During the planning stages of creating this website, we only had a vague idea of what pianos it should feature. After seeing the number of public pianos explode from dozens to hundreds to thousands, we first had to deal with this question: What makes a piano a public piano?
Of course, it helps if it’s carrying signs like “Play Me, I’m Yours” (EN), “Jouez, Je suis a Vous” (FR) or “Spiel Mich” (DE), but does that determine and limit the definition of a public piano? What does WIKI have to say about it? We do not claim it’s up to us to define the appropriate definition, but we can share our considerations with you, at least for now…
There’s little discussion around organizing labels of multi-piano festivals. They’ve gone through painful processes of getting permissions for the piano locations, opening hours etc. Once permitted, we – the general public – are invited to transform into musicians for a while. Whether it’s “Beethoven’s 5th“, a single-finger “Chopsticks” or a steaming twelve-bar Blues, it’s up to us to make those pianos speak to the audience.
It becomes more difficult if there is no sign at the piano, if its immediate vicinity is no public space. Personally, I don’t need a sign, since the piano itself is enough invitation, right?! Let’s name 3 categories, 3 different types of venue and we’ll give you our considerations on why we choose NOT to pin-point these pianos as public pianos on our website, unless we have explicit permission from that particular venue.
- Hotels: In all hotels we enter worldwide – forgive us our shortcoming – we’ll first look for the piano, even before check-in. Our experience tells us: there is at least 1. The question however, is whether the public can play it, under what circumstances and within what time slots. Hint: Tip the bartender to find out.
- Elderly homes: Again, if you look close enough, you might find at least one instrument. In these venues, the words “rest” and “respect” are more important than ever, they’re called “homes” for a reason… Music can be a pleasant distraction for one resident, at the same time a living hell for another resident’s hearing aid. Hint: only play with management permission or at least from the resident you are visiting.
- Cruise ships: This is an interesting category (apart from ships being moving objects)! Depending on the size of these ships you can find up to 10 well-tuned (grand!) pianos. However, these pianos are well-tuned for professional musicians who have to earn their money every night. Passengers love to visit their shows and the question remains what those same passengers think of a benevolent amateur at 10 o’clock in the morning. Hint: find the Wedding chapel, which is rarely used and well insulated!
That brings us to our disclaimer: Please, please, fellow piano players … Always respect any piano and its direct vicinity. Ask local staff for applicable policies and follow their instructions at all times. Once you decide to play, find the appropriate volume and adjust your repertoire to your audience for the day. We can bring so much fun to people if we do things right, respectfully, caring…
Stay safe, enjoy playing!