Archive for September 1st, 2008

Is There A Piano In Your Party’s Future? (If So, Please Read This)

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Back in the 1960′s, in the historical age known as “B.C.” (Before Casio), acoustic (ie. non-electric) pianos were pretty much standard equipment at all hotels, clubs, and other venues. Many still have them today. In fact, they still have those same ones they had 40 years ago – which is fine. After all, pianos never go out of style.

They do – however – go out of tune. And their keys do break (as do the legs of their piano benches.) So – before you assume that the mere presence of a piano saves you the trouble of renting one – here are a few things you should probably check out.

1. Is the piano where you want it? A spinet piano up against the wall in one corner of the room may be fine for background music, but completely wrong for your needs. Will the venue move it for you? Is there a fee for doing so, and – if there is – how much?

2. Is it in tune and in good working order? Once upon a kinder, gentler time, most venues considered it their responsibility to maintain their pianos. Regular visits by the piano tuner were customary. Somewhere along the way – that changed. The current trend seems to be for venues to offer to have it tuned for your event – but at your expense.

Honestly, a piano that has been tuned in the past year may not need a tune-up. But this can vary widely based on how often the piano is pushed from room to room, and how much the temperature and/or humidity varies at its current location. Unfortunately, the only way to know whether it is acceptable for your purposes is to check it out in advance.

3. Finally, how does it look? Just like automobiles, pianos can still be mechanically sound, even with a variety of dents and scratches to their exteriors. The question that only you can answer is: are those dings a deal-breaker?

Today’s electric keyboards feature digitally-sampled sounds that are eerily authentic. The Yamaha that I carry in under one arm sounds like a Steinway concert grand. It’s always in tune, and it can be set almost anywhere (which would not be true for a real concert grand.

In fact, it is so convincing and so reliable that there are only two drawbacks which could ever limit its use: First, it’s not nearly as impressive to look at as a concert grand. And secondly, it only works where there is electricity nearby.

But these limitations don’t deter most hosts. Which is why so many great (and not so great) old acoustic pianos sit forlornly in their corners, year after year, unused and unappreciated.

Until the power suddenly goes out. At which time, someone inevitably lifts off the dusty sheet covering them and exclaims – “Hey! We can still make music – they’ve got a real piano!”