time post, but you all seem like thoroughly knowledgable people so I'm hoping you might be able to help me. I'm giving a public talk next week about my relationship with the piano as object. (for anybody interested there are more details here: http://5x15stories.com/ )

One of the points I wanted to make is that, being a sentimental chap I always think a room - be it restaurant, bar, hotel or living room - is a much more civilised simply for having a piano in it, regardless of whether it's being played. It is I suppose about potential. About what could be happening in that room.

But obviously there are far fewer pianos in public spaces than once there were, say at the turn of the 20th century.

and so to my question: I'm wondering whether anybody knows where I can get some hard numbers on that. Has anyone ever worked out how many pianos there were once in pubs and how many there are now, in this country? Any pointers, gratefully received.

And thank you

Jay

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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Colin Nicholson » 02 Feb 2011, 12:58

Hi Jay,

There is by no means of knowing how many pianos there are in the UK, and nor the amount of pianos owned by hoteliers, landlords etc.... impossible to say, because there is no database or any records of this happening. I used to work p/t in various hotels & pubs when I was younger, some had an old "joanna" - some didn't. Many old pianos are either dragged away in part exchange for new or restored pianos by retailers - then a skip is ordered - then the pianos are just chopped up into little bits. Regrettably there is no equivalent of DVLA for pianos - except a catalogue that can be bought showing you serial numbers, and the approx. amount of pianos a company made, but again - we will never know how many of those tens of thousands of pianos are still surviving, and which ones are queuing up for 5th November. As an example, there are approx. 365 pubs in York - one for every day of the year! - but who knows if each one has a piano or not?? Regrettably, the "pub pianist" is dying out now - and replaced with karaoke/ digital juke boxes - pity really. Also with the smoke ban in July 2007, many pubs have now closed down - did they have a piano? who knows.... I have had first-hand experience working previously for Bell Fruit as a workshop engineer, repairing & maintaining gaming machines, but was made redundant in 2009 due to the knock-on effect of the smoking ban. I didn't instal the machines, and I bet most of the delivery lads who delivered them wouldn't have a clue if any of those pubs had pianos in them or not.

Sorry to say, no one will never know about today's population census of any piano.
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Bill Kibby
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Bill Kibby » 02 Feb 2011, 13:12

What happened to my reply? It took a long time to type, and it has evaporated.

This is a piano history forum, you would be better off posting this on the general piano forum, but I have to say it is all tied in with the sorry state of live music generally. Many local venues advertise "Live Music" when all they have to offer is a singer using backing disks, or terrible backings downloaded free from the internet. I don't know why Trading Standards allow this to be described as "Live Music" when no musicians are involved. Here in East Anglia, so many people are doing music free, there is hardly any paid work at all for the good musicians, and I have retired from the stress of trying to make a living from performance or, for that matter, trying to find enough tuneable pianos worth the tuning fee. I have friends who report similar music problems in France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere, the disease is spreading. Some of my friends play in several bands, different kinds of music, and they still can't get a living from it. I claim more variety of instruments and styles than you have ever heard anywhere from just one musician, but it doesn't help. There used to be pianos in most clubs, pubs, hospitals, churches, retirement homes, etc., but now, people who ask for a pianist expect me to bring a "piano" with me. I can only count three worthwhile instruments in venues within twenty miles of me. I know talented young people who would rather spend their lives editing other people's music and creating patchwork compilations, instead of actually learning how to make their own music. That's sad. Imagine being an artist who only ever pinches bits from other people's pictures.

Even sadder is the fact that audiences would love to hear more live music, but the increasing costs and rigmarole associated with music licences make it difficult for venues to put on live music. It all started when, after the Hillsborough disaster, the music licences were tied in with crowd control and fire regulations.
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Colin Nicholson » 02 Feb 2011, 15:55

Bill, I wonder if we clicked on the 'submit' button at the same time? - our time entries are very close to each other, given you could have taken around 15 mins to reply.
When I submitted my reply, I then clicked on 'edit' to add something, and my PC went funny & went blank for a moment, then went to my username & password! ? unusual. Perhaps our posts were submitted at the same time, or within a few seconds of each other....
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Bill Kibby » 02 Feb 2011, 19:50

That's probably it. I clicked "submit" and instead of my posting, yours came up. Seems like a little bug there.
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 03 Feb 2011, 09:33

PianoLove wrote:I've never seen a piano in any pub I have been in. There was one in a cafe my mother and I used to go to- the Victorian Tea Rooms. Sadly the cafe closed down last year.
Must have been out of tune!
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Colin Nicholson » 04 Feb 2011, 01:10

They should have served 'sconces' with cream & jam!!
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athomik
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by athomik » 04 Feb 2011, 10:59

PianoLove wrote:I've never seen a piano in any pub I have been in. There was one in a cafe my mother and I used to go to- the Victorian Tea Rooms. Sadly the cafe closed down last year.
I repaired an old upright Disklavier in a country pub near Christchurch a few years ago. The Living Room chain of bar/restaurants has a piano in every bar ( originally GT1 GranTouch, but gradually moving to Silent pianos, I believe)
I've also been to a few Disklaviers in Hotels up and down the country.

In all of these locations, the pianos really do have a hard life, especially if they are a Disklavier - playing from mid-morning until closing time, 7 days a week, on top of the usual spills, dust and ash (well, not so much the ash now, although, considering how often pubs and hotels get their pianos serviced, you'll probably still come across a few pianos where the keybed looks more like an ashtray). I've come across a GT1 in Glasgow which had one of the lyre bolts sheared off and the solid brass sustain pedal snapped in half.
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Bill Kibby » 04 Feb 2011, 13:59

This was always the case with player pianos of any kind in public places. People don't appereciate the amount of physical work these things do, and some player pianos are not known for their delicacy of touch. The end result is a huge amount of wear and lots of tear.
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Colin Nicholson » 04 Feb 2011, 15:14

I received a phone call - oh, about 15 - 17 years ago from a local pub in Bradford, and the landlord (and various helpers) attempted to move his piano from his upstairs living quarters - yes, down the steep staircase into the bar. Rumour went around that I played in various hotel restaurants/ bars and other local bars. I had also just recently graduated at college doing my CMIT course. The landlord sort of gave that reassuring nod (and pulled his tie up tight to his collar!) when we asked me if I could play for a couple of evenings. The piano stood proud in the bar - mind you, with a couple of pints on it, and a the odd smouldering fag! The landlord was dead chuffed, and bragged to all his regulars...... "go on Col, give us a tune!"

He then 'sheepishly' mentioned that one of the lads let go of the piano, and it careered down the stairs with an almightly thump. As I was about to start playing it (just a quick check-over at this stage - and perhaps show off a bit), I opened the lid to reveal horror!! All the keys had dislodged themselves, shunted to the right, so each key was in its neighbouring "bat pin" - just looked like a set of dominoes lined up, and tipped over.... and of course about 90% of the centre rail & front pins had bent to the right, along with various fragments of wood & lumps of key chasings....

never forget that!! - as a result the piano was...... yes...... trashed!
So there's one less piano in a pub now.
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Gill the Piano » 04 Feb 2011, 18:58

In 1910 there was one piano per every 10 people in this country. :shock:
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by nhatminh61 » 21 Sep 2017, 10:05

I wonder if we clicked on the 'submit' button at the same time? - our time entries are very close to each other, given you could have taken around 15 mins to reply.
When I submitted my reply, I then clicked on 'edit' to add something, and my PC went funny & went blank for a moment, then went to my username & password! ? unusual. Perhaps our posts were submitted at the same time, or within a few seconds of each other....

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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Barrie Heaton » 21 Sep 2017, 16:55

Gill the Piano wrote:
04 Feb 2011, 18:58
In 1910 there was one piano per every 10 people in this country. :shock:
Are you sure that was not pubs with real ale jkl
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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Gill the Piano » 23 Sep 2017, 16:02

Remember the 70s? Watney's Red Barrel and Double Diamond everywhere? That'd be one real ale pub for every million people then! I had to drink Guinneess at college as nowhere in the vicinity of the college did real ale. And I wasn't going to ask in the Blind Beggar in case the Krays still had feelers out! :D
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Barrie Heaton » 23 Sep 2017, 19:13

Remember them well.. at the moment I am on my 3 bottle of Birra Moretti a Beer from Italy very nice

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Re: Piano ownership in Britain

Post by Gill the Piano » 28 Sep 2017, 13:49

I had 2 pints of Peroni in the Italian restaurant (Francesco's - the last non poncey restaurant left in Marlow) the other night. Just to be polite, you understand...
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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