Evolution of The Piano & Effects on the Environment

The digital piano has become fairly commonplace. Unless one is steeped in tradition, acoustic instruments are slowly becoming relics of another time. It’s on record that sales for acoustic pianos have gradually slipped over the decades. It makes sense. This was already a niche market for a high end product. Less people are buying homes or have the space for what is essentially a very large piece of furniture. Certainly finances can affect the decision. Even the most affordable acoustic piano is going to cost at least as much as a more advanced electronic version.

Digital pianos of course are less expensive, more versatile and offer something an acoustic piano never could, mobility. Although we are probably not going to see digital pianos in recitals or piano competitions yet, in the age of the personal device and other technological advancements, a digital piano is definitely more appealing to later generations. Digital music hasn’t just taken over, the composing and producing of music has gone digital. One can pull a keyboard up on their monitor, or plug a digital piano in and they’re off.

The same applies to writing music. Just as the idea of writers plugging away at a Smith Corona typewriter is gradually going away, so is the musician that jots notes on lined paper. Musicians are using software that’s programmed to follow along and write for them. Corrections and adjustments are as easy using a word processing solution.

Even as the trends of enjoying digital entertainment are moving toward personal devices, so is the means for creating musical entertainment for personal enjoyment.

This of course has had and will continue to have a dramatic impact on the environment. Imagine that every sheet of piano music had been digitized from the very beginning. Imagine the potential hundreds of millions of piano sheets that would never have been needed. We’ve been cutting trees down for a myriad of reasons since the days before we started using pens. We started chopping trees down with our bear hands and worked up from there.

Paper of course became a billion dollar industry, growing with expanding technology. It wasn’t long before it wasn’t just the destruction of the trees. It was the gas guzzling machines that eventually came to replace our manual work. The exhaust spewing factories used to process the product. The discarding of chemical waste that was used to pressure cook wood chips. The generated energy used to maintain all these processes and their emissions. The fumes from the huge trucks that delivered the product… Not to mention the tons of paper that got wasted as musician after musician struggled to get the perfect combination of notes.

The truth is there is no way to measure how much of our environment would be intact, how cleaner our waters would be and how much less garbage there’d be to collect and discard even if the small section of paper used solely for piano music had never been required.

This theory can be applied to the piano as well. Construction was a vital part of the instrument. It wasn’t simply about musicianship, but appearance. It had to be the finest birch or cherry. It was being able to boast that your Steinway consisted of a rare and exotic wood.

Our environments have sacrificed a lot for mankind. It will probably continue to do so. If there’s one thing we can thank the digital piano age for is how it’s managed to minimize the need for paper, wood and other natural materials without forcing anyone to give up their craft. The digital keyboard and its accessories may lead to even more advancements that will save the forests and our environments.